“Charity helps government employees through hard times.” By Joe Davidson. Washington Post. September 27, 2010. Many people have been too busy worrying about paying the rent to notice the recession is officially over. Among them are a growing number of Uncle Sam’s crew, who find themselves in desperate need of financial help, despite claims by critics that federal employees are overpaid. Increasingly, that help comes from the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEA). One indication of just how tough this recession is on federal workers is the sharp rise in money lent by FEEA. This charity, which serves only federal workers, has more than tripled the no-interest loans it provides to clients since fiscal 2007. Then, the figure was $144,900. It jumped to $387,600 in fiscal 2010, which ended in April. Based on the first five months of this fiscal year, FEEA expects to lend about $524,000 by the time fiscal 2011 ends. During that 2007-10 period, the number of people receiving loans surged from 207 to 604. There will be more than 840 loan recipients by the end of fiscal 2011 if FEEA projections hold up. “It has jumped up dramatically, and it is staying up,” said Steve Bauer, FEEA’s executive director. The average recipient supports a family on $30,000, or less, a year.
“At East Village Food Pantry, the Price Is a Sermon.” By Joseph Berger. New York Times. September 28, 2010. The shopping carts are lined up hours early in Tompkins Square Park, not far from the dog run, where the East Village’s more genteel residents are unleashing retrievers and beagles and chatting animatedly. The poor or elderly waiting on benches to get the free food that comes with a dose of the Gospel seem more lost in their own thoughts, even though many meet every Tuesday. A guard, Mike Luke, a powerhouse known as Big Mike who himself was a consumer at church pantries until he found religion and decided to work for “the man upstairs,” manages the crowd with crisp authority until the 11 a.m. service starts across the street at the Tompkins Square Gospel Fellowship. The food is donated by Trader Joe’s, the gourmet and organic food purveyor, which has a store nearby. It usually feeds the kinds of professionals who use the dog run, but it provides the fellowship with a wealth of unsold baked goods, fruit and vegetables. The fellowship was started 115 years ago as a mission to the immigrant Jews of the Lower East Side but now mostly serves the black, Latino and Asian poor. The East Village has several other pantries that dispense food without sermons; their food is government-financed and so must be religion-free.