By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — The federal government shutdown has caused little if any disruption in Madison County so far.
One obvious reason is there aren’t large federal buildings, military bases or national parks in the county. And those federal offices that do exist, such as the Social Security Administration offices on Scatterfield Road, are still operating, albeit with reduced services.
Most of the federal money that comes to the county arrives in the form of grants, for road and bridge improvements, low-income housing assistance, and other large projects.
“Things here should just click right along like they normally do,” said Madison County Board of Commissioners President John Richwine, R-North District.
Head Start, a federal preschool program that provides education services to low-income children, was hit with cuts in August after Congress enacted a sequestration of $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts over the next 10 years. The program lost 20 education slots in Madison County, as well as reduced transportation funding.
During this shutdown, however, the Head Start program, which serves 294 children in Madison County and another 295 in Delaware County, won’t be affected, no matter how long it lasts, said Sherry Edwards, a local Head Start official. “It’s very good news.”
John Raine, owner of Raine Inc., a local manufacturer of nylon military field gear as well as similar products used by police agencies, said the impact of a government shutdown is hard to assess.
“The impact depends on how long it lasts,” he said. Many of the company’s products are sold at military exchange retail stores, which aren’t affected by the partial government shutdown.
But many civilian military workers, who also buy and use Raine products, have been furloughed and that could affect sales. The bottom line?
“Anytime anyone in our customer base is not being paid, that will affect us,” he said.
At Grissom Air Reserve Base 12 miles north of Kokomo, 600 full-time civilian employees and reservists were sent home on Tuesday. And the Indiana National Guard furloughed about 1,000 federal technicians.
Gov. Mike Pence’s office said Indiana has enough money on hand to continue many of the largest joint federal-state programs such as Medicaid and unemployment insurance.
In addition, Pence’s spokeswoman, Christy Denault, said the state will be able to continue funding welfare benefits and a program that helps pregnant women, mothers and their children through October.
In an interview from her Washington office on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks, R-District 5, said no one wanted a government shutdown.
“I believe what is happening right now has been building for three years,” Brooks said, referring to 2010 when a Republican majority was elected to the House of Representatives. The goal of those Republicans has been to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
She said higher costs to individuals, and small and large businesses alike because of health care reform has been a key issue across the country and in Indiana’s 5th District.
Brooks criticized President Barack Obama and Senate Democratic leaders for refusing to negotiate with the House leaders and find common ground to cut short the budget crisis.
Brooks said she was encouraged by the administration’s call for a meeting of House and Senate leaders later on Wednesday, but added that it would fall short if the president’s only purpose was to convince House leaders to pass a continuing resolution that doesn’t address health care and other spending issues.
Like Stu Hirsch on Facebook and follow him @stuhirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861. The Associated Press contributed to this story.