Federal government employees rally at the White House for an end to the government shutdown on January 10, 2019
“Build the wall” started as a catchy campaign slogan for then-candidate Donald J. Trump in 2016. Now it has become a national nightmare. Hundreds of thousands of households across the U.S. are heading into their second month without a paycheck as the government shutdown drags on for more than a month, with no relief in sight, while President Trump holds out for Congress to appropriate funds to build the wall.
In addition to 800,000 federal workers affected by the shutdown, hundreds of thousands of workers under federal contracts have permanently lost their pay for the month, and tens of millions of individuals using federal food assistance programs stand to lose their access in the coming weeks.
So far, the corporate response has been relatively quiet, considering the magnitude of the havoc wreaked since last December, when President Donald J. Trump refused to sign a previously agreed-upon appropriations bill affecting nine executive agencies including the State Department, the Treasury Department, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Homeland Security.
Visa and The Visa Foundation are among the few companies that have stirred into action on a national level. In a blog post yesterday, Visa announced that the Visa Foundation is contributing $1 million to Feeding America's Shutdown Response Fund.
In addition, Visa has announced that it will double its match for employee donations to Feeding America.
The company has also stated that it is encouraging employees to volunteer at local area food banks, and it is encouraging members of the public to donate directly to Feeding America.
More than a recitation of the company’s actions, the blog post was also a subtle appeal for help from other corporate leaders in the financial industry. In the post, Visa explains that it is a technology company. Unlike a bank, it does not issue cards or extend credit.
In another aspect of the appeal for a more vigorous corporate response, Visa’s blog post cited Andy Wilson, Chief Development Officer of Feeding America. Wilson emphasized that the funds will help support federal workers responsible for public safety and security, many of whom have been reporting for work despite anxiety over their financial situation, including TSA agents, members of the Coast Guard, park rangers, security guards and federal prison employees.
“We are so grateful to the Visa Foundation, Visa¸ and its employees for their commitment to our country’s public servants and their families, and their assistance to help them to get through this difficult time as they continue to keep our country safe,” said Wilson.
That emphasis on safety and security hits a wide mark and focuses attention on the ripple effect of the shutdown on the general public all across the country.
Also underscoring the broadly urgent nature of the situation is Visa’s decision to focus attention on the nation’s premier hunger organization.
In addition to coordinating a network of 200 member food banks and 60,000 partner agencies, Feeding America researches hunger issues and uses those findings to advocate for national policies on hunger and nutrition.
The organization summarized its relief and lobbying efforts in a January 15 statement, explaining that “we’re making sure lawmakers understand what we’re seeing – that many workers live one paycheck away from hunger.”
Absent an immediate end to the shutdown, the best-case scenario is for more major U.S. companies to follow the example set by Visa, step up, and fill the leadership gap left by a White House that its critics say is bankrupting the nation’s safety and security in favor of a simple, spiteful campaign slogan.
Image credit: AFGE/Wiki Commons
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.