News Round-Up: Does the Government Shutdown Affect Public Works?

Sometimes it’s nice to get an inside perspective on what’s going on in the world. Too often we see a summary of a news article, we read to the end and we think, “That was great and all, but what does it really mean for me?” Well, we have the same thoughts that you’ve had, so we’re introducing a new kind of a blog: a news round-up. Here, we can explore some of the hot topics of today’s world and dive a little bit deeper into how they might affect you.

The Government Shutdown Problem

By now, you’ve hopefully read articles, seen news stories or heard by word of mouth about the partial government shutdown. It’s now entered its 25th day, making it the longest in U.S. history. But it’s a federal government shutdown, not a state or local shutdown, so you should be unaffected, right? Well, that might not be true.

When the federal government experiences a full or partial shutdown, generally one of two things happen: no one “picks up the slack” while debates and compromises are drawn up in the government, or other agencies, departments and volunteers help where they’re needed.

So Who is Helping Whom?

To understand how this might affect local public works departments, first we have to cover which agencies are not currently receiving funding under the previously approved partial spending bill. The relevant agencies/departments that are not receiving full, or any, funding are: the Transportation Department and the Department of the Interior. While many other agencies are restricted under this shutdown, these two departments play a particular role in affecting public works departments.

The Transportation Department, as the name suggests, is in charge of 13 administrations that deal with all things transportation related – including the Federal Highway Administration. When federal administrations don’t receive funding, federal projects are put on hold. Highway sites are locked in purgatory as repairs and extensions are left unfinished, and traffic patterns begin to suffer. With diverted, heavier traffic patterns, local roads may experience a vehicle load that they were not meant to handle, which can have negative impacts on the roads over time – issues that will be the responsibility of Public Works at some point. Aside from indirect transportation issues, let’s look at some examples of where Public Works is stepping up at the present time:

government shutdown

San Francisco

The San Francisco Examiner reports that the Department of Public Works has spent time, personnel and resources to expand their trash collection to the national landmarks in their area – locations that are traditionally manned by paid staff of the landmarks, which are ultimately controlled by the Department of the Interior. Without funding, these locations have either closed or remained open with limited staff. As a result, bathrooms are locked up or are not being regularly cleaned, there is less active security to prevent tourists from engaging in illegal or destructive behaviors (like driving vehicles over protected sites) and most obviously, trash is piling up all over, reports the National Parks Conservation Association.

The Department of Public Works (DPW) indicated that they wanted to keep as much of the San Francisco area as beautiful as possible. The funding can only come for this additional help in two possible ways: the San Francisco DPW has either dipped into their own funding to provide for the resources they are expending (thereby lessening the amount they have for their own projects or internal upgrades), or they have stretched their resources thin across all of their tasks, meaning their normal projects for the community may not be getting the full amount of resources that they need.

While the action is admirable and even necessary for the protection of our beloved national landmarks, the DPW can expect to experience negative consequences as a result of their provision of resources.


American City and County magazine describes several local governments and departments that have been affected by the partial government shutdown. The Saginaw County Sheriff’s Department in Michigan has been expending its resources to deal with a Federal Aviation Administration’s issue (part of the Department of Transportation mentioned earlier). They’re guarding a fatal plane crash site until the FAA arrives, but now that is also causing problems for the local DPW. That location cannot be accessed by the public for enjoyment, and its diversions and destruction of the environment have created needs for repairs that the DPW cannot act on yet – and will have to spend additional funding on once the site has been cleared away.

In Georgia, the state government has been unable to secure any funding to continue development into future road projects. As a result, a similar situation has arisen from before where traffic patterns divert into the local areas and cause damage to the roadways for the DPW – projects that can’t be dealt with right away. In fact, the government shutdown could result in $230 million in future road projects to be delayed.

What Does all of this Mean?

Well, the government shutdown will affect each DPW in a different way – road projects, trash collection, environmental damage and more. The key is to be as prepared as you can be for the issues that could roll your way. Are you aware of your capital budget, personnel and asset inventory and maintenance? Do you have a channel for clear communication with your community and your government about where your pain points are and where you’re actively providing support? These may be some of the key steps you need to take to ensure that your department is ready to go at a moment’s notice – and that you can make the most of your budget – until we’ve weathered this eternal government shutdown.

AssetWorks Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) software comes equipped with the tools you need to help manage your public works assets. EAM includes complete asset life-cycle management, with budgeting, acquisition, capital improvement, campaigns and disposal management. In addition, EAM comes with robust service request, work order and calendar functionalities. Finally, EAM is integrated with Esri GIS and the AssetWorks FleetFocus fleet management system so that your data can be streamlined and kept accurate in real time.

Want to learn more about how EAM can help your public works department? Simply fill out the form below!

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