Food Pantry, Churches Helping Furloughed Federal Workers

Government shutdown entering third week

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U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, stands with furloughed workers during a rally he organized this week to support them during the government shutdown. Raskin's event is one of many organized in the community.

Dan Schere

As the federal government shutdown creeps toward being the longest in history, churches, businesses and nonprofits are stepping up with services and support to help ease financial burdens for thousands of federal employees who won’t be paid today.

An estimated 80,000 Montgomery County residents are federal employees and some have been out of work for nearly three weeks, or are not being paid, as President Donald Trump and Congress battle over funding for a border wall between Mexico and the United States.

While it is not clear how many Montgomery County federal workers are off the job, since some agencies have funding and are open, most of Maryland’s congressional delegation is supporting legislation for retroactive pay when the government reopens.

As the debate drags on, Manna Food Center of Gaithersburg announced Friday it has waived income requirements for county residents to receive food from the pantry.

“We recognize that many government employees, contractors and service industry employees that support our federal agencies are experiencing financial strain from the shutdown,” Manna Chief Executive Officer Jackie DeCarlo said in a statement. “We are extending our services to individuals and families as a way to lighten the burden and give residents hope in uncertain times.”

Bethesda congregations along Old Georgetown Road are joining to provide free meals and support services for affected employees.

North Bethesda United Methodist Church is offering coffee, doughnuts and Monday morning group sessions to discuss stress and grief, while Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County offers free lunch on Tuesdays, according to the Rev. Jeff Jones, of North Bethesda Methodist Church. Bethesda United Methodist Church offers free lunch on Fridays.

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which provides water services to much of the county, announced Thursday it will suspend water service shutoffs and waive late fees for bills for federal employees until the shutdown ends.

The two regional utilities, Pepco and Washington Gas, have said they will work with customers on bills and have publicized assistance programs. State utility rules prohibit some service cutoffs during winter.

On Friday night, Montgomery County Council member Tom Hucker a Democrat who represents District 5 (Burtonsville/Silver Spring/Takoma Park), will host a potluck at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring.

The county government is looking as ways to provide “comfort and support,” County Executive Marc Elrich said at a Thursday news conference, without elaboration on specific programs.

The government shutdown will become the longest in U.S. history if it extends past Friday, which marks its 21st day.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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