People collect items for a popup food pantry opened in Boston for men and women in the Coast Guard, the…
Charles Field / MMSFI
With many federal workers now losing hope that they will receive a paycheck this week, the stress is in place. But then there are some efforts to help the hundreds of thousands of people affected by the ongoing suspension – including in Massachusetts, where about 8,000 federal workers live.
In Boston this week, a pop-up food pantry for men and women opened in Coast Guard, the only branch of armed services working without pay.
Coasts, as they are called, who usually rush to save others in danger, ascended to help their own, form a bucket brigade to ferry 30,000 pounds of groceries from trucks and on shelves in the corner of a cafeteria. They stored everything from milk to medicine and cereals to celery, all free to take.
Don Cox, chairman of the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation, who runs the pantry, says nearly 200 families stopped serving food, in the first few hours it was open. At the same time, Cox says that an existing military family pantry on Cape Cod issues more in two days than it usually does in a month.
“We’ve been beaten hard with baby food, the diapers. I mean it’s just a tide wave,” he says during a break, then turns to one of his donor partners, “It reminds me that I’m out of diapers again.”
Jenny James, a Coast Guard and a two-mother wife were among those who came in to “shop” this week. She says she was shocked when she first saw how much was available.
“Honestly, I was really blown away,” she says. “It’s actually very relief.”
With so much in limbo right now, she says that she has virtually stopped buying something she does not absolutely need. The pantry lets her save her limited money for other essential things.
“It is very comforting to know a little weight that is lifted by me having to worry about putting food on the table,” she says. “Especially when you don’t know what the future holds.”
It is certainly more comforting than the tips recently published on a site for cemetery staff assistance, which rather tell those who are not “body” sand and to find Creative ways to earn extra income For example, the tip suggests cleaning out the wind, basement and wardrobes and having a garage sale, or selling items online. Other ideas include babysitting and dog walking for cash.
Wednesday night, the Coast Guard took the document offline and said it – quote- “does not reflect … current efforts to support their labor during decay” in federal
Cox calls it shameful that guards and women have to worry about where their next meal comes from.
“It’s just one horrible thing that we have done to these people, “he says.” They have families and responsibilities … and they have remained d is out on one side. We put them in uniform and we teach them to be proud, and then we put them in such a situation and it is just criminal .. I mean this only balloons and spirals out in control. “
It will only get worse”
Other federal employees can relate. Rita Silva Martins, 34, from Natick, Mass., Thought she had finally done so. After years of guarding championship, she landed an airport security job with the Transportation Security Administration which amounted to $ 36,000 and benefits. She and her husband, who work 60 hours a week, moved cars to car dealers, had just moved into their first house, with their four children and only managed to scrape off. That is until the shutdown puts everything in danger.
“It weighs heavily [on me],” she says. “I have panic attacks, not knowing what’s going to happen.”
Tovia Smith / NPR
Martins is still working, actually adding overtime hours and hopes that she will eventually see back pay. But if and when a paycheck comes, Martins will worry, it would be too late for her next mortgage loan. To continue working, she also has to pay for the preschool and to put gas in the car for the long commute to the airport. Also on the whole, she only discovered that the dog needs surgery that costs more than SEK 1,500. And she has no real savings to talk about.
“It will only get worse,” she says. “I have no jewelry to pledge, nothing to just make money from. It’s devastating.”
Martins looking for a second job; her husband already took one, who desperately tried to stick to his house.
Martins returns tears with the opportunity to sell. “It’s like your dream goes away,” she says. “I don’t know when to buy something else. How can I save if I live paycheck-to-paycheck right now?”
Another TSA security officer, Tom Dasher, is equally worried. He does not have his wife’s salary to fall back on because she also works for TSA without pay.
“It weighs on you,” he says. “You can see it on everyone’s faces. It’s hard. And it’s going to be harder.”
To meet, Dasher meets with a gift card that he received for Christmas. Then he will link to savings. But even that won’t be long, with a two-year-old in the nursery and a medical condition that routinely leaves him with big unexpected doctors’ bills.
“It will eventually become ugly,” Dasher says. “The math will break down.”
Their only option, Dasher, will ask families for a loan.
“It’s very hard to even think about asking for some form of dividend,” he sighs. “But it will suck up your pride and take care of your family.”
Tovia Smith / NPR
Even late careers, senior officials feel the pain. Steve Calder has been working for the EPA as an environmental researcher for more than 25 years and is president of the US Federal Government Employees Local 3428 . He was one of several EPA employees who met Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., This week at her Lowell office, explaining their problem and asking for help.
Some are worried about meeting the children’s college teaching deadlines, or their mortgages. But it’s not just cash flow that’s a problem, says Calder Trahan. He recently borrowed against his pension fund, and his loan payments come out of his paychecks. But if he doesn’t get paychecks, he says he can face a number of costly consequences.
“If the loan becomes commonplace, it will be income according to IRS rules,” he explains. “And then there is also a penalty of 10 percent to charge it because it was part of a pension fund, and that is money I would never see again.”
Trahan nods and scribbles notes. It’s her very first meeting since she was elected and tells them she’s learned a lot that she’s going back to Washington. Loan dilemma alone, she says, was “a light bulb.”
She promises to help, though possible, legislative or individual. “If there are people who are having difficulties, please call them to our office,” she says. “Certainly, there are things we can do to help prevent the collectors. We would like to do so. This is not your burden alone and we want to be helpful.”
Trahan calls it “sinful” that people are asked to work without pay. And while President Trump says he can relate the difficulties the workers are enduring after listening to the triggering stories of the workers, Trahan says: “Anyone who can relate would not let this happen.”