With the government shutdown now in its fifth week, and furloughed federal workers about to miss a second paycheck, Southern California is rallying to help.
And the help, it seems, is limited only by imagination.
Can’t pay the rent? An apartment company in Long Beach is letting federal workers slide a bit until the standoff is over, and they’re tossing in a no-interest $500 loan to boot.
Cash? A guy at a burger restaurant in Cypress plans to hand out $100 bills to six furloughed workers.
Tacos? If you’re furloughed, a restaurant in South Los Angeles has your pack — an eight-pack, technically — along with free fries and sodas.
Here’s a rundown of these some of the other ways So Cal is helping people squeezed by the stalemate in D.C.:
Help for the Coast Guard
The messaging out of Washington D.C. has been that the U.S. Armed Forced aren’t being affected by the shutdown.
Don’t tell the Coasties!
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard, which during peacetime operates under the Department of Homeland Security, are on duty even while their pay isn’t. What’s more, some Guardsmen were doubly harmed this month when their military branch suspended its tuition assistance program, a move that might force some to drop out of school.
Orange County’s Coastline College – which has a high number of active-duty students – is trying to prevent that. The school is making at least $20,000 available to cover some tuition for Coast Guard personnel. So far, 20 students have come forward for help.
Down the road, Coast Guard members could get another form of financial aid. The Bob Hope USO and the nonprofit Orange County Coastkeeper are co-hosting a beach clean-up event (9 a.m. Saturday at Huntington State Beach) to collect donations and raise cash for active duty Coast Guard personnel.
TSA worker Nick Huttinga picks up a few items at the Second Harvest Food Bank temporary location at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, CA on Thursday, January 24, 2019. The food bank was brought in to help workers during the government shutdown. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Coast Guard member Pedro Cruz, 38, is stationed in Charleston, S.C. He takes classes online from Coastline College which is helping Coast Guard members with tuition. His title is EM1. (Photo by Susan Goulding, Orange County Register/SCNG)
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Lateasha Carter, of Montclair, a furloughed federal government employee, talks with volunteer Betty Jones, after receiving a box of food at Love Chapel Life Changing Ministries Church in Ontario Ca., Saturday, January 19, 2019. The food was provided by non-profit Feeding America Riverside|San Bernardino Counties. (John Valenzuela/ Contributing Photographer)
Through the Pet Adoption CenterÕs Pet Food Assistance Program, members of the community, who have been affected by the government shutdown, are invited to visit the Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center on Friday, Jan. 25th to receive free pet food until supplies run out. (Courtesy of Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center)
Ontario firefighters Chris Berry, Brandon Brousseau and Cody Wenger barbecue hamburgers outside of Ontario International Airport Friday, January 11, 2019 for TSA agents. Local organizations hosted a barbecue for TSA agents, who currently are not being paid to work due to the partial government shutdown. Other airport employees were also invited to the event. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG).
TSA agents and other airport employees enjoy a free lunch outside of Ontario International Airport Friday, January 11, 2019. Local organizations hosted a barbecue for TSA agents, who currently are not being paid to work due to the partial government shutdown. Other airport employees were also invited to the event. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG).
Desiree Acosta of Fontana, a furloughed federal government employee, receives a box of food at Love Chapel Life Changing Ministries Church in Ontario Ca., Saturday, January 19, 2019. The food was provided by non-profit Feeding America Riverside|San Bernardino Counties. (John Valenzuela/ Contributing Photographer)
No furlough for empty stomachs
As federal workers struggle to feed their families, furlough-centric food pantries are popping up across Southern California.
The Great Harvest Bread Co. in Temecula has created a “shutdown shelf,” where federal employees on furlough or working without pay can simply pick up free bread.
The Second Harvest Food Bank recently transformed a conference room at John Wayne Airport into a makeshift grocery, where Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers can get canned goods, produce, bread, pasta, milk, eggs, and hygiene items free of charge.
Since Monday, the pantry has had 320 visits, representing a sizable portion of the airports 400 government employees. And the food bank isn’t just for TSA workers. Any federal employee can access the pantry by identifying themselves at a TSA checkpoint.
In Ontario, the regional food bank Feeding America Riverside distributed food to federal workers on Saturday. And in Pacoima, the Meet Each Need with Dignity food pantry has been issuing emergency food boxes – packed with fresh produce and meats – twice a week.
There’s also the aforementioned Taco Pete’s, in South L.A. The restaurant is giving away “family packs” of eight tacos, two French fries, and two sodas to federal employees not receiving paychecks.
And there’s The Burger Spot, in Cypress, which has been providing free meals to furloughed employees and their families. Since Jan. 9, that’s translated into about 300 free dinners.
“My shop was overflowing with families,” owner Mike “Mo” Abdoun, wrote on a GoFundMe site seeking donations for his campaign, #BurgersForFeds.
“I took it upon myself to start an initiative for these civil servants.”
What’s more, on Saturday, the Cypress restaurant will host a different kind of giveaway, by Denny Freidenrich, a Laguna Beach man who has given away food to emergency victims in the past.
This time, Freidenrich’s plan is simple. At some point in the day (a surprise), he’ll go to the restaurant (at 6285 Ball Road), and give one $100 bill to six furloughed workers.
Noting that the workers are in a tough spot through “no fault of their own,” he seems to wish he could give out more.
“I recognize the $100 I plan to give away isn’t all that much by today’s standards,” Freidenrich wrote. “But, it could help pay for groceries, gas or a utility bill.”
Keeping the lights on
Utility bills might not be as basic as food, but they’re pretty important. And late charges can ding credit long after a furlough ends.
With that in mind, several cities and agencies in Southern California are adjusting their rules to help government workers make late payments on utilities.
In Los Angeles, the Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and the Bureau of Sanitation are offering payment plans and other assistance to help workers pay water, power, sewer and trash collection. The payment plans can be spread out as long as four months.
Similarly, the cities of Long Beach and Lake Elsinore are offering federal workers spread out payments on everything from utilities to parking tickets.
And the Irvine Ranch Water District sent messages to ratepayers saying the agency is “here to help… customers impacted by the federal government shutdown.”
With some federal workers unable to buy their own groceries, a Riverside group figured pets might feel the pinch too. The Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center launched its Pet Food Assistance Program, writing:
“We’re happy to pay it forward by lending a paw to those affected by the temporary government shutdown.”
Rent, hair and cash!
Having a rent payment due, but no paycheck coming, can be life-changing.
A Long Beach-based property management firm this week sent letters to more than 7,100 residents, telling them federal workers affected by the shutdown don’t immediately have to sweat the rent.
Beach Front Property Management, with properties in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties, offered to let tenants forgo their February rent until 14 days after the shutdown ends, with all late fees waived. In addition, the company is offering up to $500 in interest-free loans to those residents, to help them pay for food and utilities.
“We know there are at least a dozen affected employees among our units,” Kyle Kazan, Beach Front founder and CEO, said in a statement. “It seems small enough given the many services our federal employees provide all of us every day.”
There’s also help for furloughed workers who are entrepreneurs at heart.
Rubidoux Drive-in Theatre & Swap Meet in Riverside will provide furloughed workers with a free place to set up shop — for as long as the shutdown lasts — if they have items they want to sell.
And, finally, it might not be as big as food or rent, but style matters.
Floyd’s 99 Barbershop – with locations in Los Angeles and Orange counties – is offering half-price haircuts to unpaid government employees. What’s more, those same workers can get massage shampoos for free.
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