FEDERAL employees in the United States, left without pay as the government shut-down continues, are turning in their thousands to foodbanks and churches for emergency support.
One church in Texas gave out $100 Walmart vouchers to federal employees at its Sunday services.
An estimated 800,000 government workers across the US are affected by the shutdown, which has now become the longest in American history. About half of them are still working without pay.
The stalemate between President Trump and Congress over his request for billions of dollars to fund a border wall was showing no signs of reaching a breakthrough on Wednesday.
Those living on Native American reservations have been some of the hardest hit.
Native American tribes rely heavily on funding guaranteed by treaties with the US, Acts of Congress, and other agreements for public safety, social services, education, and health care for their members. Because of the shutdown, tribal officials say that some programmes are on the brink of collapse.
Leaders of Native American organisations wrote to Congress to warn that the “long-term effects of this shutdown will ripple throughout our communities for months or even years following the reopening of the government.”
The chairman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Rodney Budeaux, said that three-quarters of the tribe’s budget came from federal money.
The Priest-in-Charge of Rosebud Episcopal Mission in South Dakota, the Revd Dr Lauren Stanley, and the Priest-in-Charge of the North Dakota side of the Standing Rock Episcopal Mission, the Revd John Floberg, told the Episcopal News Service that the tribal governments were considering shutting down parts of their operations because they lacked federal grant money.
Dr Stanley is receiving calls asking for help with electric bills and for propane, as snow is forecast this week. She said that she has had calls from people across the country wanting to help, and offering money and gift cards.
Other churches in areas with many government employees are encouraging them to use foodbanks.
The Community Soup Kitchen at Christ Church Episcopal, New Haven, in Connecticut, is inviting “furloughed” workers to use its services.
“St Paul tells us in scripture that the labourer deserves to be paid. And we hope that the government will reopen, and workers who are working will be paid,” the Revd Stephen Holton told an NBC television station. “Everyone deserves a meal, and this is a place where you can receive it. Come, and come and be fed. Come and be fed together,” he said.
In Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Jackson Cupboard, a food pantry at St John’s Episcopal Church, is working with Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies to host a mobile food-pantry to help more people access free food and support.
St Columba’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, is also offering financial support, and extra prayer sessions and Bible studies for those with “unexpected time in your day and a desire to gather with fellow sojourners”.