When it comes to giving or getting assistance for furloughed islanders, there are ample options
As the government shutdown stretches into its 31st day, assistance is available on Hatteras Island for both residents affected by the shutdown, and residents who want to help furloughed employees.
Both National Park Service and U.S. Coast Guard personnel are affected by the shutdown on a local level. Per David Hallac, Cape Hatteras National Seashore (CHNS) Superintendent, the CHNS had 90 employees working when the government shut down, and currently 7-10 staff are working intermittently. While the U.S. Coast Guard is a military branch, because the agency falls under the Department of Homeland Security, more than 44,000 active-duty members are currently affected.
“I believe this upcoming Friday will be the second paycheck that [federal employees] will not receive,” says Leigh Bracy of Dare County Department of Health & Human Services. “That’s a whole month of income that they are not receiving, so we’re expecting some panic.”
Help for Hatteras Island residents
On Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, multiple residents have reached out to neighbors, friends, and local organizations in general to find out how they can help keep furloughed employees afloat until the shutdown ends. From established nonprofit organizations like the Cape Hatteras United Methodist Men, to basic service providers like Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative, the options for assistance are varied, and can tackle a wide array of basic necessities like rent, utility bills, and groceries.
For people who are affected by the shutdown and who aren’t sure where to go, the Dare County Dept. of Health & Human Services’ Frisco branch is a good place to start, although Bracy notes that many people may be hesitant to initially reach out for assistance.
“It’s a matter of people walking in and asking for help, which is hard for a lot of folks because they normally wouldn’t have to go to Social Services and ask for assistance,” she says. “There are programs available, and we wish people would come in and talk to us. They don’t have to take anything, but at least they would know what resources are available for them.”
Bracy recommends that anyone affected by the shutdown reach out to Jessica Nonnenmocher at the Frisco branch to get the ball rolling.
“Anybody who wants to talk things out can meet with Jessica, who can brainstorm with people and find solutions,” she says. “The Methodist Men said they will help out as much as they can, and food pantries are also available on the island.”
On the other end of the spectrum are the countless islanders who aren’t directly affected by the shutdown, but who want to assist their friends and neighbors.
Creative Ways To Help Our Neighbors
While furloughed federal employees can’t directly accept monetary donations, there are workarounds to ensure that basic needs – such as rent, mortgage payments, or utilities – are met.
“Food items can obviously go to the food pantries, [such as] the Methodist Food Pantry in Buxton,” says Bracy. “As far as monetary donations, you can go through the Methodist Men, as they can accept donations on behalf of a specific family, or can put it aside for federal workers.”
“Paying the vendor directly is also an option,” she adds, “like Cape Hatteras Electric, or a landlord. You can pay those bills directly to them, if you know of someone specifically who you want to help. We’ve had people do that as well.”
NPS personnel can be assisted by reaching out to the Cape Hatteras United Methodist Men (CHMM), Dept. of Health & Human Services, local food pantries, and other area organizations that work with individuals in need. Checks for CHMM should be written to United Methodist Men, and mailed to Cape Hatteras United Methodist Men, P.O Box 1591, Buxton, N.C. 27920.
“It is heartwarming to hear that community members would like to assist our staff,” said Hallac in an emailed statement. “If community members are interested in providing food donations aimed at assisting Federal employees, Dare County Social Services (252-475-5500) has information about the food banks and other organizations that may be able to accept food donations.”
For U.S. Coast Guard members, the Sector Field Office at 114 W. Woodhill Dive in Nags Head is the appropriate place to drop off donations locally. They are able to accept any non-cash/check donations, which will be distributed to members of the local branches impacted by the shutdown: Sector Field Office Nags Head, ANT Wanchese, ESD Outer Banks, Station Oregon Inlet and Station Hatteras Inlet.
As the shutdown goes on with no concrete timeframe for a resolution, and local needs become greater, providing help – and asking for help – becomes more essential than ever.
And those affected by the shutdown are encouraged to reach out and ask for a little help to get by, until an end is in sight.
“We have programs that can pay for a lot of things that people aren’t aware of – such as food pantry vouchers, car payments, or rent,” says Bracy. “We don’t want someone to think their situation is too big, or not big enough, that there’s no help available to them.”
“We don’t want anyone to think that they are alone.”