Dinner Arranged for Furloughed Federal Workers

County councilman says closures ‘having a big impact’ on families

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Tom Hucker

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With the federal government shutdown nearing an 18th day, workers who are off the job and not getting paid are receiving support from elected leaders.

County Council member Tom Hucker, a Democrat who represents District 5 (Burtonsville/Silver Spring/Takoma Park), announced Monday he has organized a potluck dinner for Friday night at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring for federal government employees and contractors.

“I’ve been in touch with a lot of furloughed federal workers and contract workers who are really frustrated and feel like they’re collateral damage and don’t know whether they’ll get paid again, and it’s having a big impact on their families,” Hucker said.

Hucker said he’s talked to several residents, both government workers and contractors, who are middle class, but are facing the prospect of paying their rent or mortgage by the middle of the month, and must cut any discretionary spending.

“They’re eating everything in their fridge or freezer. They’re trying to just get by,” he said. “They’re not going shopping, or going out to a movie or making repairs to their homes.”

Hucker said some of the hardest hit workers are service workers who are employed in federal government buildings in the District of Columbia, such as Smithsonian museums, and live in the county. He said the uncertainty of when the shutdown will end “adds to their anxiety.”

The county is losing about $760,000 in income tax revenue due to the shutdown, consistent with figures from a 16-day shutdown in October 2013, according to Montgomery County spokesman Ohene Gyapong,

The shutdown began at midnight Dec. 22 after Congress refused to pass a spending bill that included President Trump’s demand for $5 billion in funding for construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump tweeted Monday that he would address that nation Tuesday night on the “humanitarian and national security crisis” at the border.

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, both Maryland Democrats, co-sponsored legislation Friday that would guarantee retroactive pay to federal government contractors.

Van Hollen has also introduced a bill guaranteeing back pay to furloughed government employees — a practice Congress has instituted after every previous shutdown.

Van Hollen met with federal employees affected by the shutdown Monday in Largo, along with union leaders. According to his office, 26,000 residents across the state are impacted.

Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan last week wrote a letter with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser calling for an end to the shutdown.

“As our federal employees and contractors experience a sudden loss of income, this not only causes financial hardship for individuals and families, but also deals a significant blow to our region’s economy,” according to the letter sent to the president and congressional leaders. “Hard-working federal employees and those who depend on them should not have to suffer because of this partisan standoff.”

Hucker, whose district includes Burtonsville, Silver Spring, Takoma Park and White Oak. said he is expecting a few hundred people to show up to Friday’s dinner, which will take place even if a deal is reached by Friday.

Musicians are expected to perform, and a number of establishments have agreed to donate food, including the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op, Fire Station 1, All Set Restaurant and Bar and Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant, all in Silver Spring, according to Hucker.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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