Heartland Hands

The entrance to the Heartland Hands food pantry on Stateline Road in Southaven, a nonprofit service that had seen an increase in clients in recent weeks from federal workers out of work or without paychecks due to the partial federal shutdown that ended Friday afternoon.

Friday’s announcement by President Donald Trump that a deal had been reached and a partial shutdown of the federal government was ending was welcome news for thousands of workers either furloughed or required to work without getting paychecks while the impasse had gone on for 35 days. 

While not a permanent solution, Trump announced Friday afternoon that he would sign a bill that would reopen government operations for three weeks, or until Feb. 15. That would allow government to reopen while continuing efforts were made to reach a final agreement between his administration and Democratic congressional leaders.

The shutdown started when Trump and the Democrats were at odds about Trump’s insistence of $5.7 billion for a wall on the nation’s southern border with Mexico.

While the shutdown was in force, DeSoto County joined others across the nation that stepped in to help those workers directly affected by the President’s actions.

Federal workers not receiving paychecks, for instance, were offered no-interest loans of up to $1,500 by Southern Bancorp to cover their expenses. Southern Bancorp is a regional financial institution with an office in Hernando.

“All they need to do is bring in their federal government ID and their most recent paycheck. We'll help fill out the loan papers and the paperwork,” said Southern Bancorp DeSoto County President Alan Sims. “Some of these people don't know when they will get their paycheck.”

The Arkansas-based banking concern also waived overdraft fees to their customers that were federal workers during the shutdown. The loans came with no fees charged, no credit check and at zero interest.

The emergency loans are payable within six months or upon the resumption of government operations and payroll processing, whichever comes first.

“Southern Bancorp stands ready to assist our customers in this stressful time,” said Darrin Williams, Southern Bancorp, Inc. CEO in a release. “In addition to these immediate measures, our team of credit counselors and financial service providers stands ready to provide further support, not only during this crisis, but also in the period following it as people begin putting their financial lives back together.”

Another area where assistance was being provided was from the Heartland Hands food pantry in Southaven.

Director Connie James said Thursday the pantry had seen an increase in demand for food the last few weeks from federal workers without a job and trying to feed their families.

Even a group from the Coast Guard came in earlier in the week asking for assistance. They were Coast Guardsmen from Mississippi who are serving on the Mississippi River, James said.

“I guess for the last 2-3 weeks, we’ve had people every day,” James said. “Some of them live in Southaven, because one of them goes to church here (at Heartland Church) and he knew to come here. He’s been monitoring something on the Mississippi River.”

Heartland Hands, from their Stateline Road location in Southaven, has also been helping other food organizations that also felt the strain of the added demand for food.

“Some of the other pantries have come to us and said, ‘we live on a budget and so, if we feed 100 families we buy food for 100 families. We can’t serve 60 additional families.’ We have told the other pantries that if they can’t serve them, we can, so send them here.”

James said she had also written to First District Rep. Trent Kelly and U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith to inform their offices that Heartland Hands would handle providing food to any government employees affected by the shutdown.

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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