Roughly 50 Arkansas state employees to be furloughed in potential federal shutdown

By: - September 28, 2023 4:26 pm

Arkansas State Capitol (Dwain Hebda/Arkansas Advocate)

This story was updated at 5:44 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, with new information from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

Arkansas officials estimate that 50 state employees would be out of work or go without pay next week if the federal government can’t come to a funding agreement before Monday.

That number could grow if a shutdown lingers beyond a week.

Of Arkansas’ 15 cabinet-level agencies, about 14,000 employees are funded at least in part by federal dollars, according to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

The furloughs would include employees at the Arkansas Department of Health, Agriculture Department and Division of Community Correction.

Each department will inform affected employees before Monday if Congress can’t broker a deal before Saturday’s midnight deadline.

U.S. Senate moves on short-term spending bill in struggle to avoid shutdown days away

“While some may be affected, we anticipate the vast majority will continue work next week,” said Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the Department of Finance and Administration. “A wide variety of factors, including the length of the shutdown and specific funding source, could alter each program’s status if the shutdown continues. In preparation of a potential shutdown, DFA will continue to review details in order to keep Arkansans informed.”

The impact on state employees is in addition to the more than 13,562 federal employees that could be affected in Arkansas, according to the federal Office of Personnel Management.

A shutdown would also halt some federal programs, like the operation of national parks and nutrition assistance for low-income families.

In a Wednesday memo to cabinet secretaries, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders directed each secretary to minimize the impact of a federal shutdown on the state.

Federally funded programs and positions that already have funding allocated or that the secretaries determine are necessary to protect public health, safety or welfare will continue to operate during a shutdown.

Other federally funded programs must be suspended, Sanders said.

A ‘disaster’ nears: Millions of federal workers’ paychecks would be on hold in a shutdown

“As a state, we must be prepared for the federal government to fail at its duty and ensure the continuation of those services vital to the protection of public health, safety, and welfare, while at the same time temporarily suspending government services that rely on federal funding,” Sanders wrote in the memo.

Sanders’ memo put the blame for a potential shutdown at the feet of the Biden administration, but Congress has been unable to agree on a deal to send to the White House.

The Senate, with support of Republican leaders, has reached an agreement on a short-term spending package to give Congress more time to negotiate before a shutdown occurs, but House Republicans have been unable to come up with a package of their own due to disagreements largely among the caucus’ most right-wing members.

The greatest points of contention have centered around whether a short-term package should include additional aid for Ukraine or additional funding for security at the southern U.S. border.


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Hunter Field
Hunter Field

Hunter Field is a veteran Arkansas journalist whose reporting on the state has carried him from military air strips in northwest Arkansas to soybean fields in the Arkansas delta. Most recently, he was the Democrat-Gazette's projects editor, leading the newspaper's investigative team. A Memphis native, he enjoys smoking barbecue, kayaking and fishing in his free time.