Depending on how long it lasts, the partial federal government shutdown could have a negative impact on the financial wellbeing of Arkansans who already work in low-wage jobs.
AmeriCorps VISTA members complete projects designed to combat poverty in communities throughout Arkansas. However, the people who work for that national service program often depend on a federal stipend, which amounts to less than $5 an hour, as their only source of income during their year of fulltime service.
Georgia Mjartan is the executive director of Our House, a Little Rock-based organization that provides shelter and training to the working homeless.
She says there are eleven VISTA members who work at Our House daily.
“These hardworking employees receive a $930 a month living stipend from the federal government… that’s less than $12,000 a year to live on. For them, it’s not like they have a big federal salary,” said Mjartan. “They are just making a tiny amount of money as it is and they still have to pay rent, gas, and some of them are still paying off student loans. This federal government shutdown is having a terrible impact on young people who are just trying to serve their community.”
Mjartan says Our House is urging members of the community to donate gas cards, as well as Walmart and Kroger gift cards, to support the VISTA members who work there and help them 'make ends meet' during an uncertain time.