Citrus Connection feeling impact of government shutdown, soon employees, riders may too

Polk County

The government shutdown is causing problems across the Tampa Bay area, including city bus service.

Citrus Connection in Polk County is one of the organizations that has been hit hard.

The agency is running low on cash and now being forced to use up their cash reserve.

“I’m disabled, so the bus service is my only form of transportation,” said Kynyatta Williams, who rides the bus daily.

Bus fares from passengers like Williams only cover a small fraction of the money public transit needs to operate.

Fifty percent of the funding comes from the federal government. With the government shutdown, that money isn’t coming in.

“It would be like going to the bank on a Sunday and trying to get your money and the bank is closed. Except right now during the federal government shut down, every day is a Sunday for us,” said Citrus Connection Executive Director Tom Phillips.

Phillips said the agency has been forced to tap into their reserves, but that money will be gone by March.

“We’ll have to make plans on what a scaled down system would look like,” Phillips said.

He says that could mean furloughing employees.

The news is worrisome for its 187 employees.

“We’re just kind of waiting,” said employee Elizabeth Rocha.

She tells News Channel 8 that she is the only one in her family earning regular income. She knows it will be tough going without a paycheck.

“We live week-to-week, so a missing paycheck would definitely impact us,” said Rocha.

Citrus Connection could also cut routes, which is a concern for riders. A majority ride the bus to work and doctors appointments.

“It’s hurting people that need to support their families,” said Williams.

If the government is still shut down, the agency will present a plan to its board on Feb. 13.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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