Government shutdown may affect schools

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Food service at local districts could be impacted

According to local school district superintendents, the federal government shutdown may have an effect on schools food service programs, as the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) recently released a memo regarding USDA government shutdown information.

The United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, has provided DESE with additional funding to support the Child Nutrition Programs during the partial government shutdown into the month of March. The payment received in March will be for the reimbursement of meals, snacks and milk served in February.   DESE and the USDA will continue to monitor the funding situation and provide updates as information becomes available. 

Lance Massey, Wheaton superintendent, said he received that memo about two weeks ago.

“They said that we could continue to submit food service stuff as we typically do, through March,” he said. “When we submit March, that would pay for February’s food service items.”

Massey said as he understands DESE may not have funding approved beyond that point.

“I haven’t had any further updates on that,” he said. “You hear on the news that different sections of the government are opening and closing, but I don’t know how that affects us.”

Massey said he wanted to inform the school board about the possible risks the school could face due to the government shutdown.

“We have dollars in our budget to be able to cover food service,” he said. “Hopefully if it comes to that we would be able to submit claims, and they could pay those.”

Richard Asbill, Cassville superintendent, said depending on the length of the government shutdown, the impact to local school district can vary.

“Obviously the more reimbursement claim windows that we have to submit that would go unpaid, that would put a local responsibility to those bills,” he said. “We will continue to pay our bills, and the hope would be that the shutdown would end and they would start re-approving some of those claims.

“I am hopeful that our legislatures will reach an agreement that is beneficial to our government and to the union in general.”

Asbill said if the shutdown was to continue, school districts will likely have to make some accommodations for reimbursement on the federal food service program until an agreement is reached.

“We would have the timeline of throughout February to March for the government to come to an agreement,” he said. “DESE monitors that, and they will provide us with information about the claim reimbursements.”

Asbill said that school districts are still at least two months out before DESE would issue guidance saying if they will not receive or when they will receive funds for reimbursement.

“At that point, it would be a fiscal planning thing that we would have to accommodate locally,” he said. “We are still probably a month out from that critical standpoint of figuring out what to do.”

Asbill said there are several components of the federal government that impact local school districts.

“However, with some of those components, the allocation in regard to the program or expenditures were already made to school districts,” he said. “That does not mean that the school districts actually received those funds, because they have to incur the expenditure and then make a reimbursement claim.”

Asbill said for Cassville, there are various federal programs with food service being one of those.

“Title 1, Title 2, Title 4 and special education programs would be touched by the federal government, as well,” he said. “However, right now we will be continuing business as usual, because we would still need to submit an expenditure report for reimbursement.”

Asbill said it isn’t much different than any other time, except if the school were to submit a claim now, it is aware that it wouldn’t necessarily get it.

“It’s not the we aren’t approved for it, it’s just that with the federal government shutdown, they aren’t going to send us that transaction,” he said. “Each school district is a little different in their claims procedure, but for us, we are not currently out of our normal claims window. We haven’t submitted anything that we are waiting to get back in order to pay any bills.”

Asbill said if the shutdown were to continue into March, that does impact local school districts, in this case Cassville.

“We then would be looking to submit a claim reimbursement and with the government shutdown, we wouldn’t have a way to be reimbursed,” he said. “That then becomes a short term, local management issue of how to accommodate the expenditures that we have made.”

Asbill said the hope is that a short term resolution is reached to reenact some of the operation pieces of the government, or better, that a complete resolution is reached to get everything back on track.

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