Local agencies weather shutdown


The federal government shutdown has impacted countless lives across the United States and unsettled citizens who rely on information or income from the federal level over the last month.

“Although the government shutdown is an unsettling circumstance, we in emergency management thrive on resilience and planning,” said Madison County Emergency Management Coordinator Shelly Butts. “If one resource is not available, we find another. Thankfully, some of our partners are leading the way.”

One of Emergency Management’s most active partners on a daily basis is the National Weather Service. The local U.S. National Weather Service Houston-Galveston has kept the office informed with weather forecasts, social media posts, warnings and watches. They are also working with FEMA representatives on past disasters and continue to request reimbursements and file documentation as before.

They have also been moving forward with their Emergency Management Preparedness Grant (EMPG), which is federally funded but administered by the state.

“One of the first incidents we had directly related to the shutdown was for a webinar that was going to be presented to introduce us to the new EMPG requirements for the coming year,” said Butts. “However, due to the shutdown, the first broadcast of the webinar was cancelled. Since then, the state has stepped up and provided us with the information from that presentation so that we can plan accordingly.”

Emergency Management has also been working regionally with Volunteer Agencies Active in Disasters (VoADs). At a meeting last week, they were briefed on actions being taken by agencies to assist families who rely on federal funds, such as employees of the federal prison in the Bryan area.

Elsewhere in the county, it has been business as usual for the most part for Veteran’s Service Officer Danny Singletary. Singletary will often drive local veterans to hospitals so they can get the assistance they need.

“They are constantly changing the website for applying to different items for veteran assistance,” said Singletary. “I tried for myself last week and it did not work. The message was that these people are not getting paid. That is the only thing I have seen. If it had been a busy office, say in Houston, Dallas or Fort Worth, I would assume it had a bigger impact. But for us, there was very little if any. I made several trips to VA hospitals and everything was normal.”

The government shutdown was the longest in the nation’s history and ended on Friday after 35 days. But the end of the shutdown has been dubbed temporary by President Donald Trump, who threatened a new shutdown or executive action if congress cannot reach a “fair deal” on securing the southern border by Feb. 15.