TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Local News

October 3, 2013

Despite govt. shutdown, services available

WIC program continues, some Social Security programs offered, U.S. District Court open

CORBIN — By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer

Like many places across the nation, some federal services are being offered in the Tri-County region despite the federal government’s shutdown.

To the benefit of local health departments and their clients, an important nutrition service continues to be available.

The WIC program — the special supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children — provides a monthly food prescription of nutritional foods, nutrition education and services, breastfeeding promotion and education, and access to maternal, prenatal and pediatric healthcare services.

It’s been offered by the federal government since 1974.

In Kentucky, the WIC program will continue for the time being.

All three health departments in the region got word from Frankfort that it’s business as usual — for now.

“Our notice from the state said that WIC is not affected as of right now. The state office told us and all the local offices to continue WIC as usual.  Our other federal funding is what we call ‘pass-through’ and as far as we know, that’s OK,” said Gail Timperio, director of the Whitley County Health Department.

Susan Liford, director of the Knox County Health Department, added, “We were notified by the department in Frankfort. This program in Kentucky is still on for now. We haven’t had any problems whatsoever in Knox County and we haven’t been told anything differently in Frankfort. However, if the federal government cuts WIC funds in Kentucky, it will hurt a lot of people in Knox County.”

“We received the same information that they did. At this time we will continue with our WIC program services as usual. If anything changes concerning this matter, we will let you know,” said Mark Hensley, director of the Laurel County Health Department during an interview Wednesday.

On their website Wednesday, the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services confirmed that WIC in Kentucky would continue to serve WIC participants until further notice.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Timperio noted, “We’ve been getting a lot of phone calls from the public about the WIC program just since yesterday, when the shutdown started. We’re telling them that Frankfort is telling us to continue the program. It could be crucial for the public, because a lot of people depend on the WIC program in this area, as do the vendors, such as grocery stores and supermarkets.”

If you have questions about the WIC program, you can call the Whitley County Health Department in Corbin at 528-5613 or in Williamsburg at 549-3380. The Knox County Health Department in Barbourville can be reached at 546-3486, while the Laurel County Health Department in London’s number is 864-5187.

The Social Security office in Corbin is open, but offering limited services during the government shutdown.

The office serves Whitley, Knox and Laurel counties.

Services offered by the office during this time include applications for benefits, requests for appeals, as well as changes of address and direct deposit.

They can also accept reports of a death, verify or change citizenship status, replace a lost or missing Social Security payment, issue a critical payment, change a representative payee, and process a change in a recipient’s living arrangement or income.

The last service available is only for SSI (Supplemental Security Income) recipients.

What’s not being offered for now are original and replacement Social Security cards, benefit verifications and earnings record collections.

The office in Corbin is located at 159 Future Drive, off the Cumberland Falls Highway. Office hours are from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday, and 9 a.m.- Noon on Wednesday.

They’re closed Saturday and Sunday.

Online services remain open nationwide at www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices/.

U. S. District Court in London is open on a regular schedule.

That was confirmed by an official in Lexington, who referred people to their website Wednesday afternoon.

While the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky is headquartered in Lexington, they have offices in London, as well as Pikeville, Ashland, Frankfort and Covington.

A statement from the district court’s website said Wednesday, “The federal Judiciary will remain open for business for approximately 10 business days. On or around October 15, 2013, the Judiciary will reassess its situation and provide further guidance. All proceedings and deadlines remain in effect as scheduled, unless otherwise advised. Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) will remain in operation for the electronic filing of documents with courts.”

Some other government services — like weather forecasting — go on as well.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has sent over half of their 12,000 employees home without pay. Many of those are the ones that do long-term climate research.

But about 5,400 of them remain on the job.

A good deal of them belong to the National Weather Service, a component of NOAA, which is under the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The weather service has been “excepted” from the shutdown. The main reason is those employees — meteorologists, specialists, engineers and essential staff members at national and local offices — are needed for the protection of lives and property.

On Wednesday evening, the Weather Service Forecast Office in Jackson’s website said, “Due to the Federal Government shutdown, NOAA.gov and most associated websites are unavailable. However, because the information this site provides is necessary to protect life and property, it will be updated and maintained during the Federal Government Shutdown.”

And on Wednesday, the mail did run.

Post Offices were also open.

For Jeff McWilliams and other postal workers, it was another weekday.

“We’re self-sustaining, and don’t rely on any tax-dollars. The only government services that have been shut down are those that are using tax dollars. This does not affect the Postal Service at all. We delivered mail today, we’re open at the regular time, and will continue to be during the government shutdown. It does not affect us,” he said in a phone interview.

The United States Postal Service is an independent agency of the federal government, and its employees are exempt from furloughs.

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