North Carolina climbs back to speed from shutdown
RALEIGH — North Carolina's government got back up to speed Thursday with the federal shutdown now ended and federal funds for welfare, health and child care programs flowing back to the states.
The state Department of Health and Human Services, the agency most affected by the 16-day partial closing, said that 2,200 workers who had been furloughed or faced reduced hours because their pay was all or partially funded by Washington were being told to return to work full time. Less than 10 percent of them weren't able to work at all, the agency said.
DHHS spokesman Ricky Diaz said the agency told county social service officials to resume processing Work First welfare applications and that child care subsidy funds had been restored to previous levels. The state agency hoped to have all services restored by the end of Thursday, he said.
The state suspended Work First applications earlier this week and told counties they'd have to make do with fewer child care subsidy dollars because money wasn't authorized by Congress after Sept. 30.
North Carolina appeared to be the only state that took such actions, rather than extending those services with state dollars and expecting reimbursement from the federal government. DHHS said it wasn't persuaded enough that North Carolina could count on that payback. The legislation that passed Wednesday night to end the shutdown directed reimbursement to the states for federal programs that continued during the shutdown.
The North Carolina National Guard announced furloughs of 950 guard civilians and uniformed members soon after the Oct. 1 shutdown began. A National Guard spokesman didn't immediately return an email seeking comment Thursday afternoon, but Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Gregory Lusk wrote on Facebook: "Today we celebrate the return of all members of our ... team."
The shutdown otherwise affected small portions of agencies sprinkled throughout state government. The state Commerce Department said Thursday it postponed next week's expected release of unemployment rate data for September.
The shutdown forced a suspension in work collecting and calculating unemployment figures between the state's Labor Economic and Analysis Division and the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, state Commerce Department spokesman Josh Ellis said in an email. A new date for releasing the figures hasn't been determined, Ellis said.
The U.S. House and Senate approved an agreement to extend federal government funding into mid-January and give government authority to borrow what it needs until early February. Seven of North Carolina's 13 House members and U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan voted for the resolution, which was signed by President Barack Obama.