Prince William County is home to thousands of federal employees and government contractors. So, as the nation experiences the longest federal government shutdown in history, and employees continue to be furloughed or work without pay, many Prince William County families are suffering.
In an effort to help families meet their most basic needs, the county is reminding those in need that there are programs and services available to provide assistance.
"We cannot backstop the federal government," said Corey Stewart, Chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, "but when this many families are suffering, we have to try to help meet their basic needs if we can."
To help meet some of those needs, the board allocated a total of $30,000 to support three area food banks – Action in the Community Through Service (ACTS), the Haymarket Regional Food Pantry and SERVE, which is run by Northern Virginia Family Services. Each food bank received $10,000 each after they noted a significant increase in demand for food over the past several weeks.
The board voted unanimously to approve the allocation at their meeting last week. "They took action quickly because they recognized the need in the community," said the county's Office of Management and Budget Director Dave Sinclair.
The money came from the county's contingency fund, which is set aside for emergencies, Sinclair said.
Eileen Smith, the executive director of the Haymarket Regional Food Pantry, said the pantry will target the money toward government employees and contractors with events at the commuter lot behind Gainesville United Methodist Church off Linton Hall Road. "We are going to use the money for two 'pop-up' markets this Saturday and next Saturday between noon and 2 p.m. They're going to be at the commuter lot in Gainesville, and folks with a valid government or contractor ID can come and shop for free. We have all sorts of produce, hygiene items, we have shelf-stable food, and we have meat. These folks usually aren't our customers, so we're doing an event just for them."
Steve Liga, the chief executive officer of ACTS, has also seen an increase in customers. "I know last week we saw a number of federal workers, and that's pretty rare for us. It's pretty telling that right after they missed the first paycheck, that very next week people were coming in."
Liga said he appreciated the board's prompt action. "It was right on time. They jumped on this and their timing couldn't have been better. We can definitely use the money. It helps supplement the food that we don't get donated. It allows us to go out and get the dairy and eggs that we normally wouldn't be able to get and more of the fresh produce we like to get from the Capital Area Food Bank. It allows us to round out what we have to offer."
Kim Golub, marketing director of the Haymarket Food Pantry noted that folks at the pantry are grateful for the help and the county's timing. "I think it's fantastic that the county is doing such a quick response to support its citizens. It's nice to know that this part of our government works quickly, and that they recognize that the food pantry is here to serve its citizens. That recognition, we're really grateful for it."
Additional Support Services
In addition to its support of local charities, the county has several outlets where people can receive a number of services, including mental health, aging and disability, and financial management services.
- Call the Prince William County Department of Social Services at 703-792-7500 for help with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program.
- For homeless prevention services, call 703-792-3366.
- The Community Services agency offers mental health services. For help in the eastern end of the county, call 703-792-4900. In the western end of the county, call 703-792-7800.
- The Prince William Area Agency on Aging, at 703-792-6374, offers help with aging and disability services.
- The Virginia Cooperative Extension, at 703-792-6287 offers financial management services; and the Prince William SkillSource Center, at 703-586-6800, offers training and employment services to people in the area looking for jobs.
More information about these programs can be found on the county's website at pwcgov.org.