Beyond being frustrated with Congress, area residents may not realize the local impact a shutdown of the federal government. Members of the Whiteside County Healthier Communities Partnership would like to remind area residents that government services make a real difference for our families, friends and neighbors.
For example, Whiteside County has a great deal of poverty, and many people are dependent upon government services. According to the 2011 American Community Survey, 32.4 percent of Whiteside County residents are below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. That translates into an income less than $43,568 for a family of four. The per capital income for Whiteside County is $22,956, significantly lower than the Illinois average of $29,376.
Another contributing factor to poverty is the number of wage earners in a family. The percent of children ages 0-17 years living in a single parent family in Whiteside is 32.7 percent, compared to Illinois at 6.1 percent.
Many valuable local services are at risk if a government shutdown lasts more than a few days. Infants on the WIC Program (Women, Infant and Children) will lose formula, and pregnant women will lose the nutritious food necessary for a healthy baby.
Our domestic violence shelter could close, leaving the most vulnerable victims with no safe place to go. Social Security and Medicare are federal programs; our parents and grandparents will lose the checks that enable them to eat and pay for medical treatment.
Once the Center for Disease Control loses funding, infectious diseases will not be tracked, leaving our school children and the entire population at risk.
The Whiteside County Healthier Communities Partnership urges everyone to contact local legislators, urge them to end the shutdown, and prevent the disasters that could so easily affect people we all know and care about.
Note to readers: Beth Fiorini is the Whiteside County Public Health administrator, and Amy Adams is the Community That Cares project coordinator. Both are co-presidents of the Whiteside County Healthier Communities Partnership.