OUR VIEW: Compassion, generosity saves us all

On Friday, the first of some 420,000 federal workers nationwide received paychecks with zeros where their wages used to be.

On Tuesday, more federal workers will receive the same empty checks.

It isn’t that they aren’t working. They are doing their jobs.

It’s that their employer won’t pay them.

Others have been furloughed. They are willing to work but aren’t allowed to and so they aren’t getting paid either.

The federal government could pay its employees — and stave off disasters created by the lack of a workforce — but Congress and the President of the United States are embroiled in a disagreement about the president’s condition of funding government agencies: $5.7 billion for a wall or barrier on the nation’s southern border with Mexico.

President Donald Trump won’t sign legislation that allows the federal government to pay its debts to its employees unless it contains his requested billions for a wall. Congressional Democrats refuse to provide the funds for a wall.

The impasse that began Dec. 22 has now become the longest period of shutdown in the history of the nation — with no end in sight.

No matter who you blame for the deadlock that has led to a partial government shutdown, one thing is very clear: Hard-working people are suffering.

As of September, the North Olympic Peninsula had 532 federal employees — 371 in Clallam County and 161 in Jefferson County.

These are our friends and neighbors.

Without their pay, they must rely on savings. When those are gone, what will they do?

Most of us are said to be two paychecks from poverty.

That doesn’t give our neighbors much time.

Already some in the community have offered help. Among them:

• The Port Angeles Food Bank, which will host an extra distribution for federal workers with documentation of their status from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday.

• The Port Angeles School District, which is urging families affected by the shutdown to apply for free and reduced meals based on their current financial situation.

• Patricia’s Pet Shop in Port Angeles, which will make sure Coast Guard families who are unable to pay for pet food get what they need.

• Phoenix Dragon Martial Arts in Port Angeles, which is not charging students whose families have been affected by the shutdown.

• Medical staff at Olympic Medical Center who — independently of the hospital — have been funding gift cards for Coast Guard families to buy food.

• Farms Reach Cafe in Chimacum, which is offering a free drink (no alcohol) to each federal employee who comes into the restaurant.

Banks such as Chase and Wells Fargo have said on their websites they will help customers who are federal employees.

These are only some examples of acts of generosity occurring all over Clallam and Jefferson counties.

We applaud all those who have opened their hearts and dug into their reserves to help others.

Let us know what you are doing. We will get the word out and do what we can to facilitate your support of your neighbors.

It’s time to stand together to protect us all from harm.

The fight may be focused on the southern border, but our crisis is right here.

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