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Community musters support as federal employees prep for another missed payday

Community musters support as federal employees prep for another missed payday

As the partial government shutdown persists with no end in sight, workers going without pay might start running out of money before long.

Friday marks their second missed pay-day since the shutdown started in December.

Tri-Cities businesses and non-profits continued trying to pick up some of the slack.

Visit Tri-Cities (VTC) CEO and president Michael Novakovich says his team is especially grateful for the folks keeping the planes in the air right now.

“We're hoping the community is keeping its finger on the pulse of this,” he explained. “Because if this continues this isn't a one-and-done. We may need to sustain it.”

VTC’s board of directors wanted to help, but since the food bank has food covered, they had to get creative.

After reaching out to Tri-Cities Airport (PSC) they decided to give $50 gas-cards to airport employees not getting a paycheck.

“They've got to get back and forth to work and they're currently doing unpaid," he said.

And then he says they rallied the troops.

“We're reaching out to our members to take care of people here in our community that're working without pay currently,” Novakovich said referring to a press release distributed Thursday asking other businesses to get on board.

“We wanted to make sure we were supporting those people that're supporting this activity that has incredible economic impact,” he said.

But different federal agencies have different rules and restrictions on what they can accept.

PSC director Buck Taft told Action News TSA employees can have the gift cards, but FAA employees can’t.

Luckily, more than Visit Tri-Cities is reaching out to help.

[ RELATED STORY: Know someone affected by the shutdown? Local non-profit wants to help. ]

“We thought, 'Well, we should be helping them, too,'” recalls Fran Stanley.

Stanley heads Martha’s Cupboard, a non-profit through Richland’s Central Church providing things other than food.

Necessities everyone uses like soap, toilet paper and toothpaste.

“I said, 'How many employees do you have’,” she remembers asking Taft. “’He said 60, and I said, 'Okay, we'll bring over 60 family-bags'.”

Bags filled with everything from dish-soap to deodorant, and Stanley says they’re glad to do whatever they can to help.

“We feel very blessed to have these kinds of supplies,” she said. “That's what we do, we fulfill needs when people are in times of crisis, and they're in a bit of a crisis when they're not getting paid."

The non-profit's director says they're always accepting donations of money and hygiene items, any size or brand.

"We're not picky, we can use all of it," she laughed.

Novakovich says TSA and FAA employees are the lifeblood of Mid-Columbia’s tourism industry.

"It supports a little over 6,000 jobs. Half-a-billion dollars in economic impact," he said. "That’s money he says we can’t afford to lose."

“About $18.4 million is retained locally,” he said. “It lowers [our] tax burden and pays for all of the things that provide [our] quality of life in Tri-Cities.”

Other local businesses are also pitching in.

Frost Me Sweet Bistro & Bakery, The Clover Island Inn, Gesa and HAPO Credit Unions and even local utility agencies are trying to help unpaid federal workers make it through payday.

How to get involved:

  • Martha's Cupboard is accepting hygiene items in Richland.
    Where: Central Church, 1124 Stevens Dr. in Richland; look for 'Martha's Cupboard' rolling wooden cart in foyer, just right of the main entrance.
    When: Office hours Monday through Thursday, 9am to 5pm, Closed Friday.
    Phone: 509-943-1143
    Financial donations accepted on PayPal: Martha's Cupboard
  • Tri-Cities Food Bank (TCFB) is opening exclusively for federal employees Saturday; they'll also have financial advisers on site, answering questions. Federal employees must bring employment verification and proof of current address to qualify.
    Where: 424 West Deschutes Ave. in Kennewick.
    When: Saturday, Jan. 26 from 8am to 3pm.
    Phone: 509-586-0688
    Financial donations accepted at Tri-Cities Food Bank: Donate

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Martha's Cupboard as Martha's Closet.

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