With government shutdown dragging, food pantry opens for unpaid Tampa airport workers

Airports, non-profits, and private businesses across the Tampa Bay area are feeling the effects of the government shutdown, just as hundreds of thousands of federal workers at shuttered offices missed their first paychecks.

Tampa International Airport says nearly all of their 600 TSA workers are reporting for duty, knowing they won't get paid for their most-recent two weeks of work, but assuming they'll get back pay whenever the shutdown ends.

"We want to make sure that they feel like they are very much a part of our family," said airport spokeswoman Emily Nipps.

While not responsible for paying TSA, CBP or FAA workers -- who help move 60,000 daily passengers through TIA -- the airport is stepping forward.  They announced a pop-up pantry supplied by the United Way and Feeding Tampa Bay for those living paycheck to paycheck.

"These are people who really need the assistance. If they don't have a paycheck, it really makes a difference. They may not have anything in savings," said Nipps. "They may be worried about how to put food on the table."

Mike Bishop, the founder of Big Storm Brewing in Clearwater, has a batch of new seasonal beers he is hoping to begin distribution of. But he can't until the Treasury Department's Tax and Trade Bureau approves their new labels. 

The bureau is closed until the shutdown is over.

"Innovation is the key to our industry. You need to have continual innovative products or you kind of get lost on the wayside," said Bishop. "If we can't deliver on a product that we have already told one of our customers that we will deliver on, it is just some egg on our face."

The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay has more sober needs. 

They take calls 24 hours-a-day from those who are suicidal or in other kinds of desperate need. They also get $164,000 monthly from several arms of the Department of Health and Human Services. 

The government provides 12 percent of their funding; they have enough cash to survive until the end of February. 

"There will be someone to pick up the phone, I just don't know how fast they will be able to pick up the phone," said executive director Clara Reynolds.

At TIA, they are also asking the electric and bus companies to help their employees with their bills and bus passes as this shutdown goes on. 

HART has agreed to provide day passes for workers affected.