Federal government reopens and default risk averted for now; Changes ahead for Morro Bay residents in need.

Obama and Boehner image from The Telegraph

This morning, the United States government is open for business once again, with thousands of federal employees receiving e-mails telling them to return to work, being sure to “check on any refrigerators and throw out any perished food”. Shortly after midnight this morning, President Obama signed a bill that will reopen the government and stave off the risk of a U.S. default on our debts, at least until early next year. Meanwhile, Morro Bay residents in need will soon find local programs to help them may have moved to a new day and possibly a new location.

Divided Congress Agrees to Shutdown/Debt Ceiling Deal

The shutdown crisis began last month, when Republicans in the House of Representatives proposed budget bills that would have either removed federal funding from health insurance programs created by the Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare”, or delay the implementation of those programs. President Obama and Congressional Democrats refused to accept any changes to Obamacare. Since Democrats control the Senate but Republicans control the House, Congress was unable to agree on a budget, triggering the closure of all “non-essential” government offices and programs. About 800,000 federal employees were furloughed – told to take time off of work without pay.

Meanwhile, the clock ticked down to October 17, the day the federal government would reach its “debt ceiling” and be unable to borrow any more money to pay its bills. This would have meant that those people to whom the U.S. government owes money would not get paid, defaulting on our national debt. The United States has not defaulted since 1790, and therefore the world economy depends on U.S. government bonds being a “risk-free” investment in order to calculate the expected rate of return on risky investments. Economists agree that a default by the U.S. government would have a very large, very negative impact on the world economy.

Both parties agreed to pass a new bill that would simultaneously re-open the government and prevent a default, but many Republicans, particularly those affiliated with the Tea Party movement, continued to insist that such a bill also include provisions gutting parts of Obamacare or be linked to big budget cuts, while Democrats were just as insistent that only a “clean” bill with no such provisions should pass.

As it happened, the deal that was reached put off the enforcement of the debt ceiling until Feb. 7 of next year, and will fund the federal government through Jan. 15. In return, it sets up a bipartisan committee to hash out a more permanent budget fix, and sets up tighter monitoring on the eligibility of Obamacare applications to reduce the risk of fraud. It also pays furloughed federal employees for their time off, authorizes relief aid for areas in Colorado hit by recent floods, and will help to fund upgrades on a dam and locks on rivers in Kentucky.

The bill passed the Senate 81-18, with notable “no” votes coming from Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). In the House, it passed 285-144, with all House Democrats and a minority of House Republicans approving the deal. Some conservative commentators likened the vote to a “surrender” by non-Tea-Party Republicans in Congress. Liberal voices throughout the crisis blamed Republicans for the debacle. An ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that 74% of Americans disapprove of Republicans’ handling of the crisis, 61% disapproved of Democrats’ response, and 53% disapproved of President Obama’s actions.

Of the deal, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) said “We fought the good fight, we just didn’t win.” The President declared “There are no winners” in this deal, stating “Nothing has done more to undermine our economy the last three years than the kind of tactics that create these kinds of manufactured crises… The American people are completely fed up with Washington.”

As of press time, national parks had been re-opened and various government websites had updated for the first time in weeks.

Local Food Bank Distributor in Morro Bay may be Moving

You may remember my blog post a few weeks ago about a local program where donors and volunteers provide food for Morro Bay residents in need at the Veteran’s Memorial Building. That program is about to face some really big changes – but the Food Bank Coalition insists that help for poor families will continue and even improve.

As it currently stands, the Morro Bay Seniors runs a food bank distribution in Morro Bay every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday and a separate USDA-run food distribution every third Friday of the month. These deliveries provide nutritious food for Central Coast locals that may otherwise go hungry. The food is donated by local stores, farmers, agriculture students, and individual donors, and volunteers pick up the deliveries, set up the tables, and serve the people who sign in to get the food they need.

There are similar distribution centers in Arroyo Grande, Los Osos, Nipomo, San Luis Obispo, and Oceano, but unlike in Morro Bay, these centers only distribute once a week, on Wednesdays. According to Malinda Diaz, the Food Programs Manager at the Food Bank Coalition, having multiple deliveries in Morro Bay has meant its distributions are inconsistent, with giant deliveries on some days and only a few boxes on others. She says the decision was made to bring Morro Bay’s distribution in line with the other centers, delivering food bank donations on the first, second, and fourth Wednesdays of each month and the USDA delivery on the third Wednesday of the month. She assured me that this would actually increase the available food for each person who depends on the program for aid.

However, this rescheduling may mean that the program will have to relocate, as the Veteran’s Memorial Building may be unavailable for use at the proposed times. Joseph Woods, Morro Bay’s director of Recreation and Parks, is set to speak with representatives from the program today to find a solution to this issue. “[The program] has been a success for years,” he says, “Now is not a time to go backwards.” He assured me that he would work with the Food Bank Coalition and Morro Bay Seniors to find a way to keep the program going.

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2 Responses to Federal government reopens and default risk averted for now; Changes ahead for Morro Bay residents in need.

  1. Daisy Duck says:

    Way to go, Bob! Keep on asking until it’s settled. People are depending on that food.

  2. Pingback: Locals react to Morro Bay’s Food Bank distribution changes | Cat Flag

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