ELIZABETH, NJ – In the midst of the federal government shutdown, 500 federal workers who live in Union County have gone without pay, according to Freeholder Chair Bette Jane Kowalski. During Thursday night’s Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting, Kowalski discussed several ways the county and the public can help these workers.

“Food insecurity is the biggest issue facing workers,” said Kowalski, who encouraged residents to make a cash donation to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.

Every dolar you donate to the food bank can help provide three meals for our hungry neighbors, according to the CFBNJ website.

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There is also a need for diapers and hygiene products, which can be dropped off at various locations throughout the county, Kowalski said. Kowalski, along with Freeholders Kimberly Palmieri-Mouded and Sergio Granados, assisted with the collection of these supplies in Elizabeth Friday morning, according to a county press release.

Federal employees may also enroll in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) if the shutdown continues into February, Kowalski added. More information about these and other resources available for federal workers, as well as how residents can help, can be found on the county website.

Union County College Cell Tower

During the meeting, several Cranford residents voiced concerns about plans to install a cell tower at Union County College’s Cranford campus. Residents cited concerns including potential health effects, zoning regulations and changes in market values of area homes.

According to Freeholder Angel Estrada, the contract to install the tower is between Union County College and Verizon, and the board is not a party to the contract. Freeholder Chair Kowalski stated that the board has had discussions with the college about the proposed tower and encouraged concerned residents to do the same. These and other board members acknowledged the range of viewpoints on the issue and thanked the residents for voicing their concerns.

Counting the Homeless

This year’s NJCounts Point-in-Time Count, an annual count of the homeless population throughout New Jersey, took place early Wednesday morning. According to Freeholder Andrea Staten, who participated in the event, volunteers offered shelter, food, clothing and other services to those in need.

The 2018 count found 9,303 homeless persons in New Jersey, 389 of which were in Union County. The annual count has been coordinated by Monarch Housing Associates for the past six years.

Army National Guard Farewell

Several freeholders recently attended a farewell ceremony for the 102nd Cavalry Regiment of the Army National Guard. The regiment, which includes 120 members from Union County, will be deployed to Jordan for nine months, according to Freeholder Vice Chair Alexander Mirabella.

“We are so proud of their commitment to serve our country,” Mirabella said.

“It’s not only the service people but their families who are sacrificing for us, so I just want to send my thanks to all of them,” added Freeholder Chair Kowalski.

Mirabella also discussed the “UC HERO” program, which “seeks to increase awareness of eligibility, entitlements, benefits programs, and services provided to veterans by various Government Agencies, including County Government,” according to the county website.

Black History Month Events

Freeholders discussed a variety of events taking place in the county to commemorate Black History Month, including a play titled Harlem Renaissance, Another Black Wall Street, which will take place on Feb. 2; a recognition of Linden resident Monty Brooks, who will be presented with the Chester Holmes Humanitarian Award on February 9; and a lecture hosted by Dr. Melissa Cooper on Feb. 20. More information about these events can be found in a press release posted on the county website.