When the government shuts down, but philanthropy doesn’t

Local federal workers get helping hand from City of LB, residents and businesses

Design by Daniel Green | Signal Tribune

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Local federal employees– such as Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers at Long Beach Airport (LGB)– returned to their paid work status this week, after President Donald Trump and Congress ended what is, to date, the longest government shutdown in United States history.

Lasting 35 days, the deadlock, which spurred from Trump’s insistence on funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, ended Jan. 25. It was good news for the hundreds of thousands of people across the country who were affected by the shutdown, many of whom had missed two paychecks.

In an effort to make up for that delayed pay, the City of Long Beach has stepped in to assist those who have faced sudden financial challenges resulting from the shutdown. Last week, officials announced the City would extend relief opportunities to federal workers concerned about paying utility bills, parking citations and other billing services by providing them with payment-arrangement assistance.

“We are in the middle of the longest federal government shutdown in history,” said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, in a Jan. 17 press release. “It’s important we help provide support to our fellow public servants in their time of need.”

This week, Kevin Lee, public-affairs officer for the City of Long Beach, said it is unknown just how many federal workers have taken advantage of the City’s offer since such calls for assistance are not tallied.

“We help many people who are in need of temporary support throughout the year and were happy to provide assistance to those affected by the shutdown,” Lee wrote Wednesday, in response to the Signal Tribune’s emailed questions. “How the individuals are supported depends on what their needs are. If it is verified that the need is there, often, options include: delaying their payments until a further date when they can pay; waiving late fees within that time; and making sure their utilities don’t get shut off within that time. This is not the case every time and with everyone, as it depends on the particular case and need.”

Though many federal employees around the nation stayed home for four weeks, some continued to work without pay.

At Long Beach Airport, for example, TSA employees and air-traffic-control staff showed up to work without compensation, because of the critical nature of their jobs, according to city officials.

However, according to a press release the City issued this week, there has been an outpouring of support from the local community for those employees affected at LGB. The airport, residents, organizations and businesses have pitched in with donations to help alleviate some of the hardship that furloughed employees have faced.

“I am not surprised by the tremendous support offered by those who live and work in Long Beach,” Garcia wrote in a statement released Monday. “True to form, our community is proving that, when times are tough, we rally together. So, I am full of pride about the generosity they are showing furloughed federal workers at Long Beach Airport during this difficult time.”

Airlines and businesses at the airport, such as JetBlue, Southwest, Paradies Lagardère and Polly’s Coffee, have made contributions, officials said. Additionally, LGB has partnered with airport tenants, such as Signature Flight Support and Aeroplex Aviation, to provide meal vouchers for those federal employees to use at any restaurant in the concourse.

The airport also organized lunch courtesy of LGB’s newest eatery, Little Brass Café, for TSA staff and air-traffic employees. The lunch even featured a free performance by award-winning local musician Gregg Young.

Furthermore, donations poured in from California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), State Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), the Airport Advisory Commission and several passengers who were traveling through the airport, according to officials.

The nonprofit Food Finders also helped establish a food pantry with non-perishable items for the employees. FreeConferenceCall.com, a Long Beach-based business, has organized a gift-card drive, and the Hyatt will be providing meals for staff as well, city officials said.

“Air-traffic control and TSA are essential functions at LGB. It’s as simple as that,” said Jess Romo, Long Beach Airport director. “LGB recognizes the vital roles these individuals play here each and every day, but now especially, we thank them for the dedication and commitment to their professions and to keeping us safe.”

Information on how to contribute is available by contacting Long Beach Airport at (562) 570-2678 or at [email protected]

Long Beach customers impacted by the federal-government shutdown can call the following numbers for assistance with payment arrangements for utility services, parking citations and billing services:

• Utility services– (562) 570-5700
• Parking citations– (562) 570-6822
• Billing services for collections, ambulance and false alarms– (562) 570-7600