Govt shutdown: How is it affecting local residents?

Staff Report

October 11, 2013

OHIO VALLEY — While the federal government shutdown is dominating the national press, it’s not having a huge impact in southeastern Ohio, at least not yet.

Some area residents who work for the federal government are temporarily out of work, and the shutdown is definitely having a big impact on them.

For the general community, though, the main problem currently seems to be confusion. If the shutdown drags on, however, it could have a major impact locally.

Food assistance and social service programs have received a lot of coverage nationally for the shutdown, which has caused some confusion at the local Women, Infants and Children (WIC) offices.

Gallia County WIC Director Sandy Walker, R.N., said that she has heard from several people who are concerned that the WIC office is closed. The office is open and area residents are still able to use their WIC benefits, Walker stressed.

“It’s business as usual,” she said. The funding is in place for all of the local WIC programs, at least for now, Walker said, adding that she does not know what will happen if the shutdown continues on for several weeks.

Another point of confusion for many people surround programs such as the Soil and Water Conservation District offices. Erica Preston, educator for the Gallia County Soil and Water Conservation District, said that her office is still open as usual Mondays through Fridays. Her office is not a federally funded office, she said.

The Gallia County Soil and Water Conservation District shares a building with the United States Department of Agriculture, and that office is currently closed due to the shutdown. The federal government’s website for the USDA is even closed due to the shutdown. The Ohio State University Extension Office, which is also located in the same building, is open, Preston said.

Some area residents have also had questions about the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds that are used to pay for housing for many people throughout the region. Local officials say that HUD funding for housing is still available and that rents are being paid. The local metropolitan housing authority offices are still operating as usual, and area residents can direct any questions to those offices.

Many local veterans may have questions as to whether their benefits will still be processed during the shutdown, but the local veterans offices are still open. According to statewide media reports, the regional veterans office for Ohio is located in Cleveland, and that office is closed due to the shutdown. The closing of that office may slow down the processing of new disability claims and cause other issues, but it is not stopping benefits from being issued.

Local veterans should know that the offices for veterans in the local counties are open and operating, and they can direct their questions to those offices.

Also, programs that receive federal funding such as Head Start and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, are still operating as normal, according to state officials. Both program already have their funding in place for October. If the shutdown drags on into November, then the shutdown could have an impact on those programs, and that would potentially have a major impact on people throughout the region.

For now, the shutdown is mainly causing confusion, although it is definitely hurting the people who work for the offices that are closed, and it is stopping some services. The big concern, though, is how long it will take the national leaders to solve the shutdown crisis and what could happen if the shutdown drags on into November.