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Shutdown may soon hurt Bradenton residents who rely on public housing assistance

The longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history hit its 24th day on Monday and local agencies that assist low-income families and the elderly aren’t far off from feeling the pain.

If the partial shutdown isn’t resolved in a matter of weeks, uncertainty abounds for area public housing agencies funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In particular, those residents who rely on public housing assistance.

The Bradenton Housing Authority operates its own housing units, but also has a robust voucher program that allows low-income families to reside — with financial assistance — in participating apartment complexes. The program partially pays rent and utilities for these struggling families, as well as seniors, who must abide the terms of their leases with the private landlords.

Those landlords would be in their rights to begin eviction proceedings for any tenant, public housing participants or not, if rent isn’t paid and there is finite amount of time before those funds could potentially run out.

The shutdown standoff began Dec. 22 with President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats refusing to budge on a $5.7 billion request for border security funding.

Democrat leadership is showing no signs of providing border funding and Trump is promising a national emergency declaration to bypass Congress if Democrats don’t act soon. Presumptively, the move could end the standoff and Trump could order the government to reopen, but much-needed local federal dollars remain at risk until that order is given or the two sides can negotiate a deal.

BHA Executive Director Ellis Mitchell Jr. said the shutdown is not affecting operations at this time, but it will if the situation isn’t resolved. The BHA is funded through the end of February and has a one-month reserve to keep operations normal until the end of March.

“If the shutdown is not resolved by March 31, then our programs will be impacted,” Mitchell said.

Manatee County Housing Authority Executive Director Willie Calhoun did not immediately return a call for comment.

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The effect on veterans

All Veterans Affairs clinics and hospitals, including the Bradenton Veterans Outpatient Clinic are fully operational during the shutdown. Most of the essential hot lines and help lines, such as the Veterans Crisis Line remain operations.

A handful of nonessential hotlines such as the Education Call Center, Inspector General hotline and Consumer Affairs are suspended during the shutdown. Other nonessential programs also are suspended or reduced, such as interments at national cemeteries.

VA home loans for veterans are expected to slow and the VA encourages veterans to still apply during the shutdown.

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Breaking News/Real Time Reporter Mark Young began his career in 1996 and has been with the Bradenton Herald since 2014. He has won more than a dozen awards over the years, including the coveted Lucy Morgan Award for In-Depth Reporting from the Florida Press Club and for beat reporting from the Society for Professional Journalists to name a few. His reporting experience is as diverse as the communities he covers.
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