Federal government shutdown affecting neediest families


The Durham County DSS director says childcare subsidies will run out if the government shutdown continues through Friday. Stopgap money the county commission approved Monday night will only cover services elderly.

A unanimous vote Monday evening approved $235,000 in emergency funds to keep Meals on Wheels rolling and provide federally funded adult day care and in-home aid to hundreds of Durham's most needy elderly.

"All of the resources of the department that are partially or fully federally funded are at risk," said Durham County DSS Director Michael Becketts.

That includes programs like subsidized childcare for 2,200 Durham children, which will end Friday if politicians on Capitol Hill can't reach a deal before then.

"What concerns me is that some of the most fragile people in our community will be affected," said Durham County Commissioner Ellen Reckow.

Becketts estimates it would cost the county $55,000 each day to continue the program without government grants.

"Some childcare providers won't be able to stay open, which means that their employees get laid off or furloughed which means that there's no income for them," said Becketts.

This latest blow follows last week's news that the state put the brakes on its Work First program that helps people get transportation to work.

"I'm seeing and I'm hearing from food pantries," said Durham County Commissioner Michael Page.

In addition, there are worries that food stamps and WIC entitlements will end next month if things don't change.

"I think the only thing that we have left is hope," said Becketts. "Hope that what happens in Washington won't continue to impact what happens with us locally."

The county will start sending out notifications Tuesday morning to families who receive subsidized child care. The county is its options to help families. They are also challenging the business community to do the same.

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