Government Shutdown Update

Photo courtesy of Michelle Pemberton/Indy Star

Just before Christmas, a portion of the federal government shut down, leaving 800,000 federal employees and a significantly higher number of contracted employees without a paycheck. The shutdown was the longest in our history.

We were called upon to serve people who never imagined themselves standing in line for food, and thanks to generous donors like you, we were able to answer that call. One such employee works for the Customs and Border Patrol office in Indianapolis. She has two boys, ages 10 and 18, and has been a donor to Gleaners over the years.

“By the grace of God, I had a little bit of a cushion. I’ve always been good at a budget and tried to put some money away over the years. I’m going into my 3rd missed check now and it is scary to watch my savings dwindle. I’m a lucky one, though. I know people who are living paycheck to paycheck. The timing of this couldn’t have been worse. Right before Christmas – everyone had already bought presents and assumed this would either be short or not happen at all because Congress and the President are always threatening to shut things down. It says a lot that when I called my Congressman’s office asking for help, the first place they said was ‘Go to Gleaners. They will help you.’”

The need has been unusually high. We assisted an employee of a cleaning company with a federal contract as he applied for SNAP benefits for himself and his 15 year old daughter. Typically, he works about 60 hours a week. At the time we spoke to him in mid-January, he had worked just 30 hours total for the month.

We’ve provided food for a special distribution to TSA employees and their families. One TSA employee worried that he would be the only one there, but found he was not alone with more than 75 families lining up for assistance that day.

Even though the government has temporarily reopened, 600,000 SNAP recipients are still trying to make their benefits last into March. Individuals like the contractor we assisted will not receive back pay, leading to long-term hardship for his family.

We are grateful that thanks to you and other donors, we are in a position to step up to help in these emergency situations.

Even with the government reopened temporarily, it will be well into March before SNAP, WIC, School Lunch, TEFAP and Senior Programs are back to normal. More than 80% of meals for the hungry in Indiana are provided through these programs. Gleaners and other hunger relief organizations are the safety net when these benefits are exhausted or disrupted.

We’ve all found ourselves in need at one time or another. An unexpected bill comes due at the worst possible time. Unplanned home or auto repairs throw the monthly budget off course. For many of our Hoosier neighbors, the stress and uncertainty caused by these occurrences can lead to difficult choices in order to put food on the table.

You're helping to feed the most vulnerable among us, and ensuring that we are prepared to answer the call when disaster strikes.