Montgomery County elected officials and business leaders are sounding the alarm about the potential detrimental effects if the federal government shuts down on Sunday.
“A federal government shutdown will hurt the tens of thousands of employees who work for the Federal Government and live in Montgomery County,” Barbara Ashe, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce’s executive vice president, said in an email. “They would not receive paychecks, which has the potential to impede their ability to pay their mortgage/rent and other critical bills, visit various establishments, and even feed their families.”
If Congress doesn’t pass the 12 appropriation bills that fund the federal government’s budget by Friday’s deadline, the government must shut down all non-essential functions, in compliance with the Antideficiency Act. The Senate appropriations committee passed all bills with bipartisan support, but some House Republicans are unhappy with the proposed budget. Due to gridlock between Democrats and Republicans in the House, an Oct. 1 shutdown looks likely.
This means many federal employees will be furloughed and won’t receive paychecks and government programs and services will pause functions. Government contractors also won’t receive work, and the WIC and SNAP programs, which provide supplemental food assistance to low-income families will be shut down.
During a press briefing Wednesday, County Executive Marc Elrich (D) slammed House Republicans. He recalled the challenges of the last government shutdown, which took place in December 2018 through January 2019 shortly after he’d taken office. He specifically highlighted his concerns about WIC and other social programs shutting down. Citing 2021 statistics, Elrich said 16,000 children and 13,000 women in Montgomery County received WIC benefits.
“I remember the stress placed on our residents, businesses, and even our own government operations,” Elrich said. “If you have a shutdown, WIC gets shut down … Republicans are also unbelievably proposing to cut Title I funding by 83% … given the children that benefit from this program, their attack on this is nothing but a racist, cynical maneuver.”
Title I is a federal program that provides financial assistance to public schools with higher percentages of low-income students. Elrich said the county receives $51 million in Title I funding that goes to support 35 Montgomery County Public Schools.
Ashe pointed out that Bloomberg Government reported that Montgomery County was No. 2 in the nation in the number of small businesses that sell to the federal government.
“Unlike Congress, they must continue to pay their workforce; however, they will not be reimbursed. Not only will small businesses be impacted, but the potential impact on large contractors will also be felt around the region. For example, the largest defense contractor–Lockheed Martin—is headquartered here in Montgomery County, and they too will be impacted,” Ashe said. “There is nothing good to report. Congress must take action.”
County Councilmember Gabe Albornoz (D-At-large) said in an interview that he’s concerned that the shutdown will negatively impact the county’s most vulnerable residents.
“There are federal programs that benefit our county residents that will stop immediately once the shutdown begins, and those will impact our already most vulnerable populations. We’ve seen this movie before,” Albornoz said. “We know that over an extended period of time, nonprofit organizations that rely on federal funds will not receive those funds. So that will also indirectly impact our communities and it’s really going to test our social safety nets in a way that deeply concerns me.”
Albornoz said while a shutdown will affect the local community, particularly as over 60,000 federal employees live in Montgomery County, there’s not much the local government can control if this happens.
“We don’t budget for a federal shutdown,” Albornoz said. “The Republican-led House is an embarrassment to our country, and this is going to have dire consequences for our community. I just hope that everyone wakes up and realizes that this is really going to hurt people.”
U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Dist. 8) was Elrich’s guest on Wednesday’s briefing. Raskin has been vocally critical of shutdowns, including introducing the End Shutdowns Act in 2019.
“We are fighting for the best but we are preparing for the worst,” Raskin said. “We have thousands of residents whose livelihoods are intertwined with the federal government.”
Raskin encouraged residents who may be directly affected by the shutdown to visit the White House Office of the Budget and Management website to review federal agency contingency plans. This will help residents understand whether the furlough will apply to them.
“Everybody will get paid for paychecks they have missed [while furloughed],” Raskin said. “My office will be open for business to help people deal with their questions and problems.”
Raskin said Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid checks will still be coming in the mail for those who are already receiving them.