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State: Little impact from shutdown


Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press



JACKSON -- Agency directors and spokesmen say Mississippi government is feeling little effect from the federal government's partial shutdown that started last week. 


This includes the Department of Transportation, the Department of Education, the Department of Human Services and the Division of Medicaid -- state agencies that handle large amounts of federal money. 


For now, there's enough federal money on hand keep providing services like Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and food aid, and for highway contracts to stay on track. 


Kevin Upchurch, director of the state Department of Finance and Administration, said states might be entitled to reimbursement from the federal government for some mandatory programs after a congressional dispute over the federal budget is resolved. 


"The challenge for states in these cases would be finding funding sources (cash) to carry the expense until reimbursement can be made by the federal program," Upchurch said in an email Thursday, responding to questions from The Associated Press. 


"We did send out a memo requesting agencies to be very cautious about spending, especially in filling federally funded positions or entering into contracts or grants which include federal dollars as a source of funds," Upchurch said. 


The Mississippi State Department of Health said Oct. 3 that money left over from the previous federal budget year is keeping the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children -- better known as WIC -- open in the state through October. WIC runs 96 distribution sites that serve more than 94,000 low- and moderate-income people in Mississippi, one of the poorest states in the nation. The program helps pregnant, breastfeeding and post-partum women, plus infants and children younger than 5. People on WIC can receive baby food and formula, eggs, peanut butter, milk, whole wheat bread or tortillas and other types of food. 


Department of Human Services spokeswoman Julia Bryan said Thursday that DHS offices remain open in every county, and programs such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families continue to operate. 


"We have just sustained and moved forward," Bryan said. "Obviously, if this thing continues, we would have to have reassess." 


Medicaid, a health insurance program for the needy, is funded mostly by the federal government. 


"For the Division of Medicaid, there are no employees on furlough and no programs ceasing due to the partial shutdown of the federal government," program spokeswoman Erin Barham said. 


Kevin Foote, a spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Transportation, said the state receives more than $400 million a year from the federal gasoline tax. "That money has already been allocated for this fiscal year," Foote said Thursday. 


The Department of Education has not been affected by the federal budget dispute, spokeswoman Patrice Guilfoyle said.




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