As we move into the fourth full week of a Federal government shutdown, the longest in our nation’s history, it’s easy to think of it as a faraway, “Washington” problem. But, the reality is that the impact of the stalemate may be felt much closer to home, in ways that aren’t always readily apparent. Our society is increasingly dependent on the Federal government, particularly for program funding for low and middle-income families. State and local governments are not always able to fill in the gaps, even if they are assured of repayment after the Federal government reopens. As this shutdown drags out, it may fall on us as neighbors to pull together and help each other however we can.

New York State, for example, received over 33% of its funding in 2016 from the Federal government. Cities like Mount Vernon, in turn, receive a good deal of funding from New York State, relying on these funds to provide vital services. While we’re not in a crisis yet, there’s no telling how long this shutdown is going to last. President Trump has made no friends on the Democratic side of the aisle and seems content to keep the government shut down indefinitely, if only to prove a point. The longer this plays out, the more grave the consequences at the state and local levels.

The impacts that individual families are facing are harsh and unjust. Many of our friends and neighbors that are supported by programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, both which are Federal programs are feeling the pinch. These programs will only be funded through the end of next month. The chaos surrounding the shutdown, however, has already caused a lot of problems with prepayments designed to last for longer than usually anticipated. Many low-income housing residents that rely on the Section 8 housing program could also be affected if the Federal government does not meet its rent contributions to landlords. In the worst-case scenario, some residents are even facing eviction. We are potentially looking at the greatest impact of this shutdown being borne by those who can least afford it.

Hopefully, cooler heads in Washington will prevail and end this nonsense quickly. But, as the old saying goes, hope for the best, but let’s prepare for the worst. Lend a hand to your neighbors where you can. Organize food drives and, especially in these cold months, clothing drives. The reality is that people in need are usually the least likely to ask for help from their friends and neighbors. We need to look after each other until this storm passes.

If we can help at the local government level, we’ll certainly try our best. If you know of families that are in need, reach out to them. Reach out to your church or local relief center. Whatever you do, don’t assume that the problem will be taken care of by someone else. Every little bit of compassion you extend to others less fortunate is returned to you a hundred fold. Keep the most vulnerable members of our community in your prayers and in your hearts. And help however you can, for as long as you can.

If you need help, please seek it out. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and none of us are above needing help from time-to-time. We are a community, one that is filled with generosity. It is Mount Vernon’s greatest strength and one in which we take tremendous pride. Our sense of compassion doesn’t shut down just because the Federal government does.

If you have thoughts or comments about this issue or any other, reach out to me at [email protected]

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