By Wendy Osher
Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui today provided a briefing to update the public on the state’s efforts to assess impacts of the federal government shutdown on the state.
During a press conference held at the state Capitol and streamed live online, Tsutsui said, the administration continues to monitor the situation and has had discussion with both the Hawaiʻi congressional delegation, and staff within the White House.
At this point, Tsutsui said, “We’re still trying to evaluate what the total financial impact is on a daily basis. Obviously every day that this continues creates additional concerns for us, not just short-term, but long-term as well.”
“We’re hopeful that we can come to a resolution sooner than later, but obviously we want to take a very proactive approach in making sure that we understand the full impacts and what necessary things we can do to make sure that we minimize the impacts on the residents of Hawaiʻi,” he said.
During the briefing Tsutsui said, “First and foremost we are really concerned about the thousands of federal employees who have been furloughed so far and their families.”
He said the cabinet had a meeting with all of the department directors, who were instructed to do an assessment to evaluate both daily and weekly impacts.
“We’re going to continue to assess and make sure that we get the information out to the public as soon as we can,” said Tsutsui who noted that department heads have been contacting their federal counterparts as part of the process.
One of the concerns, Tsutsui said, is the discussion of reimbursements, and if the reimbursements would be retroactive.
State Finance Director Kalbert Young also commented saying, “We’ve made a concerted effort to try and minimize the impact of state programs and services that are delivered to the public, which are funded by the federal government.”
“There hasn’t been any reduction in state programs that are federally funded, but as this shutdown becomes longer in duration, we don’t know if the state can afford to be on that same path and strategy,” he said, calling the approach a “week-to-week assessment.”
“Every day that the state provides programs that are actually federally funded (but we are providing it with state resources), we are taking the risk of increasing our overall state costs. So there could be a budgetary impact,” said Young.
“Right now the state is content that we can continue to maintain public services in the interest of delivering some level of consistency and continuity for our public locally in the state,” said Young who called it a “luxury” that is doable for the short-term.
According to Young, the state budget has more than $2 billion worth of federal fund-supported programs, including Medicaid, temporary assistance for needy families, rental assistance, subsidized school lunches, and various social service programs.
“It’s a very wide-ranging set of programs that are federally funded, and they’re all funded in different capacities,” said Young.
“Over the short-term it’s not as big of an impact; but as the lieutenant governor has mentioned, one of the things that we are critically worried about is how long the duration of the shutdown lasts, and whether or not the state will actually be made whole by being reimbursed by the federal government once the feds are reinstated.”