Seniors, kids could lose programs in shut down

With the federal government shutdown continuing, local officials are scrambling to find answers on how to provide services to children and seniors.

While congressmen continue to debate the government’s budget, Gwinnett senior services officials are working on how to provide transportation for seniors if the federal dollars are cut off, as soon as the end of the week.

And at least one local Head Start facility could close as soon as Friday.

Jamie Cramer, the manager for the county services, said officials are working to coordinate other possibilities to give people rides to senior centers and doctors appointments, including asking volunteers to pick people up on their way.

“We’ll do everything we can to lessen the impact on you,” Cramer said, fielding a question at the Norcross facility Thursday. “If (the shut down) continues to go forward, we could have other services impacted, but we don’t know yet.”

County officials have been notified that the Head Start facility operated by Ninth District Opportunity at the Norcross Health and Human Services Center could be closed soon. But officials at the agency did not respond to messages.

Ninth District Opportunity manages four facilities in Gwinnett, while Sheltering Arms Early Education and Family Centers operates another three.

Paige Kubik, a spokeswoman for Sheltering Arms, said the organization has had problems getting answers about the Head Start and Early Head Start funding, as the government employees she works with have been furloughed.

“As of right now, we are operating business as usual,” Kubik said. “We have a lot of questions we are trying to sort out.”

But she said the Sheltering Arms facilities appear to be funded through the rest of the month. Since the facility is blended, with children receiving funding from a variety of sources, the agency is trying to determine how a stop to that funding would impact the facility.

“That does make the question a little more complicated for us,” she said, adding that about a third of the organization’s children receive Head Start and Early Head Start funding. “We are looking at what our contingencies would be. We are looking at what would be the least interruption for students and staff.”

Sheltering Arms serves about 325 children at two locations in Lawrenceville and one in Norcross.