As Shutdown Drags On, Some Step Up to Help Unpaid Federal Workers

Haydee Guzman, an accounts management employee at the Internal Revenue Service, is receiving no paycheck and has nine mouths to feed: seven children, her medically disabled husband and herself. The predicament pushed her to a food bank in San Antonio, where they live.

“I didn’t want to wait until I would be completely out of funds,” said Ms. Guzman, 46. “Let me not wait too long to try to get this type of assistance because we don’t know how long this is going to be.”

Across the United States, the response has been one of worry, warmth and spontaneous action.

Transportation Security Administration officers are reporting that airline passengers have offered words of encouragement, hugs, homemade casseroles, gift cards and even cash — despite airport slowdowns caused by an increase in sick calls by unpaid workers.

“We had one lady offer an agent money,” said Kirk P. Skinner, the acting federal security director at Tampa International Airport, who has been working without pay. “The agent said no, so she just dropped a $5 bill on the ground,” he said. The money was deposited in the lost-and-found bin.

“We have a lot of hurricanes around here, obviously, and the response to this has been much more like the response in the aftermath of a hurricane than a shutdown,” added Mr. Skinner, a former Marine who likened his task to keeping up troop morale.

Businesses in areas with a substantial federal work force have responded with similar generosity. They have offered freebies or steep discounts on nearly everything rented or sold — meals, groceries, laser tag, bowling, flight school, go-kart rentals, zoos, museums, mini-golf, massages, movie and theater performances and gym memberships.