PC Job & Family Services, the county's largest recipient of federal funds, is at significant risk during the longest partial government shutdown - Putnam Sentinel
PC Job & Family Services, the county's largest recipient of federal funds, is at significant risk during the longest partial government shutdown. (Putnam Sentinel/Steven Coburn-Griffis)

PUTNAM COUNTY — Begun on Dec. 22 of last year, the federal government shutdown enters its 33rd day today. As the impasse grinds on at the national level, the Sentinel has begun taking a look at how and when some effects could be felt here in Putnam County.

According to the 2017 audit of Putnam County’s government, conducted and released in 2018, $2,728,687 worth of federal funds were spent through local county agencies. Unfortunately, it remains too soon in the new year to have preliminary 2018 numbers for comparison.

The federal money flowed from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Transportation, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security.

The funding then went through Ohio’s Development Services Agency, the Montgomery County Workforce Investment Act Area 7, the Ohio Departments of Education, Developmental Disabilities, Job and Family Services, Mental Health and Addiction Services, and Emergency Management.

Finally, the federal funds were put to use locally by the County Commissioners, the County Engineer, the PC Board of Developmental Disabilities, PC Jobs and Family Services, the PC ADAMHS Board, and the PC Office of Emergency Management.

According to that same audit, approximately 60 percent of county operations, programs and services is funded by grants and allocations coming from outside the county. County taxpayers make up the remaining approximate 40 percent.

Currently, the largest allocation seems to be at the greatest risk. In 2017, a little over $1,300,000 in expenditures for PC Jobs and Family services originated at the federal level. This included $92,210 for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps, which primarily goes to feed young children in the county.

According to Suzy Wischmeyer, Director of the Putnam County Jobs & Family Services, “Our impact, as of now, has been the issuance of February SNAP benefits early (last week) to the Putnam County recipients, and educating them that they will not get their next benefits until March. The State has been very good so far in keeping us in the loop as to any implications we may have.”

When contacted by the Sentinel regarding this funding, Bret Crow from the state level agency said, “We are in continual dialog with our federal partners to understand the potential impact of the partial federal government shutdown and to eliminate or reduce any impact. There is funding through the end of February for all the programs. Beyond that, I cannot speculate. When we receive further federal guidance about the months ahead, we will share that information with county agencies as we have been all along.”

Fortunately, the news from other state level agencies was much better. Federal funds passing through the Ohio Dept. of Developmental Disabilities was allocated prior to the end of 2018. “Thus, at this time, federal funds from our agency are not affected by the government shutdown,” concluded Laura Tucker, DODD Communications.

Ohio Emergency Management does not have a full year of funding, but could make it until June if necessary, according to Jay Carey, the agency’s External Affairs Chief who added, “The federal shutdown would have to extend passed mid-summer to cause any type of funding disruptions.”

The Ohio Dept. of Mental Health and Addiction Services finds itself in a similar position. Its funding should last into the fall, as explained by Eric Wandersleben, Director of Media Relations, “Our block grant and discretionary funding (such as the 21st Century CURES Act and State Opioid Response funds) are unaffected and will continue to be disbursed. This is due to the fact the federal funds we receive are authorized through a set of bills that are not expiring. HR 6157 (which is now Public Law 115-245) funds the federal Health and Human Services through 9/30/19.”

Of course, local agency funding is not the only area where the impact of the federal shutdown may be felt. It can be difficult to track the different ways federal operations affect us all. As an example of a peculiar one, the Farm Journal’s AgWeb.com reports that the normal movement of the magnetic north pole has been accelerating for 30 years. This requires more frequent adjustments to the constellation of satellites that make up the Global Positioning System (GPS), which many area farmers rely on for soil sampling and when laying down seed and fertilizer. Such an adjustment was supposed to occur last week, but did not due to the shutdown.