With the ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government being the longest on record, hundreds of thousands of federal workers and contactors across the country are either working without pay or forced to wait until their agencies resume operations. Seeking to alleviate their financial pinch, Masbia food pantry founder Alexander Rapaport and his father Yosef spent Monday evening in the terminals of LaGuardia Airport handing leaflets to TSA agents, offering them extended hours at Masbia’s three locations in the city.
By Sergey Kadinsky
“When was the last time that you’ve made a TSA agent smile? No one should ever feel embarrassed or at fault for needing assistance. Hard times come to everyone,” said Rapaport. After a couple of hours in one terminal, the Rapaports returned with more leaflets and volunteers, seeking to extend awareness of Masbia’s services beyond the TSA to other federal workers. “We are talking about more than 20,000 New Yorkers working without pay as a result of the shutdown. We have to get the information out and be ahead of the crisis.”
From his experience, Rapaport does not expect a long line of baggage screeners at Masbia’s Forest Hills pantry. He expects the average leaflet recipient to hang it on a fridge, keeping in mind the option of free grocery packages and hot meals.
A prolific social media user, Rapaport’s images of grassroots support for airport workers have received support from elected officials, who are using their profiles to spread the word. “With some federal employees now missing rent/mortgage payments, some even forced to ration insulin due to the inane cruelty of #TrumpShutdown, here’s one small ray of help: @Masbia is offering them food/groceries, with dignity & gratitude, as they always do,” wrote Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander. His colleague Chaim Deutsch also shared images of the Rapaports at LaGuardia Airport.
In the State Assembly, lawmakers also provided practical support for furloughed workers this week with a bill that extends their property tax payment deadlines. “This bill would provide relief via a property tax deadline extension for furloughed federal employees navigating the financial burden of living without pay until the government re-opens,” said Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, a co-sponsor of this bill.
Rapaport noted that in his effort to reach federal workers, volunteers are needed to walk around airport terminals and staff the pantries.
Masbia of Forest Hills, located at 105-47 64th Road, provides both grocery packages and hot dinners from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m., Sunday through Thursday. To volunteer for Masbia, visit masbia.org/volunteer.
By Sergey Kadinsky
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