Tuesday, October 8, 2013 at 7:02 PM
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald showed his frustration with the federal shutdown at a news conference in Cleveland. He says the furloughing of federal employees in Northeast Ohio is hurting the county. ideastream’s Nick Castele reports.
Updated Oct. 9, 9:12 a.m. with information about VA furloughs.
FitzGerald spoke in front of MetroHealth’s Broadway Health Center in Cleveland’s Slavic Village area. Metro helps administer the WIC program that subsidizes food and other services for mothers and young children—and is dependent upon federal funds.
FitzGerald says while WIC hasn’t yet been affected by the shutdown, other agencies in the county have—most notably NASA, which has furloughed more than 1,600 civil service workers and as many as 1,000 contractors.
And on Tuesday this week, the Cleveland regional Veterans Benefits Administration office furloughed about 130 employees, says public affairs officer Holly Barnett Reba. The employees had a wide range of jobs, Reba says, including in claims quality reviewing, human resources, public contact and outreach, support services, vocational rehabilitation and employment counseling.
“Claims reviewers were kept on,” Reba says. “So claims are still being reviewed.”
FitzGerald is running for governor against Republican John Kasich next year, but he said he would be speaking out about the shutdown even if he weren’t, so long as the people he represents are being affected.
“And my constituents are being affected,” FitzGerald said. “The people who work at NASA Glenn, who work in this county, are my constituents. And they’re not at work. And they’re not contributing to the local economy.”
FitzGerald said afterward that the county has also lobbied area members of Congress to bring an end to the shutdown.
Other federal entities in the county directly impacted by the shutdown include Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The WIC program—WIC stands for Women, Infants and Children—remains funded for the time being, says Barbara Riley, the general manager for public health at Metro. She says the 31,000 people on the program in Cuyahoga County will be able to use their coupons to buy food at least through October.
“Yes, we are going to honor those coupons that are in the hands of our participants,” Riley said. “Business as usual for WIC in Ohio currently.”
A spokesman for the Ohio health department says the WIC program has enough money to last until the first or second week in November, thanks to contingency funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A spokesman for Cuyahoga County’s Head Start services told ideastream recently that the early-childhood education program has enough funding to last into next January.
Michelle Kanu contributed reporting to this story.
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