In response to the 32nd day of the partial U.S. Gov. shutdown, Congressman Jim Himes (D-4) visited Person-to-Person in Darien to talk about the shutdown’s short- and long-term effects.

In her office on Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 22, Ceci Maher, executive director of P2P, shared her growing concern with Himes in regard to the consequences of the shutdown.

People who are on food stamps received their February food stamp coupons early, on Jan. 18. In light of that, Maher said she fears that by the end of the first week of February, there is going to be a “massive influx” of people who have not had any money from their food stamps for many weeks.   

Person-to-Person is a nonprofit charitable community-supported agency that provides year-round emergency assistance to those in need. It distributes close to one million meals a year, according to Maher.

She said P2P is now working to make sure there will be enough food at their three food pantries during the month of February.

Maher said while “there are not too many federal workers in Connecticut,” her greater concern is on the “downstream effect” that the shutdown is going to have on people who are on food stamps, HUD Housing, Section 8 Housing, and other sources of support.

The partial shutdown is “really hurting everyone and is making the social services in our state scramble” to fill in the need, Maher said.

She added that if there is anything that has become “clear” in this situation is “how many people are living paycheck to paycheck, how many people have no reserves to fall back on.”

“We are holding our breath and hoping for a good outcome in Washington,” she added.

Upon leaving P2P, Himes was headed to Washington, where he said negotiations will continue “hopefully” to reopen the government.

“We’ve got a real problem because there’s a good chance that people on food stamps will run out of food in probably two or three weeks,” he said. “So we really need to understand how we deal with that and what we put in place to address the problem.”

President Donald Trump “needs to get away from this idea that he’s proud to shut down the government,” Himes said. “He needs to understand that no president, no senator, nobody, should play politics with the lives of a million Americans.”

While the shutdown continues, Himes said that mortgage bankers and credit card companies “need to understand that people are going to have a hard time making their payments in this month and perhaps next [month].”

Volunteers need to “step up as never before” to provide food to the food banks and “really do all we can do to address what I hope will be a very temporary problem,” Himes said.  

Himes said he visited Person-to-Person to get a firsthand understanding of how the current situation is affecting people.

“You can read about a problem in the newspaper, you can read reports, but there is no substitute for actually meeting the people who are on the front lines of dealing with these problems,” Himes said. “This is an emotionally hugely challenging crises moment for a lot of people and folks right here at P2P are dealing with an awful lot of fear, anxiety and emotional trouble. There is no substitute for actually feeling what it is like and understanding the pain for what is being felt out there.”

Town assistance

Alexandra Ramsteck, a licensed clinical social worker and director of the Department of Human Services in Darien said  

she has received several calls from furloughed workers inquiring about assistance if the shutdown continues.

“We told them we want to make sure their essential needs are met, such as electricity, oil, rent, mortgage, food and medications,” Ramsteck said.

In addition, the Community Fund of Darien has a Touch A Life fund that was set up specifically for residents. Working in conjunction with the Department of Human Services, “we send the money over to anyone who needs it,” said Janet King, executive director.

sfox@darientimes.com