Charitable groups, local governments making contingency plans for federal shutdown

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 2 2013 6:20 p.m. MDT

People get lunch at the St. Vincent de Paul Weigand Homeless Day Center in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013. Due to the shutdown of the federal government, services offered to homeless people, such as meals at the center, may need to be scaled back.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Call it the double whammy.

Clients of Catholic Community Services of Utah are largely low-income, and many rely on various government assistance programs.

As a direct service nonprofit organization, the agency relies heavily on federal funding for many of its programs, which include resettling refugees, residential substance abuse treatment and serving meals at its downtown dining hall seven days a week.

“Obviously, most of our clients are eligible for and do receive government benefits, including WIC (Women, Infant and Children nutrition benefits), and it’s all across the board," said Danielle Stamos, spokeswoman for Catholic Community Services. "If they don’t receive those benefits, we expect them to be accessing our services and programs even more. With less resources, how are we going to meet a greater demand?”

If the shutdown continues, CCS will review its programs, services and available funding and resources.

“It may result in scaling back or eventual closures, depending on what is decided,” Stamos said.

At the Utah Food Bank, officials were conducting conference calls Wednesday to assess the best course of action if the shutdown of the federal government lingers.

“For a few days, we're just kind of looking at business as usual. I think we need to figure out what the Washington scenario is really going to pan out to be,” said Ginette Bott, chief marketing officer of the Utah Food Bank.

WIC vouchers issued for October will be honored, so that will buy some time to develop contingency plans should the need arise, Bott said.

For instance, the Utah Food Bank could leverage its buying power to purchase certain items such as infant formula using funds from local governments.

In the meantime, the food bank is referring people to the United Way’s 211 Volunteer Coordinating Network, which directs callers to assistance in their neighborhood.

“Right now, it’s kind of wait and see for a couple of days, but we certainly need to be prepared,” Bott said.

In the meantime, major stakeholders have been exchanging information, she said.

“The success of this will be all of us working together,” Bott said.

Salt Lake County will keep WIC clinics open for a week, mostly to ensure that very frail newborns can receive the specialty infant formulas they need.

The County Council, which took emergency action to provide local funds to keep six clinics open, may revisit the issue at its meeting Tuesday, depending on what the federal government decides, Salt Lake County Health Department spokesman Nicholas Rupp said.

"We're hoping to have a bigger and better solution from the federal government before that," Rupp said.

Meanwhile, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ welfare system “is in place to provide assistance and aid to people in need at any time, regardless of economic challenges,” church spokeswoman Ruth Todd said.

Catholic Community Services needs the assistance of donors and volunteers to weather this latest challenge, Stamos said.

Financial contributions are welcome, but in-kind donations such as food, infant formula, baby food, diapers and infant clothing are also needed. For information on how to help, call 801-977-9119 or visit www.ccsutah.org.

How long the government shutdown will last is unknown, but depending on one’s circumstances, even a day or two without access to federal government services can make life difficult, Stamos said.

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