A group of citizens, most in Salida, are attempting to mitigate the impact of the federal shutdown for those affected; government employees, government contractors and those small businesses who support that sector of the economy and live in Chaffee County. The effort is being organized to provide food and supply resources, retail discounts and credit at areas businesses for those contract and staff employees who are furloughed, or working without pay. Several community resources have signed on to help and organizers are hopeful that more community entities have signed on.
According to government reports, the shutdown is not just 800,000 government employees it is millions of contractors filling low-level contract roles; janitors, building maintenance crews and those plowing forest service roads. It is rippling to nearby restaurants and small businesses and their employees, even baby sitters, who count on government workers for significant portions of their business. The state-wide demographers office has confirmed that more than 70 federal government employees live in Chaffee County, as well as an unknown number of contract employees. This doesn’t include an unknown number living in this county, but working in nearby Fremont, Lake, Park, Custer and Gunnison counties.
“Most of us thought this shutdown would be of short duration. Now we know the effects of this ugly decision will last several weeks and even months for the victims of this fiasco,” said one of the initiative’s organizers, former Salida city council member Eileen Rogers. She pointed out that the affected workers still have to pay bills like mortgages, rents, make car payments, buy food, medicine, diapers, formula, and school tuition.
Rogers said that many of those affected by the government shutdown, may have expected a short government shutdown, and may not have immediately signed up for unemployment, thus further acerbating their finances.
“We Chaffee County citizens and community members, must continue to assist those in need for the duration and beyond,” said Rogers. “Remember that even those who qualify for unemployment will not receive funds that are anywhere near what they have been earning.”
Rogers says that so far the following resources have stepped forward to help those affected by furloughs or business loss:
1. The Grainery Ministries, located at 1348 E St. in Salida, is making food available to anyone who asks for help, with no questions asked. Hours are Monday (10:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m, and Friday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
2. Chaffee County Human Services has staff available to help those in need and resources are listed on the new Chaffee Resource’s website (you can click the ad at the top of this article to immediately enter the resource area, then click on “Find a resource” to look for your area of need) or go to www.chaffeeresources.com.
3. The Safeway store in Salida (232 G St., Salida) will begin offering a 10 percent discounts to furloughed federal employees on Tuesdays, beginning next Tuesday, Feb. 22.
4. Amica’s (127 F St, Salida) is offering 25 percent discounts on meals.
5. The Boat House and Cantina (228 N F St, Salida) is offering 25 percent discounts on meals.
Rogers said she has spoken to Walmart regarding help for those government employees and contractors “for assistance with diapers, nonprescription medical supplies, food, etc. and they have promised to contact their national organization for guidance. But I’m one voice, and they’re huge companies; it will take a lot of we citizens speaking up and telling local management that we need them to see help these furloughed workers.”
She said the loose organizing group is hopeful that more businesses will step forward to help throughout the county, especially those who can offer assistance with food and baby supplies like diapers and formula,, gasoline and store gift cards. “Those who can donate should bring those supplies to the Grainery Ministries, or to their church’s food pantries,” said Rogers.
The local effort has these suggestions for concerned individuals who want to help:
* Encourage churches/pastors to speak to congregations on behalf of those in need from their pulpits and consider cash donations to your churches outreach fund;
* Donate food and funds to The Grainery Ministries immediately, and often, throughout this event and beyond.
*` Support the First Presbyterian social service programs, include soup days for those in need;
* Check up on effected friends, neighbors and family members and consider providing transportation and meals;
* Speak out to your friends encouraging them to “do something,” to find creative ways to support families affected by the shutdown;”
The citizen organizers had these suggestions for those affected by the government shutdown:
* For immediate food assistance, visit the Grainery Ministries, or First Presbyterian;
* Go to the new Chaffee Resource’s website (Click the ad at the top of this article to immediately enter the resource area and click on “Find a resource.” Then either search for your area of need from the list, or type “Basic needs” into the search function.)
* Talk with the Chaffee County Dept of Human Services to see if you qualify for any of the food assistance programs they manage (reach them through the Chaffee Resources site covered above). While those already in the federal SNAP food assistance program had an early deadline to re-verify their eligibility for February funds, new enrollees are being accepted. Depending upon the length of the government shutdown, the state has issued no guidance for March SNAP funds.
* File for unemployment as soon as possible. (Furloughed employees may be asked, since they will get back pay, why they are filing, but no one knows how long this shutdown will last.) Unemployment benefits or partial unemployment benefits can help with immediate needs;
* If you own a home, contact your bank and/or mortgage lender for forbearance on you mortgage;
* If you rent, talk directly with your landlord regarding the situation to see if you can establish parameters for delayed payments;