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Ongoing shutdown making agencies look at Plan B

8:03 AM, Oct 9, 2013   |    comments
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KAREN BLEIER/ AFP/Getty Images
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CLEVELAND -- As the government shutdown starts its second week, agencies across Northeast Ohio are creating a "Plan B."

The concern is what impacts will happen next week and next month if the shutdown goes on, and worse, if the country defaults on its bills.

"The longer this government shutdown goes on, the greater the effect is going to be on the greater Cleveland area," Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald said at a news conference Tuesday.

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"We're just trying to do what we can to maintain our deliveries," said Michael Biedenbach, the president of the Golden Age Centers of Greater Cleveland.

GAC delivers more than 700 hot meals each day to seniors, paid for in part with federal dollars.

"I don't understand, any of the sides. I just don't understand it at all," said Biedenbach. "We've been hit so much in the last few years with cuts at the state and federal level that this last problem could impact us on not getting paid on time for our services."

If it takes longer than 60 days for federal money to repay GAC's food costs, it will attempt to use endowments and other limited resources before cutting seniors from its rolls. The waiting list for home delivery is already more than 100 seniors deep.

More than 31,000 women and children in Cuyahoga County can continue to rely on WIC through the end of the month. Administrator Barbara Riley says for now, it's business as usual.

But the agency has already had statewide discussions about how they'll handle November. For now, Riley says WIC is in limbo, worried a default could result in dozens of new difficulties.

And it's not alone.

"There's so little information out there on what it would look like if the government was to default, especially for veterans," said Kate O'Gorman, the political director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

The Veterans Administration laid out another round of furloughs Tuesday, closing regional support centers and sending more than 7,000 employees home as it tries to extend a dwindling pool of money. If the shutdown continues another week, benefit payments for November may not arrive.

"The longer that this goes on, the more veterans start to worry about what will happen at the end of the month," said O'Gorman, who says IAVA is hearing from thousands of veterans who live off disability and others using the GI Bill.

No firm date has been given for when the VA would run out of money. IAVA has resources available to help veterans impacted. You can contact them at (855) 91-RAPID (72743).

Federal workers out at least a week of pay at this point are getting frustrated.

"So for me, paycheck to paycheck ... so absolutely, it is going to affect everybody," said Lori Glicker, who works for Defense Finance Accounting Service, known as DFAS.

Glicker has been working without pay but knows the pain of those federal workers furloughed as well.

"I hope the congressional people will consider that we are people, we are voting people, and they will realize that we voted you in, and we can vote you out," she said.

Most agencies admit there are so many unknowns associated with a default if the debt ceiling is not raised by Oct. 17.

While President Barack Obama called it chaos, how each person and organization depending on the federal government would fare is only a guess at this point. 

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