Though not a federal agency, Community Action Partnership of Western Nebraska could be affected by a long-lasting government shutdown.
“We have been getting a ton of emails today on which programs may be affected if the shutdown lasts for a while,” Jan Fitts, executive director of CAPWN, said.
Fitts said the organization doesn’t have a full listing of the possible effects of the government shutdown, which began Tuesday morning. However, some of its programs could be affected.
Some of the programs operated through CAPWN receive federal funds administered by the state. State officials “are not saying that the funds aren’t there, but that they may not be able to access them,” Fitts said.
Some of the grant programs operate on a “drawdown” basis — funds are distributed as receipts for expenditures are approved. These programs will have funds available during the shutdown.
However, as government workers are furloughed, “if there are problems, there is no one to call and answer questions,” Fitts said.
Head Start and Foster Grandparent programs could see some issues because of the lack of workers. The programs have already been fielding impacts as the result of sequester cuts and Fitts said the inability of Congressional leaders to agree to a budget prolongs those impacts. CAPWN and similar agencies had been hanging their hopes on some of the previously-cut funds being restored, but that hope is diminishing as budget battles continue.
“What is so troublesome is how the cuts or the shutdown aren’t just affecting some of the big bureaucrats in the offices, but it trickles down to the baby who needs formula or the family who needs food,” Fitts said.
WIC (Women, Infant, Children) programs have indicated that enough funds exist for the program to operate for two weeks. But if the shutdown continues longer than two weeks, Fitts said the local WIC program won’t be able to offer supplemental food vouchers.
“That means children aren’t going to have food or formula that is needed,” she said.
The commodity supplemental food program — a program that provides commodities to families — has shut down and food is not being distributed. Fitts said the organization has some commodities remaining in its warehouse, but in recent months, CAPWN has been distributing heavily each month. She said she believes the program has enough food to manage for a couple of weeks, but fears the shutdown could last longer.
Officials with some programs, such as the federal funding for supportive housing for youth in transition, notified CAPWN officials to submit funding requests early so that requests could be processed prior to the shutdown.
“They were good enough to say that if you can get this in, we will process it and keep you functioning for another two weeks,” she said.
CAPWN programs currently have applications pending for youth services programs that have been stalled as staff are unavailable to review the applications. The agency’s weatherization programs, commodity supplemental foods program and emergency assistance programs could also see impacts because staff aren’t on hand to consider or act on applications.
“I fear there could be some real long-term impact,” Fitts said. “It sure is scary.”