Charity-supporting feds find themselves in need amid shutdown

Federal employees used to donating their time and money to support charities in their communities are now seeking assistance for themselves, after 800,000 federal employees missed a paycheck Friday.

Sarah Watterson, a furloughed office manager with the EPA’s Superfund division in Kansas City, said her coworkers, who are regular contributors to programs like Feds Feed Families and the Combined Federal Campaign, now face financial hardship.

“For these people, they’re usually in a position where they are supporters, and in a position to help others around them. And now they’re in a position where they might need that support in return,” Watterson said in a Jan. 4 interview. “I think that’s an odd place for them to be at.”

Bryan Slater, the Labor Department’s assistant secretary for administration and management, in an email Thursday asked agency employees to consider donating to the CFC in order to help out more than 800,000 federal employees affected by the shutdown.

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“I want to emphasize how fortunate we are at the Labor Department to be funded during this time,” Slater wrote in an email obtained by Bloomberg. “This is a great opportunity to help fellow colleagues manage their bills, their child care and other everyday needs!”

Monday marks the deadline for federal employees to contribute to the CFC.

Slater reportedly attached a CFC pledge form to the email as way to help “federal employees in the local area and beyond.”

The Labor Department didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Friday. The agency isn’t affected by a lapse in funding.

It’s unclear whether donations collected by the CFC will have an immediate impact on federal employees.

“They’re not right here for right now,” Peace Corps Director Josephine Olsen said during a campaign kickoff event in September, adding that hundreds of CFC charities “take the long view” on giving back to communities.

The Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the CFC, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.

FEEA not seeing ‘huge uptick’ in hardship loans

The Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund, which receives CFC funding, offers emergency hardship loans to federal employees.

However, furloughed federal employees can’t apply for a loan unless they’re experiencing “qualifying emergencies,” such a serious illness, death in the family or a house fire.

“We wish we had the resources to assist them and we fervently hope everyone will be back to work and getting paid before the financial situation becomes critical for so many federal families,” Robyn Kehoe, FEEA’s deputy director, said in an email Thursday.

FEEA has received several inquiries from furloughed feds asking whether they qualify for loans, but Kehoe said the nonprofit has not yet seen “a huge uptick” in loan applications.

“We have a pretty steady rate of applications, usually several per day,” she said, but with federal employees missing their first paycheck on Friday, FEEA expects those numbers may increase.

Food bank offering ‘pop-up markets,’ free to feds

The Capital Area Food Bank, which also receives CFC funding, will hold grocery giveaways Saturday at five “pop-up markets” in the Washington metro area, in addition to its normal operations.

The markets are located in the parking lots of five Giant Food grocery stores in the area:

  • 1050 Brentwood Road, Brentwood, Washington, D.C. 20018
  • 6800 Richmond Highway, Alexandria, Va. 22306
  • 10480 Campus Way South, Largo, Md. 20774
  • 7074 Allentown Road, Camp Springs, Md. 20748
  • 12051 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Md. 20852

Food is free of charge for those who show a federal ID or a federal contractor ID, Radha Muthiah, president and CEO of the Capital Area Food Bank, told WTOP on Friday.

Loudon, Calvert counties expand food bank capacity

Loudon County Hunger Relief in Virginia, in a statement Thursday, said it’s working with local partners to meet any increased demand caused by the shutdown.

The nonprofit now distributes four days’ worth of food per visit to individuals in need.

“Anyone impacted by the federal shutdown should not hesitate to reach out for help. No one should be hungry,” CFC wrote in a press release.

End Hunger in Calvert County has notified Maryland residents of expanded hours at food pantries due to the shutdown.

“If you’re a federal employee or contractor impacted by the government shutdown, it is our honor to provide support during this time,” the organization’s website states. 

Helping those who help

The United Way of the National Capital Area (NCA), which also receives CFC funding, launched an emergency assistance fund on Thursday, giving out $50,000 to help local nonprofits provide services to furloughed federal employees and those working without pay.

Rosie Allen-Herring, the president and CEO, of the United Way NCA, said the funds “will provide some assurance and support for the thousands of individuals in our region affected during this time.”

The initial funds will go to the Capital Area Food Bank, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington and Northern Virginia Family Service.

Pepco gave a $50,000 matching grant to the Emergency Assistance Fund, the United Way expects more contributions will follow.

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