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Gov. shutdown could leave nonprofits struggling to help those in need

During a government shutdown, the organizations trying to help others also face uncertainty as budgets deplete and less people donate. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON — One of the lessons learned from the last government shutdown in October 2013 is that there’s a ripple effect that impacts nonprofits.

Kelly Brinkley, the chief operating officer of United Way of the National Capital Area said nonprofits were inundated with people in need during the last shutdown.

“What we found in 2013, those nonprofits that serve the community had quite an uptick in need for services,” Brinkley said.

She said the shutdown impacts lower income employees more significantly, especially those who live paycheck to paycheck.

Brinkley said more people will seek help from nonprofits during the shutdown for food assistance and help paying bills and mortgages. But since the holidays have passed, nonprofits are seeing a drop in donations.

“During this time, because of all the uncertainty … people don’t donate to nonprofits,” said Brinkley.

She said that nonprofits already operate on small budgets, so resources to continue services is limited. They face uncertainty because they don’t know if the government will continue to fund them in the future.

That’s where the United Way tries to help.

“We try to step in and help those nonprofits so that they can serve the community,” Brinkley said.

She said United Way will provide grants to food pantries and increase funding to organizations that they think will see an uptick in people in need of services.

From cafeteria workers at the Smithsonian building to the IRS building, contractors with the federal government don’t get paid when the government shuts down.

During the last shutdown, Brinkley said she was surprised to learn just how many federal contractors didn’t get paid even if Congress decided to pay back their federal employees.

Even businesses near federal buildings took a hit.

Brinkley said restaurants in the vicinity of federal buildings laid off workers because business dropped during the 2013 government shutdown.

“The shutdown has a big impact on our community in D.C., Maryland and Virginia because the federal government is the economic engine,” Brinkley said. “A lot of businesses and employees rely on that business.”

Brinkley said United Way hopes the shutdown doesn’t last for long because “while this is a booming economy, this is an expensive place to live.”

United Way is seeking financial donations.

People who need help can call United Way at 202-488-2000.


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