As the partial government shutdown approaches a month, Little Rock officials gathered Sunday afternoon at Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field to encourage residents to help federal employees in need by taking part in a two-day donation drive.
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr., City Director Kathy Webb, Little Rock Municipal Airport Commission Chairman Jesse Mason and airport Executive Director Ron Mathieu announced plans for Little Rock Cares, a two-day, citywide donation drive for federal employees.
"We have 14,000 federal employees in the state," Scott said. "Of those, 7,000 have been furloughed or are dealing with lack of pay. This hits home. Families are struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table."
This week more than 500 employees in the Little Rock area will likely miss another paycheck, which will cause additional hardships, airport spokesman Shane Carter said.
Mason said Transportation Security Administration employees have shown up to work every day without pay to make sure everyone is safe.
"Passengers walking around this airport right now might think it is business as usual," Mason said. "These employees are coming to work each day and not calling in sick. Now they desperately need our help."
The idea behind Little Rock Cares was originally created by airport employees who banded together to help each other, but then the need started to grow beyond their capability, Carter said.
"This is serious," Mason said. "We have employees who have run out of food to put on the table."
Webb, who is also the executive director of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, said any day of the week thousands of Arkansans deal with food insecurities, but the numbers have increased dramatically because of the shutdown.
"We are seeing the stark reality where federal employees are having to choose between food and gas or food and medicine or food and rent," Webb said. "In times of crisis we usually rely on the government, but right now we can't."
City residents have recently banded together as restaurant owners have donated food to federal employees, financial institutions have offered their assistance, and utility companies have agreed to provide for those who are furloughed, Carter said.
"It's neighbors helping neighbors," Carter said.
The two-day event will be Tuesday and Wednesday at various locations across Little Rock.
"We will distribute the items we collect no later then Thursday," Carter said.
Webb encouraged people to contact their local government officials and demand a stop to the shutdown.
"In March we could have 330,000 people not receive their [food stamps] and it would be an overwhelming burden on food donation centers," Webb said.
State Desk on 01/21/2019
Print Headline: Aid sought for federal workers; Little Rock officials plan 2-day donation drive during shutdown