Stepping up in shutdown
In times of disaster, Americans tend to come together, stand shoulder to shoulder, help out their neighbors.
Most of those disasters are natural — hurricanes, earthquakes, floods. And, looking at it from a global perspective, they’re each confined to a relatively small area so that help can come in from other places.
The latest calamity, however, is befalling the entire nation, and it is most definitely man-made.
The federal government shut down Oct. 1, sending a tidal wave of consequences outward from Washington, D.C. First, there were the 800,000 federal employees furloughed. National parks closed, turning out vacationers. Monuments were declared off-limits. Soldiers were told to stay on duty, but without pay until the government starts up again.
But the effects that, for many, really hit close to home — figuratively and literally — involve low-income families, especially single mothers and their children. And that’s where others — local governments, corporations, individuals — have stepped in to fill the federal government’s gaps.
Last week, Rowan County Department of Social Services Director Donna Fayko told county commissioners that government-subsidized child care had fallen victim to the shutdown. Without that help, working mothers like April Palmateer, who leaves her two children at Noah’s Playloft Pre-School during the day, would have nowhere to turn.
Commissioners didn’t let that happen. They pledged $607,000 from the county’s fund balance to keep the child-care program going through the end of October.
When a program to provide nutritious food to mothers and infants appeared out of money — a position the government has since reversed — Food Lion pledged $500,000 in store gift cards and an unnamed donor was set to give $10,000 to local charities to help keep food on the plates of the affected families.
The stories go far beyond Rowan County.
The Maryland-based Fisher House Foundation agreed to provide death benefits to the families of fallen soldiers, money that had been cut off with the shutdown.
Texas philanthropists John and Laura Arnold pledged $10 million to keep 7,000 at-risk children enrolled in Head Start.
Even people who don’t have a lot of money to give are stepping up in their own way. Chris Cox took his push mower out on Wednesday and started cutting the grass in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, until he was told to stop by park police.
This is what Americans do. We step up in times of crisis and help our neighbors, the less fortunate, the hurting. We take care of things. But that shouldn’t even be required right now. These acts should be reserved for disasters that can’t be averted, not a disaster we elected.