Arkansas Expects Furloughs to Rise, Number Unclear

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013 9:34 am  

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe and state finance officials said Friday they expected the number of state employees furloughed because of the federal government shutdown to rise drastically next week. But the exact figure was a moving target throughout the day.

Beebe initially said he expected 1,460 state employees whose positions are funded by the federal government would be furloughed starting Monday. The state Department of Finance and Administration hours later estimated it could be as high as 1,600 — but that number incorrectly included 379 workers who will still be on the job Monday.

State officials said the number could change as the department continued reviewing requests from agencies to keep workers on the job.

"They're still talking to state agencies, they've still got agencies coming to them who think they might have found some other places to get money from to keep people on a little longer, so that number could still flux," Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said Friday morning.

DeCample said other employees' hours may be cut or they may have to work without being paid during the shutdown.

The state has furloughed hundreds of workers since the shutdown started Oct. 1. Beebe told agency directors on Wednesday that the state no longer had the resources to cover for the lack of federal funds for the positions and programs.

"This is a real problem, people," Beebe said at a news conference at the state Capitol. "We've got real people laid off. We've got real families hurting. We've got real services going unmet."

Richard Weiss, director of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration said his department was reviewing each agency's federal grants to see if leftover money from previous years could be used to pay for the positions. Weiss said the number could change as those reviews continue.

"We still have agencies calling in every five minutes," Weiss said late Friday afternoon.

Department of Human Services spokeswoman Amy Webb said the department had incorrectly told DFA that 442 workers would be furloughed. Webb said that figured had included workers whose hours had been cut because of the shutdown, and that the number of employees furloughed would instead remain steady at 63.

Beebe said the state has found ways to assure that some state services are not affected by the shutdown. For example, he said the state was able to avoid the closure of the Fort Smith airport by using some reserve money from the National Guard.

The airport faced the possibility of being shut down if the guardsmen who provide it fire protection were furloughed.



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