Local companies offer relief options to unpaid federal government workers
Vanesa Flores and Dorothy Macon read through the thick stack of paperwork, hoping the applications would lead to some relief.
Flores and Macon are Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents at Seattle Tacoma-International Airport who are no longer being paid because of the government shutdown.
The shutdown reached day 21 on Friday. It also marked the first day TSA workers, prison guards, police officers and other workers deemed “essential” didn’t receive a paycheck.
“We don’t know what the future holds and a lot of us do live paycheck to paycheck,” Flores said.
Flores and Macon were among the dozens of essential federal employees to show up for a five-hour benefits fair hosted by the Port of Seattle at the Seattle Tacoma-International Airport.
Seattle Public Utilities, BECU, Puget Sound Energy, the United Way and the Washington State Employees Credit Union (WSECU) were on hand to explain how they can help people who aren’t receiving a paycheck.
“We’re offering some assistance as far as tools to get them through this furlough period, we also have a small loan program we offer – $1,500 with a 30-month payback period,” said Will Rance with WSECU.
Mike Chapman, a longtime Bureau of Prisons employee, said the unclear end to this shutdown is “scary.”
“I’ve been a federal employee since the age of 18, so I’ve gone through these before. Knowing this I’ve set aside some savings, but, again, savings are finite,” Chapman said.
Francisco Juarez, a longtime Customs and Border Protection agent, went to the benefits fair Friday to see how he could get additional assistance with his bills. He said he has already reached out to creditors and utility companies and they’ve been helpful.
The people who attended Friday’s benefits event don’t qualify for unemployment because they are still required to work – even if they’re not being paid.
“We’re not allowed to take days off,” Juarez said.
Juarez and other essential federal employees have to wait for the shutdown to end to get their back pay.
“This is politics at play, having said that I don’t feel protected by the actions that are happening in Washington D.C,” Juarez said.
Though Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) made an appearance Friday, Juarez didn’t want to talk to her. He said he doesn’t want to hear political rhetoric, he said he and his co-workers just want the shutdown to end.
“We feel we are an expendable casualty,” Juarez said.