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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

U.S. government shutdown effects in county not dire, yet

Friday, October 4, 2013

By KEN BRADLEY - Staff Writer

Only one federal agency in Franklin County has shut down and furloughed its employees as a result of the U.S. government shutdown caused by Congress being unable to reach an agreement on funding the federal budget.

However, if the shutdown drags out too long, several federally funded programs that affect health and welfare provided by state agencies could see disruptions.

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Rocky Mount, a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, furloughed its eight employees just after the federal shutdown went into effect.

G.B. Washburn Jr., director of the local FSA, said the federal farm programs, such as farm loans, price support payments and conservation efforts, will be on hold for the duration of the shutdown.

"The biggest problem is that price support payments to farmers will be delayed," he said. "Also, October is the sign-up period for farm support programs, so that's delayed, too."

Michael Welsh, director of community nutrition for the Virginia Department of Health, said the shutdown won't affect the availability of flu shots in Franklin County and other areas of the state.

"The manufacture of flu vaccine has already been funded," Welsh said. "However, the Centers for Disease Control that monitors the spread of flu and determines how best to direct vaccine programs will be unable to support the annual seasonal influenza program during the shutdown."

WIC, a federally funded program for Women, Infants and Children, which helps pregnant women and new moms buy healthy food and provide nutritional programs, will continue to be offered, at least for the short term, Welch said.

"The program is sufficiently funded at least through Nov. 1," Welch said.

The federally funded Head Start Program that's run by STEP Inc. in Rocky Mount will continue without interruption, according to Jon Morris, director of STEP Inc.

"Our Head Start Program is funded on a calendar year basis," Morris explained, "so the program for this year has already been funded."

The program provides educational, health, nutrition and other services to low income children and their families.

Morris said STEP's federally subsidized housing program for the homeless will be funded through October.

"After that, we don't know, but we think we're okay on the homeless program," Morris said.

Through the program, STEP finds housing available for rent. The homeless person pays a portion of the rent and federal money subsidizes the remaining portion.

Some parts of the federal government will remain open despite the shutdown, according to the Washington Post. They include:

•Social Security Administration so that there will be no delay in sending out Social Security Checks.

•The U.S. Postal Service to deliver the mail without disruption.

•All public safety and national security agencies.

•The U.S. military.

•Air traffic controllers.

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