Shutdown spurs fears
As the federal government shutdown enters its second week, the biggest effects are not only tangible, but also emotional.
“We’re seeing the impacts that are both financial and, if nothing else, anxiety-producing for our residents,” Red Wing Housing and Redevelopment Authority director Randal Hemmerlin said.
The shutdown’s impacts might not be too visible to some locals, at least so far. But others are hurting.
And many say the longer it continues, the more it will hurt.
Hemmerlin said one of the problems with the shutdown so far for the HRA has been a lack of federal employees at work able to provide guidance and assistance, from technical questions to wage concerns.
“There’s just nobody to call,” Hemmerlin said.
He also said there are worries Social Security checks could be delayed, a possibility as the country inches toward default if the debt ceiling isn’t raised.
That could keep many residents who rely on those funds from making rent payments to the HRA, Hemmerlin said, and could leave the organization footing the bill, at least temporarily, to keep those residents in their homes.
“The shutdown is just a continuation of the frustrations we’ve been feeling with the federal government in the last year to two years,” Hemmerlin added, citing funding cuts and bureaucratic obstacles.
He said some of those cuts have meant the HRA had to use up reserve funds for projects such as replacing elevators at Jordan Towers.
“It hurts. It really hurts,” he said.
President Kris Kvols said the HOPE Coalition, which was affected by the state government shutdown in 2011, has not seen any immediate impacts from the federal closure.
“And I’m very grateful for that,” Kvols added. But she said there are other programs the organization works with that are affected.
“I am deeply concerned about the impact it has on other programs our clients access,” Kvols said. “I do think we’ll see a ripple effect.”
She said the shutdown has spurred questions from staff, the board and the people the organization works with, and many fears among them as well.
“Their safety net is thin as it is,” Kvols said of HOPE Coalition’s clients.
They “rely on the system more heavily but have less of a voice on how it is handled,” she added.
While it has avoided the brunt of the impact so far, the HOPE Coalition could see effects if the shutdown continues, Kvols added.
Hemmerlin also said the impact will only get worse the longer it lasts.
“There’s no doubt that’s going to happen,” he said.
Still, Hemmerlin said the HRA will continue to do what it can.“This is a time for us to all have cool heads, not to panic,” he said. “Getting upset and angry over what’s going on isn’t going to help the matter. We have to work ourselves through this.”
Open, for now
Other organizations want to assure the public they are not affected by the shutdown, at least not yet.
“Minnesota WIC will continue serving eligible families for at least the next few weeks during the partial federal government shutdown,” the program said its page of the Minnesota Department of Health website, http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/fh/wic/.
Updates will be posted there.
The Wisconsin Women, Infants and Children program also is open for business this month despite the shutdown, the Pierce County Public Health Department said this week. Pierce County WIC will hold clinics and issue checks as normal.
State and local WIC officials will monitor the shutdown impacts and updates can be found at http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/wic/.
While some food banks across the country have faced issues with the shutdown, the Red Wing Area Food Shelf said Tuesday its operations have not been affected at this point.
The federal shutdown also does not directly affect locally or state-funded services and programs, such as state parks.