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State National Guard Workers Furloughed

Shutdown Roundup: 27 Dept. of Labor statisticians cut loose. Other agencies OK for now

Tennessee’s Department of the Military this week sent home 103 National Guard employees, who are funded by the U.S. government because the state is uncertain whether it will be reimbursed for their services once the federal shutdown ends.

Workers, based in Nashville, Smyrna, Memphis and Knoxville, were placed on leave.

“We simply cannot assume the risk that the federal government will reimburse the state for these employees’ wages,” said Max Haston, Tennessee National Guard adjutant general.

Every department in the Tennessee state government has employees who are funded either fully or partially by the federal government, which has put some jobs on shaky ground as the shutdown continues.

Some posts are funded by grants at the beginning of the fiscal year, like the 27 Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development workers who were furloughed from the Labor Market Information and Statistics unit at the beginning of the shutdown Oct. 1.

The workers are funded through federal contracts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which has been delayed because of the shutdown, said Jeff Hentschel, communications director for the state labor department.

“The state is going to continue to operate programs and services over which we have control. However, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has direct impact on the federal funding and support of the department’s Labor Market Information Research and Statistics section,” Hentschel said.

The furlough means all statistical data related to Tennessee’s economy and recovery will be delayed indefinitely. LMI gathers information, like unemployment rates, job growth, industry growth, wage rates and more to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Hentschel said Tennessee isn’t the only state affected. North Carolina, Nebraska, Illinois, Washington, and Arizona have furloughed LMI staff.

While statisticians are at home with no pay, other department officials are worried.

Tennessee’s Department of Human Services, for example, is 90 percent federally funded, DHS Communications Director Christopher Garrett said.

“We have conducted a preliminary analysis of the potential impact for DHS overall. Federal funds will expire within 10 weeks from the shutdown’s start in most cases, with some variations,” he said.

As of Friday, the cessation of nonessential federal functions was 11 days old.

“We do anticipate an impact to that program very soon. We are analyzing this day by day, and we have informed our DDS employees of that. We will keep them informed as details emerge in this challenging time,” Garrett said.

Within DHS, the Department of Disability Determination Services is 100 percent federally funded to the tune of more than $62.9 million annually and it has very little money to continue paying its 463 employees.

Other departments, like the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, received grant funds and reimbursements in time to continue business as usual.

The TBI, which receives millions in federal grants, was able to meet the U.S. Office of Justice Program’s Oct. 4 deadline so the state’s law enforcement agency is fully funded.

“We do not foresee any state employees being furloughed or working without pay because of the shutdown,” said Kristin Helm, TBI public information officer.

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has few employees that are entirely funded by the feds, but many partially funded jobs, Communications Director Kelly Brockman said.

The only fully federally funded TDEC jobs are with the Bureau of the Environment in Oak Ridge, but she doesn’t expect them to be furloughed in the future, she said.

“There are employees that are partially funded, but they have not been affected at this time,” she said, adding they could be if the shutdown continues for an extended period.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has said since the shutdown began state government and employees will begin to see problems as the problems in Washington drag on.

“I’ve said before the longer it goes, the bigger the potential impact would be,” he said.

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