County sees effects of shutdown

The partial shutdown of the federal government is affecting Hamilton County residents with the closure of a couple services.

A supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children, WIC, will not be providing monthly checks to participants. The program is run locally by Hamilton County Public Health and serves 1,446 local residents, according to Director Shelby Kroona. She said the temporary closure of the program may put the health of local infants at risk.

“Our greatest concern is for infants who are solely being fed with formula because if their moms use the WIC program to purchase the bulk of their formula the shutdown will affect those families significantly because formula is very expensive,” Kroona said.

Participants in the WIC program schedule appointments at Public Health once every three months. At that appointment, participants are provided with three months worth of checks to purchase food and formula. They are also provided with health screenings and nutritional counseling.

Kroona said participants who have WIC checks in their possession should be using them, as they are still valid. Those with appointments scheduled for October should attend them to get their health checks and nutritional screenings and when Public Health receives those WIC checks after the shutdown ends, they will mail them to participants who missed out. However, Kroona said she has no idea how long the government shutdown will last.

Kroona also said that WIC participants who find themselves without checks, formula or the funds to buy it on their own should contact Public Health who will work with those participants to get them formula for their infants.

Other services at public health, including flu shots and clinics, will continue as normal.

“Our programs were all put into place with contracts prior to the Oct. 1 shutdown, so those will be honored,” Kroona said.

Rural Development

Another program which assists first time rural homebuyers through the USDA is also being shuttered during the federal shutdown.

The Rural Development program, hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides low to moderate income families or individuals access to government assisted mortgages. With those USDA home loans, there are no down payments required and most of the closing costs can be worked into the overall amount of the loan. Generally, the rural areas that apply for these loans contain less than 20,000 residents.

As the shutdown went from looming to reality, the USDA announced the closing of what it called nonessential operations and many USDA staff members were sent home. Jeff Kluver, of Webster City Federal Savings Bank, said that he and others in the Iowa Bankers Mortgage Corporation will continue to accept Rural Development loan applications. However, because those special loans are backed with a government commitment, no loans can close until the shutdown ends.

“I tried to call the USDA to talk about this, but they weren’t there,” Kluver said. “It’s all in limbo until they figure this out.”

Similar local programs including the Webster City First Time Homeowner Down Payment Assistance Program, the Hamilton County Down Payment Assistance Program and the Hamilton County SEED Homebuyer program remain unaffected.

About 800,000 federal workers nationwide remain off the job as the shutdown continues.