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U.S. shutdown threatens senior meals, housing, L.A. council says

October 04, 2013|By Catherine Saillant
  • Los Angeles Councilman Bob Blumenfield.
Los Angeles Councilman Bob Blumenfield. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP )

Los Angeles City Council members Friday blamed tea party Republicans in Congress for the continuing federal government shutdown and said that if it goes on much longer, seniors and low-income residents would be among those hurt.

At a special session called to review local effects of the political stalemate, analysts said senior meal programs and housing services for low-income residents could be among the most immediate fallout.

The city receives more than $457 million in federal aid each year for a variety of programs, including senior aid, victim's services, special police programs and housing services for the poor. Local reserve funds can temporarily cover the loss of funding, said Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller.

But if the federal government remains shut down, hot meals delivered to home-bound seniors could be affected by early December, as well as group lunches at recreation centers and clubs, Miller said.

Los Angeles also might have to stop payments to vendors who provide critical housing services for the poor, he said. In turn, vendors -- many of them nonprofit agencies -- might have to lay off employees who do the work.

With reductions in the number of U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors at the Port of Los Angeles, there could be delays in getting imported foods to local grocery stores and markets, the analyst said. 

In a more direct way, the Washington battle is affecting an estimated 49,000 federal employees in Los Angeles County, many of whom are now furloughed and going without paychecks, said Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who asked for the special session. Of the 15 council members, 14 are Democrats including all 10 who sat in on Friday's session.

It's also hurting first-time home buyers who can't close a mortgage and anyone who goes to the Santa Monica Mountains for recreation, Blumenfield said. Hikers will find restrooms are closed, campgrounds are shuttered and no rangers are around to help them if they get hurt, he said.

The councilman called the gridlock a partisan fight instigated by House Republicans opposed to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

"If congressional Republicans wish to repeal Obamacare and restrict access to healthcare for millions of Americans they can try to do that on their own time, but not at the expense of the well-being and peace of mind of Americans here in Los Angeles and around the country,'' Blumenfield said.

Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents the 5th District, said he is "more cynical" than Blumenfield and thinks that opposition to Obamacare is being used as an excuse for a broader ideological fight by right-wing tea party Republicans.

"If they were able to successfully shut it down indefinitely, they couldn’t be happier,'' Koretz said. "It’s very difficult to negotiate with a group that actually doesn’t want to find a solution.” On a unanimous vote, the council approved a resolution urging the House of Representatives to work with the U.S. Senate and President Obama to reopen the government.


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