By Maya Pottiger
From December 22, 2018, through January 25, 2019, our government faced the longest partial shutdown in United States history. The effects of the shutdown, which impacted 800,000 federal employees, reached Severna Park residents.
In response to the shutdown, many local businesses offered a variety of assistance to furloughed employees.
SPAN Inc. extended its emergency assistance to those being impacted by the shutdown.
“Anyone in our service area who is facing an emergency situation and finds themselves in need of assistance is eligible for services, and certainly furloughed employees fall into this category,” said Jennifer Pumphrey, the director of operations at SPAN.
During the shutdown, community organizations sent extra donations to SPAN to ensure the group did not run out of services to offer, according to Ellen Kinsella, director of development at SPAN.
“SPAN sees first-time clients every day. Many are embarrassed to ask for help and don't know what to do,” Pumphrey said. “Our volunteers are compassionate and caring, and put the clients at ease. They provide not only the assistance from SPAN, but they also make them aware of other resources in the community that may be of help.”
Other businesses offering assistance included Fieldstone Animal Inn, Cypress Public Counting, Severn Bank, Arundel Federal and many others.
“Those being impacted by the shutdown are our neighbors. Severn Bank’s mission is to serve the community and do right by the people and businesses located in Anne Arundel County,” said Nicole Donegan, marketing and communications director of Severn Bank. “The community has supported us over the years, so we are grateful for the opportunity to do the same and give back.”
However, the shutdown affected more than just federal employees.
Erin W., a Severna Park resident, is not a federal employee but has fully felt the effects of the shutdown. Her husband runs a landscaping and snow removal business, and he had only one job between Christmas and the end of the shutdown.
“The furlough is drawing a lot of highlight to federal employees, but there’s a whole other wave of people beyond that,” Erin said. “This has been going on for so long that it’s touching everybody now.”
Fortunately for Erin, her job as a nanny was safe because her employer is in the medical field. But Erin’s income alone wasn’t enough to support her six-person family, and she had to apply for food stamps and financial aid.
“This is the first time I’ve ever had to go to a food bank ever in my life,” Erin said. “You do what you have to do when you have kids. I have four kids; I take care of them the best I can. I’m not going to let them go hungry, because I can put my pride in front of me and apply for these services and go to the food bank.”
Erin described the experience as “demoralizing.” Without a federal ID, she — like many others — is ineligible for many of the offers from local businesses. Erin said this group of people isn’t going to “bounce back real fast.”
“We’re never going to recoup that money. Those federal employees, they’ll get back pay. We’re not going to get any back pay,” Erin said. “We’re going to be in the same spot in February or March … we’re going to be in the same boat.”