When Americans are in trouble, other Americans step up to help. Whether it's disasters like hurricanes, floods and fires, running a neighbor to a doctor appointment, helping out in the yard or pitching in to baby-sit. That's who we are, or at least, it's what I choose to believe.
It's also a disaster to work without pay or be furloughed through utterly no fault of your own.
So, it's great to see individuals and businesses reach out a helping hand to the 800,000 federal workers who find themselves unwitting pawns in a game of "who blinks first."
According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Cleveland-Elyria metro area is home to nearly 12,500 federal workers. That makes us among the top 30 cities in the country with a significant federal workforce. Not all are affected by this shutdown, but some of those who are include members of the Coast Guard — the only branch of the military at work with no pay — and law enforcement agencies including the FBI, ATF, DEA and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. NASA, including our own John Glenn Research Center is closed, while air traffic controllers in Oberlin and TSA personnel at our airports work without pay.
A GoFundMe effort to provide a meal for the 80 TSA employees at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport exceeded its $1,000 goal by more than 350 percent in less than 24 hours. Cleveland native John Prusak, who frequents the airport for business travel, started it as a simple gesture of support and thanks. More than 116 had contributed $3,600 by 10 a.m. Saturday — and the numbers were still increasing.
USO of Northern Ohio is taking donations for local Coast Guard families. Nonperishable items like diapers, cleaning products and laundry soap as well as gas cards to get them back and forth to work and grocery gift cards for perishable food items can be dropped at Brook Park Recreation Center, 17400 Holland Road, Brook Park. It is the only designated West Side drop-off location at this point.
Lago East Bank in The Flats is providing free spaghetti and meatball dinners to federal workers and their families during the shutdown. Dozens of restaurants across the country, but especially in the hard-hit Washington, D.C. area where many federal workers live, are also offering free or discounted meals.
Greater Cleveland Food Bank will also provide food for affected workers.
AT&T and several cell phone companies are working with customers to ensure their service is not interrupted. Car maker Toyota has pledged to help them as well.
Huntington Bank is offering a “low-rate, quick loan program ” for customers who are federal employees. Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo are working with customers by waiving or reversing late payments for mortgages and/or credit cards and are offering other services to help alleviate financial stresses for families impacted by the shutdown. So is Quicken Loans. Notably, Chase also is helping customers who do business with a federal agency.
It's estimated as many as 4 million people serve as government contractors working as self-employed independent contractors or for businesses or nonprofit organizations awarded government contracts. Not all are impacted by the shutdown, but some who are include scientists, engineers, researchers, archeologists, IT specialists and computer programmers. It may come as a surprise that they are also administrative assistants, janitors, cooks, security personnel and prison guards. There is no guarantee they will be paid anything at all once the shutdown ends.
The suggestion that a garage sale or dog walking will keep workers solvent is idiotic.
As I write this, it's Saturday, 11:15 a.m., and Prusak's GoFundMe solicitation to feed Cleveland TSA folks has increased another $180. That is a rate of about $2 a minute.
Oh, that our government leaders — and I mean all of them — be struck with the same creativity and dedication to get our government reopened.