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'It's very frustrating': Rep. Becca Balint weighs in on looming government shutdown

A photo of a woman at a microphone
Amanda Andrade-Rhoades
Associated Press
Rep. Becca Balint, D-Vt., speaks during a news conference Nov. 13, 2022.

Rep. Becca Balint said she is frustrated and concerned by the threat of a federal government shutdown that could begin this weekend. The shutdown would lead to a freeze on paychecks for the millions of people who work for the federal government — including those in Vermont — as well as a pause on many government services.

"I'm worried about seniors. I'm worried about vets," Balint said on Tuesday's Vermont Edition. "I'm also worried about all those folks who were deeply impacted by the flooding this summer. If we shut down, then you're not going to have FEMA working at full capacity. You're not going to have those checks going out. You're not going to have people who are moving the paperwork along to get people relief, so they can put in a new furnace before the snow flies."

However, Vermont officials say a federal shutdown would not impact assistance applications from homeowners. Chief Flood Recovery Officer Doug Farnham said Tuesday that towns could see delays on larger infrastructure projects, but a shutdown would not likely affect applications for individual assistance. A FEMA official told Vermont Public on background that the agency would still be able to provide "life-saving and life-sustaining assistance in the event there is ever a lapse in appropriations."

Balint blamed the possible shutdown on "a handful of extremist Republicans" who are trying to force cuts to government spending beyond an agreement with the White House that already passed Congress.

"Democrats are actually not part of this conversation. We have been left out," Balint said. "We have said to the Speaker [Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.] that we are willing to do what we did back in June, which is to come together for a compromise, whether it's a continuing resolution or to get our appropriations bills through. He has repeatedly said he does not want our help. And so it's very frustrating."

More from NPR: Washington prepares for the shutdown that was never supposed to happen

Balint added that all Democrats have signed something called a discharge petition, which would keep government open while Congress figures out the details of the federal appropriations. Just five Republicans need to sign on in order for it to move forward, she said.

"I know Vermonters want to know that we're trying every possible thing to keep government open," Balint said.

Balint also spoke about her recent introduction of the Addressing Addiction After Disasters Act, which would expand the types of counseling and services that are covered by FEMA. Balint said the bill was informed by the human toll of recent natural disasters, including Vermont's summer flooding.

"We know during emergencies that [the] need for counseling, and alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder treatment, goes up," Balint said.

Broadcast at noon Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

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Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.
Andrea Laurion joined Vermont Public as a news producer for Vermont Edition in December 2022. She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., and a graduate of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. Before getting into audio, Andrea worked as an obituary writer, a lunch lady, a wedding photographer assistant, a children’s birthday party hostess, a haunted house actor, and an admin assistant many times over.