In a letter Tuesday to President Obama and top congressional leaders, Gray said “there will be severely negative consequences for us” if the city’s spending needs outstrip the reserves.
He suggested for the first time that public safety could be placed in jeopardy, citing federal grants “essential for the continued protection of strategic and high-visibility targets” that have been placed on hold while the congressional showdown plays out.
He also said the shutdown has forced the city to miss a $74 million payment to Metro and could interrupt a scheduled Oct. 29 payment to the city’s 60 charter schools, “many of which will be unable to absorb this blow to their finances.”
The $145 million Contingency Cash Reserve Fund is unlikely to support city government functions much beyond Tuesday, when $98 million in employee paychecks are due. City officials have debated in recent days whether as much as $513 million in additional reserve funds might be available — extending the status quo several weeks should the shutdown persist — but no determination has been made.
“In no other part of our country are Americans facing the loss of basic municipal or state services due to the federal government shutdown,” Gray wrote Tuesday to Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), demanding face-to-face meetings to plead the city’s case for an exemption from the shutdown.
The District government is affected by federal shutdowns because, unlike the states, its budget is appropriated by Congress. Those appropriations — even of locally generated tax revenue — have stopped.
The federal shutdown is now the longest the city has faced. A 1995 shutdown affected the District for five days, and the city was exempted from a subsequent 21-day shutdown that stretched into January 1996.
There is little expectation that the District will receive a reprieve this time.
A Gray administration official who is not authorized to comment publicly said the mayor had spoken to Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett last week, urging the president to support and sign a D.C. funding bill. The Republican-controlled House passed a bill last week that would fund the D.C. government through Dec. 15. But the administration and Senate Democrats have held fast to a no-small-bills strategy and shown no indication of making an exception for the District.
In his letter, Gray said he had “done all that I possibly can to ensure that the health, safety and welfare of District residents is not endangered by a crisis that our city has had no hand in creating.”