Washtenaw County officials made a strong effort to keep county services running as usual through a recent month-long federal government shutdown and have a plan for how to handle any future shutdowns.
"Generally, we already have a plan in place," Washtenaw County administrator Gregory Dill says.
The county's general fund and each county department's budget all have a fund balance that can be drawn on in emergencies, Dill says. He says those fund balances would have been used to cover important programs during the shutdown if necessary.
Three weeks into the shutdown, Dill in an email alert affirmed that "services funded by the federal government and provided by Washtenaw County government are not going to be impacted by the partial federal shutdown," while noting that some projects that involved partnerships with furloughed federal workers might be delayed.
In the emails, he also noted that the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program was fully funded through the end of February, and that the county would use general fund dollars to keep it operational if necessary.
"There was a great deal of concern on our part about food assistance programs people rely heavily on," Dill says. "We were concerned WIC and SNAP were going to run out of money or stop receiving funding as of Feb. 5, so we were using that date as the date we knew we wanted to have some plan in place."
Dill had announced that if the shutdown wasn't resolved by the end of January, he would convene a committee meeting Feb. 1 and work with the board of commissioners to come up with a plan to keep all services running.
A deal to reopen the government for three weeks while President Trump and Congress come to an agreement means it's back to business as usual in county government as well.
Dill says if a deal isn't reached in those three weeks, he has a better idea of the "mood and strategy in Washington, D.C." and will be "more prepared this time around."
"Before, we were guessing what the two sides would do to bring it to a resolution, and that's a little clearer now what that will ultimately mean for us," Dill says. "We're continuing to monitor the situation, and we're planning for phase two. If there is another shutdown, we'll operate much the same as we did last time."
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She has served as innovation and jobs/development news writer for Concentrate since early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to Driven. You may reach her at [email protected].
Photo courtesy of Washtenaw County.