Federal government reopened, local government proactively aids workers affected by shutdown

Sunday, January 27, 2019 - 8:24pm

Mayor Christopher Taylor introduced a resolution to give financial relief to workers affected by the government shutdown.

Mayor Christopher Taylor introduced a resolution to give financial relief to workers affected by the government shutdown. Buy this photo
Alec Cohen/Daily

On Friday morning, President Donald Trump signed a bill to reopen the government for three weeks, until Feb. 15. During the three-week period, Trump is attempting to negotiate with lawmakers for the Southern Border Wall. Ann Arbor and neighboring local governments took proactive measures to aid federal workers with payments and expenses accumulated if the federal government shutdown were to continue.

On Jan. 22, Ann Arbor City Council passed a resolution allowing federal workers to defer payments to the city for 60 days after the government shutdown ends.

Councilmembers voted unanimously to pass the resolution. Mayor Christopher Taylor introduced this resolution because he deemed it necessary to counteract the fiscal harm being inflicted by the government.

“As everybody knows, the federal government is shut down and that is a condition that reflects terribly upon good government,” Taylor said. “But what that also does is it creates real and substantial hardship for government employees. This is a small gesture, the least we can do, I think, to support the employees within Ann Arbor who deserve our thanks and our support at a time when they aren’t getting enough from the federal government.”  

Councilmember Zachary Ackerman, D-Ward 3, reiterated the importance of the resolution and also added he works with many government contractors and the General Services Administration (GSA). The GSA is an independent federal agency that provides material resources and support to federal agencies. 

“In my day job, I work a lot with government contracts and work directly with the GSA and they’ve been working without pay and delivering fantastic and professional service this entire time,” Ackerman said.

Katie Wendel, an advocacy specialist for the nonprofit Area Agency on Aging 1-B, said the nonprofit was monitoring the areas of the shutdown that affected elderly in the community. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Department of Housing and Urban Development were both affected, impacting the elderly community. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 36 percent of federal housing assistance in Michigan goes to the elderly, making them the largest group receiving federal funding.

“No one knew what would happen next, how landlords would react if rental subsidies wouldn’t come through,” Wendel said.

Wendel also said there is suspicion that subsidies will be delayed. 

“I would not be surprised if folks get delayed payments,” Wendel said. “Delayed payments is something that a lot of human services deal with. So, it could have an effect on HUD (Housing and Urban Development) subsidies.”

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., issued the following statement in a press release, writing she was disheartened by the damage the shutdown has already caused.

“It should have never come to this,” Dingell wrote. “Federal workers were held hostage for more than a month, many told to come to work while not being paid. As this shutdown goes into the history books, we cannot for one second let the human face of this shutdown get lost... We have a lot of work to do to regain Americans’ trust in their government.”

Both the University of Michigan’s chapters of College Republicans and College Democrats told The Daily the opening of the government is a positive thing. Katie Kelly, Public Policy junior and communications director of the University’s chapter of College Democrats, mentioned this solution is only temporary and that (College Democrats) are hoping opposition to Trump’s proposed wall is maintained.

“While we are relieved that the government is reopened and that federal employees will once again be receiving paychecks and their back pay, this is not the end of the conversation,” Kelly said. “This is only a temporary solution. It is important to stay engaged during this period, as conversations about the proposed border wall will be had until this agreement expires on Feb. 15. We are prepared to continue the fight against this expensive and immoral border wall.”

Lincoln Merrill, Engineering junior and communications chair of College Republicans, said this solution should have come sooner. 

“It’s a great relief for the 800,000 federal workers who have been furloughed to be able to receive their paychecks for the hard work they have put in for this country over the past month,” Merrill said. “This bill allows for negotiations to continue in the coming weeks for a permanent spending bill while easing the pressure on workers and other parts of the government that have been shut down. This is a solution that perhaps should have come a bit sooner, but it is a relief to hear the government is finally reopened in some capacity.”