Modified: January 9, 2019 1:43pm
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined by Erie County Social Services Commissioner Marie Cannon and Senior Services Commissioner Tim Hogues today to discuss the impacts of the ongoing federal government shutdown on the provision of programming in Erie County. Grants to fight the opioid epidemic, assist in crime lab functions, and rebuild municipalities through Community Development Block Grants have all been stopped while grant funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) is threatened by the continuing shutdown, now in its nineteenth day.
In October 2018 the county was awarded over $1.8 million in new federal grant funding from the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”). Two U.S. DOJ grants totaling $1,853,233 would be used to implement the Probation Opioid Response Initiative, which will focus on expanding services to offenders diverted to probation, along with implementing an opioid overdose review board to inform future public health practice and policy related to opioid addiction. These two grants are stopped by the shutdown.
Additionally, according to the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs the DNA Backlog Reduction Grant, which funds three DNA analysts, will not be processed for reimbursement until the government has full appropriations. This $463,541 grant helps to reduce the forensic DNA sample turnaround time, increase throughput of DNA samples and reduces the number of forensic DNA samples awaiting analysis. The Central Police Services lab will continue to perform the DNA work despite being unfunded.
“The clock is ticking for the federal government to reassume its rightful duties and stop harming the citizens it is supposed to serve and represent,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “Essential programs for community health, safety and development are being pushed aside without thought for the thousands of county residents who rely on them, and that is wrong.”
Elsewhere, a continued shutdown would endanger funding for thirteen recently-announced Community Development Block Grant (“CDBG”) projects across Erie County. Dependent on federal Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) funding, the thirteen projects involve a total Erie County expenditure of $1,522,628, an investment which will leverage $1,463,560 in local funds and in-kind resources. Projects in Lancaster, Lackawanna, Tonawanda, Brant, North Collins, Evans, West Seneca, Boston, Sardinia, Springville, and Gowanda would be affected as would the Rural Transit Service. This critical service receives the bulk of its funding through the CDBG program, affecting thousands of individuals in rural areas who depend on Rural Transit Services for transportation.
Funding for the SNAP program is also threatened although federal action yesterday may prolong funding through February. SNAP assistance (formerly known as Food Stamps) provides low-income households, senior citizens, the disabled, and others with benefits to purchase food in order to maintain good health. Erie County currently has approximately 78,000 households receiving SNAP benefits, representing about 146,000 individuals including 24,000 seniors over the age of 60 and over 53,000 children and adolescents. SNAP benefits recipients live in every municipality in Erie County.
In the month of October 2018, Erie County received $18.74 million in SNAP benefits, which is the average monthly benefit amount and boost to the local economy. Research has shown that each dollar in federally funded SNAP benefits generates $1.79 in economic activity. The Erie County Department of Social Services (“ECDSS”) has been informed by NYS that enough reserve funds are available to fund recurring SNAP benefits. Benefits for new SNAP cases are also still available and the Department will accept and fully process SNAP applications as usual. SNAP grants originate from the USDA, which will issue further instructions in the event of a prolonged shutdown.
Social Services Commissioner Marie Cannon said, “Disruptions in the SNAP grant process will mean that people will be going hungry in our community. Thousands of families and children rely on this program, without which many of them would go to bed hungry at night or throughout the day. The SNAP program is a lifeline and needs to be fully supported.”
SNAP benefits allow individuals to purchase foods for the household to eat, such as breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, meats, fish and poultry, dairy products and seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat. SNAP recipients CANNOT purchase beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco, food that will be eaten in the store, hot foods, or any nonfood item with their benefits.
Poloncarz concluded, “The effects of the shutdown are extending far beyond closing national parks and monuments. They are now negatively impacting the lives of residents in Erie County and across the nation, average people who have nothing to do with the dysfunction in our nation’s capital but are being punished nonetheless. The loss of these grant funds would mean more hardship for people who need help, more hunger for innocent people, more uncertainty for families, and more isolation in our communities. On behalf of the residents of Erie County I am urging our federal delegation to do all it can to safeguard these grants and protect the people that rely on them.”
For more information:
On the SNAP program in Erie County, visit http://www2.erie.gov/socialservices/index.php?q=SNAP
On Erie County Senior Services, visit http://www2.erie.gov/socialservices/index.php?q=SNAP