TALLAHASSEE -- Ten days into a partial shutdown of the federal government that has no signs of easing, Gov. Rick Scott’s chief of staff ordered that no state funds will be used to offset any federal programs that run out of cash as a result of the federal gridlock.
In a draft letter directed to the governor’s agencies, Adam Hollingsworth, Scott’s chief of staff, said that absent a federal resolution, “it is important that we ensure that state funds are not committed as a temporary backfill to federal programs as a matter of course.”
A day after more than 100 fishing guides, kayakers and paddle board operators held a rally to protest the closure of the Everglades National Park, the governor also rejected calls to use state funds to open closed federal parks in Florida.
The federal government said Thursday it will allow states to use their own money to reopen some national parks. Governors in Utah, South Dakota, Arizona and Colorado have suggested they will do that, even though it is uncertain whether they will get reimbursed.
“It’s the federal government’s obligation to reopen and cancel restrictions on Florida’s natural treasures, and Florida taxpayers will not foot the bill to cover Washington’s failure to negotiate and compromise,’’ said Frank Collins, Scott’s deputy communications director. He said federal agencies are attempting to “make the government shutdown more painful” by targeting Florida families “with added restrictions and closures of federal parks.”
Hollingsworth did not address what might happen to a handful of federal programs administered by the state that are expected to run out of money in the next four to seven days. Federal assistance programs that serve foster children, veterans programs, and small to medium-sized school districts are all expected to be short of cash, beginning Oct. 14, state documents show.
In addition, two state agencies that manage federal programs are in jeopardy of losing funding. Records show that 274 employees at the Department of Military Affairs are being furloughed and that the Florida Department of State Department next week will run out of money to pay the rent on some of its buildings.
The Department of Juvenile Justice had planned to use cash in its trust funds to make payments for its adoption and foster care programs, but Hollingsworth’s directive appears to prevent it.
For his part, Scott, a Republican who is seeking re-election, would not answer reporters’ questions about what impact the shutdown is having on the state. Instead, he repeatedly blamed President Barack Obama, a Democrat, for the gridlock in Washington.
“The buck always stops with the president,’’ Scott said in an interview with the Herald/Times. “We need more leadership and we need more negotiation in Washington, DC. I expect our leaders to resolve their differences. They need to get this fixed.”
Governors in other states have decided to use their state funds to provide temporary assistance to poor women and children who benefit from federal assistance programs such as TANF and SNAP.
Hollingsworth’s two-page memo said that “no accounting measures” or budget actions could be taken “to temporarily support unavailable federal funds through the use of state funds.”