With the shutdown of the federal government reaching Day 33 on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, State Assemblywoman Taylor Raynor and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran visited the Freeport-based Long Island Cares food pantry to shine a light on the hardships that federal workers now face.
The partial shutdown is placing increasing financial pressure on 14,000 federal workers on Long Island. They are among 800,000 workers nationwide who have been furloughed or are working without pay, leaving many struggling to make mortgage payments, pay rent or buy groceries.
Rice, Raynor and Curran also noted that federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits will expire at the end of February if the shutdown continues. The expiration of SNAP benefits would affect 50,000 Nassau residents who rely on the assistance. Additionally, federal funding for food pantries like Long Island Cares, in Freeport and Hauppauge, and Island Harvest, in Bethpage, is set to expire in March.
“This is a dire, desperate situation,” Rice said. “These workers are members of the FBI, TSA, DEA. They deserve better than this. They should be able to rely on their government to pay their salaries.”
The Nassau County Department of Social Services issued a statement on its website saying that because of the shutdown, most SNAP recipients were receiving their February benefits early. They would, however, receive no further benefits this month or next. Raynor urged recipients who received their February benefits on Jan. 20 to budget them carefully to ensure that they last.
The shutdown, Rice said, is forcing an increasing number families who rely on federal paychecks to seek help at food pantries. Since it began, Long Island Cares has provided food for roughly 80 federal employees and fielded more than 600 calls inquiring about its services.
“This is very real,” Paule Pachter, CEO of Long Island Cares, said. “Should this government shutdown continue for another two weeks, it’s going to place a tremendous strain on the food pantries, soup kitchens and the entire emergency network on Long Island.”
Curran has asked county department heads to review the long-term effects that the shutdown could have on the county. She noted that it has halted federal contracts and small business loans locally. “This president’s government shutdown is hurting jobs, families and our economy,” she said.
According to Curran, Long Island’s economy is losing roughly $28 million per week — $112 million since the shutdown started — in lost wages to federal employees.
Further, Curran said that members of the military have also not been paid during the shutdown. She said she would work with the county’s Veterans Service Agency and federal partners to monitor veterans’ programs and benefits.
A number of food drives are under way throughout the county, led by Long Island Cares and Island Harvest. “It’s important for those impacted by the shutdown to know that there’s no shame in asking for help,” Island Harvest CEO Randi Dresner said, “and we want to reassure people facing a potential crisis that Island Harvest Food Bank, along with our community partners, can be the helping hand they need.”
Raynor urged people to clip coupons, shop for items on sale, purchase nonperishable foods, buy store brands and avoid shopping at convenience stores, where prices are often higher for lower quantities.
Raynor also called on residents who can make donations to the pantries and local shelters to continue to support them. “Please ask local pantries what they need,” she said. “Let’s get ahead of this issue. We all need to come together as a community to make sure that we minimize the negative impact on our communities due to this government shutdown.”