Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Officer Melita Dillard picked up some free food after her Friday shift checking bags at JFK Airport.
The single mother from Canarsie says she's doing whatever she can to put food on the table now that she's not getting paid because of the partial government shutdown.
"Food banks, local pantries, anything that will help," she said.
On this day, her union filled a U-Haul with groceries to guarantee all 2,000 TSA workers at JFK Airport have food for the weekend.
"It's very helpful," TSA Officer Marco Cebie said. "Oh my God, it's hard. You have got to budget, you have go to find out how you're going to pay the bills, you have rent."
TSA officers make between $35,000 and $43,000 a year. They haven't been paid since December.
"It's stressful, to be honest, and it was right after the holiday season when the shutdown happened," TSA Officer Melissa Anderson said. "It's been pretty busy for us, and we have to keep our head on straight."
They also have to stay healthy and come to work or they can lose their jobs during the shutdown. But that's becoming more and more difficult for many.
On some days, the number of TSA agents calling out sick is more than twice the normal rate:
- The TSA reports that on January 14, 6.8 percent of TSA workers took an unscheduled absence, versus 2.5 percent on the comparable day from 2018.
- The TSA reports that on January 15, 6.1 percent of TSA workers took an unscheduled absence, versus 3.7 percent on the comparable day from 2018.
- The TSA reports that on January 16, 6.1 percent of TSA workers took an unscheduled absence, versus 5 percent on the comparable day from 2018.
- The TSA reports that on January 17, 6.4 percent of TSA workers took an unscheduled absence, versus 3.8 percent on the comparable day from 2018.
"It's not that they're calling out sick. It's a financial issue," TSA National Union President Hydrick Thomas told NY1. He explains that some of his 45,000 members can't afford gas or make their car payments now.
Thomas wants to know what the government expects people to do. He said he asked the TSA to help with his members' transportation costs, but the union was still waiting for an answer. Thomas warns that things will only get worse for the workers and the flying public.
TSA Officer Angelica Bravo can't imagine how it could get worse for her. Her husband works for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, so he's not getting paid either. The Far Rockaway couple has three children and just applied for food stamps.
"I never really saw myself ever having to apply for it," she said. "It's kind of hard doing that. Now that means we're at the lowest, you know. We hit rock-bottom. We don't have anything."
The TSA is providing all workers with a one-time payment of $500 this week. The TSA Council 100, a division of the Association Federal Government Employees, plans on handing out more food at JFK this weekend and at LaGuardia Airport next week.