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Debt Ceiling Debate May Leave Seniors Unscathed

MAMARONECK, N.Y. - Senior citizens like Don Holland are confident the U.S. federal government will raise the debt ceiling to avoid default, but local representatives say they will honor their obligations to seniors even if Congress can't reach an agreement.

Chief among the potential consequences of a default for Holland is any interruption in Social Security.

"I don't feel we, as seniors, have a great threat of anything happening with Social Security and Medicare," said Holland, a Mamaroneck resident.

The debt ceiling debate reminded Holland of the NFL lockout. "They had a deadline and managed to squeak it in a few days before. It's somewhat analogous to the debt situation."

Mayor Norman Rosenblum doesn't foresee an immediate impact on local services if the federal government defaults, because the Village of Mamaroneck doesn't receive a lot of federal funding. But, the mayor said it would eventually trickle down to all levels and, "no one will escape this."

"I don't know that there will be a major impact on the village government as it's related to delivering services," said Dan Sarnoff, assistant village manager. "I think the more direct impact may be for any of our residents who receive certain federal services like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Those are the concerns that I've heard."

If, in fact, Democrats and Republicans cannot end their bitter stand-off 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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