Community Issues

There is Help: Groups Band Together for Federal Workers

With nearly 20K federal workers in the Pittsburgh region going without paychecks, the United Way has gathered social services agencies together to create a one-stop shop for help during the crisis.

There are lots of resources available to the nearly 20,000 federal employees in the Pittsburgh region who are impacted by the federal government shutdown. A coalition of local social services agencies came together today at a news conference and resource fair to explain what's out there and how laid-off federal employees or those working without pay can take advantage.

One of the immediate needs for families may be food. Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is setting up additional food distribution centers (click here for an updated list), including at federal workplaces, as Executive Director Lisa Scales explained to Sparkt:

The Food Bank has issued a special appeal for donations of food and cash to assist families, and has set up a GoFundMe page just for contributions to help federal workers called "Let's Feed Our Feds." The Food Bank has seen a good response so far as they showed by unloading donated food at the resource fair.

People who qualify for federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (food stamps) will be getting their February benefits early. "They will need to make these benefits last," cautioned Patrica Steinkopf, Director of the Allegheny County Assistance Office who spoke at the news conference. That's because It's unclear whether there will be additional SNAP payments beyond that until the shutdown is over.

Jim Blatnick, the AFL-CIO community services liaison at the Allegheny County Labor Council and the union's liaison with the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania was of the speakers. He encouraged workers in need of help to call the United Way at their 2-1-1 hotline (just dial 2-1-1 from any phone and you'll be connected) or contact them online .

The state's deputy secretary of Labor and Industry Willaim Trusky told reporters there's been an 850% increase in the number of unemployment claims from federal workers including about 300 from the Pittsburgh area (click here to find out how to file). That doesn't count people who are working without pay, like Transportation Safety Administration workers who held a rally at the airport.

Sparkt's Marty Griffin reported live from the rally and gave out Sparkt Kindness Gift Cards for distribution to TSA employees. Watch it here .

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