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CNY Veterans Outreach Center strives to stay open during shutdown

By ANNA MEILER

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) -- Gregory Franklin served two tours in Iraq. He's disabled, a single dad, suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and relies on support from the CNY Veterans Outreach Center in Utica.

"They help me find a place to stay with my child. If I need medical service, if I ever run out of medical care or anything through the county or my job, they will support me," said Franklin.

The problem is, about 80 percent of the center's funding comes from federal grants.

"With the federal government shutting down we cannot access those funds. So it puts a hampering on our day-to-day operations because not only does it provide the financial assistance that goes directly to service veterans, but you know, our administration fees that help pay our salaries and such, utilities, you know, come with that as well," said Vincent Scalise, the executive director and founder of the CNY Veterans Outreach Center.

The center announced a $430,000 grant just last month to help keep homeless veterans off the streets. It was supposed to go in effect Oct 1., the same day as the government shutdown. Now they'll have to wait to see the money.

"The problem is we're not going to get any money back from the federal government until they pass the budget," said Scalise.

The grant was going toward helping homeless veterans and their families pay for rent, utilities, security deposits and more. Scalise, a veteran himself, said even without funds, he won't turn anyone away.

"We'll ask to borrow money from our financial institution and we'll pay it back as soon as we can," said Scalise. "If a veteran comes in and they're homeless they will be housed and we'll front the money and we'll just keep our fingers crossed for a quick passage of the bill," said Scalise.

The center services over 500 veterans. They're grateful to Scalise, but frustrated with the government.

"Anybody who fights for this country should be taken care of not put down. You know, that's my opinion. That's how I feel about Congress," said Franklin.

Scalise said if Congress doesn't reach a budget deal soon, they'll have to start scaling back, but he hopes it doesn't come to that.

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