Govt workers forced to use food banks

Source:AFP Published: 2019/1/23 19:43:41

Month-long shutdown continues to hit federal employees

Most never needed help from a food pantry. But a month since the US government shutdown began, dozens of federal employees have been lining up in Brooklyn for basics.

Customs, tax and emergency management officials are all among the crowd, having gone unemployed since December 22. Others deemed "essential" like transportation workers or prison guards are forced to continue working without pay, taking advantage of their lunch breaks to stock up.

Volunteers are manning distribution tables in the lobby of the New York borough's Barclays Center, which usually hosts concerts or sporting events rather than charity drives.

Those in need first register and then fill plastic bags with canned goods, potatoes, chicken, grapes and basic toiletries.

"I came here to grab some goods, to be honest," said Antoinette Peek-­Williams, an employee of the Homeland Security Department, who came an hour by subway from Harlem. 

Since the budget impasse began, the 62-year-old lives "day to day - watching what I eat, watching what I spend, not spending."

She hopes to return to work on February 1 - an optimism of which she's no longer so certain.

"I am a person where the glass is always half-full," said the mother of a college student. "I have to stay hopeful. If you don't have hope, you don't have anything."

For those federal workers forced to work without pay, the situation is even more tense. They can only testify anonymously, sworn to confidentiality.

"It is very stressful," said one 39-year-old single mother, who works as a prison guard at Brooklyn's federal detention ­facility.

She came to the food pantry on her lunch break seeking enough to prepare a few meals.

Her daughter is nearing the end of high school, and as students apply for universities, she laments being unable to pay her child's application fees.

She managed to postpone the monthly bill for her cellphone - which she needs for work - albeit with a late penalty.

But she won't be able to make it after mid-February.

"After that I won't be able to go to work," she said, saying she won't have money to fill her car's gas tank.

Posted in: AMERICAS

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