DC Water Board Officials shared a laugh together during their first meeting of the year, joking about shutting off water to the White House amid the ongoing shutdown. The federal government is the largest paying customer for the capital’s water authority and the temporary closure has left a hefty water bill unpaid.
During their meeting on Jan. 3, the water authority’s Chief Financial Officer Matthew Brown they received an email a day prior from an individual at the Bureau of Fiscal Services at the Treasury.
“The DC water and sewer payment would not fully be remitted as planned for the second quarter of 2019 due to the shutdown of the federal government,” Brown told board members. He went on reading the letter that stated about $6 million would be late from its $16.5 million quarterly water bill.
“I don’t think it would have a significant impact on our cash flow but it obviously does affect us,” Brown said.
The board’s chairman, Tommy Wells, responding in jest, said: “That brings up an interesting question. Is there a time from nonpayment when we cut someone’s water off?” Adding that he is “not trying to make news today.”
“1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, is that what you’re talking about?” asked another board member, eliciting laughter from the members.
The chairman then asked CFO Brown, “How long can we carry the federal government before it creates a fiscal weakness to the enterprise?”
“It would probably be, just off the top of my head, approximately a year before it begins to be a real problem,” answered the CFO. “That would be a shortfall of about $20 million dollars, and we would have to have a conversation about how to move forward.”
A spokesperson for DC Water, Vincent Morris, told WAMU that although the water authority has the power to cut off water for a non-paying customer, it is something that the authority does as a last resort.
“Obviously, for things like the General Services Administration for the federal government it’s a slightly different process because we know they’re good for the money, it’s just a question of when it’s actually going to be transferred,” Morris said.
The government shutdown has entered its third week since it began at midnight Dec. 21 last year, after Democrats in Congress blocked a request for $5.6 billion to construct a wall on the southwest border. A team led by Vice President Mike Pence spent the weekend of Jan. 5 negotiating with the Democrats, but no agreement was reached.
On Jan. 8, Trump said he wants a further 3.5 billion in Homeland Security appropriations in the spending bill. The extra money would be earmarked for more detention space, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol agents, immigration judges, and other resources, such as drug scanning equipment at ports of entry.
Trump also said the wall funding, which he revised to $5.7 billion, would suffice to pay for 234 miles of a new steel barrier. The extra appropriations pushed the total border security package request to $12.72 billion.
The president also made an address to the nation on the same day, which was broadcast from the Oval Office, speaking about the mounting crisis at the border.
“Over the years, thousands of Americans have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our country, and thousands more lives will be lost if we don’t act right now,” Trump said. “This is a humanitarian crisis. A crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul.”
Epoch Times Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report