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October 09, 2013 - JEFFERSON CITY — The federal government's partial shutdown has caused state unemployment claims to rise, but state officials are starting to turn their attention to Congress' next fiscal decision — whether to raise the country's borrowing limit.
Missouri Department of Labor spokesman Tom Bastian said last week that the 10.4-percent rise in unemployment claims filed after the government shutdown on Oct. 1 is the highest jump he has ever seen.
Bastian said the department is not allowed to comment about how many of the claims were filed by federally furloughed workers because of a state law that prevents department officials from commenting on employers.
But he said the spike in claims filed can be attributed to businesses impacted by federal workers in addition to the furloughed workers themselves.
"If there's a restaurant right near a federal building, and employees usually come out and eat at that restaurant, those jobs would be affected," Bastian said.
The federal government's next fiscal fight could cause those unemployment numbers to rise and could affect other areas of state government, including education.
If Congress fails to extend the country's borrowing threshold by Thursday, Oct. 17, school districts across the state could suffer the consequences, said Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education communications director Sarah Potter.
"Right now even though most of the U.S. Department of Education is furloughed they are still making most of their funds available," Potter said. "When the 17th happens, we've hit our limit for actually funding those federal programs."
Potter said the state receives more than $500 million in federal funding annually for programs including school lunches, special education and career and technical education.
"All we can do right now is help school districts be informed of the situation, let them know of the possible ramifications," Potter said. "We're hopeful we don't have to cross this bridge but it's hard to tell what's going to happen and what's going to be funded."
Potter said the state's poorest districts would be affected the most.
Last week, Missouri's budget director, Linda Luebbering, warned that the state would have a hard time paying its Medicaid bills if Congress did not raise the debt ceiling by Thursday.
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