Rally outside Sen. Toomey’s Pittsburgh office calls for an end to shutdown
People who rely on government assistance programs joined Democratic lawmakers Tuesday outside the Downtown office of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, to demand that he work toward ending the partial government shutdown, now in its 32nd day.
Low-income workers relying on Section 8 housing vouchers and food benefits through the Women, Infants & Children program and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program expressed concern that their benefits will run dry if the shutdown continues.
Verna Johnson, of Pittsburgh’s East End, said she depends on a housing voucher to keep a roof over her head.
“A lot of people need this program,” she said. “We didn’t want to need it, but it’s there to help us to have some place to live. When it’s cold out here like it is, we’re going to have somewhere to go.”
She said the looming threat of government assistance falling through if the shutdown continues is not good for the country.
“A wall is not going to feed anybody. A wall is not going to keep anybody warm right here in this country,” she said, imploring lawmakers to end the stalemate. “Help us. Do what’s right to help this whole country.”
Parts of the federal government shut down Dec. 22 after budget negotiations in Congress stalled because of President Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to pay for a proposed wall along the Mexican border. Some federal assistance programs received funding to keep them going during the shutdown.
State Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Lincoln-Lemington, alluded to Trump’s earlier consideration of declaring a national emergency in order to secure funding for the border wall, saying letting children go hungry is a real national emergency.
“If we can’t feed our children, if we can’t take care of the basic people we said we could take care of, then what as a government are we doing for the people of America?” he said.
Stephanie Fello, who said she works at Giant Eagle on the city’s South Side and breastfeeds her 9-month-old baby, receives benefits through the WIC food program. The program provides breastfeeding support as well as food and nutrition support for new mothers and their infants. She worries what will happen without access to the program.
Fello also worries about her customers.
“I have lots of customers come in who use food stamps,” she said. “So I am here speaking out for them. I am speaking out for myself, and I’m speaking out for my baby who I take care of.”
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .