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Freebies, deals and help for furloughed workers

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Furloughed federal employees turn to improv classes during government shutdown at Washington Improv Theater.
Jack Gruber, USA TODAY

Call them “shutdown specials” and “furlough freebies.”

While a deal to end the 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, Jan. 11 was the first payday most furloughed employees missed.

“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:

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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.

Discover: Impacted federal workers who are Discover cardmembers or have a loan with Discover Bank may be eligible for assistance such as skipping a payment and having late fees and interest charges reversed if they miss a payment because of the shutdown. To request assistance, call 800-347-2683.

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 Union: Impacted 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.”

More: Today should be payday for thousands of government workers. But the shutdown means they’re not getting paid

More: ‘I live paycheck to paycheck’: Federal workers rally for their jobs at White House

More: Crash safety to craft beer: Shutdown impacts Americans in surprising ways

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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.

Community Phone: The Boston-based company told USA TODAY it is offering furloughed, federal employees in Massachusetts “a full contract free year of unlimited everything” and “to all furloughed in all states, a free $100 of credit for a no contract, no credit card required service on our nationwide networks.” Learn more at www.communityphone.org.

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 JosĂ© AndrĂ©s’ six D.C.-area restaurants, AndrĂ©s 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.

Bar Method: The boutique fitness studio’s three D.C.-area locations are offering two weeks of unlimited barre classes for new and lapsed clients for $39 with code SHUTDOWN, down from the regular price of $80. Purchase at www.barmethod.com/locations/washington-dc.

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

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

The Dog Park: The Alexandria, Virginia-based dog and cat boutique is offering 20 percent off all dog and cat food for government employees and contractors affected by the shutdown. Present a government or contractor ID for the discount.

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 in D.C.

Whole Foods Market: On Tuesday, Jan. 15 from 5 to 7:30 p.m., 20 D.C.-area Whole Foods stores are hosting free community spaghetti dinners “as the partial government shutdown continues.” Register for tickets to the free events and find participating locations on this Eventbrite.com page.

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

Deals and freebies outside D.C. 

Other businesses across the country also are helping out federal workers. Here are some of the offers:

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra: The orchestra is offering free tickets to federal government employees including a Saturday evening and a Sunday, Jan. 13 afternoon show. To get free tickets, present valid government ID at the ticket office prior to the start of the performance. Two tickets are available per ID. Learn more at www.bsomusic.org.

Bark! Pawsitive Petfood: Show your government employee ID and get a free bag of pet food at the eight Maryland locations. 

Fazoli’s: Through Sunday, Jan. 20, 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.

Kings Dining & Entertainment: With a government ID, get two free games and shoes Monday through Thursday from open to 6 p.m. at all locations, a Kings representative told USA TODAY. There are Kings locations in Massachusetts, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Tennessee. Must mention the promotion, which cannot be combined with other offers or on holidays and is “first come first serve.”

Lucha Cantina: The Colorado restaurant with locations in Littleton and Georgetown is serving adults with government IDs and their children free meals from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. “every day until the government reopens.”

Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum: The Poughkeepsie, New York museum is holding its next “Federal Workers Free Pizza and Play Family Night” Wednesday, Jan. 16 starting at 5 p.m. and will offer free admission for two adults, one of whom must be a federal employee, and their children living in the same household. The event is free, but pre-registration is required and a federal ID will be needed to enter the event. Learn more on the museum’s Facebook page including a link to register.

Museums: Many attractions outside D.C. are also offering free admission including many in Colorado, the Denver Channel reported, and the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Miami, Florida.

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.

Simple Venue: Entrepreneur Michael Sinensky’s  New York hospitality company Simple Venue is offering free meals at his New York restaurants until the government reopens or government workers pay is reinstated in what is being called the “Funbars Government Meal Plan.” Sinensky’s restaurants include Juice Shop stores, which are giving away free juice for breakfast, Sushi by Bou in Flatiron giving away lunch, and government employees can get a free entrée and a Bud Light draft at Sidebar, a sports bar in Union Square. To participate and learn more, affected employees should email shutdown@funbars.com or call 212-677-2900.

SweetWater Brewery: The 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. 

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Freebies, deals and help for furloughed workers

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