Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Share Your Shutdown Story

As we embark on the second week of stalemate in federal budget negotiations, organizations that serve the most at-risk children, youth and families are being forced to make difficult decisions. With the District's budget frozen until the shutdown is resolved, critical funding from both federal and local sources have been shut off for community-based organizations. Many have been forced to reduce their programming and services, furlough non-critical staff, or shut their doors entirely. All of this is bad news for the city’s young people.

Take for instance the afterschool provider People Animals Love (PAL) who has served hundreds of youth in the past few years and receives the bulk of its funding from two government sources, the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp (CYITC) and the Office of the State Superintendent for Schools (OSSE). Reimbursements for OSSE-administered programming offered by CYITC and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers are currently on hold. According to PAL’s Executive Director Rene Wallis, “PAL and many other youth-serving organizations are going to have to cope as the federal funds remain frozen. We may lay off workers, reduce our activities, serve fewer kids, and delay our reading interventions – all as the school year is getting seriously underway. Then, once the feds get it together, we have to ramp up again, but the lost time cannot be recovered”.

Another heartbreaking example of the effects of the shutdown is the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC). In an email to constituents yesterday afternoon, Executive Director Lori Kaplan explained that “to ensure the long term health of our programs, on Wednesday, October 9th, the LAYC will reduce services to ESSENTIAL operations only.” Incredibly, many LAYC staff members, despite being furloughed, will serve as volunteers until Congress refunds the government to ensure the stability of service provision for hundreds of young people.

Countless other stories of direct service organizations/entities being affected by the shutdown have come to light in recent days, but this does not necessarily mean that everyone understands the full outcomes of the shutdown. Surely the government workers who were most immediately affected by the closing of their offices in the District deserve public empathy, however, the ripple effects like the non-payment of contract/grant dollars to organizations serving at-risk populations is an issue somewhat less salient. The young people enrolled in most of the types of programming the city offers are in dire need of programming and services. The interruption of these has the potential to set youth back for much longer than the duration of the shutdown. With that in mind, it becomes the responsibility of the non-profit community writ large to make this an issue the general public can digest, and more importantly, act on.

Organizations serving at-risk populations often rely heavily on government grants and contracts, and when these funds suddenly disappear, many cannot bear the financial strain of maintaining full operations. With that in mind, it is more important than ever that individuals from the very communities who will endure the stoppage of services and programming are engaged in creating solutions to this issue.

For that reason we urge DCAYA’s members and allies to spread the word about the full effect of the shutdown and how young people here in the District are bearing a lack of services and supports. Please consider sharing this post with your personal networks and adding in your own story of how the young people you know/serve are being affected by the shutdown.

Congress needs to know how THEIR actions are affecting OUR youth. DCAYA wants to help share your story. Use #DCshutdownstories to tell them how your organization is effected by the furlough. Also, visit Susie Cambria's blog to see how you can take action against the federal shutdown!

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