Free markets for federal workers affected by shutdown open in D.C. area


The government shutdown became the longest in American history overnight, leaving 800,000 federal employees furloughed or working without pay. Federal workers received $0 pay stubs on Friday, their first pay day covering the shutdown period.

In light of the struggles federal employees may be having in trying to live without pay, the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) says it is holding five free pop-up markets in the Washington, D.C. area, which has the highest concentration of federal workers in the country. It says the markets are being held in Giant stores in Virginia, Washington and Maryland, offering fresh produce and shelf-stable food items for the first 250 federal workers who arrive between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. Saturday.

The CAFB published a blog post describing efforts by volunteers to prepare for the pop-up food banks, describing the efforts of 80 volunteers packing 30,000 pounds of produce for the pop-up markets, including assistance from some federal workers.

“I need the extra help right now,” Pamela Leftrict, a policy analyst with the EPA, told CAFB. “This is a scary time for me, especially because I have a child at home. Volunteering makes me feel like I’m contributing, like I’m giving something back for what I receive.” She also said that she was telling federal workers in need who may be unwilling to accept help that “this is not your fault.”

Free groceries aren’t all that’s being provided for federal workers. Sweetgreen and &Pizza in Washington, D.C., are offering free meals for federal workers between certain times, and all restaurants by celebrity chef Jose Andres in the city are providing free sandwiches for any federal employee with ID, according to Patch.

Some museums and parks are also offering free admission or discounts to federal employees, including the Newseum and Montgomery’s Parks. They can also get free movie tickets from Alamo Drafthouse in the month of January, and free GW basketball tickets. Some gyms are also offering free classes.

“We do live paycheck by paycheck,” Erin Kidwell, a federal employee in Oregon, said about her struggles as a furloughed worker, in December. “I heard a congressman say that we didn’t, but we do.”

Kidwell said many federal workers take their jobs in part because of the security of working with the government. But with an impasse in budget negotiations between the White House and lawmakers over President Trump’s $5.7 billion demand for a border wall, Kidwell and her husband, who is also a furloughed federal employee, face an uncertain future.

“The hardest part is the demoralizing of our employment,” she said. “Playing around with our jobs like they’re a political game.”

Rob Legare contributed reporting

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