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How Texans Can Get Help In Aftermath Of Government Shutdown

A sign directs passengers to different terminals inside the closed Terminal B at George Bush Intercontinental Airport  Jan. 15 in Houston. The security checkpoint inside the terminal has been closed for several days.
Associated Press
A sign directs passengers to different terminals inside the closed Terminal B at George Bush Intercontinental Airport Jan. 15 in Houston. The security checkpoint inside the terminal has been closed for several days.

With many federal workers in Texas having been without a paycheck during the 35-day partial government shutdown, local organizations and agencies are continuing to help. Though President Donald Trump promised back pay during his address Friday, furloughed workers are still in need. 

Food banks

The North Texas Food Bank is working to identify and respond to the increased needs of residents. Those who need emergency food assistance can go to the North Texas Food Bank’s website to find an agency nearby.

“We are working with our partner agencies to ensure their current and future needs are met,” said Dr. Valerie Hawthorne, Government Relations Director for the North Texas Food Bank, in a statement. “We are calling on the support of our generous neighbors to help us continue to feed those impacted during these unpredictable times.”

Those who want to donate food are being asked to give healthy food items such as canned protein, low sodium soup, dried beans or grains and peanut butter. Monetary donations are also accepted via the website.

KERA News has reported that Minnie's Food Pantryin Plano plans to continue to distribute food to federal workers until the government reopens. 

The Central Texas Food Bank, which says it is under strain due to the increased demand, is asking for monetary donations. It says a longtime volunteer at the food bank is matching donations up to $5,000.

Those in need of help can visit the Central Texas Food Bank website for a list of locations to receive free food.

As KUT reported last week, food banks in the region are preparing for an "unprecedented" number of requests during the shutdown. 

The San Antonio Food Bank is offering perishable and non-perishable food for federal employees, from 8 3 p.m. Monday through Sunday at 5200 Enrique M. Barrera Parkway. The food bank is also looking for volunteers, as well as donations of money or food. For information, call 210-431-8326.

The food bank is also helping with benefits assistance.

Diaper bank

The Texas Diaper Bank is offering assistance to government employees and contractors affected by the furlough by providing diapers, incontinence supplies, wipes, feminine hygiene products and classes offered by the bank. People can qualify to receive 6 months of assistance, but they must register by Feb. 1.

Pet assistance

Operation Kindness’ Pet Food Pantry is offering free bags of food and cat litter to local federal employees affected by the government shutdown. Employees can pick up supplies at Operation Kindness,  3953 Belt Line Road in Addison.

Paying utilities

TXU Energy has enacted a series of energy assistance programs to help customers who have been hurt by the extended federal government shutdown. Program details include waiving late fees and extending payment due dates, including working with all eligible customers by offering deferred payment arrangements upon request. 

Support also remains available through TXU Energy Aid. For information on which social service agency assists in their area, customers may call 211 and ask for bill payment assistance.
If you have been directly affected by the shutdown, the City of Austin can help by postponing collection activity on your account for 30 days. If service was disconnected because of a recent nonpayment, the city says, service will be restored.

The city will also evaluate if a customer is eligible for a Customer Assistance Program or payment arrangements. Customers experiencing financial hardship are urged to contact Customer Care at 512-494-9400.

The San Antonio Water Service is offering to delay payments for 90 days for federal employees. SAWS will then revisit the issue on April 1 if the government shutdown lasts beyond that.

AT&T and DIRECTV are offering flexible payment plans for furloughed federal workers. Customers can contact the company here.

T-Mobile is also offering help to government workers. To discuss how T-Mobile can help, customers who are federal employees or federal government account customers need to call T-Mobile Customer Care, 611 from a T-Mobile device or 1-877-746-0909 from any phone.

Verizon is also working with customers affected by the shutdown. For support with wireless, call 1-866-266-1445. For assistance with residential home service, call 1-800-VERIZON. 

A cash advance

PayPal is offering $500 in an interest-free cash advance — what it calls the equivalent of one week's take-home pay — for existing and new customers who are federal employees and struggling to make ends meet.

The company has committed to fund up to $25 million in cash advances to affected employees.

Getting around town

All federal government employees can ride Capital Metro services for free during the shutdown. 

The only thing you have to do is show your federal government employee ID to the bus operator or fare inspector. Cap Metro says the free rides are available on all of its services, including MetroRail and MetroAccess.

In San Antonio, VIA Metropolitan Transit is offering free park & ride services to affected workers as long as the shutdown lasts, with a federal I.D.

Assistance for Coast Guard personnel

A military personnel insurer and financial services company has donated $15 million for interest-free loans to Coast Guard members during the partial U.S. government shutdown.

San Antonio-based USAA announced the funds will be disbursed by Coast Guard Mutual Assistance. The American Red Cross Hero Care Center will assist.

Coast Guard personnel with dependents are eligible for interest-free loans up to $1,500. Service members without dependents are eligible for up to $1000.

Houston-area assistance

Federal workers in Houston who are without pay during the partial government shutdown can now seek financial assistance through a city partnership with local nonprofits.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says furloughed workers can apply for a $100 voucher through nonprofit Houston Relief Hub, starting Tuesday. The Houston Chronicle reports that no city money is being spent on the arrangement with Houston Relief Hub, which will coordinate the aid and collect donations.

Volunteer Mario Castillo says the nonprofit isn't sure how many people will seek help. Castillo says they'll try to keep the voucher program going as long as the standoff in Congress endures over President Donald Trump's request for $5.7 billion to fund a border wall.

The organization is partnering with other groups, including Houston Helping Hands and the YMCA.

Museum and arts admissions

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is offering an opportunity for some fun and exploration for federal workers whose lives have been disrupted.

Through Jan. 31, the Perot Museum will offer free general admission to federal employees plus one guest. Employees must show a valid federal ID badge at the box office and the offer must be redeemed in person.

To ease the burden of the current government shutdown, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the Dallas Holocaust Museum are both offering free tickets to federal employees during the furlough period.

Federal employees are eligible for free tickets from now through mid-February at the DSO. Concerts during this period include:

DSO on the GO Frisco – Jan. 20

The Music of ABBA – Jan. 25, 26 and 17

John Adams Conducts Adams, Debussy and Respighi – Jan. 31, Feb. 1 and 2

ReMix: Alexander Kerr – Feb. 8 and 9

Opus 100: James O’Donnell, organ – Sunday, Feb. 17

DSO on the GO Denton – Feb. 10

Tickets for the employee and a guest may be obtained in person at the Dallas Symphony Guest Services Center at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center.

Federal employees are also invited to visit the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance during business hours to view the permanent exhibition, "One Day in the Holocaust: April 14, 1943" or the special exhibition, "Let Me Be Myself: The Life Story of Anne Frank." This special exhibition has a VR component that allows you to “virtually” visit Anne’s “Secret Annex.” **Guests must reserve a seat for the VR tour (available from 1–3 p.m. daily and they must be 13 years or older). Find more information here.

In Austin, federal employees and contractors affected by the shutdown can get into the Thinkery children's museum for free on weekdays, and bring along up to three guests per visit. The museum says the offer will be in effect for the duration of the shutdown.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema - DFW is offering all federal employees free movies throughout the month of January, according to their Facebook page. Mondays through Thursdays in January government employees affected by the shutdown are eligible for one free ticket per day with the presentation of a federal ID at the box office.
The free ticket is only for the federal employee only. The free movie ticket is valid for any new or current release and cannot be used for any specialty programming.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.