Private sector steps up to help government employees

FAR WEST TEXAS – Today is the 26th day of Trump’s government shutdown – the longest in the nation’s history – but Marfa residents and some of her shops and restaurant owners have stepped up to help government employees who are working without pay or who have been furloughed.

Small financial accounts have been set up at Frama, Aster Cafe, Marfa Burrito and the Pizza Foundation for federal employees to receive free goods during the shutdown, according to Nick Terry and Maryam Amiryani.

If you would like to contribute any amount to these accounts, they are welcome, the couple said. Just say the donation is for the federal employees (los federales at Marfa Burrito) who come in during the shutdown.

“I’m told it goes a long way for their morale,” Terry said.

In addition, Strong Barber & Salon in Marfa is reaching out to federal workers. “Any government workers on furlough are welcomed to come into Strong Barber and Salon for your haircuts,” Johnella Strong posted on Facebook. “Money tight? No worries, pay when you get paid. Just show some documentation of service. Badge, PIV, etc.”

There’s more.

Rio Grande Electric Co-op CEO Roger Andrade announced that Rio Grande Electric Cooperative (RGEC) will allow government employees, whose paychecks are suspended during the current government shutdown, to defer payment of up to two Rio Grande Electric Coop bills, until such time as governmental pay resumes, or March 21, whichever comes first.

Those wanting to request this delayed payment option, must apply prior to a bill becoming in arrears, by contacting their local RGEC office, completing a short promissory form, and providing a government paystub as evidence of need.

No interest or penalty will accrue, as long as the terms of the delayed payment agreement are met.

At The Bean in Presidio, owner Hector Armendariz said he’s offered to set up tabs for Border Patrol agents, CBP, ICE and port officers working without pay, in addition to civil employees on furlough.

So far, none have asked for the help, and business remains steady in a town where hundreds of its residents are government employees.

Terry added that he’d recently spoken with a local Border Patrol public affairs person, who confirmed they are not being paid and admitted that morale is low. He said that if you see an agent, or any federal employee, and express your frustration about the shutdown and how you are especially sorry for them, it goes a long way these days.

There’s been a little light shed on Big Bend National Park.

Using revenue from recreation fees, the park has resumed routine basic custodial services and trash removal. This has allowed the re-opening of Old Maverick Road, Santa Elena Canyon trail, and restrooms/vault toilets that have previously been closed.

And thanks to Big Bend Natural History Association, the Panther Junction Bookstore is now open daily from 9am-5pm. Stop by for basic information and educational book sales.

Here’s what’s open at the park:

The Chisos Mountains Lodge, operated by Forever Resorts, is open.

The Rio Grande Village RV hookups camping area, operated by Forever Resorts, is also open.

Camper stores at the Chisos Basin, Panther Junction, Rio Grande Village, and Castolon are open, and service stations at Panther Junction and Rio Grande Village are open.

However, no park ranger services are as yet available.

The park is still unable to issue permits, conduct educational programs, staff visitor centers, campground check-in/check- out, maintain roads or trails, or provide visitor information and trip planning.

Emergency services remain available, but response times may be delayed.


Chisos Basin, Rio Grande Village, and Cottonwood Campgrounds are closed.

There is no overnight camping in the park.

The Boquillas Port of Entry remains closed.