A Jewish worker affected by the shutdown wonders: How will I pay my bills?


(JTA) — Ben, a Jewish federal employee based in the greater Washington, D.C., area, is worried about how he will pay for his day-to-day expenses.

A financial specialist at the Transportation Security Administration, he hasn’t been working since Dec. 22, when the government shut down.

Ben worries about “even the most basic things,” he told JTA on Thursday.

Where you’re gonna get money to pay for food, to pay for your bills, things that most people would never think of how to even pay for, medicine you need?” he wondered.

He is among some 800,000 federal employees affected by the government closure that started after President Donald Trump said he would not sign a budget deal unless it included his request for $5.7 billion to fund a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The shutdown is in its 20th day.

Ben, who asked not to have his last name used in this article, has been furloughed since the closure began. Some other federal staffers are working without pay.

“I’ve just been taking it day by day,” said Ben, who is single. “I think it’s just a matter of being able to plan because the way things are going, I don’t anticipate that we’re going to be back open anytime soon. It’s kind of like one of your greater fears coming true in a sense.”

He hopes that some of his fears will be allayed soon. Ben has been approved for a loan by the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Greater Washington and is waiting for the money to be disbursed.

“It’s a good feeling. Certainly it helps ease the stress,” he said.

Last week, the association approved an emergency program to provide loans of up to $2,000 per household to affected Jews living in the Greater Washington area. It has allocated some $30,000 to the program and is reaching out to local synagogues and Jewish organizations to help in case the demand extends beyond that threshold.

Ben said hearing about the program made him “feel really proud to be a Jew.”

“I thought it’s a good reflection of our community as a whole, and the fact that Jews have been always willing to stand out at the forefront at any places and have been willing to help each other out,” he said.

David Farber, the president of the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Greater Washington, told JTA on Wednesday that his organization “was happy to step up and respond to what we see as an emerging need and hopefully one that will end soon to fill the gap.”

Founded in 1909, the agency provides interest-free loans to members of the Jewish community to help with needs such as medical and emergency bills, credit card debts and student loans.

Hebrew Free Loan organizations in San Francisco and Austin, Texas, also are providing loans to those affected by the shutdown, the Forward and J. weekly reported.

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