Here’s How to Help People Affected by the Government Shutdown

I can still remember my first government shutdown. I was in middle school and my dad was furloughed. In an effort to save my family money, I brought home my brown paper bag from lunch every day to reuse.

I remember the ones from the Obama administration. And then the one that made me most upset – back in 2018. Over a structure.

The only government shutdown that truly affected me was that one in middle school. I was a kid, and I could tell my parents were stressed out. Which is why I did the only thing within my power at the time: reuse my brown paper bag.

I honestly don’t care what side you’re on: debates over a structure — or flat out refusal to work with others, like we’re seeing now — shouldn’t stop people from going to work and getting paid. It’s happening too often, when it was a rare occurrence (if it ever occurred) before I was born.

Helping People Affected by the Government Shutdown

Having lived in an area saturated in government workers and now living in an area with a good mix of government employees and military families, I’ve seen a lot on Facebook from folks wanting to help when these shutdowns occur, but aren’t totally sure how.

I’ve taken what I’ve seen suggested over and over in various Facebook Groups, along with a few of my own ideas, and compiled a list. Whether you personally know someone who has been affected or not, there is a way you can help out those in your community affected by the government shutdown now.

Send them a gift card

This can be a gift card to a grocery store or a favorite restaurant. Also consider gas cards, as those who are still working but aren’t being paid are dipping into their savings to pay for gas to commute.

Make them a meal

It doesn’t have to be anything complicated. A lasagna or casserole will do. Invite them over for dinner or take one over to their house. These make-ahead meals would be perfect if you’re looking for ideas on something to deliver a friend or neighbor.

Send them a meal

Order them a pizza or even sign them up for a meal subscription box.

Offer to babysit

A furloughed parent brought up an excellent point: as much as she loves her kids, she needs a break from being around them all day. As a SAHM I can relate. Offering to watch their kid(s) for an hour or two can give them a chance to do something for themselves or simply get a few necessary tasks done.

Host a play date

Provide lunch or some snacks.

Donate to Local Diaper Banks

If you’re a parent, you probably know how expensive diapers are (about $70-$80 per month per baby). A staggering 1 in 3 families cannot afford to put clean diapers on their baby. To find a diaper bank near you, visit the National Diaper Bank Network.

Donate to Local Food Banks

To find a local food bank near you, visit Feeding America.

Don’t forget about those with food restrictions! While you’re reaching for the peanut butter consider buying a jar of Sunbutter to donate as well. Food allergy families tend to spend more on groceries as the substitutes available cost more.

Hands holding food to put in cardboard box marked donations

Reach out to your local schools

Our boys attend a Title 1 school. Part of this means that most of the students receive a free or reduced lunch. The school actually has an ongoing food drive to help make sure students are fed after school and weekends. You might not know this unless your child attends the school (I didn’t!), so it doesn’t hurt to find out if your local school(s) have something similar in place.

Frequent restaurants offering discounts or free services to those affected by the shutdown.

They’re losing money by doing these things. Help make it worth their while by popping in and buying a meal of your own.

The same goes for any business offering discounts or free services to furloughed government workers.

Share the love on social media

Know of a business offering free lunch? A church offering a hot meal? A discount on tickets to a play place? Did you find a list of local resources to help people affected by the shutdown? SHARE IT!

Sharing encourages others to share. When more people share, those who are silently struggling know where they can go for assistance without asking around.

Support the side hustles

There are some government workers who have a side hustle. My dad was one. And if they don’t, their spouse might. Many of my friends do. Support them! Buy something. If you are unable to, then share their websites and posts so they are seen by wider audiences.

Contact your local Coast Guard base and find out what items you can bring into the food pantries they have opened up.

Call your representatives

This is the #1 response I’ve read from people who are directly affected by the shutdown. When they’re asked “how can I help?” they haven’t responded with “I need gas money” or “I need money to pay my heating bill.” They have been telling us to use our voices to end the shutdown and get the government back open by calling our representatives in Washington.

How are you helping your community during the government shutdown?

How to Help Those Affected by the Government Shutdown via muddybootsanddiamonds.com

Listen and Learn

I tend to get quiet in my public spaces when the world gets mad. Especially when it comes to racial injustices. It’s not that I don’t care — I do. It’s just that, as a white person, I worry that what I have to say isn’t adequate enough. Or I’ll say the wrong thing. I find that other people seem to say things better than I can in the moment and I tend to share those sentiments instead.

I don’t want to do that today, so I’m about to fumble my way through what’s been on my mind since…well…2014 when the Ferguson riots took place and the Black Lives Matter movement took off.

I’ve spent a lot of time since Michel Brown’s death listening to Black and Brown voices. In that time, I realized how inadequate my education on racism was growing up. I grew up learning everyone is created equal and has the same rights. I knew racism still existed, but I didn’t realize how badly. I knew nothing of my white privilege.
 
I’ve spent the last six-ish years listening and learning and growing. It’s led me to the belief that, on the whole, white people need to sit down, shut up, and listen. Listen to the Black and Brown voices. Don’t comment. Don’t interject. Just listen.
 

When you sit down and just listen, you’ll find common themes in their stories and truths. Those themes are enraging and heartbreaking. You’ll also learn what they need from the white community. (*hint* It’s more than sharing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes to your bubble.)

You’ll find that there is a lot of work that still needs doing.

Racism was never dead. It just continues to be swept under the rug. All lives matter and that is why there is a need to speak up and out against the inequality and police brutality that Black lives face more often than whites. There is a need for change, but we have to be willing to listen and learn from those who need it.
 
I’m determined to raise my kids better. Yes, I will fumble through it; I’m still listening and learning. But I hope that through the fumbling they’ll learn and understand things from a perspective I didn’t growing up.
 
I hope they do better.
Black Lives Matter social media image via muddybootsanddiamonds.com