DC Maxed Out Credit Cards During January Snow

The D.C. government worked hard this past winter to clear nearly two feet of snow in late January, but they ran up a big credit card bill to do it.

The snow snarled roadways and sent officials scrambling to respond. The city hired dozens of contractors to clear the snow, paying $55 million to do it. Most of the payments came from the government’s credit cards.

“We want the roads cleared as soon as possible. We’re going to be doing everything we can to get there.”

Washington put so much of their expenses on their cards, J.P. Morgan cut off the city’s credit.

“It was a bit of a surprise and caused us to scramble to pay our bills,” said Mary Cheh, D.C. councilwoman from Ward 3.

The problem was not with the city’s finances. D.C. has balanced its budgets for 20 years. But cumbersome contract laws slow down big ticket procurements, and credit cards were the answer.

“We had a storm of epic proportions,” said D.C. City Administrator Rashad Young. “We made the decision to be as quick as possible in paying our vendors.”

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Young said citizens would have been outraged if the city government had moved too slowly to remove the snow. He said the city's credit was quickly restored, and all credit cards are working.

“That was less than 24 hours,” he said. “A non-issue from our business operations.”

The city has paid all but four vendors. They’ll be paid as soon as the council approves the payments in June.

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