Local agencies prepare for potential government shutdown

Published: Sep. 29, 2023 at 10:27 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Leaders in Washington can’t cut a deal to fund the federal government, making a shutdown possible as soon as Saturday at midnight.

A last-minute effort by Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s spending bill was rejected Friday, and if a deal isn’t reached, millions of military members and other federal employees will soon be without a paycheck.

House Democrats and 21 hard-right Republicans voted down a Republican spending bill to temporarily fund the federal government a day before the midnight Saturday deadline, leaving few options to prevent a government shutdown.

Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-9) blames the Republican hold-outs for the outcome.

“A lot of employees will have to be working and not get paid,” said Cohen. “If they work paycheck-to-paycheck and in Memphis, there are a lot of people on the border. You’re putting these people in great jeopardy.”

Democrats say the bill is too extreme and cuts up to 30% of spending on federal programs and agencies.

A majority of House Republicans support the bill. The Associated Press reports it looks to add stricter restrictions at the Southern border.

The remaining House Republican hold-outs want individual spending bills passed.

Republican Congressman David Kustoff (TN-8) posted on social media that he’ll offer up his government salary if a plan doesn’t pass in time, saying: “Since federal employees will go without pay, I believe that Members of Congress should do the same.”

Federal employees from military personnel to national parks employees and others could be furloughed.

A shutdown also stops funding for some food programs like WIC and free lunch in some states.

SNAP benefit users will be covered through October.

Mid-South Food Bank President and CEO Cathy Pope has experience operating under a government shutdown.

If it happens again, Pope says one of the hardest obstacles they’ll face is supply chain logistics, making sure they’re reliable.

Cathy Pope, Mid-South Food Bank president and CEO
Cathy Pope, Mid-South Food Bank president and CEO(Action News 5)

“We need that to stay strong so that when we order food, it’s coming in the door in a timely manner and no orders get cut or anything, and then volunteers to pack additional boxes,” said Pope.

Pope says they’ve already preordered food, have disaster kits on hand, and have even been in contact with NSA Mid-South in Millington to let them know they’re ready to help if needed.

“Let’s just say, we do give out all of our disaster supplies right now depending on how long the shutdown is,” said Pope. “So a lot of that is the work it takes to build us back to where we’re ready again. We always want to be in the state to be ready to serve our community the best way we can.”

President Biden is supporting a Senate bill that continues funding the government until November 17. It also includes billions of aid to Ukraine and disaster relief.

If you need to reach out to the Mid-South Food Bank, you can call them at 901-527-0841 or check out their website to find a food pantry near you.

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