Without a paycheck, federal employees forced to take out loans

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SEATAC, Wash. -- The phrase “living paycheck to paycheck” is a stark reality for so many Americans. Now, hundreds of thousands of federal workers are figuring out what to do now that the paycheck isn't coming.

Zenaida Samano is one of dozens of Transportation Security Administration agents at Sea-Tac Airport who is turning to credit unions to cover her expenses.

"I have rent to pay, I have bills to pay," she said. "I just need something that’ll keep me up."

Twenty-one days into the government shutdown, Friday is the first day she -- and 800,000 federal workers like her -- won’t get a paycheck.

"A lot of uncertainty," said Francisco Juarez, who is a Customs and Border Protection agent working in downtown Seattle. "Not really sure what’s going to happen. I’ve been with the government now for 22, 23 years: I’ve been through several furloughs. They’ve never been like this where I actually had to worry."

In just 48 hours, the Port of Seattle scrambled to put together a resource fair at Sea-Tac airport, helping federal workers with personal loans, utility bill relief and other resources.

"Rather than them having to try to figure that out all on their own, we wanted to bring that all here at the airport for them," Port of Seattle Commission President Stephanie Bowman said.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) visited with some of the workers after she landed at Sea-Tac from Washington, D.C.

She said her goal is to take their stories back to Congress and call on her Republican colleagues to pass a budget, even if the president threatens to veto.

"They’re doing their jobs as best as they can but you can just see it in how they talk about it, that the stress they’re having in their personal lives -- not being able to pay their bills, worried about their families -- it has to impact them, when we expect them to be completely focused on security when they’re here," Murray said.

In a shutdown spurred by a fight over border security, the speed of security at Sea-Tac could be compromised.

"I think the longer this goes on, yeah, we will start to see more folks calling in sick," Bowman said. "Again, they’re working without pay."

And they're wondering how much longer they can do it.

"I hope that it’s going to end very soon and that we can all get back on our feet," Samano said.

There will be another resource fair Monday from 12 to 5 p.m. at Sea-Tac airport. It’s open to all federal workers in the region in need of assistance while not getting paid.

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