Oklahoma feeling pinch of partial government shutdown

Collaborator: Brittany Harlow
Published: 01/16/2019, 9:18 AM
Edited: 03/11/2021, 10:22 AM

(OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.) Oklahoma Department of Human Services and Oklahoma Department of Transportation are just a couple of state agencies affected by the longest government shutdown in the country’s history.

On Monday, DHS announced it had five days to issue February’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to eligible recipients early, after instruction from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“This was welcome news to all of us at DHS as I know it will be for the more than 610,000 Oklahomans who depend on this program to help feed their families each month,” said DHS Director Ed Lake. “We have had numerous discussions with USDA officials over the past few days concerning details of this plan and coordinating our approaches. I have authorized voluntary overtime for our SNAP workforce that has been working through the weekend processing SNAP case renewals and applications already in the queue.”

More than 800,000 Oklahomans received SNAP benefits in 2018. DHS officials said most are children, seniors and people with disabilities, including disabled veterans.

“We are working under a critically short deadline to make all of this happen,” said DHS Adult and Family Services Director Patrick Klein. “It is definitely ‘all hands on deck’ to ensure that we provide as much of February benefits as possible by January 20th. SNAP recipients who are already receiving benefits will automatically receive their amounts for February on their EBT cards by January 20th.”

Klein said it is important for customers to understand, if they receive their benefits early, they will not receive any other SNAP benefits in February so they should budget accordingly.

The USDA will then use limited SNAP contingency reserve funds to pay for benefits beyond January 20.

Ron Edgmon, President and CEO of the Oklahoma Grocers Association, encouraged SNAP recipients to use their benefits as normal and not rush out to grocery stores all at once, even though funds will be available early.

“This will enable your local supermarkets to keep products flowing and not encounter shortages for any period of time,” said Edgmon. “We have association members in every county in the state and we work diligently, along with our wholesalers and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, to make sure the consumer has fresh safe food on the counters when shopping your local store.”

DHS officials said Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and its more than 300 partners are ready to step in and provide food assistance for SNAP recipients and anyone affected by the shutdown.

And it’s not just DHS that’s affected.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation said due to lack of federal funding authorization, about 45 upcoming road and bridge projects totaling more than $137 million have been delayed until after February.

Officials said projects already under contract are not affected by the federal government shutdown.

We’re told $102 million out of $180 million in letting is being delayed in January, and $36 million out of $108 million in letting is being delayed in February.

Projects with surface work need to be let early in the year, officials said, so contractors can pave in the summer. Many of those are state funded.

Bridge projects could run into trouble later in the year if delayed, when federally-protected animals like cliff swallows begin nesting under a bridge before work begins. The nesting season ends in September.

Some of the higher cost projects being delayed include a $21 million grade, drain, surface and bridge project in Kiowa, Beckham and Washita Counties on State Highway 6 near Sentinel, and a $15 million grade, drain, surface and bridge project in Washington County on US-60 east near Bartlesville. 

Other projects include high traffic areas like I‐40/US‐59/US‐62/US‐75/SH‐51 in Muskogee, Adair, Cherokee, Sequoyah and Wagoner Counties, where a striping and pavement marking project will cost close to $2 million. 

All in all 44 projects in 38 Oklahoma counties are affected by the delay in funding: 

Atoka 1

Beaver 1

Beckham 4

Beckham/Greer 1

Blaine 1

Cimarron 2

Cotton 1

Delaware 1

Garvin 1

Grady 1

Haskell 1

Harmon 1

Jackson 1

Johnston 1

Kiowa 1

Kiowa, Beckham and Washita 1

Love 1

Marshall 1

McClain 2

McIntosh 2

Muskogee, Adair, Cherokee, Sequoyah and Wagoner 1

Nowata 2

Okmulgee 1

Ottawa 1

Pawnee 1

Pittsburg 2

Pottawatomie 1

Pushmataha 1

Roger Mills 1

Rogers 2

Seminole 1

Stephens 1

Texas 1

Washington 2

The government shutdown continues with no end in sight as elected officials remain at an impasse over President Donald Trump's demand for $5.6 billion in federal funds for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.


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