2013-10-17 / Local & State

Pa. Focuses On Social Services, Not Federal Parks

By Marc Levy


HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – A partial federal government shutdown could eventually force the state to mothball social services programs that serve women and children, top aides to Gov. Tom Corbett said Thursday, dismissing the possibility that Pennsylvania would spend its own money to reopen shuttered national parks like Independence Hall.

It was the 10th day of a partial federal government shutdown, with no end in sight. For the Corbett administration, that means putting off payments and guarding cash reserves with the goal of maintaining vital services for children and families who normally receive federal money. Hundreds of federally funded state employees also may face furloughs, officials said.

The vast majority of about $20 billion in federal money that Pennsylvania is expecting this year is for health care for the poor and to aid low-income schools, and Budget Secretary Charles Zogby said that money is not endangered.

Medicaid is not stopped by the shutdown because its mandatory funding does not require annual reviews by Congress and Zogby said the state has already received its allocation of federal Title I school dollars for the entire fiscal year.

Still, a continuing shutdown could force programs to close once the state is unable to pay providers of federally funded social services such as subsidized child care, women’s shelters or aid to pregnant women and infants.

“Right now, it’s maybe more inconvenience,’’ Zogby said. “But as we get deeper into the month, it gets more serious.’’

Possibly by November, the state’s cash flow will slow to the point where it can’t cover for missing federal money and the social services providers will have to figure out how to keep their doors open without it, Zogby said.

Zogby could not say how many of the 2,500 full-time state employees whose positions are funded by the federal government may be furloughed.

The Department of Defense recalled about 1,100 Pennsylvania technicians back to work this week, but seven Pennsylvania National Guard auditors remained furloughed Thursday, a guard spokesman said.

Also Thursday, the Obama administration said it would consider agreements with governors who want to use their states’ money to reopen national parks. But spokesman Jay Pagni said that while it recognizes the value of tourism, the Corbett administration does not have the spare cash to reopen federal parks.

Independence National Historical Park, Gettysburg National Military Park and Valley Forge National Historical Park were all closed. The privately operated museum and visitor center at Gettysburg remained open and accessible, and its tour guides continued to lead tours of the battlefield, the center said.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said communities and business surrounding Pennsylvania’s national parks and memorials are losing up to $5.7 million in visitor spending each week, while repairs that were scheduled for locks along the Lower Monongahela River in western Pennsylvania were postponed.

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