RI officials prepare for possible federal shutdown


Rhode Island officials are getting ready for a possible full or partial shutdown of the federal government.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent, had instructed his staff to be in daily contact with the state’s congressional delegation, indicating his level of concern, his spokesman, Mike Trainor, said Wednesday.

“The administration is preparing contingency plans. We are working very closely with our congressional delegation,” Trainor said. “We will be providing guidance to all of our departments as soon as we know if this is going to happen and exactly what its full dimension might be.”

The government faces a partial shutdown Friday at midnight if Congress doesn’t take action to avoid one. Negotiations on legislation to keep federal agencies running is hung up with Republicans’ demand for steep spending cuts.

Sen. Jack Reed, a Democrat, called the looming shutdown irresponsible and avoidable, and said it could affect thousands of Rhode Islanders who work for the federal government or federal contractors. He called for a “reasonable compromise” and said if that isn’t reached, it could hurt the state’s economy.

Among those who would not get paid if the shutdown happens are military personnel. They would not get paid beyond Friday, but would continue to earn money that would be paid to them once the government resumes.

Trainor said there are also hundreds of state employees whose salaries are paid by federal programs, and it was unclear what would happen to them.

The state had the fourth-largest unemployment rate in the nation in February, at 11.2 percent, but those collecting unemployment benefits should not be affected, said Laura Hart, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Labor and Training. She said the state has enough money to pay for administrative services through June, and has an automatic line of credit for payment of benefits.

Paulette Dube, chief deputy clerk of the U.S. District Court in Providence, said the court had been told that if the government shuts down at midnight Friday, there is enough money to continue to operate for 10 working days after that.

“The drop-dead date for us is April 22,” she said. 

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