Young and old stand to lose in ongoing shutdown

5:40 AM, Oct 3, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- As the federal shutdown enters its third day, fears are increasing among those who rely on the government for income.

In fact, the young and old stand to lose a lot as the federal government shut down goes on, starting with breakfast and lunch.

"It's never good to tell someone you can't give them the food that they need," said Barbara Riley, the general manager of public health for MetroHealth System.

More than 31,000 women and children use Women, Infants, and Children benefits or WIC in Cuyahoga County each month to supplement their nutrition.

The federal money that buys that nearly $2 million in food each month is on hold.

"This shutdown has impacted the WIC program," said Riley. "In Ohio we're in a very good position because we're able to sustain business as usual through the month of October."

The state will use unspent fiscal year dollars to make up the federal funds, which the United States Department of Agriculture reports could run dry in as little as a week.

Riley says coupons WIC has already delivered won't expire, even beyond October, and will continue to work at participating vendors.

But if we reach Day 7 of the shutdown, she says Ohio's WIC offices will have to focus on November.

"We would make some very tough choices, and these are choices I would not like to make because these people really need the food or they wouldn't come here," she said.

Meals on Wheels and other senior nutrition programs that rely on federal reimbursements may have to make cuts soon if they can't get the federal dollars they're due.

The Meals on Wheels Association of America says its programs could be forced to suspend meal services, create or expand waiting lists for meals, cut the number of meals or days they serve or reduce delivery.

Social Security checks will keep coming though, thanks to the hard (and as of now unpaid) work of essential employees.

"We have bills to pay, we have car payments, we have house payments and it's going to be very very difficult the longer that this goes on," said David Sheagley, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3448. 

But Sheagley says the thousand or so social security workers that he represents know are hearing from the people they serve just how important their work is.

"You know when you get that, 'God Bless you for helping me,' makes it all worthwhile," said Sheagley.



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