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“When the rest of the world bleeds, our communities hemorrhage,” said Loretta Jones about the recent government shutdown. “We do not have the kinds of resources other communities have.”
The recent Federal shutdown threatened to end vital organizations, programs and groups in the community.
For 17 years, Healthy African American Families II (HAAFII) has made South Los Angeles aware of issues and information important to the community at large. They have worked with institutions such as the Cancer Legal Resource Center, Urban League, Charles Drew University, UCLA, Holman United Methodist Church and countless other agencies to bring research and information to the community table.
Loretta Jones is the CEO of HAAFII and has been a conduit for 72 years for the community, academia, researchers and the government. During the federal government shutdown, she shared the same fear many grass roots organizations felt nationwide.
“[HAAFII] is an advocacy program,” said Jones. “We bring research to the communities and communities to the researchers.”
The Federal government shutdown on Oct. 1, came as a result over failure to reach a compromise on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also known as "Obamacare.” On October 16, Congress passed a Continuing Appropriations Act and the President signed it shortly after, which ended the government shutdown and suspended the debt limit until February 7, 2014. Although the shutdown is over, small organizations like HAAFII felt it greatly and many will continue to according to Jones.
“When the rest of the world bleeds, our communities hemorrhage,” said Jones. “The impact of what they did with that closure will affect our community, reverberate in our community so much longer than it will in other communities.
“We do not have the kinds of resources other communities have.”
Jones pointed out those small organizations like HAAFII rest on support from the federal government.
“We are dependent upon our government contracts because we partner with universities and most of our funding comes through the National Institute of Health,” said Jones. “[When] the [federal government]… closed, none of our contracts [were] signed.”
“I [couldn’t] get contracts signed—I [couldn’t] get my contracts.”
Healthy African American Families II (HAAFII) is vital to the community and was in immediate danger as a result of the shutdown. These programs keep people informed and get them access to services desperately needed in this community.
HAAFII is vital to the community and was in immediate danger as a result of the shutdown. These programs keep people informed and get them access to services desperately needed in this community. “They help produce and deliver preventative information on health disparities such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer, depression and give seminars in conjunction with other organizations on prenatal care, health care and general health awareness.
“I’m saddened that our government has not thought about the small people,” said Jones, “that this close down, this shutdown, will affect.
“When you talk about it hitting big America, that’s one thing, but look up, the people down here—the small people. These people count, they matter, they vote, they have a right to believe that their government is going to take care of them and it’s not happening.
“We’re affected by that shutdown, as big as any of the big agencies that were furloughed out.”
Former Congresswoman, Diane Watson, echoed the same discontent and outrage over the government’s recent actions.
“The government shutdown [was] shutting down, not only our middle class but also those that are underserved,” said Watson. “Programs running without additional funds, [they weren’t] going to be able to help the people these programs were intended to.
“It [was] very devastating and this is the result of actions taken in Washington, D.C.—it’s [hit] every level of our economy and particularly those programs that are set up to help the underserved.”
Jones points out that it’s not just about HAAFII, but all federally funded programs that are needed in cities throughout the nation.
“We know that Headstart has provided for children,” said Jones. “The children that go through Headstart graduate from high school and go on to college…’uh-oh.’
“So, kill that program off so that we can have 33-percent of kids in South Los Angeles not graduating. We have to look at how all of this affects [everyone].”
HAAFII takes its responsibility to the community very seriously and wants the government to know how important these programs are to people. Jones was immediately concerned about her own staff who depends on those paychecks to care for their families.
“We need to pay our federal taxes … they weren’t waiting—they took their money,” said Jones. “So now, I have to worry about how I am going to make payroll.
“ I have 9 staff people, I don’t have to take a salary, I will forego a salary for me but I cannot let my staff member who sits at that front desk, who works 20-hours a week and has a child in high school—I can’t let her go without some money.
“The [the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] is a law—it is a law,” said Jones. “[President] Obama happened to help author the bill but when it went through Congress it became a law.
“How can you hold a country hostage because the country voted for a law?”
For more information on HAAFII or how you can help this organization, please call (323) 292-2002 or by fax at (323) 292-6121. You can also visit their website at www.HAAFII.org. Healthy African American Families II is located at 4305 Degnan Blvd. Suite 105 in Los Angeles, CA.
Photos by Brian W. Carter