EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 3, 2013

Mayor: Shutdown will cut city services soon

Federal impasse not yet affecting other local towns

By Shawn Regan
sregan@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — As many as eight city workers will be laid off or see their pay cut if the federal shutdown lasts for more than a few more days, Mayor James Fiorentini said.

Some of the workers will be furloughed — sent home with no work and no pay — while others will have their pay cut, Fiorentini said.

The mayor also said several programs for residents in the city’s poorest areas will be in jeopardy if the impasse in Washington goes on much longer. Those programs are paid for with federal Community Development Block Grant money, he said.

“It is an incredibly sad situation,” Fiorentini said of the shutdown. “I did not take office to inflict pain on good people and it will make me incredibly sad if I am forced to do this.”

The shutdown means the city can’t provide money to several charities in Haverhill that provide food, clothing and other essential items to poor people, the mayor said. He said several of these charities, including local food pantries, receive between $5,000 and $36,000 per year from the city’s grant money. The mayor said the city has stopped those payments already.

He also said the city won’t be able to provide heating assistance to low-income residents if the shutdown lasts. Federal money to pave and repair several streets and sidewalks has been frozen until the shutdown ends, he said.

Fiorentini said if the shutdown goes past a week, the eight city workers would be affected this way: Four would be laid off and four would be reduced to part-time. They are building inspectors and workers in the city’s community development office whose salaries are paid with federal Community Development Block Grant money, the mayor said. Haverhill receives the money because of its large number of low-income residents.

Methuen Mayor Stephen Zanni said the shutdown hasn’t affected his city yet, but he said that could change in a week or so. Methuen receives less federal money than Haverhill, Zanni said.

North Andover Town Manager Andrew Maylor said it would also take a while before his town notices any effects from the federal shutdown.

“I’m not worried about the town budget because we don’t get the kind of federal money that some of the cities get, but we do have some public safety grants and some federal money for our schools,” Maylor said. “ But it would take a while before it would affect us.”

Maylor added that his daughter is aware of the government shutdown and asked him yesterday why he is still working.

“Thankfully it’s not affecting this branch of the government,” he said of the federal shutdown.

Municipal officials in Andover and Lawrence did not return phone calls for this story.

If Haverhill ends up sending eight city workers home, they would join thousands of state and federal workers who have already been furloughed.

The shutdown of the federal government, which began Tuesday, is the result of Congress’ failure to approve a new spending plan. As a consequence, governmental services have been cut, offices and parks have been closed and programs have been delayed.

Federal officials have estimated the shutdown could put 29,000 federal employees in Massachusetts out of work.

Gov. Deval Patrick said about 4,000 state workers whose jobs are largely funded by federal programs could be affected.

The governor said he was on a conference call yesterday with White House officials and governors from across the country and that “everyone was frustrated and stunned, and wondering what happens to services for our most vulnerable citizens.”