North Carolina is speeding up how quickly money gets to the states regional food banks, and it is adding $2 million in allocations this year to cope with more families needing help because of the federal shutdown.
The announcement came at a press conference Monday at Charlottes Second Harvest Food Bank, during which Gov. Pat McCrory talked about other harms of the shutdown. He was joined by Secretary of Health and Human Services Aldona Wos, State Budget Director Art Pope and Frank Perry, secretary of the Department of Public Safety.
McCrory said harm from the shutdown could be widespread. The most immediate effects are on programs that help the poor and tourism dollars generated by national parks in the state. Several thousand state employees also could be furloughed because their jobs are paid with federal money, McCrory said, citing jobs especially at the Department of Health and Human Services.
The effort to help food banks is twofold: $750,000 was already in the budget but is being distributed early so food banks can stock up; plus the state is adding $2 million above the existing $3 million allocation in the state budget. The extra money will come from the N.C. Department of Justice.
Charlotte-based Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina will get a little more than $100,000 of the $750,000. Kay Carter, head of Second Harvest, said the shutdown is one of the reasons food pantries are seeing increased need, as workers are furloughed and families lose access to benefits.
McCrory noted the states priority is trying to keep money supplied to programs that help struggling families with children.
Last week, his administration said the partial federal shutdown forced a two-day suspension of issuing new vouchers for the Women, Infants, and Children food and nutrition program. Wos said the suspension was necessary because the state did not have enough money to guarantee new vouchers. Some additional money became available, allowing the vouchers to resume, she said.
In addition to WIC, Wos said a prolonged federal shutdown could affect November benefits for Work First Family Assistance. The Work First program provides support to more than 20,700, including low-income people who are working toward better employment and 13,761 children who are in the care of someone other than a parent.
Wos sent out a notice to the states county directors of Social Services on Oct. 10 noting that effective immediately all new applications for Work First assistance would not be processed until federal funds become available. This includes a freeze on pending applications as well as recertifications for November, state officials said.
Charlottes Salvation Army Center of Hope, a shelter for women and children, is among the nonprofits that help clients who depend on Work First checks.
Deronda Metz, director of the Center of Hope, said about 100 households in the agencys rehousing programs are using Work First checks to pay rent and utilities after they move out of the shelter.
Should the checks stop coming, she fears that some may lose their apartments and end up homeless again. Worse still, she said, the Center of Hope is at capacity and can take no new admissions. The center is turning away as many as 29 callers a day seeking shelter, Metz said.
State officials also say federal child care subsidies are also in danger of drying up. Up to 72,000 North Carolina children could be affected if that program is halted. As of Friday, at least 23 counties had already suspended payments for all or a portion of child care.
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