As the partial federal government shutdown continues, a church in Memphis, Tennessee, has stepped in to help their affected members weather an uncertain period of missed pay-checks. Pastor Donald Johnson of Oak Grove Baptist Church said that a few of his members work for government agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). So when he first heard about the shutdown he began proactively looking at ways to help. “I just realized people were going to be affected by it, and we didn’t want to spend time just arguing and fighting about what the president is doing,” Johnson said.
He combed through the church’s database and found eight members who were federal workers. He then collected an offering and had the church’s board match what was collected and raised $8,000. The affected workers were asked to stand in church on Sunday and were given nearly $1,000 each. “We didn’t want it to look like a handout to people asking for money, but we wanted to be proactive in that area,” Johnson said. Church member Janice Bankston who has worked for the IRS for nearly 35 years, said that she survived being furloughed before but this shutdown feels a bit different. She added that the past few weeks had been stressful.
Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel noted that unlike other shutdowns, such as Obama’s 16-day shutdown in 2013 in which “the administration immediately furloughed workers and cut pay for private contractors,” shut down Head Start and placed barricades around the World War II memorial, President Trump told the Office of Management and Budget to make “this event as painless as possible.” Strassel added “While there will be no further payments for food stamps or for the Coast Guard, she noted that some agencies can continue to function to protect human life and property, “as well as in aid of the president’s fulfilling constitutional duties.”
Programs such as Social Security and Medicare fall under “indefinite” appropriations and must continue during the shutdown. Even though Social Security and Treasury are both technically shut down, they have to process Social Security cheques that operate under continuous appropriations as well as tax refunds. Bankston received her pay two weeks ago and expects to be paid on Friday but said it wouldn’t be her full pay-check and she wouldn’t have much left after taxes are deducted. “It’s very scary, I’ve been able to get some creditors to put off receiving a payment and some are saying no you have to bring the payment on in,” Bankston explained.
“It’s very scary to know you’re not going to have any income coming in.” Bankston continued. Reacting to the assistance from her church, she said: “I didn’t see it coming, but I am grateful, very grateful.” Johnson said that he’s hoping other churches will mobilize and help their affected members, and noted that if they have to help affected members financially again, they will. He’s praying, however, that the shutdown will end. “We’ll do it again if it goes on. We’re praying that things change but if it doesn’t, we’re not going to let them go without!” Johnson said.
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