LITTLE ROCK — About 2,000 state employees were furloughed Tuesday on the first day of the federal government shutdown, but officials found money to continue providing 86,000 daily meals to pre-kindergarten and before and after school programs, Gov. Mike Beebe said.
State officials originally thought the federally funded school meals program would end when the first federal government shutdown in 17 years began.
“It’s fluid,” Beebe said, adding that federal officials have informed the state that because the federal fiscal year ended Monday, there apparently is some leftover money available for the state to use during the government shutdown.
Beebe said some of those funds would be used to fund the school meal programs for at least two weeks.
“But we don’t know, if (the shutdown) is prolonged, if there will be school lunches for kids” after that, Beebe said before attending a late-morning Hispanic Heritage Month celebration at the MacArthur Military Museum.
Monday evening, state health officials were notified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that there would be enough federal funding available to prevent any immediate cuts to the state’s Women Infants and Children’s program, which served more than 23,000 infants, 42,105 children and 2,039 mothers in August.
The state Department of Health said the WIC funding would be evaluated on a week-by-week basis during the government shutdown.
Also Tuesday, the Clinton Presidential Center announced it is closing its permanent exhibits to walk-in visitors because of the federal government shutdown. The presidential library is part of the National Archives and is affected by the shutdown that began Tuesday.
Library officials said previously scheduled school and group tours would be honored. A symposium on Bosnia featuring former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright went on as scheduled Tuesday.
Other federal facilities and national parks in Arkansas closed because of the shutdown, including Hot Springs National Park, the Fort Smith National Historic Site and the Buffalo National River State Park.
Beebe and state Department of Finance and Administration Director Richard Weiss said Monday that as many as 18,000 state employees could be furloughed if the shutdown is prolonged.
By early Tuesday evening, there was little indication that the government shutdown would end anytime soon.
President Obama, during a speech from the Rose Garden, blamed the shutdown on Republicans who, he said, would do almost anything to try and dismantle his signature health care law.
Tuesday morning, the House approved a resolution to fund the government but the measure included an amendment to delay the Affordable Care Act for one year. It also appointed eight Republican members to participate in a budget conference with the Senate. The Senate later stripped the resolution of all amendments, approved it and sent it back to the House.