MTA puts city on notice that government shutdown may disrupt city bus services

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MTA Executive Director Mike Whitten came before Aldermen on Jan. 15 to advise them that they may need help in making payroll should the government shut down continue into February. MPTV screenshot

MANCHESTER, NH – Commuter alert: The federal government shut down may effect city bus service. Manchester Transit Authority Executive Director Mike Whitten came before the Board of Aldermen during the Jan. 15 meeting to give city leaders a heads up that they may be in need of money to cover payroll in the next few weeks.

Whitten told Aldermen that MTA cannot access $440,000 in federal funding that is locked in an account, without access, until the shut-down is resolved.

“It’s money that’s definitely coming, but we have a lack of ability to use the funds,” Whitten said.

Alderman Joe Levasseur asked Mayor Joyce Craig to send a letter to New Hampshire’s congressional delegation to help figure out a work-around.

“This is not employees allowed to work, this is the person writing the check can’t write the check,” Levasseur said.

Craig told the board that she had already sent a letter to the delegation, and had confirmation that it was received.

“You should send a letter to the White House, too,” Alderman Bill Shea said.

Whitten told the board that operations would continue and they would probably be all right as long as the shut down does not extend past another two to three weeks. Half of MTA’s funding comes from the Federal Transit Administration, funding that keeps city buses on the road and provides paychecks to workers.

MTA services include connections for commuter bus transport to Nashua and Concord, inner-city bus service, the Green Dash, school buses and school sports transportation.

The government shut down went into effect Dec. 22, 2018. As day 25 of the shutdown continued Wednesday, it is the longest government shut down in history, and those from affected federal agencies are working without pay.

The shutdown was initiated by President Donald Trump, who is seeking support for $5.7 billion in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border as a national security issue, which  has become a political bargaining chip in Washington, D.C.

Democrats, who control the House, say the wall is “ineffective and expensive” and are refusing to approve the billions required for the wall, which is tied to funding legislation. During his presidential campaign Trump said time and again that Mexico would pay for the construction. He now says Mexico will “pay” through a pending trade deal.

The shut down currently is disrupting nine federal agencies – the EPA, the IRS, and the departments of State, Housing and Urban Development, Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, Justice, and Homeland Security. Congress has fully funded the military (aside from the U.S. Coast Guard) and the departments of Veterans Affairs, Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services.

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Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!