How a Federal Government Shutdown Tests Local Risk Management

By: | January 25, 2019

Marilyn Rivers, CPCU, ARM, AIC, currently serves as the director of risk and safety — city safety and compliance officer for a municipality in Upstate New York and is a director at large and delegate for the government and public sector division of the National Safety Council. She can be reached at [email protected].

Public governance’s foundation is community and the folks we pledge to work for, to protect and to serve. It’s a calling that often means sacrifice, a steady conviction for service and patience for attempting whenever possible to achieve consensus. Our constraints are the law – international, federal, state and local depending our responsibilities. The guiding light for each and every one of us is our humanity.

Imagine the community within your workplace and your ability to throw down a gauntlet for a demand or a promise. I’m wondering how many or few of us would be successful in failing to achieve compromise and succeed in keeping those workplace or community partnerships. Measure the risk of each ultimatum you may hear.

A professor once imparted the wisdom that relationships are like the ocean. Currents ebb and flow with how we view our reality and how successful we are in managing it. The tide is predictable and expected just like government and its provision of services to the community with the saltiness of the communication that ensues.

Life seems fast and instant and loud. Rhetoric is at an all time high. The stark reality is, however, that people’s lives are at issue. Federal Public Workers have families and houses and financial responsibilities. They financially support their local communities through the wages they receive and spend. As they continue to serve their country, they do so as a sacrifice. A sacrifice we all bear.

Long have the public employees worked in silence to help make this nation grow and be successful. Each and every one contributes to the greater good…the greater goal which we call country. The lack of cooperation and inflammatory rhetoric shaping conversations across our nation do not do justice to the sacrifice each public employee makes to keep our government and economy running. The silence of sacrifice in the federal sector is deafening to each and every one of us who pass through a TSA Checkpoint, purchase food in our grocery stores with the FDA seal of approval or look to our law enforcement agencies here and abroad to represent our nation’s interests and our security.

Let’s follow the money, shall we? Federal workers who work but are not paid are digging into their savings to pay for the bare necessities. Bare necessities don’t include extra expenditures like restaurant visits, gym memberships, trips to the hair dressers and barbers, theater or concert expenditures, and visits to medical professionals – remember those deductibles.

All those “extras” result in loss of revenue. Loss of revenue means less help is needed in those establishments which means potential unemployment exposures. Loss of revenue also means less sales tax dollars. Less sales tax means state and local governments have less to spend. Less spending in state and local governance means a decrease in service, a decrease in monies that fix your roadways and bridges when the money runs out or is not reimbursed through grants those public entities utilize to balance their budgets.


Still following the money? Let’s talk folks who we the community need to help because it’s the right thing to do. Humanity remember? So, let’s talk food pantries, folks who can’t afford to send their children to sports or music or other community youth programs. Let’s talk insecurity and the distrust growing in whether our national dysfunction has the capacity to repeat itself. What are we teaching our children as we instill in them community? We’ve learned through hardship in many a generation. The difference this time appears to be the decisiveness is dividing instead of uniting us.

Many public employees continue to strive to serve our communities with dwindling funding and resources. Liabilities for all of us increase as services are stretched, consensus not achieved, and memories set in for the long term. The damage to our resources, our ongoing work as we manage the totality of our borders, promote the patriotism of our forefathers, and care for our infirmed is being tested as well as our stamina, our reserve and our patience.

As the divide deepens across our nation’s population, and the rhetoric somehow becomes reality, we need to stop and listen to the deafening silence of our government that continues to move forward because of the public service we believe in not because of a deal to be brokered or a promise once made. We need to listen to ourselves and the work we do to manage the risks that life brings us individually and together as a nation. Life has taught us consensus, cooperation, community and the courage to ensure us our survival as we work together to achieve what we all call country. &

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