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Multiple Central Texas groups offering aid for federal workers affected by shutdown

There are numerous local agencies offering help to federal employees affected by the government shutdown. (Photo: CBS Austin)

830 families of federal employees have food in the kitchen now, thanks to the Central Texas Food Bank.

But the government shutdown — and the struggle — continue, and not just for food, but for other bills like rent or mortgage or utilities or car payments.

Wednesday was a hectic day at the Central Texas Food Bank, where volunteers helped a steady stream of federal employees get food for their families as the government shutdown continues.

Kellie Starcher is furloughed from the IRS. And after nearly four weeks, she’s trying to figure out what next. “January, we just barely got the rent paid. Haven’t paid the car yet,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in February.”

That’s exactly why the food bank organized Wednesday’s event. “Ninety three percent of them in fact identified themselves as federal employees,” said food bank CEO Derrick Chubbs.

It didn’t matter if the workers were TSA, who are working without a paycheck, or other agencies who are furloughed, the stress is the same.

“With tens of thousands of federal employees that are impacted by the shutdown, and it’s quite likely that the vast majority hadn’t thought about the possibility that they might need our services,” Chubbs said.

The Society for St. Vincent de Paul is seeing it too — people who have never needed help before are now looking for aid. “There are so many people we’re seeing who are kind of besides themselves I mean where do they go from here?” said executive director Roz Gutierrez. There is more demand on their food pantry. “So far, we’re aware that we’ve got more families coming in, our numbers have gone up by probably a third,” she said. And they can offer some help for rent or mortgage or a car payment.

“Those people, we’re able to send them to one of our 40 satellite groups and those groups can help them,” Gutierrez said.

Austin Energy says federal workers can contact them for help, even if they’ve been disconnected. A spokeswoman said via email,” If City of Austin Utilities receives a call from a customer stating that they are directly affected by the government shutdown, here is how we can help:

  • Postpone collection activity for 30 days
  • Evaluate if the customer is eligible for assistance through some of our Customer Assistance Programs
  • If affected customer was disconnected due to nonpayment, service will be restored

If the government shutdown lasts more than 30 days, the City will re-evaluate each affected customers' accounts.

Starcher got some food and toiletries from the food bank and she’s grateful. “It’s kind of like there’s no end in sight and it’s nice to know that there are people out there that are willing to help,” she said. But what she really wants is to go back to work and get paid. “Everybody’s shoulders are kind of up like this and there’s not a lot of sleeping that’s going on and it’s just trying to find a game plan.”

The food bank may put together another fair if the shutdown continues. Meantime federal workers can visit local food pantries if you need help. Visit centraltexasfoodbank.org to find a food pantry near you, or if you can, to donate or volunteer.

The Society for St. Vincent de Paul has client hours at their 901 W. Braker address Tuesday through Friday from 11-2.

You can ask any questions about rent or utility or other financial issues during client hours, and then refer you for a home visit and consideration for financial help.

Saturdays they have a food pantry from 9am to noon. You can also email info@ssvdp.org for help. The Society of St Vincent de Paul also could use donations and volunteers to keep up with the need.

You can find that information at www.ssvdp.org/volunteer-opportunities/

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