Services start back up as shutdown ends

Social services told to resume processing Work First applications
Oct. 18, 2013 @ 08:15 AM

After the partial shutdown of the federal government ended with the budget-and-debt-ceiling deal that Congress passed late Wednesday, state officials kicked into high gear Thursday to begin restoring funds to programs that had been suspended.

Counties were told Thursday they could immediately resume processing Work First applications, which had been halted on Monday.

"Leadership and staff at DHHS has been working hard since early this morning," said DHHS spokesman Ricky Diaz. "The majority of services impacted by the federal shutdown have been restored, and we hope to have everything back to normal by the end of Thursday. All federal chid care funds have been restored to previous levels, and counties that were forced to suspend services can contact families and restore services effective immediately."

In Caldwell County, child care funds amounted to $2,593,221, which was reduced to about $1.5 million due to the federal shutdown. However, services to children were not reduced, said Joyce Edwards, social services director.

On Monday, North Carolina suspended the federally funded Temporary Aid to Needy Families for the unemployed and underemployed, which in this state is called Work First. Work First is designed to help families stay off welfare by supplying limited cash benefits, child care, food stamps and Medicaid for up to three months. DHHS told county social services offices they could no longer process or approve Work First applications or renew any current recipients until further notice. The measure threatened to cut off benefits to 58 families and 80 children in Caldwell County relying on Work First funds.

"We are certainly relieved, for a lot of reasons, that the government is back to doing business for the families we serve, and that we are required to serve," Edwards said. "These are really difficult times for folks already struggling."

On Oct. 8, DHHS had stopped issuing vouchers for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children program, or WIC, citing the shutdown. However, by late afternoon on Oct. 10,  DHHS reversed course and said the department had secured funds to continue the WIC program.

The shutdown did not disrupt food stamp applications.