As a U.S. government shutdown looms on Sunday, several Alabama state agencies that rely heavily on federal support say they’re watching and preparing.
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris recently told ADN the most immediate impact of a shutdown on the Alabama Department of Health would be communication issues.
“A shutdown of the federal government will limit our ability to interact with many of our project officers, who are the federal employees that oversee the federal grant monies that Alabama receives,” Harris said. “Our agency is normally in close contact with project officers since they help us understand how funding can be spent properly, what expenditures are allowable, and which activities fall within the scopes of our grants. If a shutdown only lasts a week or two, these problems are easily managed, but if our contacts are furloughed for a prolonged period, there will be a lot of confusion, and it will make our work more difficult.
“Our agency receives only about 8% of its funding from the state General Fund. Most of the rest comes from federal grants and other federal revenue streams.”
While a shutdown would mean many federal employees are furloughed and services are interrupted, it would not have an immediate impact on Social Security checks or benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Similarly, Alabama Medicaid, which uses state and federal funds to supply health insurance to more than 1 million Alabamians, does not expect to be impacted by a shutdown and will continue to provide health care benefits.
“Medicaid is considered a ‘mandatory or excepted program’ and not subject to annual appropriations that would lapse during the shutdown,” Medicaid spokeswoman Melanie Cleveland said. “Medicaid will continue to keep a close eye on the situation as it develops.”
Sen. Greg Albritton said the looming shutdown is a concern. But it’s also not a surprise.
“I would hope that agencies have been gearing up or preparing for this,” Albritton, chairman of the Senate General Fund committee, said.
“It will affect us, potentially dramatically, but that will depend on how long it lasts.”
The Alabama Department of Mental Health is also closely monitoring the situation in Washington and will inform providers of any impact due to a federal government shutdown should it occur, spokeswoman Malissa Valdes told ADN.
“The availability of vital services provided to more than 200,000 Alabamians is the first priority to the ADMH,” she said.