United Way To Aid Local Residents Amid Government Shutdown

  • 1/22/2019 2:45:27 PM
  • Jenna Ramolt
  • Local News

MANSFIELD, OH - As the longest government shutdown in history stretches on, United Way has been formulating a plan to help the 18,000 residents of Richland County who will be hurt by the interruption in SNAP benefits or local food pantries.

SNAP benefits and other services could potentially be cut off on March 1st if the shutdown continues. United Way's initiative to help offset the effects of that event was announced at a press conference on Tuesday morning.

"We felt that we needed to do something and be proactive in order to support the citizens of our community, and we realized that as these SNAP benefits continue to be stressed, it's going to place a strain on our local food pantries throughout the county that do such a wonderful job of helping the residents that have food emergencies," said Dan Varn, Executive Director of United Way of Richland County.

In order to counteract the possibility of residents and food pantries losing benefits, Varn says $20,000 have been set aside to be dispersed to local food pantries. The funds will be dispersed by a committee consisting of Dan Varn, Director of the Richland County Department of Job and Family Services Sharlene Neumann, I & R Coordinator of First Call 211 Terry Carter, Commissioner Marilyn John, and other potential partners.

The money will exclusively be used for food, and Varn says there are ways to track use of the money. So far there are 21 food pantries on First Call 211's database. In order to be eligible for this funding, a food pantry must be registered with and fully betted by First Call 211. There is a list of eligible pantries available on the Richland County Public Library's web site, MRCPL.org under the "community" tab. 

"I feel that we as a community will show that in times of crisis, we come together in support of everybody," said Dan Varn. "I have the utmost faith that we'll be able to provide some real assistance to the hardest-hit at the moment."

The initiative will go into effect on February 1st. If the shutdown were to end before implementation, everything would be re-allocated back and business would continue as usual. If it ends in the midst of the process, there is a plan in place to redistribute what's left of the funding.

"We've got our most needy that is affected right here in our local community... this is a real potential crisis. This, in 37 years, is a situation that I have never thought would happen to our local community," said Sharlene Neumann. She explained that while the Department of Job and Family Services has been re-allocating benefits to curb the harm caused by the shutdown, funding was the best way to help the needy in Richland County. According to Cleveland Food Banks, just $1.00 donated could buy four meals. This makes a huge difference in the lives of those experiencing food emergencies.

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