D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) recently announced measures to help District residents employed by the federal government, including contractors, deal with the partial federal government shutdown, now in its fifth week.
At the Capital Area Food Bank in Northeast, Bowser spoke about the shutdown with D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), members of her administration and Radha Muthiah, president and CEO of the Capital Area Food Bank on Jan. 22. The mayor said the shutdown, or lockout as she described it, won’t stop the District government from helping affected residents.
“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. “Americans need a solution 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 and that includes stepping up to fund SNAP and providing unemployment insurance benefits.”
The Bowser administration will allocate monies from the District to allow federal workers who are deemed essential and are required to work but aren’t getting paid and don’t have access to unemployment insurance under federal guidelines to get assistance from the city. Bowser said she will submit emergency legislation to the D.C. Council to that end and urged the legislative body to move swiftly.
The mayor recently wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor asking for an exemption so that working, unpaid federal employees can get unemployment insurance but received a negative response. However, District residents who currently use SNAP benefits and those applying for the program will both receive the needed funds beginning in February. The $2 million commitment that will be managed by the Department of Human Services will make up for the current lapse in federal funding for SNAP.
On Tuesday, Jan. 22, D.C. Council approved legislation sponsored by Council member Anita Bonds (At-Large) that prohibits D.C. residents employed by the federal government and effected by the shutdown, to face eviction or foreclosure due to nonpayment of rent or mortgages.
Norton said the shutdown has put the District “in a state of emergency,” noting that 62,000 D.C. residents work for the federal government — an estimated 250,000 residing in the Greater Washington Area and employed by the federal government.
“The District of Columbia is the hub of where federal workers work,” Norton said. “When federal workers aren’t in the District, our retail sector, the city’s amenities suffer, and the city doesn’t collect taxes. We are losing $1 billion a week because of this shutdown.”
Norton said legislation she supports includes zero-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Treasury, preventing foreclosures and evictions and eliminating penalties for withdrawing funds from retirement accounts.
Both Bowser and Norton have called for an immediate end to the shutdown.
Radha Muthiah leads the Capital Area Food Bank and said, “too many households are struggling from paycheck to paycheck” and “there are long, long lines for our services.”
“In a normal January, we offer three million meals,” Muthiah said. “We now offer 3.6 million meals this January because of the shutdown. I am proud of the way other organizations have stepped up like Bread for the City and Martha’s Table and our partners such as Giant and Safeway supermarkets.