GREENSBORO — Angie Reid knows firsthand how hard the federal government shutdown has been on people.
Reid has 10 children, two with special needs. She works, but qualifies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Reid and other SNAP recipients are nervous about future benefits after the program issued February benefits early and warned users to plan for no March benefits in the midst of the shutdown. While Congress and President Trump came to a deal late Friday to reopen the government, it's not clear how the food assistance program will be affected. And the agreement to reopen the government, for now, extends to just three weeks.
"It’s rough. It’s hard for people out here right now," Reid said.
When Reid found out The Corner Farmers Market was doubling SNAP dollars up to $50 on Saturday, she and her husband went shopping.
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"We do what we can to help those in need and we help ourselves when we can. You just gotta know how to take care of yourself in this environment," she said.
Despite the deal to reopen the government, about 800,000 federal employees are still without a paycheck for the second time since parts of the government shut down over a month ago. It's not clear exactly when paychecks to cover the backpay for furloughed workers will go out; the White House tweeted it will be "in the coming days."
The Corner Farmers Market, which routinely matches SNAP dollars up to $30 (Information has been corrected to fix an error. See correction at end of story. 5 p.m./Jan. 28, 2019), raised the cap on Saturday — both to help regular recipients as well as provide relief to furloughed federal employees and contractors affected by the shutdown.
“We know that they (SNAP recipients) had a good amount in their hand, so we decided to go ahead and up the benefit,” said Kathy Newsom, director of the nonprofit market held each Saturday in the parking lot of Sticks and Stone wood-fired pizza restaurant at the intersection of Elam and Walker avenues in the heart of Lindley Park.
Newsom said a couple of federal workers took advantage of the offer, but the majority of matches went to SNAP recipients.
Shapale Brown and her neighbor Juanita Cruz, both SNAP recipients, heard about the market's offer and stopped by Saturday to pick up some fresh vegetables.
Cruz feels the pain experienced by all those affected by the shutdown.
"Those people, they work hard. They’ve got bills to pay, too," she said.
The Corner Market joined several Guilford spots giving furloughed workers a break on their food budget.
Stacy Simms said despite the temporary end to the shutdown, she and her husband Chef Big Willie still plan to serve federal workers free food from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Gillespie Grill at Gillespie Golf Course at 306 E. Florida St.
“We just decided the best thing we can do right now is to give back,” Simms said. “We see so many families that are hurting, so why not feed them.”
Federal employees can bring their immediate family and an ID to the grill.
For information, call 336-279-6793.
1618 Downtown, a restaurant at 312 S. Elm St., offered free dinner to furloughed workers last week.
“We all were just talking about what was going on and how unfortunate it is and trying to figure out a way to help people. We realized that this would be the easiest way to do it,” said 1618 owner Nick Wilson.
Wilson and his staff served free dinners Tuesday through Thursday.
About 45 people showed up Tuesday night after the restaurant announced the offer.
“It was really positive. We had a lot of people who were grateful,” Wilson said. “It’s just really nice to provide something to people who might be a little down right now with everything going on.”
Greg Munning, owner of Taqueria el Azteca, delivered over 50 tacos Friday to air traffic controllers at Piedmont Triad International Airport. The tacos were courtesy of Blue Ridge Airport in Martinsville, Va.
The municipal airport, which wasn't affected by the shutdown, is under the airspace controlled by the Greensboro airport. Jason Davis, manager of Blue Ridge Airport, wanted to thank the Greensboro controllers for their help in getting planes in and out of Martinsville safely.
"You never get a chance to thank them personally. We took this opportunity to say 'Have lunch on us'," Davis said.
Munning was only too happy to oblige. He is a private pilot who has filed many flight plans with the controllers in the Greensboro tower.
"Those guys in Greensboro, they're still kicking butt and trying hard. They're really professional," he said.
While the shutdown is over for now, the possibility of another impasse impacting programs like SNAP has some worried.
At Saturday's Corner Farmers Market, Newsom said 20 SNAP recipients took advantage of the raised dollar match — a record number for this time of year.
The market's supplemental pool is funded by community donations. Newsom said donations have been generous and she plans to continue offering the match to both SNAP users and government workers for as long as funding allows.
According to the 2017 census, about 14.3 percent of households in Guilford County receive the food benefits. With the uncertainty of future SNAP benefits, the market's match program could be strained.
That is something Lee Mortensen, director of the nonprofit Greensboro Farmers Curb Market also fears.
The Curb Market also matches SNAP dollars up to $15. Mortensen is keeping a wary eye on the temporary end to the shutdown.
"We are evaluating the impact of the shutdown on SNAP recipients as their funding disbursement for March may not come to fruition," Mortensen said. "Our finance committee will look at some options as to how the curb market can help bridge any gaps."
Newsom said The Corner Farmers Market is exploring ways to bridge any gaps, as well.
“If people need the food and we have the food, we’re going to figure out how to get it into their hands,” she said.
Correction: The amount The Corner Farmers Market routinely doubles for SNAP users is $30. The information was wrong when the story first published at 6 p.m. Jan. 26, 2019.
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