Arkansas has felt the impact of the federal government shutdown, however it is not as drastic for us as it is for other states. California, for example, is a state where 8 percent of the workforce are full-time federal civilians. That said, it still remains a serious situation for many of our state agencies which rely on federal grants. Arkansas has 12,864 federal civilian employees many of whom are now going without a paycheck.
Currently, the Department of Finance and Administration is reporting that 685 state employees are furloughed. That number is expected to rise if the shutdown continues.
This is the first federal government shutdown in 17 years. In addition to the 6 national parks in our state that are now closed, state agencies are now trying to work with reduced revenue losses.
Next to our Military Department, the Department of Human Services (DHS) is seeing the greatest impact. Currently over 200 employees with DHS have been furloughed. This is due to a loss of federal grants which help to pay family service workers and long-term care givers. The agency says 85,000 meals given each month to those in need are also in jeopardy. This includes meals on wheels and after school programs.
The Department of Health has reached an agreement to preserve the Women Infants and Children’s (WIC) program on a week by week basis. The commitment from the USDA will allow the Health Department to continue issuing certifications without interruption this week. It is also expected that a reallocation will allow Arkansas to fund food checks at current levels through the month of October, but funding is being monitored closely.
Currently, there are over 60 employees from the Department of Environmental Quality who have had their hours cut or reduced. This will impact permitting time lines for hazardous waste and water permits, which ultimately impacts industry.
Another area where our state expects to see an economic impact is in tourism. October is peak season for many tourists who want to visit National Parks. It is estimated that every federal dollar invested in national parks generates $10 in economic activity. The parks nationwide also support more than a quarter-million jobs and more than $30 billion in private-sector spending each year.
Our state has 6 National Parks which are now closed. Those are Hot Springs National Park, Buffalo National River, Pea Ridge National Military Park, Fort Smith National Historic Site, Central High National Historic Site, and Arkansas Post National Memorial. These parks alone had over 1 million visitors during the first 6 months of this year.
Essential services in our state continue to operate. Every member is watching closely to see how the furloughs and cuts are impacting their district. We will continue to update you on any major changes.