Jewish agencies missed brunt of shutdown


The 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government was enough to rattle local Jewish social service agencies that depend on government grants. Their worry continues as a possible second shutdown looms if Congress and the president cannot agree on a budget by Feb. 15.

Right now, the Jewish Social Service Agency is waiting to receive a security grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to CEO Todd Schenk. The grant would fund security improvements to JSSA’s Rockville building.

“Security is something we’re very sensitive to,” Schenk said. “That’s a significant item that’s delayed, because of the shutdown for us.”

Additionally, the shutdown has affected many of JSSA’s clients who found jobs in the public sector as part of JSSA’s employment program for people with disabilities. As with all federal employees, when the shutdown hit, their paychecks stopped.

“They’re just losing wages,” Schenk said. And because the clients have disabilities, it’s more difficult for JSSA to find them alternate employment.

The Jewish Council of the Aging reported that it only experienced a delay for two transportation-related grants.

One was for a two-year program that would help establish a volunteer driving network; $516,000 of the $644,000 grant comes from federal sources. However, JCA CEO David Gamse said the funding was only delayed, and officials were working to get the funds through as soon as they can.

Due to the unique circumstances regarding the government shutdown, Gamse and his organization are pushing ahead.

“We are trying to be in touch with different funders to see what their advice is,” he said. “Either we have been unable to get any solid information or [we] have been told that things look pretty stable for the close-term future.”

In the event of a short second shutdown, the organization should be able to continue as normal, he predicted.

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