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Government Shutdown Impacts Oklahoma Tribes

MIAMI, Okla. --The Inter-Tribal Council in Miami is bracing for potential cuts to programs and about a dozen furloughs.
MIAMI, Okla. --The Inter-Tribal Council in Miami is bracing for potential cuts to programs and about a dozen furloughs.

"It's like an economic earthquake," said Helen Christie, Inter-Tribal Council Director.

One that's shaking up the Inter-Tribal Council in Miami.

"We're looking at furloughing 11 employees out of a base of 18," said Christie.

The ongoing feud at the nation's capitol is to blame.

"It's frustrating because we're a social service organization," said Christie.

The council depends on federal money to provide services to hundreds of tribal members in Northeast Oklahoma. With congress not passing a budget, there is no money to continue operating two of the ITC's departments. One is a WIC program providing prenatal and infant care.

"It's so disheartening to know that the people that we've helped and depend on us will have to go without," said Rhonda Dempster, WIC Director.

A reserve fund is allowing the office to remain open until October 11th. If by then the shutdown is still in effect, the WIC Office will close and its five employees will be furloughed- including Director Rhonda Dempster.

"There's been a lot of tears shed this week and there's probably going to be more before this is over," said Dempster.

The second program taking a hit is food commodities. 300 families receive more than 80 pounds of food each month through the USDA funded program.

"I've worked for Inter-Tribal Council for 28 years and this has never happened to us before. Always before they have had continuing resolutions where the funding has been available and now it's not available," said Marilyn Mayfield, Food Distribution Director.

Food distribution will potentially come to a halt Monday, also leaving 6 people unemployed.

"I'm just thankful that my family is raised and my husband has a good job. So I'm pretty taken care of, but there are a lot them that are not," said Mayfield.

"I hope that they would come to an agreement in Washington and realize that we're utilizing the funds for the betterment of our community," said Christie.

The Inter-Tribal Council's accounting staff could also be impacted. The office will potentially go from three workers to one until the shutdown ends.

(story contributed by KODE/KSN Joplin, MO)

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