On the twenty-first day of the partial government shutdown, federally-funded TSA officers came to work at Vermont's Burlington International Airport despite facing a painful reality: their biweekly paychecks would not arrive.
The partial shutdown began on Dec. 22 will become the longest in American history on Saturday, but Friday marks the first time that TSA agents will miss a regularly-scheduled payday. The shutdown is the result of an impasse between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats over the president's $5.7 billion request to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and has halted the paychecks of hundreds of thousands of government workers.
But, TSA agents are still required to show up to work, as they are considered essential employees.
How the TSA is dealing with the shutdown
"To see a zero balance in your bank account really hurts," said Anthony Morselli, an agent at the Vermont airport whose wife also works as an agent. "Some of us live paycheck to paycheck. Today would be payday and no money's coming in."
With two children to support, Morselli said that he and his wife simply can't afford to lose both of their paychecks at the same time. As a result, he's set up a GoFundMe fundraiser, asking for donations to sustain the family for as long as the shutdown lasts.
"Hopefully somebody will reach out and help us," he said. "I've gotten some, but not as much as we need."
Against the odds, spirits have remained mostly high at the airport since the shutdown began, according to Vermont TSA Director Bruce McDonald.
More: TSA no-shows? Miami airport to close a terminal early for 3 days amid government shutdown
"The most amazing thing to me is the phenomenally good attitude they've maintained through all this," McDonald said. Unlike workers at some airports across the country, agents in Burlington haven't called in sick any more than usual, McDonald said, and "they're treating the public with respect and gratitude."
McDonald added that travelers passing through the airport have shown their appreciation.
"Very often they'll stop one of the security officers and say, 'Thank you so much, we know you're going through a difficult time right now,'" he said.
Standing in the airport lobby, Jessica Gee, a teacher from Saranac Lake, N.Y., hoped that the president and congressional leaders could reach a compromise.
"I agree that we need security in our country," she said. "But it's not right that essential personnel who have to work are not getting paid."
Contact Nick Garber at 802-660-6500. Follow him on Twitter at @nick__garber.
This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: TSA agent creates GoFundMe page to cover his expenses amid government shutdown