Cybil Flora, a U.S. census employee in Jeffersonville, Indiana, is still working during the partial government shutdown.
Her days are filled with tasks related to employee development and training – the prime focus of her work – preparing story boards, meetings and conducting actual training sessions herself.
But Flora, an Adath Jeshurun member, is aware of how lucky she is. Almost 50 percent of the staff at her office is not working.
And she knows that any day, it could be her turn to be furloughed.
“I have not had financial issues yet, personally,” Flora told Community, “but it does have me concerned personally about my plans to buy a condo within the next year.
“Emotionally and mentally, it is extremely draining,” she continued. “Morale is low, but those of us actually working feel a deep abiding commitment to do all our work at top quality. I think we feel a lot of guilt in response to our co-workers not working.”
Flora is an example of how the longest government shutdown in U.S. history is being felt in Jewish Louisville and the community at large.
Rabbis and cantors have reported some of their members reaching out to them for financial assistance. Others have asked their congregants to discreetly tell them about members who need help but have not asked for it.
Perhaps the surest sign that Louisville Jews may be hurting as a result of the shutdown comes from the Jewish Family & Career Services. The JFCS has reported that usage at the Meyer Food Pantry surged from 78 clients to over 120 between Dec. 15 and Jan 15.
“We suspect that part of the increase in usage is due to the shutdown,” said Mauri Malka, JFCS director of family services.
More important, JFCS is concerned about SNAP benefits. SNAP, which stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, helps people with little or no money buy food for healthy meals at participating stores.
According to Malka, Congress did pass a continuing resolution that funded SNAP through Jan. 20, and the USDA sent out February benefits early to lessen the impact of the shutdown. Indiana and Kentucky residents have already received them.
But JFCS is concerned that some beneficiaries will not understand that these are not extra benefits, that they must last through February.
“We’re working with those [beneficiaries] on how to disperse the funds so they can budget accordingly,” Malka said.
JFCS clients, Jew and non-Jew, also are affected in ways beyond paying bills and feeding families.
“We have several clients that are working through the shutdown but are not being paid,” Malka said. “We have others that have been paid and even others who are not affected, but are experiencing more stress about the shutdown, the country and the world. It’s just creating a lot of angst.”
JFCS counselors are working with clients who are exhibiting signs of stress, anxiety and depression.
“People are touched by it in many ways, whether directly and indirectly,” Malka said. “Our counselors are here; we are already working with some folks who are experiencing it.
Back in Jeffersonville, Flora is not certain how much the public appreciates what the shutdown means to her co-workers.
“The majority of our employees gross between almost $30,000 to $43,000 a year,” she said. “That makes it a struggle to build up emergency funds and savings on the net pay.”
Many government contractors – non-salaried employees – are even worse off, she added. Unlike their salaried colleagues, they will likely not get back pay when the shutdown finally ends.
People who need counseling during the shutdown may call Jewish Family and Career Services at 502-452-6341.