Local needy would be impacted first by extended federal shutdown

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Region - posted Mon., Oct. 7, 2013

Connecticut’s neediest citizens are among those most likely to be feel the earliest impact of a prolonged federal government shutdown. On Sept. 30, the Department of Social Services responded to a request from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Budget Director Ben Barnes to identify federally-funded programs and positions that could be impacted. (Read full response here: http://www.ct.gov/opm/lib/opm/budget/2014_2015_biennial_budget/federal_s...). DSS received $3.5 billion in federal reimbursements and more than $178 million in federal grant awards in 2013, according to the report.

DSS officials warned that if programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Child Care and Development Fund don’t receive federal funding, it would cost the state about $25 million a month to keep them going. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will continue to be funded through the month of October, but it was still unknown what would happen to that program during a prolonged shutdown.

DSS reported that the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) had carried over $7.4 million from FY 2013 that should be sufficient to carry Community Action Agencies through a first fuel delivery before Nov. 15, but nothing further. “A lengthy federal shutdown could jeopardize the ability of CAA’s to meet payroll and to make timely payments to vendors,” read the report.

DSS reported that the Nutritional Supplemental Program and the Emergency Shelter for Domestic Violence program appeared to have carry forward funds from FY 2013, which “results in no immediate funding impact to contractors due to the federal shutdown.”

DSS said that several agencies which receive Social Services Block Grant funding would “need to develop their specific contingency plans due to the federal shutdown." These included: the Department of Housing, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Public Health, the Office of Early Childcare, the Department of Rehabilitation Services, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Department on Aging.

Other programs that could be affected by a lengthier shutdown include nutrition programs for seniors, The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (better known as WIC), Head Start pre-school education and grants to health clinics that serve the uninsured.

As a local Community Action Agency, Access provides services to members of the Windham community. Access President Peter DeBiasi agreed that the poorest, most vulnerable members of local communities would be among the first affected by a prolonged government shutdown. “I think what’s happening is that a bunch of our federal money comes through the state,” he said. For a limited duration, DeBiasi felt that the state would be able to keep programs such as Connecticut Energy Assistance and WIC going. “We had an email from the Department of Public Health confirming that the state should probably be able to keep programs going for a period of two weeks,” he said. After that, funding becomes questionable.

With a fuel delivery for needy families upcoming on Nov. 1, “It’s unclear whether we’ll have the money to pay our vendors,” said DeBiasi. And with 2,500 moms and their children relying upon the assistance of the WIC program administered through Access, a shutdown of longer duration could mean the suspension of food vouchers and nutritional education programs for vulnerable families.

Editor’s Note: For more information about the effects of the government shutdown – what is affected, what isn’t  and how long things can continue to operate under these conditions – read the related ReminderNews.com story “A quick look at the government shutdown,” by Joan Hunt. Included are several remarks and actions by some members of Connecticut’s delegation in Washington.

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