by Sarah Curry
Director of Fiscal Policy Studies
Congress has until the end of this week to take action to prevent a funding lapse and partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which would affect the processing of state and local grants. The Department is currently funded by a short-term continuing resolution (CR) set to expire at the end of the day on Friday, February 27. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has cautioned that lawmakers’ failure to act by the end of this Friday would result in 30,000 furloughed workers, including most Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) workers. At a briefing during the National Governors Association (NGA) Winter Meeting over the weekend, Johnson told states that DHS would be forced to suspend certain grants to state and local governments, as those federal employees involved in administering such grants would be furloughed in the event of a funding lapse. Most DHS employees would remain on the job though, such as law enforcement officers, Coast Guard, and border security, but those whose salaries are funded by congressional appropriations (as opposed to fees) would have to work without paychecks until appropriations were in place.
These grants are another extension of the federal government’s reach into the states. During fiscal year 2014, North Carolina received over $10 million in Homeland Security grants. Before you get excited, these funds are severely restricted and force additional costs onto the state and local municipalities. NC received $5,489,000 from the State Homeland Security Program grant, $2,122,250 from the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Activities grant, and a $3 million grant went to the city of Charlotte as an Urban Areas Security Initiative grant.
Federal lawmakers have failed to reach an agreement on funding the agency, and it remains unclear how this conflict will be resolved. House and Senate Republicans have been determined to use the spending bill as leverage to prohibit the Obama Administration from carrying out President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, while Senate Democrats have been united in opposition to these policy riders. The White House has also promised to veto any legislation that would prohibit his planned executive actions on immigration.
Last week, a federal district judge in Texas ruled to place a temporary halt on the Administration’s planned immigration actions, following a lawsuit opposing the actions filed by Texas and 25 other states. The Obama Administration continues to state that the President’s executive actions are legal and today filed for a stay of the District Court ruling to allow the immigration actions to proceed. Some Republican Senators have pointed to this latest development in court as a sign that the President’s immigration actions would be best fought through the judicial system and encouraged their colleagues in Congress to fund DHS. It remains possible that Congress will approve another short-term CR for DHS to avoid a lapse in funding and give lawmakers more time to reach a compromise.