Struggling to make ends meet long before this government shutdown

MOLINE, Illinois -- Kelly Murdock lives with her cat Xena. The Siamese is her only companion and most days, it's only the TV talking back to her. Murdock, 59, says she has been frustrated with news about the shutdown and what furloughed federal workers are going through right now.

"I've worked since I was 15," she says. With jobs in the service industry, and at one point even owning a cleaning business, it hasn't been enough.

"In 2015 I worked my last job since my health went bad. It takes a big toll on your health cleaning people’s houses. I had to stop working. It’s been downhill since."

Since then she has battled homelessness, medical problems, a degenerative disc disease, she says.

Murdock now receives benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps, and Section 8 housing benefits, which pays for the rent on her one-bedroom apartment in Moline.

She says she has had to rely on SNAP, and on food pantries, even when she was still working, and long before the current government shutdown.

The Riverbend Food Bank, together with local organizations in eastern Iowa and western Illinois, last year distributed more than 15 million meals to people like Murdock throughout the region.

But President & CEO Mike Miller says the current situation is unusual. He's concerned for federal workers and for SNAP recipients who have received their February benefits in January due to the shutdown.

"Our biggest concern is people are gonna spend them early because there will not be any additional benefit added to their EBT card in the month of February," he says, referring to the debit card on which SNAP recipients receive their funds.

The shutdown has also had an impact on the foodbank itself.

Miller says the foodbank hasn't received checks to help with its food distribution program, known as TEFAP, since December.

"The government pays us a small amount to distribute that food from the TEFAP program," he says, "About 25% of our cost. Those checks are not being cut. We're committed to distributing that food but we`re not getting reimbursement for that right now."

He encourages anyone who needs help to visit the River Bend Foodbank's website to find a nearby pantry.

Even with a three-week reopening of the government that President Donald Trump proposed Friday, Miller says questions remain - especially for those SNAP benefit recipients.

"We do not know where March benefits are gonna come from," he said. "Benefits were only partially funded for February. I'm concerned there might not be full funding available for March."

Like food stamps, Murdock's rent assistance is also only covered through February, for now.

She says the uncertainty is creating a lot of anxiety.

"Will I have my rent paid next month or will my landlord come and tell me I have to leave because I can't afford the rent?" she wonders.

Still Murdock says she stands by President Trump and his demand for funding for a border wall: "I support this president 100 percent. He's only trying to make our lives more prosperous and better and trying to secure this country."

She says politicians on both sides of the aisle need to stop demonizing each other and work something out soon, or people like her get hurt.

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