(From left) Albert Uresti, Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector; Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff; Eric Cooper, president and CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank; and Jeffrey Arndt, VIA Metropolitan Transit CEO announced that there will be a resource fair at the San Antonio Food Bank Monday to provide food and financial assistance.
(From left) Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector Albert Uresti, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, San Antonio Food Bank President and CEO Eric Cooper, and VIA Metropolitan Transit CEO Jeffrey Arndt announce a resource fair for furloughed federal employees. Credit: Jackie Wang / San Antonio Report

San Antonio agencies and organizations partnering to help furloughed federal workers through missed paychecks and drained bank accounts will gather for a resource fair at the San Antonio Food Bank Monday to provide food and financial assistance.

Though President Donald Trump on Friday agreed to a temporary funding measure that would reopen the federal government for three weeks, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said the County would continue to provide assistance to the estimated 27,000 San Antonians  furloughed from federal jobs. At 35 days, the partial shutdown stands as the longest in U.S. history.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen after those three weeks,” Wolff said. “It’s a terrible thing for federal workers who had to endure this.

“They’ve gone without two paychecks already. Their next paycheck isn’t due until Feb. 8, and they’ve been hurting. Just envision yourself if you were working and didn’t get paid for three different paychecks now.”

At a press conference Friday, Wolff said county commissioners would consider allocating $50,000 to the food bank at their Tuesday meeting. He was joined by representatives from local agencies that formed the effort to help furloughed federal workers, including George Hernández, president and CEO of University Health System; Karen Rolirad, executive director of Bexar County’s Military and Veterans Affairs Center; and Jeff Arndt, president and CEO of VIA Metropolitan Transit. VIA started offering free bus rides to federal employees on Jan. 18.

Eric Cooper, president and CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank, said roughly 2,500 federal workers have stopped by the food bank for assistance so far.

“Some literally said to me, ‘Last time we were here, we were volunteering.’ They don’t want to add any additional need,” Cooper said. “But it’s been a privilege of ours to step up.”

Paula Gold-Williams, CPS Energy president and CEO, said the public utility would eliminate late fees, delay bill payments, and work out payment plans for people affected by the shutdown. Gavino Ramos, vice president of communications and external affairs at the SAWS, said his company also would delay bill payment and offer payment plans. And Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector Albert Uresti urged government workers who were unable to keep up with property tax payments to reach out to his staff for payment plan options.

Cooper said while he’s heartened to see all these agencies coming together, he hopes telecommunication companies will provide assistance as well.

“My challenge would be to the telecommunications community, mobile device companies to possibly allow federal workers to get a free month,” he said. “AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint – what an offering they could give.”

A resource fair will take place Monday from 9-11 a.m at the San Antonio Food Bank. Agencies will offer one-stop-shop assistance to federal government employees with various issues, such as utilities payments and finding new jobs.

Cooper also said the food bank always welcomes volunteers and donations. Volunteer schedules and registration are available on its website, as are the top 12 most-needed food items. But financial donations are the most effective, he said.

“If you want to donate a non-perishable food item, we can use it,” he said. “But if you give $1, we can leverage that into the equivalent of seven meals.”

The San Antonio Food Bank’s care centers remain open, Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., at 5200 Enrique M. Barrera Pkwy. Federal government workers can stop by to pick up care packages with food and other things like toiletries.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.