Valeria Lewis, member of the American Federation of Government Employess (AFGE) protesting the federal government shutdown at a rally in Boston

Metro - Derek Kouyoumjian

At Boston Logan International Airport, TSA Officer Betsy Costello notices an uptick in the number of people who say ‘thank you’ from sympathetic passengers as the federal budget impasse goes into its third week and longest government shutdown in U.S. history. The dispute has disrupted everything from air travel to tax collection and suspended pay for 800,000 government workers.

At the core of the issue is border security, specifically a wall or barrier between the United States and Mexico. President Donald Trump has asked lawmakers to provide him the $5.7 billion he is seeking for border security -- including a barrier --which has been denounced by the newly re-elected Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as ineffective and a waste of funds.

On Friday, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted 240-179 to restore funding for the Interior Department and the Environment Protection Agency, two of the agencies that have been shuttered since Dec. 22.

But Republicans who control the Senate, has so far, stood with Trump and insisted that any spending bills include money for his wall. The chamber wrapped up business for the week without taking up the House-passed bill.

 

We’re all working people. Average Joes and Janes,” Costello said. “My checkpoint is running business as usual, but people do talk about looking for work elsewhere. Many restaurants at the airport are giving us discounts. People say 'thank you; more. They know what we’re going through. But we’re all getting pretty depressed.”

She joined the crowd of unpaid federal workers who rallied at Post Office Square on Friday to protest President Donald Trump's demand for a $5.7 billion wall along the border with Mexico as well as demand the reopening of the government - and quickly. Workers carried signs reading “Don’t Wall Feds Out,” “Trump Lies Matter,” and other anti-shutdown slogans. They chanted their eagerness to work and discussed their despair while trying to stay warm in below freezing temperatures.

Furloughed federal workers said that morale witihin their respective agencies is plummeting.

“My job has nothing to do with the wall, border security, immigration,” said EPA worker Leiran Biton. “I have already had to start looking for other jobs because we don’t know how much longer this will last.”

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) told the heavily-bundled crowd that he is forgoing his paycheck until all federal employees are back on an active payroll.

“It is cruel and it is unconscionable that families must suffer because the president has a fantasy which he has been engaging in for the past two years,” Markey said.

Seeing the confusion and frustration, Pauli’s Italian restaurant owner, Paul Baker announced that he would provide free lunches for furloughed workers on Monday, January 14 from 1 to 3 p.m..

“My mother raised me to offer a helping hand whenever there are hard times or any tragedies,” Barker said. “It obviously doesn’t remove all the pain, but anything helps at the same time.”

On the sub shop’s Facebook page, Baker wrote that he has no interest in taking sides on the politics behind the shutdown. “It helps to know that people care,” Baker said. “It obviously doesn’t remove all the pain, but anything helps at the same time.” 

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