School, Base Leaders, and VA Discuss Response to Federal Shutdown

September 27, 2023

Bedford school officials have met with leaders of Hanscom Air Force Base to identify avenues of support for families if an impending federal government shutdown materializes.

School Superintendent Cliff Chuang told the School Committee on Tuesday that he met with Col. Taona Enriquez, commander of the 66th Air Base Group, and Command Chief MSgt. Allan Weary, and expects there will be additional “collaborative conversations” with Air Force representatives.

Kimberly Howell, the non-voting member of the School Committee appointed on behalf of military families, said “the shutdown will impact many of our families, including mine.

“We are facing the potential of that being very real for us as soon as this weekend,” she said. “It’s a very serious time for our community.”

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Of particular concern, added Howell’s predecessor, School Committee member Sarah McGinley, are as many as 250 military and Department of Defense households who reside off the installation, many of them in Bedford.

“A shutdown impacts in big ways,” said McGinley, who is also part of a military family. But there is also a “trickle-down effect.” If the base commissary closes, for example, it could create a food crisis for a family without a car.

“We have to recognize that our students and their families might be going through a very stressful time,” she said, and they could use “help with little things just to take them off their plates.”

Asked about details of the impact of a possible shutdown, a spokesperson at the Hanscom public affairs office would only write, “We’re starting to gather the potential impacts of a government shutdown although we’re still hopeful to avoid that scenario.”

Impact on VA

At the federal installation on the north side of town, there is less uncertainty.

“The VA has appropriated funds for the next two years. What that largely means is nothing will change for employees or veterans,” said Patrick Kirby, public affairs officer for the VA Bedford Health Care System, in an email.

If there is a federal government shutdown next week, Kirby wrote, “there would be no impact on veteran health care. VA would continue to process and deliver all benefits to veterans, including compensation, pension, education, and housing benefits. And the Board of Veterans Appeals would continue to process appeals.”

There would be some reduction of specific services, Kirby acknowledged. “VA would not be able to conduct outreach to veterans, our public-facing regional offices would be closed, and many regular operations, such as career counseling, transition assistance, and cemetery grounds maintenance,”        he said.

Overall, “We’re closely monitoring this situation and preparing diligently.”

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