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Govt. shutdown prompts C. Oregon questions

By Kandra Kent
Published On: Sep 30 2013 10:28:25 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 01 2013 12:03:26 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's Kandra Kent spoke with officials from WIC and the Forest Service about what a shutdown would do to local programs on the High Desert.

BEND, Ore. -

From the services you depend on to get by, to the special places you like to visit -- theĀ  government shutdown leaves a question mark looming over Central Oregon and the nation.

"We're all sort of monitoring it as it goes along, but we just don't know how it's going to shake out at this point," Deschutes County Health Department's WIC Coordinator Laura Spaulding said Monday.

When midnight struck on the East Coast, the nation's fiscal year ended -- and in a tug-of-war over Obamacare, lawmakers haven't agreed on a new budget.

A deal wasn't reached, so many federal offices and programs around the nation will close Tuesday.

Others, like the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program will stay open, but on alert.

"Everything is status quo -- clients can use their vouchers, come to appointments," Spaulding said.

Spaudling says about 4,100 residents of Deschutes County depend on the program to buy food and get help with health services and nutritional information.

The program serves women and their infants and children under age 5.

"This morning, someone left a message on our voice mail asking if they could use their October vouchers next month, if the shutdown happened," Spaulding said. "We were happy to be able to call them back and say, 'Absolutely.'"

Still the program faces uncertainty if an agreement in Washington isn't reached soon.

"I know if it went on for months and months and months, there would have to be a plan. There might be a tightening up, but I couldn't even venture it guess what that would look like," Spaulding said.

Other federal departments were preparing for the worst: without a congressional agreement, the Lava Lands Visitor Center south of Bend will have to close.

Denny Cline of Puyallup, Wash., is vacationing in Central Oregon and came to the center twice on Monday. He said he didn't want to miss the opportunity.

"I like the national parks and monument stuff -- that's one thing we look at all over the country when we're traveling," Cline said. "It's a shame to be closing something like that down."

Forest Service officials in Bend couldn't speak on camera, but said essential employees like wildland firefighters and fire lookouts won't be affected.

However, prescribed burns will cease, and many "non-essential" employees will prepare to close their offices.

And while rumors swirl nationwide about what exactly will close down, there are a few services that will stay running, no matter what.

You will still get your Social Security checks and Medicare benefits, food stamps will be issued, the military will continue to operate, you'll still get mail, and Veteran's Affairs services will be open.

Many services people depend on every day are unaffected for now. But almost 2,700 miles from the U.S. Capitol, Central Oregonians, like their fellow Americans across the country, are waiting to see what's next.

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