Saturday, September 23, 2023

United Way doubles regular efforts to help those impacted by government shutdown

As the government shutdown continues, federal workers are pressing forward each day without a paycheck.

But as the United Way and other organizations rally to help, funds and time are starting to become limited.

“Right now, we’re in the middle of our regular campaign that we use to fund out partner agencies,” said Steve Kast, CEO of United Way of thee Virginia Peninsula. “So we have this shutdown and now our efforts are basically doubled but we need additional resources to address these new needs.”

Kast said one of the ways the organization is helping people is by advancing the February allocations to their partner organizations. United Way of Greater Virginia has 40 different partner organizations that rely on monthly funds to support their need.

Usually, the organizations would receive those funds on Feb. 15, but instead they will get them Friday to help address the increasing needs from furloughed government employees.

“They aren’t getting money they would normally be getting from the government so we are seeing what we can do if this continues for a long time,” said Karen Segall, vice president of finance and administration for the United Way of the Virginia Peninsula.

Some of the organizations help with food, bills and rent payments.

One of these organizations, THRIVE Peninsula, is already preparing for the influx of need.

THRIVE is a nonprofit that helps individuals with food shortages and rental assistance, and executive director Angela York said while they have plenty of food, she’s really worried about the amount of people who will need help with rent as Feb. 1 comes around.

“We are going to prioritize furloughed workers who are in a devastating situation at no fault of their own,” York said. “But when you’re helping people with rent, it’s something you have to have money to do. It’s not just getting more volunteers, it’s about what you have in the bank.”

Typically, the United Way’s partners like THRIVE are having to help a large amount of people regularly but because of the shutdown, the amount of individuals in need is steadily increasing.

And for now, there’s no end in sight.

“It would be difficult, if not almost impossible, to plan for a six- or nine-month shutdown,” Kast said. “We can’t make those kinds of decisions right now, we have to address more of an immediate reaction to the need.”

Kast wants members of the community to remember that it is not only those directly impacted by the shutdown who are in need, but there are people considered “the working poor” who have lost contracting jobs or use federally-funded services who are suffering.

Those are people who might not regularly use United Way’s services who now find themselves in a dire position and need help where the federal government usually assists them.

“Typically these people are working three jobs just to make it work,” Kast said. “And now without one of those jobs, they might be one crisis away from spiraling out of control.”

Kast said the United Way is meeting with leaders of their partner organizations to help address the issue in the short term. In the meantime, the United Way has set a specific donation portal for giving money to their “Government Shutdown Relief Fund.”

But this is running alongside their annual campaign and the longer the government shutdown continues, the more United Way members will have to continue doubling their efforts to fund both campaigns.

“We have to take care of the ones already using our services but also the new needs that are coming in everyday,” Kast said.

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