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Meals on Wheels in danger of losing funding during government shutdown

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Updated: 10/08/2013 8:14 am
CHAMBLEE, Ga. -- The Meals on Wheels program that feeds thousands of low-income seniors is up and running for now, but the clock is ticking as Congress comes no closer to a deal on the federal government shutdown.

WSB-TV Channel 2's Lori Geary visited a senior center in Chamblee Monday that delivers thousands of meals a day to seniors all over metro Atlanta. The state said because of the federal government shutdown, federal funding runs out next week. Vernon Webb, 69, is a both a volunteer for Meals on Wheels and a recipient. He told Geary he's worried about his fellow seniors.
 
"It's a great danger. We've got to end the shutdown quickly," Webb said. The government shutdown means funding for the $2 billion federally funded program is on hold. The Georgia Department of Human Services said the state has funding through Oct. 15. "The worry here with the government shutdown is that 40 people are being told they may not receive meals," said Senior Connections CEO Debra Furtado. Furtado walked Geary through the kitchen at Senior Connections, which is a Chamblee based nonprofit that provides meals and services to seniors.

The facility is responsible for 3,000 meals a day served all over metro Atlanta and south to Macon. Furtado told Geary there may be some difficult decisions ahead. "My whole thing is how do you decide who goes without the meal? Fortunately, I won't be the one -- it will be a case manager."

In DeKalb County alone, Furtado said 60 percent of its $1 million budget is federal funding. Furtado said that's not money you can make up with a few weeks' notice. "Like many non-profits we're doing everything we can, fundraising, we're doing everything to raise money, we do catering," Furtado said. She said they're trying to raise money through catering connections.

Several local governments and companies are using their catering services knowing they're also helping the organization raise money. Furtado is hopeful lawmakers in Washington will reach a compromise before she has to cut meals, but said time is running out. "We need people to compromise. We're talking about people's lives here," Furtado said.

Furtado said the state is pitching in to help make up for some of the funding because they are required to give seniors a 30-day notice of cutting meal service. Some of those letters could be going out as early as next week unless congress can work out a deal.
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