Arkansas Says Furlough Numbers Not as Bad as Expected

LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas budget officials said Wednesday the number of state employees off work because of the federal budget impasse was at 685 - down by one-third as agencies found financial resources that kept workers on the job despite a partial shutdown of the federal government.

The state Department of Finance and Administration cautioned that the number of furloughed workers could balloon as federal money previously authorized for various programs runs out.

"As they keep reviewing things and learning new things, things change," said Richard Weiss, the agency's director.

The state said Tuesday that 955 Arkansas workers whose positions are funded at least in part by the federal government had been furloughed. When announcing the lower number Wednesday, the Department of Finance and Administration said agency heads had found sufficient money to keep more hands on deck.

"As agencies review their data on what federal funds are in their accounts, they may be coming up with money that may not have been expended that they feel they can carry forward," Weiss said.

It's also possible that federal contracts were awarded for specific periods of time that went beyond Monday's end of the federal fiscal year.

"Money could be available to spend," said Janis Harrison, the agency's statewide program manager. "It may be funded for a certain time."

Congress has failed to pass a budget for the 2014 fiscal year, which began Tuesday. The state's federal parks and forests are closed, as is the Buffalo National River. Courts are open, mainly for criminal matters, and the U.S. Postal Service is delivering mail because it generates its own income.

After the state budget office released revenue figures for the first three months of the state's fiscal year - July through September - Gov. Mike Beebe said Arkansas appeared on track for a successful year. The governor expressed concern, however, that if federal employees are off the job too long, state income tax revenues could dip.

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