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Quincy non-profits feel impact of government shutdown

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  October 7, 2013 02:03 PM

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With the federal government entering its second week of a shutdown, local non-profits are saying they can already feel the pinch.

From Quincy Community Action Programs to Interfaith Social Services, from food assistance to housing help, low-income services are stretching thin amid limited funding.

“We’re watching it very closely every day, and as each day goes on we become more concerned about the problems it will create for low income residents in the commonwealth and the country,” said Beth Ann Strollo, Executive Director of Quincy Community Action Programs (QCAP).

Several of QCAP's programs are at risk of closing due to the shutdown, particularly the organization’s fuel assistance program.

Strollo said there is enough money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to at least start the program, but not enough to sustain it.

“We don’t start making payments to oil vendors and utility vendors till Nov. 1, but this month is critical getting money in the cue and approved and processed,” Strollo said. “Every day we delay that now pushes people out and it will delay when they are approved, when we make payments to oil vendors, when we make payments to utility companies.”

The program itself is expansive, with QCAP processing 4,665 applications for fuel assistance last year alone. Approximately 3,580 households in Quincy, Weymouth, Braintree, and Milton were heated with over $2 million of funding.

In addition to fuel assistance, the United States Department of Agriculture’s nutrition programs, which provide breakfast, lunch and snacks for students in QCAP’s Head Start, are also at risk.

Though limited funding is available, it can only support the program for another week or so, Strollo said.

“If it’s not resolved by the end of [this] week, we’ll be in the position of having to make decisions of having to shut down certain services in our agency,” Strollo said.

QCAP isn’t alone. At Interfaith Social Services, food pantries have seen an uptick in people seeking help.

According to Interfaith Executive Director Rick Doane, furloughed employees living paycheck to paycheck have already come in to utilize the food pantry.

The shutdown has also elicited panic in the nearly 1000 households that typically receive food pantry services.

“Typically, the first week of the month is slower. We’re seeing numbers right now that would make it seem like every day is the last day of the month,” Doane said, saying that the center is serving 40 households every day, twice as high than usual. “There is a fear that something is going to get cut off.”

Doane said if the rush continues, the food pantry will have to start handing out less food.

“We only have finite resources as well,” he said.

Elsewhere, non-profits were still waiting to feel the effects of the government shutdown.

At homeless shelter Father Bill’s & MainSpring, federal funding is still coming in to provide homelessness services, however no funding is available to help prevent homeless.

“If this continues in the next couple of weeks, we could see more people that we could have prevented from becoming homeless,” said John Yazwinski, president of Father Bill’s.

There was also concern that the Department of Housing and Urban Development won’t be able to provide rent assistance. Due to the shutdown, no one from the Department could be reached for comment.

“We probably wouldn’t see [the impacts] until people are calling because they can’t pay their rent. That’s what we’re concerned about,” Yazwinski said.

Officials at Stars, a South Shore child education program, also said Early Head Start programs were funded at least through December.

Child care programs at Stars are also provided by a federal grant, though officials said the organization has money at the state to draw from.

“If this lasts too long, I would expect that we could be in real trouble again, but not right now,” said Sheri Adlin, executive director for Stars.

Regardless of where groups stand, every organization has their eyes on Congress, watching to see how long the situation will last and how bad it will get.

“I hope I’m wrong, we’re just watching Congress and the president and they are miles apart still,” Strollo said. “We just can’t say enough, and our delegation understands, but around the country I’m not quite sure…we are really concerned that it wont be resolved within the next week.”

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