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Why a potential government shutdown isn’t alarming for Nome

Nome City Hall Building
Nome City Hall building on Front Street. Photo by Brisa Alarcon, KNOM.

The federal government is heading towards a government shutdown that could begin to affect millions of Americans in less than a week. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is working to find a compromise between the Senate and House over federal spending. But how would a government shutdown affect Nome?

City Manager Glenn Steckman said if the shutdown goes through he doesn’t expect Nome would be heavily affected. 

“We don’t have a tremendous interaction with the federal government except maybe for grant opportunities. And obviously, if funding opportunities are shut down for a period of time that could [make an] impact.”

Every year, Congress must adopt a budget resolution that sets premium spending to be split among 12 sub-committees. All 12 appropriation bills must be passed by Congress prior to the beginning of the fiscal year, which would begin October first at 12:01 a.m. 

If a decision isn’t made by the end of the month, federal agencies will halt all non-essential work and will not send paychecks as long as the shutdown lasts. Those working in public safety, airline workers, and other essential workers would be expected to report to work without pay. When federal funding resumes, the government is required by law to repay federal and military employees. 

If funding opportunities are shut down, Steckman doesn’t expect the city’s projects to be affected. 

“Possibly the 3D printed housing, we’re not sure yet if that would happen, because the money has already been awarded.”

Nutritional aid programs would continue during a shutdown but federal agencies may have to reduce benefits if funding isn’t given. Businesses with close ties to the federal government, such as national parks, could see closures during the duration of the shutdown. 

Deanne Criswell, the administrator for FEMA, told lawmakers last week (Sep. 19) that the nation’s disaster fund is quote- “dangerously low.” Steckman said submitted FEMA claims- like reimbursements from last year’s flooding or storm damage might be delayed.

“A lot of the damage from [Typhoon] Merbok has already been repaired. We’re just waiting for the funding reimbursement on that.”

Agencies who have previously received funding or operate on a permanent funding basis would continue operations as usual. Federal agencies like the post office, Medicare, VA benefits, and Social Security will not be affected if a shutdown occurs. 

The last government shutdown was the longest in history, lasting for 35 days between December 2018 to January 2019. The state of Alaska was affected more than any other state. 

It is the responsibility of Congress to fund the government, and it is unknown how long the shutdown would last. 

Photo at top: Nome City Hall building on Front Street. Photo by Brisa Alarcon, KNOM 2021

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