TAMPA, Fla. — The longer the shutdown continues, the more some federal workers worry about covering the basics for themselves and their families.
So Monday, hundreds of federal employees from Tampa International Airport got some help doing just that.
The airport is providing a pop-up food pantry it helped arrange for those in need of some basic assistance during these uncertain times.
“Got some diapers for the baby,” said Randall Baker, a TSA member for close to nine years now. “It’s just a matter of staying positive right now."
But staying positive is admittedly getting harder to do, says Baker, who has a stay at home wife and 9-month-old son to worry about.
“My wife is stressing out,” said Baker. “Last time it happened we didn’t have a baby. So, that adds to it.”
It’s that stress that has Baker and other federal employees taking advantage of the pantry on the perimeter of Tampa International. Basic supplies from agencies like the United Way and Feeding Tampa Bay.
“Well, we don’t have money and we don’t know when we’ll get paid,” said Marta, a TSA worker heading into the food bank. “And we got to pay the bills.”
Saving money on supplies will allow federal workers to save their money to pay rent, a mortgage, medical payments and utility bills that don’t stop coming.
“I’ve been thanking everybody inside. I really appreciate it,” said one TSA worker who recently moved to Tampa from New England. “This is really nice. Helps out a lot.”
There are close to 700 federal employees at Tampa International. Most work for TSA. But there are Customs and Border Patrol agents and FAA workers, too.
Workers say passengers have been especially nice this past week or so. Purchasing -- or even making food for the agents who’ve continued coming to work even without a paycheck.
“I feel very sorry for the people that are still working and not getting paid,” said passenger Rita Sasso.
Sasso and others say they appreciate the federal workers’ professionalism – staying on the job to protect the flying public – even as their own welfare hangs in the balance.
“You know before you can actually move forward to see who’s going to blink first? It just doesn’t seem like good government to me,” said passenger Greg Woycio.
It’s not that federal employees won’t get back pay. They will.
But in the meantime, the airport knows many of the employees who work there live from paycheck to paycheck.
“You know, we consider them part of our family,” said TIA Spokesperson Emily Nipps. “And we sympathize with their situation not having a paycheck. These are not workers that make a lot of money.”
The airport is helping its workers in other ways, too, by asking local utility companies to help workers defer or structure their bill payments, coordinate with public transit to provide hundreds of free day-passes.
The Tampa Bay crisis center also has counselors on-hand to help federal employees who may be feeling stressed out.
Government shutdown: TSA agents continue to work without pay
Tampa Aviation Authority is even buying a free lunch for the airport’s federal employees all week.
The food and supply bank saw about 60 workers in its first hour and a half. It will be open this week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and again from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. to accommodate schedules.
For now, it’s a local response to a national dilemma.
“What was the last thing they said? Walk dogs or do a garage sale – ha,” laughed Baker. “Financially, they don’t know what we’re going through.”
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