Federal government shutdown affecting some local agencies

Signs taped on the door of the Bedford County Farm Service Agency tell the public the office is closed due to a partial federal government shutdown.

The partial federal government shutdown is affecting some agencies and organizations in the county.

The Bedford County Farm Service Agency remains closed, its employees furloughed “due to a lack of government funding,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Across the hall in the office space at 702 W. Pitt Street, the Bedford County Natural Resources Conservation Service remains operational, relying on “mandatory and previously appropriated” funds.

“We’re operating as usual the best we can,” Brad Michael, district conservationist, said. “But we’re not quite 100 percent.”

Michael said his department of three employees is attempting to help farmers seeking assistance from the Farm Service Agency.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday extended a Jan. 15 deadline for farmers to apply for payments to offset losses they had incurred due to the nation’s trade dispute with China.

About $9.5 billion had been set aside for growers of various crops, including soybean, corn and wheat.

“It all runs through the Farm Service program,” he said. “Folks are coming in trying to reach that Jan. 15 deadline. We’re collecting their information.”

The USDA said the deadline will be extended for a period of time equal to the number of business days USDA offices had been closed, once the shutdown has ended.

The shutdown is affecting other agencies that rely on federal funding.

Wendy Melius, executive director of Center for Community Action, said her agency is waiting on a recently-awarded $273,000 federal grant to fund a rapid rehousing homelessness program in a six-county coverage area.

“The grant would allow us to be able to help individuals who are truly homeless with housing,” she said.

Melius said the agency’s other programs targeting homelessness have not yet been affected. She said funding through the Housing and Urban Development is expected to last until the end of February.

“The longer it goes, though — we only have so much,” she said. “It could hurt.”

The federal shutdown hasn’t affected business at the county government level, which relies on some federal dollars.

“At this point, we’ve not even discussed it,” said Bedford County Commissioner Paul Crooks.

School districts also have been largely unaffected at this time.

“Nothing at this point at all,” said Allen Sell, superintendent of the Bedford Area School District. “Federal funding is funneled through the state, so it’s usually a year behind.”

Sell said the district uses federal funding for a small percentage of its budget.

“A state (government) shutdown would be a different story,” he said.

Contact Will DeShong at wdeshong@bedfordgazette.com; 623-1151, ext. 150.

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