Winter has arrived! It’s curious how an initial snow forecast of one to three inches morphed into nearly 10 inches across the metro region, but Sunday’s storm proves that Mother Nature still is in charge. In Mason District, a great big thank you goes to the plow crews engaged by the Virginia Department of Transportation, who worked tirelessly to clear snow from main roads and neighborhood streets. Plowing is dangerous work, but pre-treatment (those thin white lines you see on the road surface is an indication of brine application in advance of the storm) and an early and consistent attack by the plows makes travel safer for everyone.
Ironically, the federal Office of Personnel Management announced that federal offices in the Washington region were closed on Monday, due to the storm. I guess that means that employees furloughed because of the federal shutdown still will not be paid, but those who are not furloughed will get paid for the day that offices were closed because of weather. This makes the inanity of the federal shutdown even more outrageous. The regional economic pinch is being felt, not just by the furloughed workers and their families, but by transit systems, small businesses, like carry-outs and restaurants, child care providers, and hundreds of others who provide services to our community. Mother Nature’s shutdown of a day or two doesn’t begin to compare with Mr. Trump’s hissy-fit shutdown of weeks, or months, as his tantrum continues.
Furloughed federal employees, and others in need, may contact Fairfax County’s Coordinated Services Planning (CSP) at 703-222-0880 for assistance. During the first couple of weeks of the shutdown, CSP responded to about a dozen requests for help with rent payments, and a few referrals for emergency food assistance. Community-based non-profit organizations and faith communities are expanding their outreach, and providing additional food pantry assistance, but that means stretching limited donated dollars even more, so community support from those who can afford to give is needed right now.
The federal shutdown has serious, possibly life-threatening, implications for people across the country, not just the metro region. Adequate food and decent housing are basic human necessities, regardless of socio-economic status. At present, the shutdown’s effect on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — formerly known as food stamps) is unknown. The Agriculture Department announced a plan to ensure that SNAP recipients receive benefits for February, despite the lack of current appropriations for the agency. However, that plan is temporary, and not a feasible solution for March benefits. Housing vouchers are similarly affected; the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has enough money to support the voucher program (which helps recipients pay their rent) in February, but not in March.
Exactly two years ago, in his first (and hopefully, only) Inaugural Address, Mr. Trump painted his very dark, angry vision of America, and castigated politicians, business, public education, immigrants, and religion. He voiced no plans to heal the many divisions of thought and attitude that were magnified in the 2016 election. His remarks were appalling then, and now, but the responsibility for the federal shutdown, for which he first claimed the mantle but now blames others, is his, and his alone. Snow is in the forecast for this holiday weekend, but our region can weather another snow storm more easily than Mr. Trump’s ongoing tantrum.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.