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Debt Ceiling Debate Creates Anxiety in Greenburgh

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Lysa Maranino, manager of Meals on Wheels, Greenburgh’s nutrition program for senior citizens, is apprehensive at the thought that Congress might not agree on a plan to avoid default on the federal debt.

“The money of 2011 has been approved to the program,” she said. “I believe it will be released, but I can’t be 100 percent sure.”

Local representatives around Westchester County, however, said they will honor their obligations to seniors, even if Congress can't reach an agreement.

Meals on Wheels delivers around 500 meals a day and serves 160 homebound seniors, Maranino said. She didn’t even want to think of not having funds to run the program.

“It’ll be really bad if there’s no money for the seniors who worked their whole lives and all they get is a meal a day,” she said.

At least in the near future, Town Supervisor Paul Feiner and Town Controller Bart J. Talamini don't see many consequences for Greenburgh if the federal government defaults.

"There are some federal grants that may dry up going forward but nothing immediately that I am aware of," Talamini said.

If, in fact, Democrats and Republicans cannot end their bitter standoff before Tuesday's deadline, local representatives fear the worst, but have assured their constituents that Social Security and Medicare will be taken care of.

"The treasury will still be able to pay our sovereign debt obligations," said Congresswoman Nan Hayworth (R - Mount Kisco) of New York's 19th District.

Hayworth said the local governments and organizations in Westchester County will be most likely to feel the pinch with things such as Community Development Block Grants. She said the treasury department would have to prioritize its payments and items such as Social Security, Medicaid and military paychecks would likely be at the top of the list, not grants.

"Some might have to give an IOU to their local contractors if they're willing to take one," she said.

Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D - Harrison), of New York's 18th District said failure to raise the debt ceiling could result in higher interest rates that could impact the cost of mortgages and credit card payments.

"Families could lose thousands of dollars from retirement savings and investments," she said. "It is clear that Congress and the president must agree to a plan that ends the default crisis and includes responsible spending reductions that do not balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable Americans."?New York State Senator Greg Ball (R, C - Patterson) said the fallout would be especially trying for the state because he feels New York does not rebound quickly from fiscal crisis.

"Historically, New York State takes twice as long to recover from an economic downturn," he said. "So, any recovery caused by this would be doubly hard. It would go beyond lost grant money. It would cause a problem balancing the state budget. It's odd that Washington is making Albany look good right now. But all I can say is this would be devastating at both the state and local level."

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