More than 5K Ariz. families denied welfare checksby Ronald J. Hansen on Oct. 03, 2013, under Arizona Republic News
More than 5,000 low-income Arizona families failed to get their welfare checks Thursday in one of the more tangible early effects of the federal government shutdown.
The group included people who had been approved for cash assistance, which averages $207 per person, but were not paid because money for the federally funded, state-run program had run out. About 11,000 other families already had received their aid this month, but their benefits could be affected if the political stalemate in Washington stretches into November.
In all, 5,150 families eligible for help from the federally funded Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program missed payments on Thursday. In August, the Arizona Department of Economic Security distributed $3.3 million under TANF. Two-thirds of recipients are children, according to DES reports.
The loss of federal funding in Arizona on Thursday not only affected welfare checks but also affected some privately operated safety-net organizations, including shelters for the homeless and victims of domestic violence, which will lose funds earmarked to them in federal block grants.
Nicole Moon, a spokeswoman for DES, which also administers and distributes the federal Social Service Block Grant funds, said the impact on clients from the loss of the aid wasn’t immediately clear. That’s because many of the organizations receiving federal funds also receive money from other sources, she said.
Other money might plug the gap, but the loss of federal funds will strain the organizations that serve the poor and vulnerable.
Phoenix-based Sojourner Center, which provides shelter for women in domestic-violence cases, learned Thursday that it won’t be getting grant funding until the shutdown is resolved, said Dick Geasland, associate director of the center. Each month, the center takes in about $150,000 in federal funds from two sources, he said.
“We’re just beginning to talk about the potential impact,” he said. “We do have some reserves (available in an emergency), but they’re not for services the government is supposed to pay for.”
The center provides 144 beds for women in Phoenix and helps women into transitional housing, he said. Because some of the women in the center receive welfare aid, they will be affected by the cutoff of those funds, too, if the shutdown continues, he said.
“We have a significant number of women who have come through our program who will be affected,” he said.
Suzanne Schunk is vice president of family-support services for Southwest Human Development, a non-profit organization in Phoenix that provides assistance to low-income families with young children. If aid that allows families to provide shelter for themselves dries up, many of the families could quickly become homeless.
“All of a sudden their income source has dried up. If it lasts more than a week or two, they’re at jeopardy of being evicted,” she said. If that happens, “they either stay with the abuser or they end up in the streets. Right now, all we’ve heard from families is fear and confusion.”
The block grants are divided among 63 organizations that help the homeless, the elderly, victims of domestic violence, provide social services to tribes and help other groups, such as Catholic Charities.