City officials prepare for impacts of government shutdown on Evanston


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

The Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. City officials are watching the shutdown closely to see how it will impact Evanston residents.

Maddy Daum, Assistant City Editor

Even though Evanston programs haven’t been directly affected by the federal government shutdown, city officials are keeping a close watch on how lack of funding for federal programs will affect Evanston.

As President Donald Trump and Democrats continue to struggle over a wall along the US-Mexico border, Congress has failed to pass federal funding bills, resulting in a partial government shutdown. The shutdown comes in the midst of ongoing immigration issues coming to a head, which has been a key platform of Trump’s presidency. As the shutdown continues, federal employees such as park rangers and Transportation Security Administration agents are not being paid.

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz said that because there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the shutdown, he will be watching the developments closely to see how they impact residents.

If the shutdown lasts, it could result in a lack of funding for vital city programs, according to a memo written by Sarah Flax, Evanston’s division manager of housing and grants. Flax said nine federal departments, including the Department of the Treasury and Department of Agriculture, will affect Evanston should they lose funding. If the shutdown stretches into February, Flax said tax refunds could be delayed and federal employees will suffer financially.

The Department of Agriculture announced programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Women, Infants and Children program will continue to receive funding.

Bobkiewicz said he will be watching government subsidized food programs carefully to make sure Evanston residents are assisted if they lose funding.

“Should (government subsidized food programs) be impacted in the future, we want to make sure that if we have the ability to help in any way we can,” Bobkiewicz said. “I think at this point (the shutdown) is a moving target, and we just need to be mindful of the issues as they go on and do our best to mitigate as close we can.”

According to Flax’s memo, there is no guaranteed funding for affordable housing programs like the Community Development Block Grant until the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development releases grant amounts. Flax said funding from prior years before the shutdown will support these agencies until it runs out.

The city usually gets funding for housing and urban development later in the year, but Bobkiewicz said he is watching the issue closely for possible deals or budget reallocations.

Bobkiewicz also noted that residents will begin to be impacted by the shutdown since tax refunds could be delayed or frozen if it extends into February. Due to the shutdown, the IRS is not verifying incomes and social security numbers, which impacts mortgage approvals and loans.

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) said although she doesn’t know how many federal employees live in Evanston, she understands that they will be impacted, and if necessary, the city has emergency assistant funding to provide support. She called the shutdown “unacceptable,” especially for people who depend on federal services and work for the government.

“We as a city will make sure to support our residents the way we can,” Fleming said. “No one knows what’s going to happen. We’re all just kind of waiting to see what happens in Washington.”

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