DC officials, businesses, and service providers rally around residents affected by the government shutdown

Kitty, a Street Sense Vendor, sitting at a desk, talking on the phone and holding a legal notice that she needs to provide more paperwork to keep her subsidized housing in good standing.

Kitty, a Street Sense Media vendor, received a legal notice in November stating she needed to turn in more paperwork to keep her subsidized housing in good standing. She satisfied the requests in the letter within the required 30-day period. However, as the partial government shutdown began, she still had not received confirmation that her account had been updated. As the shutdown held up her paperwork, Kitty worried for more than a month that she was in jeopardy of becoming homeless again. Finally, in 2019, she received confirmation everything was approved. Photo by Jemel Fleming

When Street Sense went to press, the partial government shutdown had lasted 32 days, the longest in U.S. History. According to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, 361,000 federal workers and 400,000 contracted employees in our region are directly affected by the shutdown. That number does not account for employees and business owners whose companies rely on federal workers as part of their customer base. The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington told WAMU that area restaurants alone “have reported a 20 percent average decrease in sales, with some losing as much as 60 percent.”  

 Beyond these economic effects, still more people who rely on federally-funded safety net programs have been warned about when funds will run out if the shutdown continues. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are deemed “essential” services and continue to operate during the partial shut down. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps, do not. 

 The D.C. Housing Authority, which manages federal public housing properties and housing vouchers for approximately 50,000 D.C. residents, said in a statement that federal funds would be available for February and that DCHA is prepared to use its financial reserves to continue services through March. 

 Nationwide SNAP funds, which are loaded on to a debit card for recipients, were released on time for the month of January and were released early for the month of February, on Jan. 20. No other funds for the food stamp program will be released until funds are appropriated and the federal government re-opens. In the District, 123,000 people or 18 percent of D.C’s population rely on SNAP, according to a 2017 report by The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 

 Other cash assistance programs in D.C. will not be affected, according to the D.C. Department of Human Services website. These include but are not limited to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, General Assistance for Children, and Interim Disability Assistance. 

 In the meantime, nonprofit service providers have been striving to keep up with the demand for food, rental assistance, and other supplies in the broader community. And many local businesses have rallied to provide free or deeply discounted goods and services to federal workers who provide their ID. 

 At the D.C. Council’s Jan. 22 legislative meeting, councilmembers voted on the Federal Worker Housing Relief Emergency Act of 2019. The act protects federal workers and contractors from evictions or foreclosures during the government shutdown. It does not prevent landlords from filing for eviction in court during this time, but it requires that judges withhold a verdict for 30 to 90 days after the government shutdown ends, under the assumption that employees will receive back pay and be able to make up for missed rent payments. 

 When introducing the act, At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds noted that 78 percent of American workers live paycheck to paycheck, and that many landlords in the District will evict tenants after only one missed rent payment. She gave an example of a furloughed Internal Revenue Service employee whose landlord threatened to evict her and her spouse after only one missed payment. Bonds chairs the Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization.  

 Additionally, Bonds noted that an increased number of evictions during this time period would lead to an increase in homelessness that would strain the city’s resources, a concern that was shared throughout the council.Taking this into consideration, councilmembers unanimously voted to pass the resolution with an amendment that clarifies the difference between a temporary and emergency act. According to Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, calling the resolution an emergency act allows the legislation to protect certain non-federal workers, such as D.C. courts employees, who are also directly affected by the furlough.

Before moving on to the next vote, councilmembers said they are continuing to explore options for providing additional relief during the shutdown, though no details were given.

Later that day, Mayor Bowser pledged $2 million from the city’s contingency reserves to continue providing food stamp funding to District residents. In the same press release, Bowser announced she is sending emergency legislation to D.C. Council that would make it possible for “essential” federal employees, those who are required to continue working without pay, to collect unemployment insurance benefits. The mayor had previously requested this option for essential employees in a Jan. 14 letter and was denied by the U.S. Secretary of Labor.

“As we enter the second month of this aimless and unsustainable government shutdown, 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.

Nonprofit Meals for All

Charlie’s Place
1820 Connecticut Ave NW
(202) 744-5184
Tuesday-Friday: Doors open at 6:30 a.m.
Saturday: Doors open at 8 a.m.
Closest Metro station: Dupont Circle
Closest Bus Stop: Conn. Ave. NW and Leroy Pl NW

Shirley’s Place
1338 G Street, SE
(202) 544-3150
Lunch served between 9am-2pm
Closest Metro: Potomac Ave
Closest Bus Stop: M6, 30S, 32, 34, 36, 39

Miriam’s Kitchen
2401 Virginia Ave NW
(202) 452-8926
Monday through Friday
Breakfast 6:30-8:00 a.m., Dinner 4:45-5:45 p.m.
Closest Metro Station: Foggy Bottom-GWU
Closest Bus Stop: 23rd and G

71 O Street, NW
202.797.8806 x 2109
Breakfast Hours: 7:00am to 8:30am
Lunch Hours: 11:30am to 1:00pm
Closest Metro: NoMa-Gallaudet U
Closest Bus Stop: 80, P6

Thrive D.C. (Morning Program)
1525 Newton St NW
(202) 737-9311
Monday to Friday 7:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Monday, Wednesday, & Friday: hot breakfast.
Tuesday & Thursdays: fresh sandwiches and salads from Pret A Manger.
Closest Metro Station: Georgia Ave- Petworth
Closest Bus Stop: 16th and Newton

Thrive D.C. (Evening Program)
*Available to 20-40 women + their dependents
1525 Newton St NW
(202) 737-9311
Every day, 2:00-4:00 p.m., Meals served at 3 p.m.
Closest Metro Station: Georgia Ave- Petworth
Closest Bus Stop: 16th and Newton

Georgetown Ministry Center Clubhouse
41 Wisconsin Avenue NW
(202) 338-8301
Clubhouse is open everyday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Closest Bus Stop: 30N, 30S, 31, 33, 38B, D5, GT-US,RS-DP
*Not a meal program, but they do try to have coffee and
sandwiches available in their Clubhouse day center.

Other Highlights for Feds

701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
free lunch with fed ID
11 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily
*A pop-up resource center next door, opened Jan 22. to provide groceries, diapers, and pet food to employees on furlough, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily

Glen’s Garden Market
2001 S St. NW
Hiring “furloughed friends” Short-term projects for pay and benefits. Email Danielle: [email protected]

free pizza with fed ID
(or $5 pizza for contractors)
3-5 daily

Loft in Georgetown
free breakfast
discount on purchases

D.C. Pet Pantry

Audubon Naturalist Society
Free membership to furloughed feds and contractors

Washington City Paper is maintaining a thorough list of many more resources for federal workers, including food rental and utility assistance, and entertainment.

Issues |Housing|Social Services

Region |Washington DC

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