Community Action Southold Town is starting to feel the sting of the partial government shutdown that has now stretched into its fifth week. The longest shutdown in United States history has left funding for the nonprofit in limbo.
CAST, whose mission is to provide a safety net for Southold Town residents, receives funding through the federal Emergency Food and Shelter Program administered by the Department of Agriculture. The shutdown has delayed a portion of that funding, director Cathy Demeroto said Tuesday.
“Our funding that we are waiting on from the federal government to buy food and gift cards to help people is being held up,” she said. “We just don’t know when we’re going to get it.”
The funding delay is only one of the potential impacts the organization faces should the shutdown continue into March, Ms. Demeroto said. Many of the community members CAST currently serves already receive federal benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, previously known as food stamps, or Section 8 housing assistance. With future funding for those programs also in question, Ms. Demeroto said there’s potential for an even greater need.
“Those are all federal programs right now that, I am told, will continue to be funded through February, but we don’t know what is going to happen after February,” she said, adding that free school meal programs should be federally funded through March. “We have concerns because if the shutdown continues, most of our clients are already relying on those every day.”
The potential for increased need among newly furloughed federal workers is also a concern, Ms. Demeroto noted, although she said CAST hasn’t yet seen a significant uptick in demand. The organization, she added, has reached out to administrators at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to offer assistance to federal workers.
“They were grateful that we reached out,” Ms. Demeroto said.
All essential Plum Island contracts are funded, although some projects are on furlough status, according to Douglas Ports, director of operations at the facility.
CAST is currently accepting donations at its Greenport office located at 316 Front St.
Photo caption: The federal funding Community Action Southold Town receives to purchase food and gift cards for community members in need is in limbo due to the government shutdown. (Rachel Siford photo)