Staff photo by Allison Potter
Vickie Henry, CNA, leads members of the Elderhaus adult day services program in exercise on Wednesday, Oct. 9.
Elderhaus CEO Linda Pearce described some human faces of the federal government shutdown — including a 101-year-old man who lives alone and relies on the Wilmington adult day services program for help getting meals and snacks, taking his medication and exercising.
But federal money that subsidizes three of his four weekly visits ended and funding for the fourth day and county transportation he needs were only stable through Oct. 31, Pearce said in an Oct. 7 phone interview.
“Bridges are burning all around him, all his support,” Pearce said. “He does not need to be alone.”
Pearce said later the man’s family would try to pay as long as they can and that Elderhaus hopes to find another source of funds for him soon.
Elderhaus, which serves New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties, was notified Oct. 4 that federal funding for its adult day services would end retroactive to Oct. 1. The organization has since been trying to figure out how to serve its 10 clients in those programs and plans to ask local foundations and churches for help until the federal budget is resolved.
“It is dire,” Pearce said.
Adult and child day care were among services affected by the loss of federal funding as the Oct. 1 start of the new federal fiscal year started without Congress agreeing on a budget.
So are some supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education services through the Women, Infants and Children Program, or WIC.
New Hanover County Deputy Health Director Joshua Swift sent a news release saying WIC will no longer issue vouchers and clients will be placed on a waiting list effective Wednesday, Oct. 9.
“WIC clients who have been issued WIC vouchers can still use them to get food and infant formula at local vendors, and should only come to the Health Department for their scheduled appointments,” health director David Rice said in the Oct. 8 news release.
To remain eligible current WIC clients must keep scheduled appointments, the health department said, adding they will still get nutrition education, breastfeeding education and support services.
New Hanover County’s WIC program serves about 4,000 people at any given time, said program director Nancy Nail, nutrition services supervisor for the county health department.
Earlier on Oct. 8 WIC was running as usual, Nail said.
“I think they’re monitoring things at the state level almost hour by hour,” Nail had said. “We might be running as is today and maybe things will change tomorrow or next week or Oct. 31.”
The state Department of Health and Human Services released a statement later that day saying WIC would discontinue issuing benefits after Oct. 8 due to the shutdown.
New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet sent county commissioners an email Oct. 8 about the WIC applications and that it appeared there was money to carry current program participants through October.
Coudriet also had sent commissioners an Oct. 4 email informing them about the expected federal funding losses — about $300,000 in weekly revenue — that had been coming from several federal government agencies to the county through the state DHHS.
“These are federal dollars that come to our community in the form of a benefit,” Coudriet said in an Oct. 7 phone interview. “Those dollars are not made available in the course of this shutdown.”
The email noted federally funded adult and child day care services were being eliminated and federally funded social services contracts were being suspended. Details in the email included the following for New Hanover County:
• About 16 adults getting services at Elderhaus and Adult Day Services may now need long-term care placement.
• About 16 families and children will lose federal subsidies for in-home services through the Methodist Home for Children.
• About 1,588 family child care subsidies will end, affecting 84 child care facilities.
That first stop-loss plan included no furloughs, Coudriet said, adding county officials were revisiting the plan daily and would respond to any further changes as responsibly as possible.
Adult Day Services owner and program director Jennifer Riker said Oct. 8 the funding loss was devastating but added her direct care and transportation staff workers were donating five hours a week from their salaries and that she and her husband were absorbing other costs so they could continue services for their seven clients as long as possible.
Riker said she has contacted her congressional representatives about the issue.
“Our politicians should be totally ashamed of themselves, and I don’t care what side they sit on,” Riker said.
Riker also attended an Oct. 7 New Hanover County Board of Commissioners meeting to share her concerns.
Commissioner Brian Berger applauded her work and asked the board to consider suggestions to borrow or take funding from reserves and ask volunteers to fill some shortfalls and donate food.
Methodist Home for Children will continue serving families through fundraising efforts and community support, spokeswoman Jeannie Norris said Oct. 7.
“We look at these families and these children and say they’re our first priority,” Norris said. “We’ll keep raising money.”
Kelly Corbett contributed to this report.