On February 7, we launched Power of the Pen, our new monthly action series to use letters – to elected officials and to newspapers – as a way to speak out for change.
The topic of our first event was the devastating impact of Pres. Trump’s partial shutdown on people facing hunger and poverty. We wanted to provide a space for people to share their pain and oppose Trump’s threats to shut down the government again on Feb. 15.
What follows are excerpts from some of the attendees’ letters to Sen. Toomey regarding the shutdown.
I used to work for the government. I drove buses for the Port Authority of Allegheny County for ten years, with good pay and benefits. But I lost my job due to health reasons. I was then forced to work two jobs to make ends meet, seven days a week for three months. Finally, I had to let one of the jobs go because my health was getting so bad. So now I am working one job at $13 an hour and I am struggling to make ends meet.
I am a judge of elections. I am a grandmother of five grandkids that depend on food stamps, benefits, and other needed programs. Please do your job… please do what I ask for you are the voice for me and the people….
— Godina Jones
…I am a mother of a 10-month-old baby and I need WIC to feed myself and my child. I work at Giant Eagle Southside and the last government shutdown made me fear for myself, my family, my coworkers and their families, and the customers who shop at the store…. This shutdown is going to affect my coworker and her 87-year-old mother who receives SNAP. We live paycheck to paycheck. We cannot afford to lose these benefits. We will lose our homes. We do not make living wages.
The shutdown was going to affect 38 million Americans. Standard and Poor’s estimated that if it continued one more week, it would have cost $7 billion. We need you to act act as a check on the executive branch of our government and protect us…
— Stephanie Fello
I live in a HUD subsidized community and I’m writing because if another government shutdown occurs on February 15, 2019 that will definitely affect me as a tenant living in subsidized housing…. I live on a fixed income and pay co-pays for lots of the medicines I use. I receive $91.00 in SNAP benefits and worry, because I need my medications and need to eat and pay bills….
— Debra Green
I am writing to implore you to use your power as a senator to do whatever is necessary to avoid another damaging government shutdown. The recent shutdown was a disaster for tens of millions of American families; it hurt furloughed government workers, “essential” workers forced to work without pay, economically disadvantaged people including children and the elderly, contractors, and business persons who lost customers.
I am going to state an opinion, which should not be controversial: deliberately causing harm the American people should never be used as policy tool to advance the interests of any party or of any branch of the American government. Do you agree with that, Senator Toomey?…
— Joe DeFazio
…I live in a high rise. A lot of the occupants, including myself, are on fixed incomes. The government shutdown will affect everyone who lives there and those who work there will also be affected as well. There are nine floors with at least 10-20 apartments per floor…. I also buy food – I get food stamps. Recently the last shutdown in December of 2018 meant that I got my February benefits in January.
The Government shutdown is not right. Do the right thing – keep the Government open. Another shutdown will create disorder in people’s lives making it more difficult to function from day to day, whether it is living in their homes, feeding their families, or working at their jobs. This second shutdown is not a good idea. It is not good for all.
— Karen Warman
>> Karen’s sister Linda submitted a powerful letter to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which they published on Feb. 16:
“What is going to happen? I was standing in the middle of my living room on Feb. 1. My thoughts fell back to five years ago, when I first moved into an apartment in the Hilltop/Parkview Manor Apartments complex. There are solid walls and ceilings, no window-sized holes where the sky can be seen, as there were at the house where I used to live in Hazelwood. I was very grateful to be standing there and felt that no one can say that it’s unstable….
Read the rest at post-gazette.com: “Shutdowns do not foster freedom”
Join us at our next Power of the Pen on March 20!