Covering Louisiana

Oct 3, 2013 5:36 PM by KATC TV-3 staff

How some government programs are faring in the shutdown

As the federal government shutdown extends into its first week, people are still trying to figure out exactly how deeply the shutdown will affect their lives.

We reached out to a few local programs funded with federal dollars to see how long -- or if -- they can continue to function in the current fiscal environment.

WIC:
Funding for the supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) halted Monday night, as congressional Democrats and Republicans could not reach a budget resolution. The effects on the national program's 8.9 million recipients have varied, depending on the state.
While Arkansas, for instance, has a plan to continue the funding on a week-to-week basis, Utah's WIC offices have already had to turn away mothers who depend on the service for baby formula.
"States are operating in an environment of tremendous uncertainty," National WIC Association President & CEO Douglas Greenaway said in a statement. "It depends on the individual state and their unique situation is so fluid that it's nearly impossible for us to keep real-time tabs on each state's status."
Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals spokesman Ken Pastorick says the state's Women, Infants & Children (WIC) Program will not be able to add any new recipients as long as the government remains shut down. He added that current WIC benefits must still be honored by vendors, such as grocery stores.
Based upon the new federal guidance, it is estimated that the program can continue to operate for two weeks without dropping clients or benefits, or cutting back on personnel.
At this time, no employees are being furloughed.
The Commodities Supplemental Foods Program (CSFP) will not have funds available to continue operating as a result of the government shutdown.

HEAD START:
Roughly 19,000 children enrolled in the early-education Head Start programs nationwide might be unable to attend preschool this week, but in Lafayette Parish funding for the year is already in place.
"It won't have an effect on programs in our area," said Alvin Jones, who directs Lafayette's Head Start programs. "If they are funded from September to October, they are already shut down. We are funded from June 1 through May 31, so we are good. Just as with sequester, those programs (Sept.-Oct.) when we had the cut, those programs were immediately cut.
The cuts are still going to be felt elsewhere in the state. Jones said that in Louisiana, there will be approximately 1,435 fewer children served this year. There will be 4,120 fewer child/days served.
Twenty of Head Start's 1,600 U.S. programs did not receive the funding Monday night needed to keep their doors open. Some programs, such as the Cheaha Regional Head Start in Talladega, Ala., had to stop running as early as Tuesday morning.
"Some of these parents are working parents," Cheaha director Dora Jones told NPR. "Some of these parents are parents that are in school. They have no other choice and no alternatives for child care."
If the shutdown continues, more Head Start programs across the country could be forced to close, as well.

MEALS ON WHEELS:
The senior nutrition program Meals on Wheels might be forced to suspend services if the shutdown continues "for any considerable length of time," MOW President and CEO Ellie Hollander said in a Tuesday news release.
The program, which provides more than 1 million meals to seniors daily, relies on government funding to distribute its food. "Facing such funding uncertainty, programs could be forced to suspend meal services, create or expand waiting lists for meals, cut the number of meals or days they serve, reduce delivery days, etc.," Hollander added.
Meals on Wheels programs in Acadiana may soon feel the pinch of the federal government shutdown.
According to the Paula Walters with the Lafayette Council on Aging, the local Meals on Wheels program as well as other programs offered by the Lafayette Council on Aging receive a subsidy from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Walters says her agency received its subsidy for October. However, she says if the shutdown continues into November, seniors applying for Meals on Wheels will be put on a wait list. If the shutdown lasts past November, Walters says the Council on Aging will begin cutting back on other programs to save Meals on Wheels.
Walters adds that most of the Council on Aging's money comes from fundraising. The HUD subsidy, she says, allows the agency to provide meals to nearly 500 at-risk seniors daily.
Meals on Wheels will receive HUD subsidy for October. That subsidy is used to supplement the cost of the Meals on Wheels program. If funds don't clear next month, Lafayette COA will have to put people on waiting lists. The program will continue to feed currently on the rolls will be fed in November; new applicants will be put on waiting list. Should shutdown last past November, cuts will be made, but they don't what they will cut. Everything would be up in the air. COA will cut other programs before it cuts Meals on Wheels. About 500 at-risk seniors fed daily.
Most of money comes from fundraising, but the HUD subsidy allows COA to provide a number of services, including meals on wheels, to area seniors.

LOAN PROGRAMS:
The Federal Housing Administration will not approve or underwrite any new loans during the shutdown, which could cause delays for low- to middle-income borrowers and first-time homeowners. Roughly 30 percent of home mortgages are backed by the FHA. Small-business loans backed by the government would also be halted for approval.
Calls to the Lafayette office for comment went unanswered. According to a voice message, the employees there were on furlough.

HEATING ASSISTANCE:
If the shutdown stretches into colder days, some families might need to scramble to heat their homes. The federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) could be delayed in providing funds to families that cannot afford heat during the winter. The delay could affect 200,000 residents in Massachusetts alone, according to Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

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