Local pro­grams ex­tend as­sis­tance to fur­loughed gov­ern­ment work­ers

The Sentinel-Record - - FRONT PAGE - GRACE BROWN

Local ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tions have ex­tended their as­sis­tance pro­grams to help gov­ern­ment work­ers af­fected by the par­tial shut­down of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Project HOPE Food Bank an­nounced Fri­day night that it would ex­tend its as­sis­tance pro­gram to local em­ploy­ees who were fur­loughed af­ter food bank Di­rec­tor Ted Thomp­son de­cided “he could not stand the fact that so many local peo­ple were go­ing with­out pay­checks,” As­sis­tant Di­rec­tor Becky Chote said Satur­day.

To help pre­vent fur­loughed work­ers from go­ing deeper into a fi­nan­cial cri­sis, Project HOPE Food Bank will of­fer up emer­gency food boxes con­tain­ing a va­ri­ety of prod­ucts eas­ily com­bined into meals. Cur­rently, the only is­sue is not know­ing ex­actly how many local fed­eral em­ploy­ees are af­fected by the shut­down.

“I have called (state Rep.) Bruce Cozart last night and he re­ally did not have a feel for how many (fur­loughed work­ers) there were. I put in an email to

the of­fice of our state rep­re­sen­ta­tive but they will not be open un­til Mon­day. I re­ally don’t know how many peo­ple are strug­gling right now but we are ded­i­cated to serv­ing these peo­ple,” Chote said.

Project HOPE Food Bank is not the only ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tion in Hot Springs pre­pared to of­fer as­sis­tance to fed­eral gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees in the area. The Sal­va­tion Army and Jack­son House both con­firmed that fur­loughed em­ploy­ees are el­i­gi­ble for their as­sis­tance pro­grams on Satur­day.

“We don’t ever want to turn any­one away,” said Cap­tain Stephanie Har­gis with The Sal­va­tion Army.

Fur­loughed work­ers are el­i­gi­ble for the cloth­ing and util­ity as­sis­tance pro­grams with The Sal­va­tion Army. With the util­ity as­sis­tance pro­gram, ap­pli­cants would re­ceive help in pay­ing the elec­tric and gas bill for their homes.

“If peo­ple don’t have de­pend­able in­come or if they don’t know when their next pay­check is go­ing to be be­cause they’re fur­loughed, they can come in and take ad­van­tage of out util­ity as­sis­tance pro­grams,” Cap­tain Bradley Har­gis said.

Ac­cord­ing to Bradley Har­gis, gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees will be el­i­gi­ble to re­ceive as­sis­tance mul­ti­ple times depend­ing on how long the par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down con­tin­ues. He added that he hopes the shut­down ends very soon.

At Jack­son House, any­one liv­ing in Hot Springs for at least six months is avail­able to re­ceive food, cloth­ing, and house­hold as­sis­tance. How­ever, at this point in time, they are only ad­ver­tis­ing food and cloth­ing with other miscellaneous as­sis­tance that changes on a daily ba­sis.

“We oc­ca­sion­ally have med­i­ca­tions, gas vouch­ers, and what­not but that’s only if our pantry is stocked and the needs are be­ing met,” said Tami Jones.

Cur­rently, that is not the case. Due to the sud­den in­crease in need, the sup­plies at many of these as­sis­tance pro­grams will run out quicker than an­tic­i­pated, the or­ga­ni­za­tions said. Each pro­gram is funded through pri­vate do­na­tions and de­pends on them to fill in through var­i­ous gaps through­out the year. Now, the or­ga­ni­za­tions say they will need to de­pend on pri­vate do­na­tions from the pub­lic much sooner than ini­tially an­tic­i­pated.

“It’s not just the gov­ern­ment peo­ple that are need­ing help. My daugh­ter-in-law can­not get a job be­cause the FBI isn’t pro­cess­ing back­ground checks at this time. There are a lot of peo­ple be­ing af­fected by this so the need is go­ing to be great. We all should step up to help our neigh­bors,” Chote said.

Each as­sis­tance pro­gram re­quires ap­pli­cants to pro­vide some sort of proof of need, whether it is proof of a fur­lough if they are a gov­ern­ment em­ployee or proof of low in­come for any­one else in need of as­sis­tance dur­ing this time. Doc­u­ments show­ing a pend­ing food stamp ap­pli­ca­tion and proof of res­i­dency are re­quired to re­ceive as­sis­tance at Jack­son House.

“What­ever they have (as proof of fur­lough) we will re­spect and grate­fully reach out to these peo­ple. Hope­fully, it won’t go on very long, but we are pre­pared to see them through the cri­sis,” Chote said.

The Sen­tinel-Record/Grace Brown

FRESH DE­LIV­ERY: Vol­un­teers with Project HOPE Food Bank, Charles Hood, left, and Gor­don Hager un­load a fresh ship­ment of canned goods at the food bank on Mon­day.

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