Sharon Bulova at “Stuff the Bus” event on Saturday, Jan. 19, with volunteers who collected food donations at the Giant at Fox Mill shopping center in Herndon.
Photo courtesy of Sharon Bulova
The occasion was a “Stuff the Bus” event on Saturday, Jan. 19, collecting food donations at the Giant at Fox Mill shopping center in Herndon to benefit Helping Hungry Kids. But it was a fitting time and place for a discussion about the county’s response to the continuing partial shutdown of the Federal government, according to Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova, who was in attendance.
“We do the ‘Stuff the Bus’ program every year after the holidays to help replenish local food pantry stores as that holiday season of giving spirit begins to wane, but this year the need is even greater with so many of our citizens impacted by the shutdown,” said Bulova.
As the shutdown enters week five, with an impasse in negotiations between President Trump and Congressional Democrats over funding a physical barrier at the country’s southern border with Mexico, “no one really knows the full extent of the impact on our region, or our people,” said Bulova, “but we do know it’s a negative one and growing.”
“Whatever the issues, whatever the division, this is no way to treat your employees, your citizens,” Bulova said. “Local government cares and we will continue to work the problem in any way that we can make an impact.”
IN TERMS OF ECONOMIC IMPACT, Bulova said at this point it was impossible to determine just what that cost might be, “but just think of all the people who have had to stop spending, even on basics, and the trickle-down effect that has.”
With so many facilities, museums and parks closed, the region is also experiencing the loss of visitors and the dollars they bring to the local economy.
So far, the Chairman said that the county had only seen a small uptick in citizens requesting assistance or additional services from their local government, “but that doesn’t take into account people who are seeking assistance elsewhere or directly from other organizations, nonprofits or faith communities. And it’s only going to get worse as this goes on.”
It’s a fluid situation, Bulova said, and the county’s response will have to be continuously assessed and adjusted. Conversations are taking place at all levels of county government on a daily basis, trying to anticipate needs and address those that come to attention.
Bulova noted a few examples.
“Certain property taxes will soon come due in February. If the affected citizens can’t pay that bill, by statute they face a penalty. The Board will be looking at that situation and determining if we can pass a resolution that will avoid those penalties.”
The County is also facing the delay of federal funds for critical needs like HUD vouchers for low-income rents and assistance with the School Age Child Care (SACC) program that provides before and after school care and care.
“These are other shutdown effects we will be discussing at the next Board meeting. We will be considering payment extensions for the SACC program. There are emergency reserve funds in the county’s budget,” but as Bulova worries, that’s a budget already stretched tight and that can’t begin to cover all of the needs brought on by the shutdown and thousands of area residents suddenly being without a paycheck.
Standing in front of the Giant as shoppers stopped to add their donations to carts for the bus-loading, Bulova said it was heartwarming to see the community unite to help these neighbors who find themselves in need “through no fault of their own. So many retailers, services, restaurants, even individuals are looking for ways to help, to offer meals, goods, services either free or at a discount.”
BULOVA had previously visited the 29 Diner at 10536 Fairfax Boulevard, where the owners are donating meals to furloughed federal workers or those working without pay. “Those folks always help and are a real asset to the community,” said Chairman Bulova, and “they are just one of so many that are stepping up to help.”
Front and center on the county’s website at www.fairfaxcounty.gov, a link will take seekers to a section dedicated to guiding those in need toward appropriate resources, be they temporary job opportunities, advocacy for rent and mortgage assistance, free or discounted services, and more.
“Please let our citizens know that they can call the Coordinated Services Planning group at 703-222-0880, TTY 711. It’s a one-stop-shop that can connect residents to county and community-based information, assistance and resources,” Bulova said.
Coordinated Services Planning office – call 703-222-0880, TTY 711, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Multi-lingual staff on hand, interpreters available.
Substitute Teacher Hiring for Fairfax County Public Schools – next event for furloughed federal employees on Jan. 23, from 5 – 7:30 p.m. at FCPS Admin Center, 8115 Gatehouse Road, Falls Church.
Families participating in CCAR programs should call 703-449-8484 if unable to meet the fees.
Families participating in SACC programs should contact 703-449-8989.
Free Connector Bus Rides – system-wide for federal government employees affected by the shutdown but still required to report for work. Check www.fairfaxconnector.com for more information.
The Park Authority will work with furloughed employees to provide a range of payment options to enable participation in Park Authority programs – everyone needs to de-stress and experience some enjoyment during these difficult times.
Reston Community Center will be offering special summer camp waivers for the 2019 sessions for affected families.
Pet Supplies – Furloughed federal employees can visit the Fairfax County Animal Shelter at 4500 West Ox Road, Fairfax during shelter business hours for pet food and limited other pet supplies.
Fairfax County Consumer Affairs office offers tips and resources on tenant-landlord issues, mortgages, utility bills and more.
Keep checking the Fairfax County website – more information and resources may be added as county officials continue to assess the situation and work to provide assistance.