EXCLUSIVE: Hawaii woman plays key role in US Treasury shutdown - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

EXCLUSIVE: Hawaii woman plays key role in US Treasury shutdown

Nani Coloretti Nani Coloretti

An Iolani School graduate who grew up in Hawaii performed an important role in the federal shutdown this week as the fourth highest ranking official at the U.S. Treasury Department.

Nani Coloretti is Treasury's assistant secretary for management. And like many thousands of other federal employees, she continues to work without pay this week during the shutdown. 

"It is much quieter than it normally is and there are no services in the building, of course," said Coloretti, who spoke to Hawaii News Now by phone Friday from the Treasury Department headquarters right next to the White House. 

She had a daunting task on Tuesday, the day most of the federal government closed down.   

"On the day of the shutdown, I was in charge of assuring that it was orderly," Coloretti said. 

So Coloretti had to make sure each of the Treasury Department's 110,000 employees knew whether they'd be furloughed, would have to continue working without pay or could continue working with pay because their salary money had not lapsed. Coloretti oversaw the preparation of shutdown plans for all the department's agencies and bureaus, a process that took weeks. 

More than 80 percent of the Treasury workforce was sent home. 

So the IRS is not able to issue any tax refunds. 

"If you're owed money by the federal government you cannot get that money, which is really unfortunate," Coloretti said. 

But by law, the IRS must still accept payments such as quarterly IRS estimated tax amounts. 

"If they are trying to pay us, we must accept that money because it's like handing over an asset from yourself to the government. So they are paying that and we have to accept it," Coloretti said.   

Hawaii News Now last interviewed Coloretti in August 2012 while she was home visiting family the islands, back when she was the sixth ranking official at the department. She grew up in the Kapahulu and Kaimuki area and graduated from Iolani in 1987. 

Now as the fourth in command at the Treasury, she oversees operations of many of its bureaus. 

So she's focused on getting help to out-of-work employees who may need a short-term loan or to file for unemployment during the shutdown. 

"People did not plan for their October to be a month where they did not get anything more than one half of a day of pay, which is what they're facing right now," she said.  

Her office put together easy-to-read online guidance for Treasury employees, she said 

"How can you apply for unemployment in your state if you need to do that?  Can you get a loan from the Thrift Savings Plan which is the retirement fund that you've contributed into?" Coloretti added. 

She knows what it's like because during the last government shutdown in late 1995 and 1996, she was furloughed as a young budget analyst working in the Clinton Administration's Office of Management and Budget. 

"This one was 21 days and included, during part of the time, the Blizzard of ‘96, so it was a really fun time out here, for someone from Hawaii," Coloretti said.

She said it's much easier to communicate with furloughed employees today compared to 18 years ago, before the growth of the Internet.  Even though many federal employees' smart phones have been shut off and email is not working during the shutdown, the Treasury Department's web site is still a way to communicate quickly with employees and the public, she said.  

Friday, she said she wants out-of-work federal employees to know that "There are a lot of people inside the federal government thinking about how to lessen the strain on our workforce, how to support our workforce.  And it's coming all the way from the top." 

Coloretti has been assistant secretary for management since November 2012, after joining the Obama administration in 2009 as the Treasury Department's deputy assistant secretary for management and budget. 

Once the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act became law in 2010, she helped start up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, serving as the acting chief operating officer. 

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Coloretti got her first full-time job as a budget analyst for the Public Safety Department in Hawaii in 1991 and 1992. She later moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked for the U.S. Office of Management and Budget from 1994 to 1997, during the administration of President Bill Clinton.  

She also served as director of policy, planning and budget for the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth and Their Families from 1999 to 2005. Coloretti was budget director for the city of San Francisco for three years, working for Mayor Gavin Newsom before going to work for the Obama administration.

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