Federal Workers in Houston Can Seek Vouchers During Shutdown

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.

Furloughed workers can apply for a $100 voucher through nonprofit Houston Relief Hub, starting Tuesday, according to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. The city isn't spending any money on the arrangement with Houston Relief Hub, which will coordinate the aid and collect donations, the Houston Chronicle reported.

"We hope to ease the burden of federal employees who, through no fault of their own, are being forced to make a huge personal sacrifice," Turner said in a statement.

The nonprofit isn't sure how many federal workers will seek help as the standoff in Congress endures over President Donald Trump's request for $5.7 billion to fund a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. But volunteers will try to keep the voucher program going as long as the federal government is shut down, said Mario Castillo, who has volunteered at Houston Relief Hub since its formation after Hurricane Harvey in August 2017.

The organization is partnering with other local groups, including Houston Helping Hands, United Way of Greater Houston and the YMCA.

"The longer this drags on, the more folks are going to be in need of assistance," Castillo said.

The shutdown has led to the closure of a terminal at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport due to a shortage of federal Transportation Security Administration workers, while NASA Johnson Space Center employees held a protest last week. Food banks across the city have been receiving calls from furloughed workers, according to volunteers.

"We are getting some phone calls from people who identify as federal employees," said Adele Brady, a spokeswoman for Houston Food Bank. "We're expecting an increase in phone calls and directing people to their neighborhood pantries."

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