Some Services For Arizonans Not Available During Shutdown

October 01, 2013

The federal government shutdown has furloughed employees, forced some agency websites to go dark, and delayed funding for social services. The standoff is likely to hurt needy Arizonans. 

Many of Arizona’s 42,000 federal employees are considered essential and will still be showing up to work -- people like members of the military and border agents. Non-essential employees will be sent home, and some federal programs won’t be funded.

Until the government is open for business again, there is no more money for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, known as TANF. In August, nearly 38,000 low-income Arizonans received the cash benefit, according to the state. The average benefit was about $200 per household -- all told, $3.3 million went out to Arizona families. Unless Congress reaches an agreement, TANF will end on Thursday.

There also won't be any new federal money for the supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children. But the Arizona Department of Health Services, which administers the money, says the program is operating normally for now, and anyone who receives a WIC benefit can spend a check they’ve been issued. Spokeswoman Laura Oxley said it looks like Arizona has enough WIC money to withstand an extended shutdown.

"At this point, we think we’re good for weeks," Oxley said. "But I almost hate to give any kind of a date, because of so many things that could change in the way the federal system works."

More than 160,000 women and children in Arizona get a WIC benefit each month, which provides them about $60 to purchase certain healthy foods.

Money has also dried up for Social Services Block Grants, which fund things like homeless shelters, elder care, and utility assistance. Recipients in Arizona include cities, counties, and tribes, and groups like A New Leaf and Central AZ Shelter Services.

About 20 organizations around the U.S. that run the preschool program for low-income children called Head Start won’t get the money they were supposed to receive today. But none of Arizona’s nearly 350 Head Start locations are in danger of shutting down.

The shutdown could affect state government employees as well. The state Department of Economic Security receives 80 percent of its funding from the feds. DES says if the shutdown drags on, it’ll have to furlough employees and cut services.

Updated 10-1-13 5:17 p.m.

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