Senior citizens feel the pinch of the government shutdown - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Senior citizens feel the pinch of the government shutdown

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NEWNAN, GA (CBS46) -

Until the government standoff ends, senior citizens in metro Atlanta are being affected by the shutdown. A federally-funded voucher program was cut this week, one that allows seniors who don't drive to get around.

Ida Johnson, the director at Tommy Thompson Senior Center in Newnan got a call saying she can't hand out any more vouchers.

Henri Jean Stewart said the voucher program is essential to her life.

"It helps me go to the doctor, to the church, to the store," Stewart said.

Each month, Stewart and 50 or so other seniors who can't drive, and don't have someone to drive them, get $60 worth of federally-funded vouchers to go toward rides. If not for them, "It would put me in a financial bind, it really would," Stewart said.

Brenda Teagle depends on it too. When she heard vouchers were yanked, "my heart just leaped, because it truly has helped a lot. There's no bus system here. Just getting in the cab is at least $8," Teagle said.

Teagle uses the voucher to get to and from the senior center.

"They live on fixed income. All my clients are low to moderate income," Johnson said.

Johnson said her clients' money is already stretched thin.

"It's going to affect a lot of people. A lot of people who otherwise would have to come out of their own pocket and their little social security checks," Johnson said.

She hopes a solution comes soon so the disruption to seniors is minimal. Seniors want that too. 

"Please make an agreement. Come to some type of an agreement. Help us, we need you," Stewart said.

The center also got word they could have to stop all services in about a month if the government shutdown is not resolved.  The seniors at Tommy Thompson vowed to not idly sit by. They wrote to Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, who represents Newnan. 

"I said when you put these people in office, you thought they'd do the right thing," Teagle said.

Dozens of other seniors also wrote, saying things like:

"I'm 80 years old."

"I am deeply disturbed by the shutdown."

"Please don't shut down our senior center."

"Stop being stupid."

"I think it's ridiculous. I think it's a childish game. I think it's people using us a pawn," Stewart said.

A representative from Westmoreland's office contacted Johnson. Westmoreland also sent CBS Atlanta News this statement:

"A representative from my office contacted the senior center in Newnan after receiving the letters to let them know we had received the letters and were aware of their concerns. Last night, the Coweta County Commission voted to support the center's transportation efforts until November 14th if funding is lost due to the shutdown to coincide with the funding for meals. The Grantville City Council also discussed similar action for the Grantville Seniors Center. Obviously, any loss of funds for a senior center – as well as the other hardships caused by the shutdown – are very concerning to me. However, I believe that the negative effects of ObamaCare and the harm caused by doing nothing to address our debt problems will be much worse unless we address them. I am hopeful for a resolution that responsibly funds the federal government while protecting Americans from ObamaCare and providing fairness. Unfortunately, the plan announced in the Senate does not meet that criteria in its current form."

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