Orlando airport collects food, supplies for federal employees working without pay

Donations can be dropped off near valet at Terminal A departures

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Orlando International Airport is collecting donations for a food pantry to help federal employees and contractors working without pay during the partial government shutdown.

The Airline Management Council is sponsoring the donation drive to help workers with the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Kenneth Scheele, Air Traffic Control Union Representative, said he received a paycheck Tuesday for $1.50 despite working on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

"There's a sense of just fatigue. We're just tired. The stress level is going up," Scheele said. "The stress level and just the anger, it's going to start to take an impact on people."

Airport employees not affected by the shutdown and the general public are encouraged to donate to the airport food pantry.

The airport is collecting nonperishable food items, toiletries and baby supplies. All items must be unopened. No other items, including cash and gift cards, will be accepted, according to a news release. 

The collection drive will be accepting donations from the general public from 9 to 11 a.m. and then again in the evening from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday. Items can be dropped off at the Valet Area located on the departure level of Terminal A. Airport employees will be there to accept donations.

Employees at the airport can drop off items Tuesday and Wednesday at the Frontier Airlines ticket counter located in the Terminal A ticket lobby.

FAA, TSA and CBP employees will be able to pick up items as soon as Thursday, airport officials said.

However, travelers should note that TSA workers cannot accept gifts directly from the traveling public due to the TSA ethics policy, according to the Washington Post.

Donating to drives organized by airports is the best way to ensure they receive the items.

Eric Adelson donated to the drive at OIA Wednesday morning. He said it's important to show support for federal workers.

"They spend their time and their energy to protect us and I think it's very important for them to know that we in the Orlando community support them very much," Adelson said.

For more financial relief options available for federal workers and contractors, click here.

Elsewhere in Florida, Tampa International Airport is partnering with two charities to open a food bank so federal workers not getting paid can get food and toiletries. At Miami International Airport, the owner of a Haitian restaurant is giving away free meals to TSA workers.

"Today, I had a loan bill that was due, the bill still came out even through my paycheck wasn't deposited on payday," said Doug Lowe, president of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialist union.

The union represents airway transportation safety specialists, including Lowe, who work on equipment in the air traffic control tower. Lowe said it's a high-stress job but their work helps bring aircraft in safely. He said he's worried about the younger employees without savings.

"Our employees are dealing with hardships, we got a guy who is fighting cancer so every month he's spending $600 on chemo," Lowe said. "How does he pay his rent and pay for his chemo? You just wish people didn't have to make those kind of decisions."

According to a statement by TSA officials Tuesday, the agency is experiencing an increasing number of workers calling in sick compared to the same date last year.

"TSA experienced a national rate of 6.8 percent of unscheduled absences compared to a 2.5 percent rate one year ago on the same day, Monday, January 15, 2018," according to the statement.

The airport workers are among the 800,000 federal workers affected by the shutdown that began Dec. 22.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.