Meals on Wheels, other services face uncertainty
Right now, it’s a waiting game, said Gale Adland, executive director of Meals on Wheels of Durham.
The shutdown of the federal government has raised concerns about where funding will come from that would ordinarily cover the cost of providing daily meals for about half of the approximately 300 home-bound, elderly people the organization serves, Adland said.
Adland expects the nonprofit to have funding through the end of October, and they expect to either be able to use reserves or other sources of funding to cover costs through November.
“I think part of the difficulty we have right now is the absolute uncertainty of what the status is of the funding right now, and what the status will be in the future,” Adland said.
Durham County Department of Social Services Director Michael Becketts said Thursday that a request is in the works for the Durham County Commissioners to consider Monday for $235,000 in county dollars to cover that program, and several others, through November if the shutdown continues.
Becketts said the request for $235,000 to the county would be to backfill a potential gap in federal funding for Meals on Wheels as well as to cover the cost of in-home aides for the elderly and adult day care services.
Durham County Manager Mike Ruffin said that money would also cover the cost of about 20 Social Services workers who would otherwise be furloughed.
Ruffin said that right now, the state is using federal funds from the last federal fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 for most of these federally funded social programs. He said state officials haven’t provided dates for when they would need to use funds that would ordinarily come from the new federal fiscal year, which started Oct. 1. Those are the funds that are unavailable due to the shutdown.
“This is still very fluid, and even as of (Friday) morning, the state is right now paying for benefits for most of these programs on last fiscal year’s money,” Ruffin said. “We’re just hopeful that the folks in Washington get in the same room, and get on the same page, and it call can resolve itself,” he added.
Meals on Wheels of Durham’s food-delivery services was just one of the services highlighted by Becketts on Thursday as being threatened by the federal shutdown.
Other services have already been suspended, including a program through the North Carolina’s Work First program to help people in-need to get transportation to work or job training. That is not proposed to be funded in the short-term with county dollars.
In addition, Becketts said services provided for the blind through a program staffed by state employees have been suspended. That program, which was based out of the Durham County Department of Social Services, helped to connect people to resources and services specifically available to the blind.
And Becketts had concerns about paying for the cost of child-care subsidies if the shutdown continues.
“These are some things that may be coming down the pike because of the federal shutdown,” Becketts had said in an interview Thursday. “Please listen to what we’re saying, and prepare for what could be the worst. We’re all hoping for the best, but prepare for the worst.”
While future funding for some programs remains uncertain, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that the federal WIC program, which provides food for women, babies and children, has been funded in the state.
The department stopped issuing new WIC vouchers as of the close of business Tuesday because of insufficient funds. Additional funds have been secured to continue issuing vouchers through October, according to a department news release issued Thursday.
The funding is coming from lapsing funds from the previous fiscal year, additional contingency funds from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and product rebates from WIC formula manufacturer, Nestle Foods.