The effects of the federal government shutdown were hitting close to home last week.
Durham County Director of Social Services Michael Becketts warned Monday that the shutdown might force the county to suspend subsidies for child care starting this week.
“This is not something we want to do,” Becketts told the Board of County Commissioners. “This is something we have to do.”
The county was allotted $13 million from the federal government for day care for the fiscal year that began July 1, Becketts said, but the shutdown is holding up $8 million of it.
The impasse could lead to the shuttering of some child-care centers that depend most heavily on federal subsidies.
Commissioner Ellen Reckhow suggested the county look into telecomunicating for its own employees who lose care.
Meanwhile Monday, the commissioners unanimously passed a resolution appropriating up to $235,000, if needed, to continue other programs through November. These programs include Meals on Wheels and adult day care.
“Our community is really in a crisis,” said Commissioner Michael Page.
Dub Karriker, pastor of Christian Assembly Church in Durham, said the food pantry at his church has seen increased demand since the suspension of funds from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.
Also, with The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), a major source of food normally coming into the pantry, shut down, the pantry has about a third less food to go around.
“It’s killing us,” Karriker said. “We’re scrambling to find other sources.”
Bryan Gilmer, director of marketing and development for Urban Ministries of Durham, said the food pantry there has lost some funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development since the shutdown, and he fears things could get worse.
“The prospect of federal default is very frightening to us because we would probably see an overwhelming increase in demand,” Gilmer said.
Commissioners on Monday compared the crisis to Hurricane Katrina, when Durham County rallied to help those affected by the storm, and they said they hoped the community could again rally to support those in need.
But County Manager Mike Ruffin said the current crisis is different in many ways.
“This is so fluid that tomorrow could be much better or much worse,” Ruffin said.