Businesses offer furlough freebies, shutdown specials and assistance to federal workers

Kelly Tyko

Call them "shutdown specials" and "furlough freebies."

While a deal to end the second-longest government shutdown appears to be far off, some businesses are offering furloughed federal workers a little relief ranging from free meals, restaurant discounts to deferring payments and zero-interest loans.

Around 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or working without pay since Dec. 21 and won't receive their next paychecks until the government reopens. 

Friday is the first payday most furloughed employees will miss.

"We’re here to help ease the burden of trying to pay bills on time during the shutdown," AT&T said in a statement. "As long as the shutdown is in effect, our customer service team will waive late fees, provide extensions and coordinate with you on revised payment schedules."

Other major wireless providers including Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon are also willing to work with affected government employees.

Here are the businesses helping out:

More: Tax refunds will go out despite government shutdown, with early filing date on Jan. 28

More: 'We're struggling': Federal shutdown is impacting everyday Americans in unexpected ways

More: Government shutdown: How it impacts what you eat from food safety to beer

Assistance programs

Here are some of the announced assistance programs. Other creditors including credit card companies, lenders and loan servicers also have assistance options available. It is better to request help before missing payments.

Bank of America: The bank's Client Assistance Program is offering personalized financial assistance and can be reached at 844-219-0690.

Chase: The bank announced its efforts to help its customers who are U.S. government employees on Dec. 22 and is encouraging customers to call a special care line at 888-356-0023 to discuss available hardship programs. The help also is available for customers who do business with a federal agency that is also affected, Chase said in a statement.

Congressional Federal Credit Union: Furloughed employees and those working without pay can apply for the “Relief Line of Credit” with an interest-free rate over 60 days.

FedChoice: The Federal Credit Union has several options listed in its Furlough Center at www.fedchoice.org.

Navy Federal Credit Union: Impacted union members who have direct deposit of their government pay may be eligible for interest-free loans. Government contractors may be eligible if their direct deposit is received directly from the federal government and will be impacted by a government shutdown. 

U.S. Employees Credit UnionImpacted union members who have direct deposit of their government pay may be eligible for interest-free loans. According to its website, the Government Shutdown Loan is to be “repaid in 60 days or when the government processes back pay, whichever is sooner.”

Wells Fargo: The bank says it "will work with individuals and business banking customers whose income is disrupted as a result of the shutdown." Customers should call 1-800-TO-WELLS, or the number on their credit card, debit card or statement for assistance, or visit any Wells Fargo branch. Mortgage, loan, and credit customers may qualify for forbearance or other payment assistance programs based on their individual circumstances, the company posted on its website.

Unemployment benefits: According to a U.S. Office of Personnel Management fact sheet, federal employees may be eligible for "Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees," which is administered by state unemployment insurance agencies. The fact sheet notes "the law of the state in which an individual’s official duty station in Federal civilian service is located will be the state law under which an individual’s eligibility for benefits is determined."

Wireless providers

AT&T: Customers affected by the shutdown are eligible for flexible payment options to keep service including cellphones, television and internet running. Make payment arrangements online at www.att.com.

Sprint"Our Care reps will coordinate with qualified customers and our financial team to find a payment option that works and keep your service uninterrupted during the government shutdown," Sprint said in a statement. Impacted customers should call 888-211-4727 or do an online chat at www.sprint.com.

T-Mobile: Short-term account assistance can be tailored to meet the needs of customers who are federal workers, T-Mobile said, noting options include payment deferral and "flexible payment options" that allow customers to spread their service payments over time." The company is also offering support to government account customers. Customers can call T-Mobile Customer Care to discuss options at 611 from a T-Mobile device or 877-746-0909 from any phone. 

Verizon: The company announced flexible payment options and a "Promise to Pay" program that can be set up in the My Verizon app or website. Further assistance is available by calling 866-266-1445.

Washington D.C.-area deals

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema: Four Virginia locations are offering federal employees free movies throughout the month of January to “help cure the Government Shutdown blues,” the company posted on Facebook. The free tickets are available Mondays through Thursdays for federal employees when they present a federal ID at the box office. The Ashburn, Woodbridge, Charlottesville and Winchester locations are participating in the offer.

America Eats Tavern: The Georgetown restaurant is giving away free sandwiches to furloughed workers from 2 to 5 p.m. daily. One of Chef José Andrés' six D.C.-area restaurants, Andrés is pledging to feed workers until the shutdown ends.

&pizza: From 6 to 8 p.m. daily, government employees with a valid government-issued ID get a free pizza.

Baked by Yael: The bakery across from the National Zoo is offering federal employees and contractors free coffee for the duration of the current partial government shutdown, while supplies last, according to the bakery's website. The bakery also is offering a free bagel sandwich or small soup each weekday while supplies last to essential Zoo employees "who must stay at work to keep the animals safe," the website notes.

Beefsteak: Show a government ID to get a free Beefsteak Burger 2 to 5 p.m. daily through the end of the furlough.

District DoughnutFurloughed employees get a free cup of coffee, dubbed Furlough Joe, with any purchase.

Jaleo by José Andrés: Furloughed workers get a free Flauta de Jamon Serrano, which is a Spanish sandwich, from 2 to 5 p.m. daily in its D.C., Maryland and Virginia locations.

Mad Fox Brewing Company: The shutdown special at the Falls Church, Virginia-based company is 20 percent off food for all federal workers with an ID. Members of Congress will be charged 20 percent more, according to an Instagram post.

Museums: Several non-federal museums are offering furloughed workers free admission including Newseum and the National Building Museum. Attractions outside D.C. are also offering free admission.

Zaytinya: With a government ID from 2 to 5 p.m. get a free Chicken Schwarma through the end of the furlough at the D.C. location.

Deals and freebies outside D.C. 

Fazoli’sThrough Sunday, Jan. 13, participating Fazoli’s restaurants nationwide invite furloughed federal government employees with a valid ID to come in for a free Pizza Baked Spaghetti with the purchase of a regular-size or larger drink. There’s a limit of one meal per eligible guest per day.

Poor Richard’s Restaurant: The Colorado Springs restaurant is giving away free meals to government employees not being paid and their families, according to its Facebook page. Employees need to present their government ID at the restaurant register.

Ruby Slipper Cafe: Affected federal workers and their immediate families with a valid ID badge or business card will be treated to a free meal. There are locations in New Orleans, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.

SweetWater BreweryThe Atlanta brewery is offering furloughed federal employees two free beers when they show their government ID.

More deals: Other restaurants may be offering specials or support for furloughed government workers. Search social media with #ShutdownSpecials.

Free Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone is offering a free three-month online subscription to furloughed government workers. Email your name and validation information to expandyourworld@rosettastone.com. Learn more here.

Know of a special or program not listed here? Send the details to kelly.tyko@tcpalm.com.

Kelly Tyko is a consumer columnist and retail reporter for Treasure Coast Newspapers and TCPalm.com, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. Read her Bargainista tips at TCPalm.com/Bargainista, follow her on Twitter @KellyTyko and email her at kelly.tyko@tcpalm.com

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Businesses offer furlough freebies, shutdown specials and assistance to federal workers