MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, FLA. (WSVN) - As Miami International Airport’s Terminal G resumes operations after remaining partially shut down during the weekend, committed South Floridians are reaching out to those affected by what has become the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
7News cameras captured Transportation Security Administration workers at the Chef Creole restaurant inside MIA, Monday afternoon.
Wilkinson Sejour, the owner of the restaurant, said they are offering free food to furloughed TSA employees.
“These people are here every day,” he said. “It’s not like they don’t want to work. They want to work, but they’re hey just aren’t getting paid.”
Chef Creole handed out more than 300 free meals on Monday.
The show of generosity on day 24 of the shutdown takes place hours after U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., met with furloughed airport workers and representatives.
The congresswoman said it’s time to act, and the clock is ticking.
“We must reopen the government,” she said during Monday morning’s meeting.
Wasserman Schultz called the shutdown over President Donald Trump’s border wall a “boondoggle.” She claims the government shutdown is jeopardizing people’s lives, and Trump is bringing the government to its knees.
“The government should not be closed just so that the president can be allowed to throw a temper tantrum over his border wall,” she said.
Union representatives said they are doing their best to keep the skies safe under tremendous personal pressure.
“People are worried and stressed and spending a lot of their time thinking about, ‘How am I going to make it? How am I going to pay my bills?'” said Bill Kisseadoo, a representative with the National Air Traffic Control Association.
Long lines at airport terminals may be the least concerning casualty of the congressional stalemate.
Federal aviation inspector Robert Guevara said they are on pause as well.
“The last layer of safety between the American flying public and the government has been removed,” he said.
Employees on back pay with be paid for all their time worked but not until the government reopens.
For some, bills are piling up.
“Single parents that are worried about paying the mortgage, worried about day care, when they have to come to work and how they’re going to pay their day care and all the other expenses that come around with that,” said Kisseadoo.
“Things are a little bit confusing up there in Washington, and [these workers] have to pay the price for it? It really doesn’t make any sense,” said Sejour.
The strained situation at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport led TSA to host food drives for employees who are unable to pay for groceries, while some employees are considering a walkout.
“I just feel that if we don’t reopen the government soon, they’re going to have big problems there at Fort Lauderdale Airport,” said Paul Scaglione with the American Federation of Government Workers.
At Miami International Airport, traveler Ruam Cos said he has noticed a difference in wait time.
“The lines were pretty long with TSA,” he said.
Some entry-level employees said they’re living paycheck to paycheck, and every little bit helps.
“The least that we can do is say, ‘Hey, you’re not doing good now, but we can do it, we can help you, so let’s do it,'” said Sejour.
Meanwhile, TSA officials stressed that standards are still the same. A tweet from a spokesperson read in part, “Most importantly, security standards remain uncompromised at our nation’s airports.”
But even those in federal aviation expressed a growing sense of distress.
“I have told my loved ones not to fly until this thing is over,” said Guevara.
When asked if Democrats would cave and fund the wall, Wasserman Schultz said no, but she is on her way to Washington D.C. to meet with Republican leaders to work on a compromise to reopen the government.
Farm Share is also offering free food and assistance to furloughed Floridians.
Sejour said Chef Creole plans to give out free meals to TSA employees for at least the next week.
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