As the partial federal government shutdown stretched into its fourth week, about 70,000 federal employees in Prince George’s County who didn’t get paid last week can now receive assistance.
For instance, child care and preschools fees will be waived for furloughed workers at community centers. In addition, those workers can utilize fitness rooms free of charge.
The county designated $70,000 toward the emergency fund to help residents for housing, utilities and other needs.
“As this wickedness goes on … we want to let [resident] know that we have their back,” County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said during a Jan. 10 press conference at Prince George’s Community College in Largo to announce the initiatives. “We will work overtime day and night to make sure their needs are satisfied.”
Residents can receive help from the community college, agencies and local businesses.
Community college students can apply for one-time grants toward books, tuition and fees up to 50 percent of the total cost when the spring semester convenes Jan. 22. For students with outstanding balances, they can qualify for grants or extended payment plans.
The United Way of the National Capital Area reactivated its emergency assistance fund with $50,000 and immediately matched with an equal amount by Pepco to provide food and housing. Donations can be accepted at www.unitedwaynca.org/support.
The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission will suspend water service shutoffs and waive late fees for residents in both Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.
Prince George’s public schools announced a partnership with the nonprofit, Excellence in Education Foundation for PGCPS, to supply 10,000 hot meals for students whose parents don’t have money to pay for them. So far, half of the goal has been achieved.
Those willing to help can go to www.pgcps.org and click on “Donate Now: 10,000 Meals Challenge.”
Phil Sardelis, owner of the College Park-based Sardi’s Catering, said his business will donate $2,500 toward the public schools’ meals fund. Additionally, Sardelis said federal workers can receive a 10 percent discount card to use any day of the week and purchase a buy-one-get-one-free meal every Tuesday until the shutdown ends.
The shutdown, which officially began Dec. 22, affects an estimated 800,000 federal workers nationwide, including 420,000 working without pay and 320,000 who have been furloughed.
On Capitol Hill, the House already approved legislation to reopen the government. However, it didn’t include nearly $6 billion President Donald Trump requests to construct a wall along the Mexican border, which has been the sticking point in negotiations.
The Senate remains undecided and must also agree on legislation for Trump to sign.
Workers didn’t receive their first paychecks of the new year on Friday, Jan. 11.
In Largo, Prince George’s Council Chairman Todd Turner read a few statistics from the Washington Council of Governments, which estimates 400,000 contractors from the D.C. region have been affected by the shutdown.
“We obviously urge our national leaders to stop this,” he said. “There are opportunities to be able to move forward and still have your policy and political discussion, but let’s not make our federal workers and our federal contractors those hostages to that occasion.”
For more information on where Prince George’s residents can find resources, go to www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/shutown.