Impacts of shutdown hit home

By Amanda Collins

A shutdown of the federal government is impacting some agencies in Patrick County, from those receiving forms of social services to tourist destinations.

Joan Rogers, director of the Patrick County Department of Social Services, said those receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit will receive their February benefits early.

There will be an “early issuance for February benefits,” Rogers said. “People will receive (benefits) sometime around January 20 or soon after.”

Rogers said everyone is “working nonstop” to ensure everything is completed and the benefits delivered by that date, but cautioned “no additional benefits will be issued during the month of February.”

If the shutdown lasts beyond February, the state will issue information about what will happen for the month of March.

In 2017, there were 3,698 individuals in Patrick County that received SNAP benefits, according to Rogers.

That same year, 28 percent of Patrick youngsters were living in poverty, Rogers said.

Numbers for 2018 are not yet available.

Others agencies/projects in Patrick that may be affected by the shutdown include construction work by the Stuart Volunteer Fire Department.

Some of the work on the new site of the fire department is being funded by federal dollars through the USDA’s Office of Rural Development, according to previous reports.

Stuart Mayor Ray Weiland said that the town’s contact at that agency cannot be reached because their office is closed.

However, he remained optimistic.

“I don’t think it’s going to slow us down and I hope it doesn’t last much longer,” Weiland said.

The Farm Service Agency in Stuart also is not operating and, according to a voicemail at their office, employees are furloughed due to the lapse in government funding.

An alert has been posted for those visiting the Blue Ridge Parkway. Motorists are advised to “use extreme caution” if visiting during the government shutdown.

“Rangers, emergency services, bathrooms and trash collection” will not be available during the shutdown.

The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation shared information about the impact of the federal shutdown on parkway by answering some of the most frequent questions.

Some sections of the road are closed and others open. Why?

Before the shutdown, several sections of the Parkway were already closed due to poor road conditions created by a storm that took down many trees. Work to reopen these areas stopped when government employees were furloughed, therefore many gates remain shut.

Can I walk on the closed sections of the Parkway?

Yes. You can use the Parkway like a greenway for walking, cycling, and cross-country skiing.

Is the Real Time Road Closures Map up to date?

No. Because staff is reduced to positions deemed essential, the Real Time Road Closure Map for the Parkway is not being updated.

Which National Park Service staff members are active?

Employees considered essential to operations remain on the job, including Law Enforcement rangers.

How can I help?

You can make it easier for rangers to get the park up and running when they return by taking care of the Parkway. During your visit, be sure to leave no trace in the park. If you pack an item in, please pack it out, including toilet paper, food wrappers, etc.

The Blue Ridge Parkway consists of 469 miles that travels through Patrick County.

The federal government shutdown began Dec. 22, 2018, and currently is ongoing.

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