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A food bank helps TSA agents.
SMALL GOVERNMENT

The businesses and organizations stepping in to help the federal workers during the shutdown

Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Geopolitics reporter

The longest government shutdown in US history reached its 35th day on Friday (Jan. 25).

On Thursday, the Senate failed to pass two bills that could have ended it. For the 800,000 federal employees who haven’t been paid since the beginning of the shutdown, today will be the second time they miss their paycheck.

A big swath of the government has been closed since Dec. 22, after Donald Trump and Congressional Democrats failed to reach a deal on a new spending bill. The president has said he won’t sign anything that doesn’t include $5.7 billion for a border wall between the US and Mexico; Democrats have refused to grant the money.

Nearly half a million government workers, those whose jobs are considered essential, are working without pay. The rest have been furloughed.

Even in the event that Congress reaches a last-minute solution this weekend, it would take more than a week for most federal employees to get paid, and three to six months more to sort out overtime, says J. David Cox, the national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, a federal worker union. For contract workers, the situation is worse, as they won’t get the back pay they lost.

While the White House and Democrats continue to fight over wall funding, private citizens and organizations small and large are rallying to help the workers the shutdown has left without pay.

Crowdfunding campaigns

Affected workers and their families have started dozens of crowdfunding campaigns to raise money to pay their bills. Crowdfunding platform GoFundMe started its own campaign, which has so far raised over $366,000 of a $400,000 goal. The donations, says GoFundMe chief executive Rob Solomon, will go to several nonprofits, including #ChefsForFeds, which provides meals to furloughed federal workers, and the National Diaper Bank Network, which is supporting parents affected by the shutdown. The breakdown of funds per organization hasn’t yet been disclosed.

Some government employees are also turning to internet marketplaces to sell whatever goods they can to earn some extra cash.

Help from banks

Several banks, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase, have started programs to help federal workers who have been furloughed or are working without pay. Some public utilities and providers of other basic services, such as T-Mobile, are doing the same. Here are some companies where those in need can request assistance:

CompanyKind of supportContact Info
Bank of AmericaFinancial assistance844-219-0690
ChaseAdvice on financial hardship888-356-0023
Congressional Federal Credit Union“Relief Line of Credit”800-491-2328
DiscoverMay reverse missed payment fees800-347-2683
Navy Federal Credit UnionInterest-free loans888-842-6328
US Employees Credit UnionInterest-free loans800.682.6075
Wells FargoForbearance1-800-TO-WELLS
AT&TOpen to negotiate flexible payment1 (800) 331-0500
SprintOpen to negotiate flexible payment888-211-4727
T MobileOpen to negotiate flexible payment877-746-0909
VerizonOpen to negotiate flexible payment866-266-1445

However, this won’t help people maintain their credit scores if they are reported as delinquent on their bills.

Local and national businesses

Businesses across the country are offering free food and services to affected workers. The solidarity is everywhere: from New England restaurants, to Cleveland establishments, to small businesses in Hampton Roads, Virginia. A quick search online will help locate local resources.

Several national businesses also have deals and offers for federal employees struggling with the shutdown. For instance, AirBnb has pledged to pay $100 extra for every three nights a federal worker hosts one of their guests.

Food and comfort

Food banks around the country have been providing help, as have diaper banks and other organizations that support families. Other groups are offering to lift people’s spirits. Stressed-out federal employees can get free pet therapy and help with pet supplies through Philadelphia-based Morris’s Animal Refuge and Lucky Dog Animal Rescue in Washington,DC, or catch a movie or a show at several theaters giving away tickets. There’s even a beer fund that will pay affected workers’ tab wherever they are in the country.

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