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Shutdown endangers food programs, state officials say

With the federal shutdown, Maryland can only pay to feed low-income women and children for a "limited period of time," the state's budget secretary said Wednesday.

The state can cover the cost of food stamps and energy programs until the end of October, the secretary said. But she is still talking with the White House and its budget office on how to pay for the federal Women, Infant and Children nutrition program that helps feed about 150,000 people in Maryland each year.

"That is one program that the government has said they're not going to provide funding for," Department of Budget and Management Sec. T. Eloise Foster said at a Board of Public Works meeting. She later added that she couldn't specify how many days the program could continue. 

As the shutdown enters it second day, Maryland officials grappled with how to deal with what they anticipate could be a dramatic blow to the state's economy if the gridlock over federal funding continues. 

 "Businesses are going to feel the pinch," Foster said. 

Comptroller Peter Franchot said that beyond lost wages and tax revenue pegged at $15 million a day, he's also concerned that a third of Maryland economy - roughly $90 billion annually - is tied to the federal government.

 "I describe it as a calamity wrapped around a train wreck, unless cooler heads prevail," Comptroller Peter Franchot said. 

"Cooler heads would be key," Foster responded.

Maryland is also paying the 11,000 state workers whose jobs are paid for all or in part with federal dollars and would otherwise be furloughed.  

Despite the concerns about certain programs in Maryland, Foster said Medicaid, child support, the health care exchange and most major programs will continue. 

"For the time being, we're in pretty good shape," she said. 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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