SPOKANE, Wash. – As the third week of the government shutdown begins, 14 AmeriCorps VISTA members working in Spokane are still working without pay.
Spokane’s AmeriCorps VISTA leader Michelle Christie is working without pay herself, and she gave handouts to the other members with listings of local community resources for free meals and clothing.
The AmeriCorps VISTA oath requires them to be on-call 24/7. They aren’t allowed to have outside jobs, so until the shutdown ends, they have no income.
“We can see the stress levels rising in ‘em,” Christie said. “They’re starting to think, ‘If this goes further and SNAP can’t support us and we don’t have any financial backing, can I continue on?’”
SNAP’s Community Action Operating Officer Lucy Lepinski said the organization has now dipped into its own funds to sustain some immediate needs. But, she said, the longer the shutdown lasts, the bigger strain on other community resources.
The VISTA members are responsible for several community projects. For instance, they lead a community garden that produces pounds and pounds of produce for our local food bank. Another VISTA, Lepinski said, is working on a social enterprise project which would make a big economic impact.
“She’s about to start working on a business plan to create jobs for low-income in Spokane,” Lepinski said. “So there really is a ripple effect. Not just today, but into the future if this continues.”