“For a low-income family that is difficult, and we did robocalls and there was information stating not to spend all of their assistance, but there was incorrect media information that said the money would be taken off of the card if it was not spent. A lot of the funding that was on their cards is going to be gone, and within the next week or so, they would have spent most of the money,” said Coston.
The department’s concern is whether individuals will run out of food before the next distribution can occur. If the state is unable to provide allocations for February and March, Orange County’s DSS plans to utilize food pantries and drives.
According to the Feb. 5 board meeting agenda, Coston proposed that the county hold $100,000 from the Social Justice Funds for food if the demand exceeds current food programs’ capacity.
“We expect the impact to hit in a week or two, and that is why we requested the $100,000. Obviously that is not enough to pay for what you would normally get, but they did get their allocations, it is just with all of the misinformation, there can be a lot of anxiety and food insecurity it could have created,” said Coston.
Funding for 2018-2019 HOME Investment Partnership Program projects would also be delayed. Such projects are occurring under the Orange County Department of Housing and Community Development and include funding for nonprofit organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Community Home Trust and EmPOWERment, Inc.
“We receive annual funding from the (U.S.) Department of Housing and Urban Development, and we executed a grant agreement, but we could not draw down any funds. While the funds were not lost, they were delayed to those projects, and there were four projects to various local nonprofits,” said Sherrill Hampton, director of Orange County’s Housing and Community Development Department.
Some of these projects involve home ownership, providing second mortgages, rental acquisition and funding for Rapid Re-Housing. However, the application process for these programs had not started, so no one was affected, Hampton said.
Since the shutdown has ended, the H&CD has been working to complete environmental assessments and organize these projects within HUD’s electronic system, according to Hampton.
Hampton said the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, a rental assistance program, was also unaffected.
“The housing voucher was not affected during the shutdown because HUD had made arrangements right at the shutdown to pay January and February," said Hampton.
As another federal shutdown could begin Friday, Feb. 15, both departments are preparing for more impacts.
“We are trying to figure out how best to ensure that does not happen. It would be very difficult for county government to make up what we get from the federal government,” said Coston.
Hampton said H&CD would need to seek more assistance from the Board if another shutdown is approved. Coston said another shutdown could further disrupt the food supply for USDA programs and cause a higher level of food insecurity.