New York FBI Has Started An Unofficial ‘Food Bank’ For Unpaid Agents During Government Shutdown

January 17, 2019, 8:25 PM UTC

As the government shutdown continues, leaving some 800,000 furloughed federal workers with $5,000 (or more) in missed wages, many unpaid employees and their families are relying on the generosity of others to scrape by.

In fact, New York Times reporter Adam Goldman tweeted Thursday that the New York FBI has created a “food bank” to help feed its unpaid agents, noting, “the public does not realize the impact that a shutdown has on the FBI or on our families.”

Although the FBI Office of Public Affairs declined to comment, FBI Agents Association (FBIAA) spokesperson Paul Nathanson told Fortune that agents were indeed helping each other acquire food for their families.

“I wouldn’t call it a food bank—it’s agents and others in these offices taking care of each other in times of need,” Nathanson said. “It’s great that this has to be done, but it is not surprising that the FBI family has come together to support each other.”

There have been calls to feed unpaid FBI agents, among other furloughed workers, across the country. “They’re kinda a proud bunch so if u ask an FBI employee they’ll likely say all is ok, in spite of $0 pay,” said Salt Lake City-based reporter Debbie Dujanovic in a tweet asking community members to donate extra groceries.

The FBIAA, which provides support and advocacy for 14,000 active and former FBI Special Agents, has sent petitions to politicians including President Donald Trump to fund the DOJ and FBI immediately so that workers can do their jobs.

“Next week, the nearly 13,000 FBI Special Agents will miss their second paycheck due to the government shutdown,” Nathanson said. “One month without pay.”

Of course, FBI agents aren’t the only federal workers who have relied on food banks to feed their families while many others work without pay.

Food pantries across the country have been opening their doors to furloughed federal workers. In fact, NPR reports that 400 families stopped by the food pantry that the Massachusetts Military Foundation set up specifically for members of the Coast Guard in the first day it was open, taking home a total of 30,000 pounds of free food.

“We’ve contacted TSA and let them know we are able to provide food,” Sari Vatske, the executive vice president of Feeding South Florida, told the Sun Sentinel. “We are working with the Coast Guard now as well.”

Other community members have contributed to furloughed federal workers in other ways. CNBC reported that 1,800 GoFundMe campaigns have emerged to help some of the 800,000 furloughed workers have enough to get by. As of Wednesday, donors gave over $400,000.

But the FBI has raised other concerns about lack of government funding.

Nathan Catura, the national president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, told Reuters that many FBI agents working (sans pay) on anti-terrorism investigations have been forced to do their own background checks since analysts who typically pull criminal records and other materials haven’t been able to come into work and assist.

“That slows everything down,” Catura said.

Cybersecurity experts have also expressed concern that the shutdown has essentially “laid out the welcome mat” for hackers and other nefarious actors.

“Operations are being hindered,” Tom O’Connor, president of the FBI Agents Association, told CNN. “We believe strongly that the FBI, as a national security organization, we need to be fully funded.”