Assistance centers looking at minimal shutdown impact

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comOctober 7, 2013 

— In the early days of a federal government shutdown last week, local assistance groups weren’t quite sure what impact they might feel. But they weren’t expecting anything they couldn’t manage.

“It will definitely make us busier,” Jennifer Ellis, client administrator for Clover Area Assistance Center, said shortly before press time Friday, as the shutdown continued for a fourth day.

The Clover Area Assistance Center has 2,300 families on its rolls. Some receive financial help or other assistance. Most receive food. If people miss out on other benefits elsewhere, more could look to the center for help, leaders say.

While state-operated food stamps aren’t impacted by the shutdown, some federal programs are, like WIC, which aids women, infants and children.

Board member Bob Carroll said the center uses local but not federal grants and partnerships. The monthly delivery of food from Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina does involve with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That delivery works in conjunction with community donations to stock the center.

“I do not know if our delivery would be impacted if this thing were to last a month or more,” Carroll said.

Volunteers also receive food to fill 180 backpacks every Thursday through Second Harvest, which are then distributed to students in need within the Clover School District. Private sponsorships keep that program going.

For the federal furlough to bring its own employees in isn’t likely, Carroll said, unless the shutdown lingers quite a while.

“The immediate is not an impact,” he said. “I don’t know that government employees would dip enough in salary to drop below the poverty level.”

Director Carol Higgins said the Fort Mill Care Center has had its challenges of late — a move into a smaller space, a reduced food pantry, a significant “but not scary” drop in donations, nixing of long-time school supply drive and Thanksgiving meal programs. The shutdown shouldn’t rank among them.

Higgins said any shutdown impact to her organization will be a secondary one. The center doesn’t receive federal funding or food supplies. They no longer receive food from Second Harvest. They avoid federal grants. There’s “very limited documentation” required for service, so clients shouldn’t have to wait on needed forms, she said.

The impact will be whether clients need more help from the Care Center that they aren’t able to get elsewhere.

“It’ll have some effects on our clients,” Higgins said.

There has been some recent interest in the center from residents who are having issues with federal housing loans. The requirement that clients show a Social Security card shouldn’t be impacted, Higgins said, because they are still being issued.

But should the shutdown last long and there be a delay, “we would find a way around it,” she said.

“We are extremely flexible,” Higgins said. “We are not government. We’ll get done what we need to get done.”

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