In response to the partial government shutdown, United Way of the National Capital Area launched its Emergency Assistance Fund, making available an initial $50,000 to provide additional capacity to select nonprofit organizations providing vital food, rent and other assistance facing an increased demand for services due to the crisis. United Way NCA is calling on the community—both corporate partners and individuals in the region—to join the organization by matching its pledge or contributing. Pepco was first to respond with a $50,000 matching grant to the Emergency Assistance Fund, and the United Way NCA expects more will follow. In addition, United Way NCA invites all of those affected to visit its regional network of Financial Empowerment Centers (FEC) for individual financial counseling and guidance.
“Friday [marked] the first pay period where federal workers and those who support this work [did] not receive a paycheck that they desperately rely on to live and these resources will provide some assurance and support for the thousands of individuals in our region affected during this time,” said Rosie Allen-Herring, President & CEO, United Way National Capital Area. “By first providing additional financial support to these non-profit organizations and guiding residents to our Financial Empowerment Centers for one-on-one financial coaching, we want residents to know their United Way stands by them through this crisis.”
“At Pepco, our priority is to support every customer to make ends meet during tough times and we are proud to be the first to contribute to the Emergency Assistance Fund to do just that,” said Dave Velazquez, president and CEO of Pepco Holdings. “In addition to our own programs, we work day-in and day-out with community and government partners to get funding into the hands of those customers who need it most. This fund and partnership between the United Way NCA is a great example of coming together to support the residents and customers that make our communities thrive.”
Initially, the Emergency Assistance Fund will be directed to the Capital Area Food Bank, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington and Northern Virginia Family Service to support increased capacity to assist with vital needs. To illustrate the need, with 334,000 residents in the Washington region receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (food stamps),it would cause a gap of 12 million meals—four times the food bank’s usual monthly distribution—should SNAP be discontinued after February, through which it is currently funded. While food assistance programs are typically targeted to lower income families, furloughed government workers and others impacted by the shutdown are now among those who may be in need of assistance.
A report by Governing outlines data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and shows that Maryland accounted for 147,524 Federal Employees, 200,831 in D.C., and 178,222 in Virginia, as of June 2017. In addition to federal workers, individuals who work with smaller contracting firms that directly support the government in providing services such as janitorial, printing, trucking, food and IT, are greatly affected by this shutdown. As a further example to illustrate the impact of the shutdown in the region, according to the 2018 United Way ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Restrained, Employed) report, 38 percent of households in Maryland – 27 percent in Montgomery County and 35 percent in Prince George’s County -were already at or below the ALICE threshold of maintaining a “survival budget” and could not afford basic needs such as housing, child care, food, transportation and healthcare. Similarly, according to the Virginia ALICE report, 39 percent of VA households are facing financial hardships.
United Way NCA is also encouraging individuals and families affected by the government shutdown to seek financial guidance and one-on-one counseling by visiting one of its four United Way NCA Financial Empowerment Centers (FEC) located throughout the region. Specifically, the centers are located at Prince George’s Community College’s Largo Campus, Skyland Workforce Center in Washington, DC, Fairfax South County Building in Alexandria, VA and Prince William County at the Virginia SkillSource Center in Woodbridge.
The FECs offer direct access to high-quality financial services and guidance in a welcoming, professional environment at no cost to the client. Services include one-on-one financial coaching and budgeting support, personal and business-focused workshops, free tax preparation, housing counseling and more and individuals are encouraged to stop by for support.
In addition, residents are reminded that assistance is also available by calling 2-1-1, a national program, which is managed locally by United Way NCA and its workgroup partners. 2-1-1 is a non-emergency telephone number. Today United Ways’ operate or provide support to over 70% of 2-1-1 call centers nationally and is a critical partner to individual and families to access basis needs support.
For more information on how to donate to the Emergency Assistance Fund or find an FEC near you, visit