The longest government shutdown in US history is hitting the TSA hard.
Workers for the Transportation Security Administration are considered essential federal employees, so they have to work without pay during the shutdown. That’s created hardships that have forced TSA agents to work second jobs (like driving for Uber), sleep in their cars to save gas and, in some cases, hand in their resignations.
They’re in a tough spot. Here are ways you can help them.
1. Donate to a food bank
TSA employees are among some 800,000 federal workers who on Friday will miss their second paycheck because of the shutdown. Many are going to food banks to put meals on the table for their families. Hunger relief organization Feeding America is working with a network of food banks to support those affected. On its website, you can pledge money or enter your ZIP code to find nearby food banks where you can donate. If you’re passing through the Pacific Northwest, a donation site for nonperishable food items has been setup at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport specifically to collect donations for government workers.
2. Buy a gift card
Federal employees can’t accept cash, like tips. But federal law does allow them to accept non-cash gifts, as long as they are worth $20 or less. So, if you wanted to get a $10 Target gift card for a TSA employee, that should be OK. But, don’t give it to them while they’re working you through the lines at the airport. TSA officers “can’t accept gifts from the traveling public” while on duty. Instead, drop that gift card off when you drop off your donations at a food bank.
3. Donate to GoFundMe campaigns
More than 1,500 GoFundMe pages have been set up by furloughed federal employees to help them get through the shutdown. People are asking for help to pay their rent or mortgage, to buy food or even to purchase diapers. So, donating to these campaigns is a way to directly assist these employees’ needs. There’s something you need to be aware of, though. There’s an open question about whether these employees might be breaking federal ethics laws with their online fundraising. The law essentially says federal employees can’t supplement their salaries with outside income. (And the government office that could offer some clarity on this is effectively closed — because of the shutdown.) So, keep that in mind before you click and donate.
4. Donate diapers
While you are off dropping off food at the food bank, see if it’ll accept diapers or similar supplies. There also may be an organization in your area that will take diaper donations and give them to federal workers that need them.
In the next two weeks, the Greater DC Diaper Bank plans to distribute more than 200,000 diapers, many to government workers. That’s far more than what the group anticipated just a few months ago. The nonprofit says every dollar donated provides up to eight diapers. The organization also collects and distributes women’s hygiene products.
5. Donate pet food
Fido and Fluffy are just as much a part of the family as anyone, and they need to eat, too. Check with your area Humane Society or other animal organization to see if it’ll accept pet food donations. The Baltimore Humane Society is giving away thousands of dollars’ worth of pet food to federal employees hurt by the shutdown.