Social services say they are safe for now

Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat

Despite the ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government, local social services supported by federal programs continue.

Officials with social service agencies in both Tuolumne and Calaveras counties say it's business as usual so far in terms of funding and operations. Numerous programs in both counties are federally funded, including the Women, Infants and Children food program, CalFresh (formerly food stamps), the CalWORKS welfare program, Head Start preschool and more.

"At this point, there's nothing immediate," Ann Connelly, director of social services for Tuolumne County, said of funding issues related to the shutdown. "Right now, there's sufficient funding and we will continue to work with our partners."

As of this morning, leaders in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives were still working on a possible agreement to prevent a national financial default and reopen the government after a two-week partial shutdown.

The government shutdown has furloughed 350,000 federal workers, impeded various government services, put continued operations of the federal courts in doubt and stopped the IRS from processing tax refunds. It has also closed federally managed parks like Yosemite National Park and New Melones Reservoir, as well as campgrounds and other facilities in the Stanislaus National Forest.

According to Connelly, approximately 4,758 local residents receive a combined $770,000 a month in CalFresh benefits. About 1,200 people receive benefits through the CalWORKS program, she said.

Connelly described the current situation as a "wait and see," with the funding intact but hope that the issues between Democrats and Republicans in Washington will be resolved before such issues could emerge.

"Our hope is that they resolve this issue so there wouldn't be an impact," she said.

The message was the same in Calaveras County, where Calaveras County Works and Human Services Director Mary Sawicki said it's been "quiet" in terms of any word of immediate changes to federal funding. Sawicki also described the current situation as a "wait and see."

"Thank goodness we're OK," she said.

The shutdown has had far-reaching consequences for some but minimal impact on others. Mail is being delivered. Social Security and Medicare benefits continue to flow. But the shutdown has been particularly harsh on those who rely on tourism like the community of Groveland which gets much of its business from travelers heading to Yosemite.

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The Union Democrat
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