On Friday, thousands of South Carolinians who work for the federal government aren't seeing paychecks for the second time because of the partial government shutdown.

In addition to the stress of household income being cut off, millions of dollars aren't flowing into the South Carolina economy.

Here's a snapshot of how politicians, employees and supporters of some of those agencies are responding to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, stretching into 35 days.

S.C. politicians

Republican Sens. Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham both voted for the President Donald Trump-backed proposal Thursday for $5.7 billion to build the border wall and reopen the government. It failed in the Senate 50-47.

Both also voted against the Democrats' plan to open the government through Feb. 8, but with no border wall funding. It failed 52-44, meaning the stalemate continues.

Afterward, Graham said the way forward is clear, calling for a three-week continuing resolution that includes a down payment on wall and barrier funding, and disaster relief the Democrats want, "showing good faith from both sides."

The state's two Democrats in Congress, Reps. Jim Clyburn and Joe Cunningham, insist the government reopen and for Trump to end the shutdown.

"This is one of the worst things I've seen since I have been in government. But this is one of the worst presidents I've seen," Clyburn said in blaming Trump for creating the impasse.

Federal employees

David Mollett, a vice president with the American Federation of Government Employees district that includes South Carolina, estimates up to 3,000 full-time workers are affected in the state from the nine federal departments under the shutdown order.

The most common issues he's hearing — in addition to no cash coming in — are the reality of people visiting a food pantry for the first time and child care. 

If the shutdown goes much longer, Mollett expects a "generation" of federal workers to be lost because of it, either by those opting against government employment or those with five years or less in the system opting to walk away.

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Employees with the Transportation Security Administration continue to work without pay at Charleston International Airport and other airports across the nation on Tuesday as the partial government shutdown enters its second month. Wade Spees/Staff

Charleston airport screeners

Steven Corey, federal security director for the Transportation Security Administration in South Carolina, said all operations are running normally and that employees are showing up. Few have called in to say they won't be coming to work.

So far, he said, there have been no disruptions in service across the Palmetto State because workers “are committed to their mission.”

If staffing levels begin to fall, Corey said the federal agency’s contingency plan is to shuffle workers from less busy airports to those with more passengers.

Agents say they are doing well for now financially, but Corey said if the shutdown continues, some will start to feel the sting in their ability to pay bills.

“If they miss another pay cycle, it’s going to be hurtful for some folks,” Corey said.

TSA employs 160 people at Charleston International Airport and 550 total in the state.

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About 700 Coast Guard members assigned to cutters, air patrol and buoy tenders in the Charleston Sector are among those are not getting paid. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

The Coast Guard

This week, multiple groups announced fundraisers and donation drives to help the more than 700 Coast Guard members assigned to cutters, air patrol and buoy tending in the Charleston Sector who are not getting paid.

Diapers, paper towels and toilet paper were among the specific items sought, according to one drive launched by the Charleston Police Department.

Earlier this week in Georgetown, a group of volunteers, church members and VFW and American Legion veterans presented food, donations and gift cards to about 40 Coast Guard members and their families, Paige Sawyer, one of the organizers, said.

The USCG Lowcountry Chief Petty Officer's Association has a Facebook page that lists community groups that are offering free services to Coast Guard members and some federal employees.

Loan/financial help 

Some lending institutions are working with cash-strapped furloughed workers.

Navy Federal Credit Union, which has five branches in the Charleston region, is offering interest-free loans ranging from $250 to $6,000 during the shutdown, with no fees or credit checks. It's available only to federal government worker who aren’t being paid and active-duty Coast Guard members.

To be eligible for the temporary assistance, borrowers must register and have their pay directly deposited to their accounts. Navy Federal said it will automatically deduct the loan balance once the government resumes direct payroll deposits.

North Charleston-based South Carolina Federal Credit Union, one of the largest in the state, said it’s working with members individually on payment plans, as well as what it called a “relief loan.”

“The loan is designed specifically for government workers who do not receive regularly scheduled payroll due to the shutdown and has very affordable terms,” Trey Gantt, senior vice president of lending services, said in a statement.

At Wells Fargo, the largest bank operating in South Carolina, said it too will assist borrowers who will have trouble making their loan payments. It also is offering to waive or reverse certain fees for affected federal workers.

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Fort Sumter draws hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

Fort Sumter/Moultrie

Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island and the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site in Mount Pleasant closed to visitors Dec. 22.

But after a few weeks of running poorly attended harbor tours that could only pass by — rather than stop at — Fort Sumter, the tour company that shuttles visitors to the fort decided to reopen the site themselves. An initial donation from Fort Sumter Tours kept the fort open for eight days. That assistance ran out this week, but the company donated again to support Fort Sumter’s operations through Tuesday.

During this time, visitors to Fort Sumter still get the full experience. Visitors peruse information about Civil War-era Charleston at Liberty Square and purchase trinkets at the fort’s gift shop. A National Park Service docent, whose pay is temporarily covered by the tour company’s donation, is available to brief guests on the fort’s history and answer questions.

Rick Mosteller, a partner with Fort Sumter Tours, said if necessary, the company will make additional donations to keep the fort open.

Fort Sumter Tours’ donation only covers Fort Sumter and the Liberty Square center. The Charles Pinckney Historic Site and Fort Moultrie remain closed to all visitors and are not being staffed during the shutdown.

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NOAA, Weather Service

Federal research considered key to predicting hurricanes and leasing the ocean bottom offshore has stopped. Parking lots are empty at the Hollings Marine Laboratory and the federal Coastal Ocean Science Center at Fort Johnson on James Island.

The lot is full at the National Weather Service office in North Charleston. The 22-person forecasting center is at full staff, but they are working without pay.

Local Environmental Protection Agency offices are mostly empty. It’s too soon to gauge the impact on health or environmental protections.


The Charleston Housing Authority also is feeling shutdown effects. It has seen $3 million in capital improvement funds frozen, along with a $360,000 grant to help residents find work.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a backup plan that will keep the authority funded through February, but if the shutdown continues into March, that could pose problems, particularly for residents in the Section 8 program, Authority CEO Don Cameron said.

Bureau of Prisons

At Bennettsville Federal Correctional Institution — one of four federal prisons in South Carolina — some employees are carpooling and relying on hot meal donations and a food pantry set up at the prison.

Clellan Tyson, chief steward of the Bennettsville prison employee union, said the institution employs more than 300 workers. Many of them are struggling to fund necessities such as day care and gas for their long commutes to work.

Strangers have pitched in more than $3,700 to a GoFundMe for George Little, a Bennettsville correctional officer who provides for several members of his extended family. Little said he’s grateful for the outside help. He knows many of his co-workers haven’t been as fortunate.

“Their savings will eventually run out,” he said. “We have people right now that are sleeping in their cars because they’re having to choose between (paying for) gas and coming to work.”

Department of Agriculture

This week actually brought movement within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which ordered about 9,700 of its workers, including about 140 in South Carolina, back to work without pay.

The agency’s decision came as the lingering shutdown was putting farmers in an increasingly difficult spot, said Harry Ott, CEO of the South Carolina Farm Bureau.

“I have gotten multiple phone calls from farmers who can’t close out their application for a loan for 2019,” he said. “Until they get those loans approved, they can’t make plans.”

The assistance to farmers hit hardest by the ongoing trade spat with China also has been on hold, he said.

Free services to workers

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Members of the U.S. Coast Guard Chase Garrett, Joseph Wright and Rodney Crowley, who are working without pay during the federal government shutdown collect fresh produce as the Lowcountry Food Bank holds a pop-up Fresh for All food distribution Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Charleston. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

Numerous venues around the region have announced free access or items especially for federal employees affected by the shutdown order, most of which can be obtained by showing a federal ID card or badge.

The Lowcountry Food Bank has made a special effort to make foodstuffs available to furloughed workers, call 843-747-8146.

The Charleston Animal Society is offering free pet food for shutdown families in need,: 843-747-4849.

Schuyler Kropf, Andy Shain, Caitlin Byrd, Bo Petersen, Angie Jackson, Robert Behre, Warren Wise, John McDermott, Emily Williams and Mike Majchrowicz contributed to this report. 

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