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Thanksgiving Meals for Military Families, and More

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

A shipping company announced last week that it is distributing Thanksgiving meals to thousands of military service members and their families throughout the United States this year.

CMA CGM, an international shipping corporation, said it is donating 35,000 Thanksgiving dinners this year, including 10,000 turkeys to military families in Lake Charles, La.; Houston; Los Angeles; Nashville, Tenn.; and Norfolk, Va. The company is distributing additional meals in Washington, D.C.; Norfolk; Charleston, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; and Los Angeles this week.

The donations supplement recent work from the company to aid in relief efforts in Louisiana following Hurricane Laura earlier this year, and were conducted in conjunction with the United Service Organization.

“CMA CGM and [its subsidiary American President Lines] both have long traditions of giving back to those that serve and protect us,” said Ed Aldridge, president of CMA CGM America, in a statement. “While COVID-19 has impacted how many families will spend Thanksgiving this year, we are proud to be able to provide meals for hundreds of military members and their families this holiday season.”

Such donations come at a pivotal time for many military families. A recent study by the Military Family Advisory Network found that military families in Texas are particularly prone to going hungry, compared with their counterparts in other regions.

The study, derived from a survey of military families, found that nearly one fifth of respondents in Texas reported they experienced food insecurity, while more than three quarters of Texan respondents reported carrying debt and roughly a third of service members and veterans said they had no savings in case of emergencies.

The survey found that 15.3% of active duty spouses in Texas reported having suicidal thoughts within the last two years, a statistic that is 2.4 percentage points higher than their counterparts in other states. And 61% of respondents in Texas said alcohol abuse is a problem among military service members, with 21.6% of active duty spouses reporting concerns about alcohol use within their immediate family.

“No military family should have to worry about where their next meal is coming from,” said Shannon Razsadin, executive director of the Military Family Advisory Network. “These heartbreaking accounts paint a vivid picture into the daily challenges military families in this country are facing. But we know these challenges don’t occur in a vacuum—our research also uncovered some startling connections about how food insecurity is closely linked with other aspects of family life, including family finances, mental health and substance abuse.”

The Office of Personnel Management is also working to assist civilian federal employees in need of extra time off to cope with disaster recovery. On Monday OPM announced the establishment of an emergency leave transfer program for federal employees impacted by wildfires in Oregon this year.

In a memo to agency heads, acting OPM Director Michael Rigas outlined the program, which allows federal workers to donate unused annual leave so that it may be transferred to employees impacted by the disaster.

“Employees who are adversely affected and seek to become emergency leave recipients must apply in writing to their agencies,” Rigas wrote. “An employee who is unable to do so on their own may apply through a personal representative . . . Agencies are responsible for administering the [leave transfer program] for their own affected employees. Therefore, employees who wish to donate annual leave must contact their own agencies, not OPM, to determine if there are any affected employees in their agency and how to donate annual leave to them.”