Continued Shutdown May Hit Local Programs

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ATHENS (WOUB) — As the partial federal government shutdown goes into its third week, it has affected agencies from the U.S. Coast Guard to Social Security offices, but the freezing of federal funding could have its effects in Southeast Ohio programs as well.

A sign hangs in the window of Wayne National Forest’s offices. The partial federal shutdown has affected local agencies and programs as well as national offices.
Photo by Chris Riddle

A call to Wayne National Forest’s Welcome Center gets no answer, and signs have been placed on the doors explaining the furlough of employees. A voicemail message said voicemails and emails will not be answered “due to the lapse in federal government funding.”

A national forest is easy to remember when thinking of the partial federal government shutdown that has limited the services of federally-paid agencies. But non-profit organizations based in southeast Ohio are seeing the hit as well, causing concern for the services they provide.

The Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program, an agency which helps sexual assault and abuse survivors in Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Meigs, Morgan, Perry, and Vinton counties, receives a main portion of their funding from the federal Victims of Crime Act. They count on monthly reimbursements to continue pay their bills.

Executive Director Jennifer Seifert and Program Director Crystal Trout are remaining optimistic that the shutdown will be resolved soon.

“We have enough that we do here that we really have to focus on when it comes to serving our communities, let alone thinking about are we going to have a paycheck at the end of the month,” Trout said.

SAOP received the funding they were due for November’s expenses, but aren’t sure when the reimbursement for December will come. Seifert said SAOP is discussing other options for funding their agency through a longterm shutdown, but cuts would have to come from staff.

“We don’t really have anything else to cut, being such a small organization,” Seifert said.

For non-profit economic development and environmental agency Rural Action, the Americorps funding they are due is safe, according to CEO Debbie Phillips. As far as other grant reimbursements, Phillips said discussions are still ongoing as to what do if the shutdown continues.

“We have not had the conversations about what would be cut if we need to cut things,” Phillips said.

Fortunately, Phillips said, Rural Action receives funding from other sources beyond federal agencies, so the diversity of funding could help them bridge the monetary gap.

Like Trout and Seifert, Phillips is choosing to stay optimistic that an agreement between the members of Congress will come soon, bringing an end to the shutdown.

“It is my fervent hope that this will be resolved quickly, ” Phillips said. “I believe there are people on both sides of the aisle trying to find a resolution.”

For federally funded non-profits, and non-profits in general, the fear of losing their desperately needed funding isn’t new. Year after year, organizations like SAOP wonder if their support will stay a priority as federal leadership changes.

But Seifert said that battle is one they ready themselves for every year, unlike predicting a government shutdown.

“It is a different type of anxiety when it’s like, we have this grant but we just can’t get the money out of it,” Seifert said.

For now, both Rural Action and SAOP are planning on continuing services as normal.

“We have to focus on the needs,” Trout said.