The shutdown leaves some non-profit organizations struggling to provide services

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As the stalemate of the federal government's partial shutdown continues – it is now in its 30th day – its effects have impacted well beyond Washington.

The US Department of Labor reported that thousands of federal employees and their families were asking for unemployment coupons and food stamps or turning to food banks.

Businesses can not get the employer's ID numbers from the IRS, they have to open bank accounts and file tax returns. Students seeking federal financial assistance to students have not been able to retrieve tax information from their parents.

And at least one local human services agency – which relies in part on federal funding – is struggling to provide its clients.

Laura King, executive director of the Center for Family Violence Prevention in Pitt County, said the closure had "a devastating effect" on her agency.

King said the center's funding comes largely from the North Carolina Governor's Crimes Commission, which in turn receives funding from the federal government. The closure put an end to this financial resource, forcing the center to send a large portion of its staff on leave without pay and to transfer other workers to a part-time status.

The agency runs a shelter for victims of domestic violence that she opened – week after week – using grants. But this status is tenuous; When the shelter is full, as it is most of the time, King says it costs about $ 600 a day to operate.

"Food is always a problem and the transportation of customers is also a problem," King said. "And we offer a range of services that can not be covered by the grant money."

One of these services is access to the family center, which is closed due to the stop. The center serves as a base for custodial and non-custodial parents not to interact and offers children a safe place to hold supervised visitation sessions. It also offers counseling, parenting classes and outreach programs for teens.

The agency also had to stop providing lawyers to victims of domestic violence. Lawyers escort victims to court, seek protection orders and help them develop a security plan, according to King.

"At the moment, we have no lawyers available," she said.

Operating on skeletal staff and being unable to provide the full range of services needed by victims of violence is already serious enough. But King pointed out that the problem extends beyond his agency.

Other non-profit organizations that depend on federal money are in the same situation, she said.

"This closure is having a devastating impact on the most at-risk individuals in the first place," she said.

King added that if the shelter was forced to close, she might try to move some clients to shelters located in other counties, but this could prove impossible for those who work in the area or who have children in school.

"They risk becoming homeless or, if they have children, they may be forced to return to their abuser to have a roof over their children's heads," said King. "We're talking about life and death situations and it may sound overly dramatic, but in this case it's true."

Runoff effect

Commander Ken Morris of the Salvation Army said that the closure of the plant was being discussed at the Army's breakfast program. The main concern, he said, is whether funding for the food stamp programs will be maintained.

"It concerns us all," said Morris. "Until now, food stamps continue to flow, but it could slow down and worry people."

Morris said his agency had noticed an increase in the number of people asking for help for utility bills and other expenses. Unfortunately, the army operates with fewer resources than usual, he said.

Morris said the organization is still waiting for the federal funding it usually receives for its assistance programs. The money is blocked because of the closure.

"Things have slowed down a lot," he said. "The more the government is closed, the greater its impact on us all will be."

Morris also noted that the lack of federal funding could possibly affect the money that the military receives from the state.

"The dividing line between the federal government and the state government is delicate," he said. "We are considering a training effect that could affect other areas."

Food assistance

George Young, East Regional Director of Central and East Carolina Food Bank, said some federal employees had sought the help of the organization.

"Our Raleigh branch – which is the main one – says that TSA employees are looking in particular for food assistance," he said. "A TSA employee is looking for help in Greenville."

Young said the funding situation had not affected his agency a lot so far, since food voucher benefits were distributed during the month of February.

"We are participating in some USDA programs but they have not given us any indication of this judgment," he said.

However, if the closure continues and these benefits stop, Young said it could have an effect on the food bank.

"I do not think things will change dramatically unless (the closure of the government) continues in a month and public aid programs are not funded by the federal government," he said. declared. team in Raleigh. "

Concern for workers

Tracy Kennedy, Executive Director of REAL Crisis Intervention, said her agency's services have not changed and will not change in the near future.

The non-profit agency, which offers free consultations 24/7, and an extensive referral service, is stable at the moment, Kennedy said.

But she has voiced support for other non-profit organizations struggling to stay afloat because of delayed federal funding – and to their employees who have to deal with layoffs or less than $ 25,000. 39; hours.

"Workers in non-profit organizations have their livelihoods affected, and it breaks my heart because they are life-saving people," Kennedy said.

Some see the closure as a partisan battle between politicians, she said, without realizing its impact on the local community.

"It's long; it's about the core programs that have been around for years, "said Kennedy. "It is discouraging to see such a situation happen."

Financial uncertainty has added more stress to leaders and front-line workers helping people in crisis, she said.

"I really hope that the government will be able to solve this problem quickly," Kennedy said.

Want to help?

■ The Family Violence Prevention Center: Send donations to PO Box 8429, Greenville, 27835, or make a donation on the center's website: c4fvp.org.

■ Salvation Army: Send donations by mail at 2718 S. Memorial Drive, Greenville, 27834, or donate online at don.salvationarmycarolinas.org.

■ Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina: Send donations to 1712 Union St., Greenville, 27834, or donate online at http://www.foodbankcenc.com .org.