It's almost three weeks into the partial government shutdown imposed by President Donald Trump after congressional Democrats refused his demand for a $5 billion piggy bank for his border wall. The shutdown has had disastrous consequences for many government employees, almost a million of which have been forced to work with no pay or go on furlough. The president has threatened that he is prepared to allow the shutdown to continue for months or even years, holding out until he gets what he wants.
The toll of that is already starting to show, according to a report by the Washington Post. The Capital Area Food Bank is struggling to help people who are suddenly having to call food banks for the first time as they have no idea when they will be getting their next paycheck.
Nonprofit organizations are concerned that the shutdown, which has left nearly a million federal employees without their paychecks, has come at the worst possible time of the year, as donations of both food and money are drastically low in January and February on the heels of the holiday season.
The only relief so far has come in the form of some lawmakers -- the one group still being paid their government salaries -- who have volunteered to donate their paychecks as the shutdown continues.
Individuals looking to help, along with those being affected by the shutdown, have also decided to start GoFundMe campaigns to try and raise some money for these charities."At this stage, we're not only saying there's a lot more meals we'll need to provide, but also a lot more dollars we'll need to acquire to attempt to do that," said Radha Muthiah, chief executive officer of the Capital Area Food Bank.
"What we're seeing now is an increase — people who are calling in, saying 'I've just been furloughed or I have a friend who has. Where should they go?' "The Capital Area Food Bank alone is expecting between a 10 and 20 percent increase in the number of people they will need to help this month, and possibly even into next month and beyond if Trump's shutdown continues. The estimate per month in cost is $300,000 more than they would normally need to feed people.
Just this week, the White House announced that food stamps will still be provided for those they are allocated to for the remainder of this month and into next month, but there is no guarantee about food stamps from March onward. Everyone currently relying on food stamps to feed their families will only add to the pressure on organizations like the Capital Area Food Bank.
"If they don't receive those benefits, in our area, we're talking about an additional 12 million meals to make up for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)," Muthiah said. "That's $5 million just for that month to secure the food that's needed to meet those food needs."
These disastrous consequences of the shutdown have come despite the fact that Trump claimed furloughed and unpaid government employees have been phoning in (how, with the shutdown?) to say they support his cause for the border wall and are happy to go without pay.