Shutdown could delay subsidies

Housing authority will continue to work

If the partial government shutdown extends past Jan. 1, the Altoona Housing Authority won’t have subsidies to pay the 450 landlords of Section 8 housing properties in the city.

Altoona Housing Authority Executive Director Cheryl Johns said employees will continue to work and hope for the best.

“In the event we don’t receive our subsidy from the first of the year, we will still have to work,” she said. “People won’t get paid, but we have a responsibility to the residents in our program.”

There’s a chance that the Department of Housing and Urban Development might release reserves to pay employees, but Johns said she was not certain.

She added that employees would be paid retroactively when the shutdown ends and Congress passes a spending plan for HUD.

The shutdown also affects national parks — The Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic site, a unit of the National Park Service — is closed.

Other departments wating for funding are: the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Interior, State and Transportation.

President Donald Trump has been demanding $5 billion for a southern border wall as part of any budget deal. Democrats are opposed.

Some federal departments have been funded, however. Congress approved five spending bills prior to the wall funding negotiations ratcheting up. Trump signed bills into law that fund the departments of Defense, Energy, Labor, Health and Human Services, the legislative branch and Veterans Affairs.

Veterans services will continue unimpeded at the Van Zandt Medical center, which is fully funded for the year, said public affairs officer Shaun Shenk.

Trump tweeted his willingness to stick to his key campaign promise.

On Tuesday, Trump tweeted: “I am in the White House, working hard. … We are negotiating with the Democrats on desperately needed Border Security (Gangs, Drugs, Human Trafficking & more) but it could be a long stay.”

In another tweet that day, he wrote: “The only way to stop drugs, gangs, human trafficking, criminal elements and much else from coming into our Country is with a Wall or Barrier.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., disagrees.

In a statement issued a day prior to the shutdown, Casey frowned on Trump’s decision.

“The president said he would be ‘proud’ to shut down the government and now he’s doing just that,” Casey’s statement read. “Instead of creating chaos, President Trump should support the bipartisan funding bill that the U.S. Senate passed unanimously. It provides over $1 billion for border security funding, but not a wall that security experts say won’t work.”

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.