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Massachusetts looking to blunt impact of possible federal shutdown

Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll in Holyoke on Tuesday.
Adam Frenier
Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll in Holyoke on Tuesday.

Massachusetts will do "everything we can" to keep food aid benefits flowing even if Congress fails this week to stave off a federal government shutdown, Gov. Maura Healey said Tuesday.

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., have yet to agree to a spending plan ahead of the Sept. 30 end of the federal fiscal year, and inaction by then could trigger a shutdown that would halt spending by many agencies and likely push government employees into furloughs.

 One affected area might be the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, which steers federal grants to states to help children and low-income mothers or pregnant individuals purchase food.

Healey said during an appearance on GBH's "Boston Public Radio" that she instructed her team to examine ways Massachusetts can maintain "continuity of care and services" even if the federal tap closes.

 "The last thing that people need who are receiving WIC or [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] benefits or anything else is more stress. So just to folks, know that we're going to do everything we can to continue receipt of those funds," she said. "I don't want people going without right now."

 Healey criticized Congress for its inability to reach a deal, calling the tenor of deliberations in the House Republican caucus -- where some members are clashing with Speaker Kevin McCarthy -- "grotesque."

Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll echoed many of the concerns of Healey during a visit to Holyoke on Tuesday. Driscoll said “the reality is we hope it doesn't happen. A federal shutdown has impacts on Massachusetts and it's at a time when we can't afford to be slowing down on anything.”

Driscoll said the impacts could be far reaching. A shutdown could hinder recovery from recent weather-related disasters, close national parks and hinder getting a passport, for instance. She said federal workers in the state could also be affected.

“Well, you're going to have people who are going to go to work, if you're a TSA agent, but you're not getting paid,” Driscoll said. “That may create needs in a family, whether it's food services or housing insecurity,".

NEPM’s Adam Frenier contributed to this report.

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