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October 14, 2013

Shutdown could close local childcare doors

Services could be suspended by Oct. 25

TARBORO — As the federal government partial shutdown has reached 14 days, parents who are receiving aid for childcare services are counting down to a possible suspension of the services.

The Edgecombe County Department of Social Services (DSS) sent letters to the parents of children receiving the aid stating that if the federal budget is not passed by Oct. 25, childcare services will be suspended. The letter is a mandatory requirement that was sent to parents and childcare providers.

The possible suspension, is "ridiculous" according to parents, day care owners as well as local government officials.

"My first concern is with the children — what will the parents do with them when they go to work?" said Linda Knight, the owner of Think & Grow Child Care in Tarboro. "The parents can't afford to pay for childcare. That's why they are getting subsidized assistance. Second, if we lose those children, I will have to lay off between 10 to 12 employees. It is ridiculous. The only thing we can do is keep praying. I will be glad when this is over."

The suspension could also cause the county to place employees, who are overseeing the program, on furloughs.

Senate Republicans and Democrats hit an impasse Sunday over spending in their last-ditch struggle to end what could become a national crisis.

After inconclusive talks between President Barack Obama and House Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took charge in trying to end the crises although no resolution seemed imminent.

Although several Edgecombe County federally regulated programs could be suspended, county manager Lorenzo Carmon told his board of commissioners Monday night that he feared the most for childcare. The federal childcare service in Edgecombe pumps thousands of dollars into the economy each month. The stipend is too much for the county to take on.

"We receive $185,000 a month for the child care program," Carmon said Sunday during a telephone interview. "We can't afford to take that on."

County officials fear that the suspension could have a domino effect on Edgecombe's employment rate also. In August Edgecombe's unemployment rate came in at 13 percent (99th in the state behind Scotland County). If parents are not able to find childcare, their jobs could be in jeopardy if they are forced to stay home with their children.

"Unemployment is already high," said Edgecombe County Commissioner Viola Harris. "What has happened at the federal level has trickled down to the local level. Everybody from the president to the senate to the congress needs to put aside their personal agendas and do what is  best for the people they serve."

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, told reporters the two sides are roughly $70 billion apart, the difference between the $1.058 trillion Senate budget amount and the $988 billion envisioned by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

“We haven’t picked a number, but clearly we need to negotiate between those two,” Durbin said.

Carmon said, "At least they are talking now. Maybe they will work out their differences and not cripple the United States economy."

Two more programs that were immediately affected by the partial shutdown are the WIC and Work First Family Assistance. Carmon said the program is not taking new applications until further notice.

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Arthur Rich, left, Republican candidate for District 1 Congressional seat, Alan Mizzell, N.C. District 3 Senate candidate and Brenda Cleary, District 13 Congressional candidate, are three of the 20 candidates who attended the Edgecombe County Human Relations Commission’s Meet the Candidate Forum Tuesday night at the Edgecombe County Administration Building Auditorium.

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