By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer
As the country enters its second month of a financially crippling federal government shutdown, on Tuesday Mayor Muriel Bowser announced plans for legislation that would offer some relief to D.C. residents who were impacted.
That relief comes in two ways. One would be an emergency bill to allow federal employees deemed essential to receive unemployment insurance benefits. Also, the mayor will provide $2 million in additional support from a contingency fund to go to new and recertifying D.C. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries.
On average, a family receives about $220 of food benefits per month, a small yet vital lifeline for approximately 110,000 Washingtonians. Of these beneficiaries, 41,000 are children under the age of 18, and 16,000 are seniors over the age of 60, according to the mayor’s office.
“Millions of Americans, including hundreds of thousands of District workers and families, are feeling the full impact of lost income and the anxiety that comes with not knowing when you’ll receive a steady paycheck,” Bowser said. “We know that what Americans need is a resolution to this shutdown, but until that happens, we’re going to keep doing what we can to make sure our residents have their basic needs taken care of.”
Last week Bowser wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta pushing for federal employees to be eligible for unemployment benefits.
In the letter Bowser stated:
“This partial government shutdown is now the longest in history. For the past three weeks, roughly 800,000 federal workers have either been without work or must continue to work without pay. In the National Capital Region, at least 7,127 federal employees and contractors have applied for unemployment benefits since the shutdown began. And, in the District alone, 5,897 federal workers and contractors have applied for unemployment benefits. The District government has stepped up to process thousands of unemployment claims for furloughed workers and we hope to do the same for those deemed excepted or essential.”
The Department of Labor, however denied the request, leaving D.C. to fend for itself.
The damage of the shutdown, which Bowser referred to as a “lock out” expanded beyond just federal workers. She added up the auxiliary business that depend on income from all the federal workers coming into the District.
“The lock out is hurting our economy overall,” Bowser said.
The mayor also mentioned the Metro system which must continue to run to service the public, but is currently losing about $400,000 a day.
A press conference was held at the Capital Area Food Bank, which has seen the impact of the shutdown in a very real way. Radha Muthiah, President and CEO of the CAFB said the organization which normally provides about 3 million meals a month, provided over 3.6 million this past month, or a 20% increase in need.
For a list of resources in D.C. for assistance please go to dc.gov/shutdown. Also for food resources in the area go to dcfoodpolicy.org/federal-government-shutdown-resources.