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Local governments and Utah’s rainy day fund can keep some federal programs afloat, but for how long?

Posted at 8:01 AM, Jan 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-05 10:01:42-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Some of the most vulnerable groups in Utah are in jeopardy of losing critical funding if the federal government shutdown continues into February.

If the shutdown is over within the next few weeks, "We'll be fine," said Kristen Cox, the executive director of the Governor's Office of Management and Budget.

“There`s some other programs that will be jeopardy if we go beyond January,” Cox said.

One of those programs is called WIC or the women and infant children's program.

“It helps low income women, pregnant women, to get both educational and milk, cheese, food, things like that when they`re pregnant," Cox said. "As well as some educational support referral services."

WIC has about four to six weeks before the funds run out and it serves about 45,000 people in Utah.

Another big program in jeopardy is the Child Nutrition Program, which includes funding for school lunches. About a third of students use it, which is roughly 200,000 kids in Utah.

“The child nutrition program is a $200 million program so there`s only so much the state can do to back-fill that so those are discussions we`ll have to have if this persists,” Cox said.

Utah does have a significant rainy day fund, which could potentially pay for these programs for a short amount of time.

“We`re a very well managed state so we do have reserves set aside," Cox said. But the question is how much will we need and for how long?”

However, since federal funds make up about 27 percent of Utah’s annual budget, it would be difficult for the state to make up all of that money. Cox is hoping Congress puts politics aside and settles on a compromise.

“They need to set that aside and rule for all Americans not just their party right now,” Cox said.

The state is collaborating with some private groups and local governments to fund Zion and Bryce National Parks through January 15, but after that, the national parks in Utah will run out of funding as well.

If federal funding runs out and Utah has to use its reserves, that would require discussions with the legislature to determine how much of the rainy day fund can and should be used.