Jason Davis isn’t a federal worker, but he knows how challenging it is to be out of work — especially when you have a family to feed.
That’s why Davis, the owner of a southern Cajun and Creole restaurant in Logan called MayMoes, is offering furloughed federal employees and their families a free buffet meal on Saturday mornings and $4 specials each day, which he said doesn’t even cover the cost of the food when it’s all said and done.
“These people just need to feel human every now and then, and I’ve been in those shoes,” he said. “It’s nice to go out and forget about your troubles and not have to worry about paying the bill, you know? Sometimes it does more good mentally or socially just to get out of the house. I mean, most of these people are probably stuck in the house because if you go out, anywhere you go, you’re going to spend money.”
As the federal government shutdown stretches into its fourth week over a budget impasse for $5 billion demanded by President Donald Trump for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, thousands of affected workers continue to see zeros on their pay stubs.
The House and Senate have voted to give federal workers back pay whenever the federal government shutdown — now the longest in modern American history — ends. But until then, some families are lost in limbo, wondering how they’ll pay their bills or even where they’ll get their next meal.
And Utah, which has thousands of federal workers, is one of the hardest-hit states in the country. Many of them, including those who work for the Interior Department and the IRS, are affected.
To lend a hand, a number of local food pantries, entertainment providers, restaurants and other organizations have stepped in to offer free or discounted services to families hit by the shutdown.
“I think small business owners get this is in the most real sense,” said JoEllen Kunz, who owns the Great Harvest Bread Company in Taylorsville, which is offering government workers affected by the shutdown and their families a free loaf of bread. “Because one person’s decision can take your entire livelihood.”
The Community Connections Center of Northern Utah, which said it has seen a 50 percent increase in the number of families it’s serving during the shutdown, is offering furloughed employees a free cart full of groceries twice a month with proof of employment.
Hogle Zoo is offering federal employees the chance to come to the zoo, free of charge, in an effort to “alleviate some worry and provide a positive distraction during a difficult time,” Steve Burns, the zoo’s president and CEO, said in a news release.
And in Ogden — where some 3,000 IRS workers are missing paychecks and about 150 furloughed federal workers and their supporters gathered last week to protest the shutdown — Ziegfeld Theatre is offering a free date-night package, with two tickets to its upcoming production of “School of Rock” and a bucket of popcorn.
“This will be a fun night out and help de-stress a little bit,” said Andy Thedell, whose wife, Krystal Kirkpatrick, is a furloughed IRS employee.
Utahns affected by the shutdown may also be able to receive some medical services at discounted prices during its duration. Eye Care 4 Kids in Midvale is offering free eye care, glasses repair and other services to those directly impacted.
“We’re not concerned with why the impasse is happening but we do know that there are many caught in the middle and who find themselves with no avenue for continued eye care during this time,” Joseph Carbone, the company’s president, said in a news release. “We want them to know we’re here to help and it’s as easy as giving a call and making an appointment at our Midvale clinic.”
While he hopes the government shutdown ends soon, Davis, the Logan restaurateur, said he’s been impressed by how it has brought the community together.
“We’ve had people come from miles away or send money or volunteer or whatever they could to help, you know, lighten the burden on other people,” he said.
UTAH COMPANIES OFFERING SERVICES DURING THE SHUTDOWN:
4 Brothers Pizza
Location: 1060 Market Dr #5, Vernal
Offering: One uncooked pizza (pepperoni or cheese) per household with verification through Saturday.
Catholic Community Services
Location: 2504 F Ave, Ogden
Offering: A cart of groceries twice a month with proof of employment.
Location: 444 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City
Offering: Free admission for furloughed federal employees and their families for the duration of the shutdown. Present federal employee ID to the front desk for admission.
Eye Care 4 Kids
Location: 6911 State St, Midvale
Offering: Free eyecare, glasses repair and other services to those directly affected by the shutdown.
Great Harvest Bread Company Taylorsville
Location: 6357 S Redwood Rd, Taylorsville
Offering: A free loaf of bread for government workers and their families.
Location: 2600 Sunnyside Ave, Salt Lake City
Offering: Free admission to the zoo for federal workers and their immediate family for the duration of the shutdown.
Little Lambs Foundation
Location: 2662 Wall Avenue, Ogden
Offering: Free diapers and hygiene kits to families affected by the shutdown on Tuesday from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the address listed above. Workers can email firstname.lastname@example.org to have specific diaper sizes set aside.
Location: 981 S. Main Street, Logan
Offering: Free breakfast for furloughed workers and their families during the shutdown.
Pioneer Theatre Company
Location: 300 S. 1400 East, Salt Lake City
Offering: Two tickets to a performance of “The Lion in Winter," for anyone with a federal ID or pay stub. (The show’s last performances are Friday, Jan. 18, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Jan. 19, at 2 and 7:30 p.m.)
Red Butte Garden
Location: 300 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City
Offering: Free admission to federal employees on furlough and their families for the duration of the shutdown with government identification.
Same Day Heating and Air
Location: 145 W. 2950 South, Salt Lake City
Offering: A 20 percent discount on all services and a waived diagnostic fee for furloughed employees with proof of employment.
Location: Salt Lake International Airport
Offering: Free boxed lunch starting Monday and continuing weekly until the shutdown is over to federal TSA agents working without pay during the shutdown.
Uinta Brewing Company
Location: 1722 S Fremont Drive, Salt Lake City
Offering: A 25 percent discount on all food purchases for government workers with a valid ID and a free, unfilled 32-oz growler every day through the end of the shutdown.
University of Utah
Location: Kingsbury Hall, 1395 E. Presidents Circle, University of Utah campus, Salt Lake City
Offering: Four free tickets for any performance by the School of Music, School of Dance or UtahPresents to furloughed federal employees for the duration of the shutdown. Call 801-581-7100 or visit the Kingsbury Hall box office.
Utah Cultural Alliance
Location: Torrey House Press, Utah Film Center, Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum, Davis Arts Council, Utah Presents, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Utah Symphony | Utah Opera, The Ogden Nature Center, and Odyssey Dance Theater
Offering: Discounts and free tickets to various shows, museums and products. More details at nowplayingutah.com/discounts-for-furloughed-federal-employees.
Utah Museum of Fine Arts
Location: 410 Campus Center Drive, University of Utah campus, Salt Lake City
Offering: Free admission to furloughed federal employees for the duration of the shutdown.
Location: 2400 Zion – Mount Carmel Hwy, Springdale
Offering: A 50 percent discount on all food purchases for government workers affected by the shutdown and a guest.
Location: 3934 Washington Blvd, Ogden
Offering: A free date night package of two tickets to its upcoming show, “School of Rock,” and a bucket of popcorn.