Community steps up to help federal employees working without pay during shutdown

TSA employees get some love at Miami International Airport

By Todd Tongen - Anchor/Reporter, Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. - President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remain far apart over the funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border that is keeping the government from reopening and allowing federal employees to get paid.

House Democrats will pass bills next week to try to fund the government, but the Republican-controlled Senate has declined to consider any bills unless Trump is prepared to sign them into law.

Trump said Friday afternoon that he will make a major announcement on the government shutdown and the southern border at 3 p.m. on Saturday from the White House. 

With no end in sight, some South Florida residents are trying to help federal employees who are going without pay.  There are about 800,000 nationwide, including 420,000 who are still working.

Feeding South Florida delivered a semi-tractor trailer full of groceries to help Transportation Security Administration workers at Miami International Airport Friday. 

"It's a sad situation, where everybody here is able to put food on the table for their own families to find themselves in a situation where they are having to go out now, look for food for their families. It's not fair; it's actually a little disheartening," said Paco Velez, the president of Feeding South Florida. 

America’s air-travel system will face its sternest this weekend, which coincides with Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, a federal holiday. TSA predicts it will screen over 8 million passengers between Friday and Monday, up 10.8 percent from last year’s MLK weekend. And it will do so with fewer screeners. 

"This work force is committed to the mission," said Daniel Ronan, MIA-TSA security director. "They know what happened on 911, and they never want that to happen again, so when times are tough for them and the community steps up for them -- it's a great thing."

A TSA spokesman said the agency was offering overtime to screeners for this weekend, though those workers wouldn’t be paid — for their regular pay or for overtime— until the shutdown eventually ends.

MIA Director Lester Sola put on an apron Friday, as Miami-Dade County employees set up a BBQ luncheon for 500 shift workers. Rep. Donna Shalala attended and said the shutdown is terrible, but she was happy to be there to see the support that the community is giving the federal employees. 

"They are making great sacrifices not just themselves, but with their family," Sola said.

Farm Share and Super Shuttle also teamed up to hand out free groceries to the federal employees who are struggling. Brightline also announced free service from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale and to Miami as long as the shutdown continues. 

Feed South Florida Vice President Sari Vatske fears the need for help will continue growing. Supplemental Nutrition Assitance Program, or SNAP, is also changing. The the food stamp benefits for February are being disbursed early on Jan. 20. 

"This means that families now have six weeks to stretch their limited budget," Vatske said. 

Copyright 2019 by WPLG Local10.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.