Middle Tennessee food pantry prepares to help families affected by government shutdown
On day 21 of the government shutdown, federal employees affected are missing their first paycheck today. The government has approved back-pay for these workers, but many are left unsure of how to make ends meet in the meantime.
With a majority of U.S. workers living paycheck to paycheck, there are organizations ready to help them out, including the Little Pantry That Could in North Nashville.
The pantry’s founder, Stacy Downey, says they’re preparing for a potential increase in families needing assistance due to the government shutdown.
“We know that a lot of people are going to be hurting,” Downey said. “There are a lot of people who are panicking about the things that are happening with the government. People are really scared that their benefits, like the food stamps, their SNAP benefits are going to be cut off. People are scared about their WIC benefits. I think it’s just the uncertainty.”
Friday afternoon, volunteers worked to unload more food than usual today in anticipation of a busy weekend.
The fully-stocked shelves will be empty after families in need visit the pantry from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Downey says their services are open to anyone who needs help during the shutdown.
“We get really caught up on issues,” Downey said. “We jump on our box, and we want to take a stand on one thing, and we don’t realize that there are real people, and real families who are swirling in this aftermath. And these people are bobbing along while we’re just debating.”
As financial uncertainty continues for families across the country, financial expert Dave Ramsey provided some tips for surviving without a paycheck during a town hall hosted by FOX 17 News Thursday night.
“What you do in those situations where you’re facing a storm, is, you just don’t pay anyone, and you take care of food and lights, because the number of government shutdowns that have gone past 30 days are almost zero, it almost has never happened,” Ramsey said.
He advised for people to hold off on any unnecessary purchases, or large payments such as house payments.
Many people on food stamps, also known as SNAP benefits, have wondered about funding during the shutdown.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced an important new deadline for anyone renewing their benefits.
An application is required to receive money for the month of February. Click HERE to learn more about how to complete this application before the deadline.
The partial government shutdown currently impacts more than 25,000 Tennesseans.
POTENTIAL FOR UNEMPLOYMENT:
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development announced Friday that, depending on the length of the shutdown, many Tennesseans who work for the federal government may qualify to collect unemployment benefits.
The United States Department of Labor (USDOL) has strict requirements claimants must meet to receive benefits, one of which is an unemployed person must be willing and able to work. A furloughed federal worker meets this requirement because they are free to work.
However, federal workers required to remain on the job without pay are not eligible for unemployment benefits because they are not able to work.
If the state approves an application for benefits, unemployment claimants must certify online each week they are available to work. The state also requires they conduct online job searches in order to receive benefits.
It is important to keep in mind, the first week a person files for benefits is considered their waiting week and the claimant will not receive money. They will receive their first payment after two weeks of filing. The state pays the waiting week after a claimant completes four consecutive weeks of certifying for benefits.
During the application process, the state must verify wages with the employer. Since these are federal employees, the shutdown could cause a delay in the verification process. The state has up to 21 days to approve or deny a claim for unemployment benefits.
The maximum weekly benefit in Tennessee is $275, which is subject to federal income taxes.
Once the shutdown ends, and if the federal government provides workers with back pay for the time they were furloughed, per USDOL guidelines, the worker will be responsible for paying the state of Tennessee for any unemployment benefits they received.
As of Jan. 10, 2019, the state of Tennessee has received applications for unemployment benefits from 400 federal workers since the shutdown began.
Federal employees can apply for unemployment benefits through the state’s workforce development website, www.Jobs4TN.gov. This is also the website where claimants complete their weekly job search certifications.