“The time is always right to do the right thing.” - Special Post By Tonia Wellons

The time is always right to do the right thing.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

As 45 and Members of Congress continue the high stakes banter about the border wall, our neighbors in the Greater Washington region, especially in Prince George’s County, continue to be impacted by the government shutdown. Most of you have heard the news stories; may be experiencing this first hand; or you have seen the long depression-era lines of working families in search of food and other forms of assistance.

We all know that when shocks like this hit the country, they hit communities like ours the hardest. With incomes typically lower, personal savings often thinner, access to networks with deep pockets limited; communities of color suffer the most and often have the longest recovery time. 

 In my role at the Greater Washington Community Foundation, I have had the opportunity to work closely with non-profits and funders who have organized very quickly to respond. Here’s a summary of what we have learned and how you might be able to help.

  •  While federal workers are directly impacted; contractors, small business owners, and child care facilities have also been impacted. We should also be mindful that offices like child support enforcement can’t disburse what they can’t collect.

  • Local food pantries and food banks need to be replenished. The demographic impacted is unaccustomed to navigating human and social service systems, the partnerships with local grocers, restaurants, and food markets has been welcomed. 

  • Prince George’s County public schools has received as many as 500 new applications for free and reduced lunch because of the federal shutdown.

  • There is an increase in concern about eviction prevention, particularly as we move into proximity of a second missed pay cycle. 

  • Child care is an expense that families are most likely to cut first since they are home. There is a ripple effect on child care providers, children, and workers; and it is often difficult for families to return once they leave.

  • Families need food and cash assistance to cover cost of everyday household expenses and medicine.

On the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, it is only fitting that we look to his words to guide our steps. His life and his legacy represent the importance of pressing forward to change and challenge federal policies that impact the poor, working class, and especially people of color. His life and legacy is one of vision, advocacy, and action. In his honor, I invite you each to consider several ways that we can support people impacted by the federal shutdown. “The time is always right to do the right thing”, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Seven Things You Can Do to Support Our Neighbors Impacted by the #Federal Shutdown

1.    Ask your friends and neighbors what they need from you. Reach out to people you know who work for the federal government and ask them what they need. Now is the time to get to know your neighbors, to reach out to your friends, and make yourselves available to them.

2.    Donate food and cash. Donate to your local foodbank, church or school pantry, or school lunch fund at PGCPS.

3.    Donate unused gift cards. Either make them available directly to your neighbors or to a non-profit, religious, sorority/fraternity, or other trusted entity for distribution.

4.    Encourage those impacted to reach out to their creditors to defer payments. Now IS the time to talk to the bill collector. Call them and make arrangements.

5.    Invite your friends and neighbors impacted by the shutdown over for dinner or offer to pay for their children’s school lunch.

6.    Support the United Communities Against Poverty. Once this settles, they’ll still be in the business of supporting those in need.

7.    The Resilience Fund, established by individual and institutional donors in the region, and housed at Greater Washington Community Foundation, was established in March of 2016 to respond quickly to the shifting federal policies of this administration and their impact on our region. Contributions to this fund will support our neighbors now and in the future.

 BONUS ACTION for Churches and other communities of faith:

Open your kitchens and serve food. Most churches have commercial kitchens. Serve breakfast, lunch or dinner until the shutdown ends. Coordinate with other houses of worship so that food is served every day of the week.

Mark Lawrence