Mass. lawmakers, businesses step up for furloughed federal workers

Providing everything from zero-interest loans to free meals, food

WHILE WASHINGTON and the Trump administration continue their disastrous handling of the federal government’s partial shutdown, legislators, municipalities, and businesses across the Commonwealth are searching for short-term solutions to the financial plight of the impacted workers.

As we enter day 35, many of the 47,000 federal employees living in Massachusetts are feeling the strain. Gov. Charlie Baker is readying a presentation to lawmakers on how his administration can assist the unemployed workers struggling to pay rent and mortgages. House Speaker Robert DeLeo is on board and Senate President Karen Spilka announced a bipartisan eight-member Senate working group to evaluate any proposals.

“What we’ve been working on most is trying to figure out how to make the unemployment insurance system support these folks,” Baker told reporters. “Our goal is to have some thoughts about how to do that that we could talk to the Legislature about next week.”

As workers miss their second paycheck today, local banks are stepping in to offer zero-interest loans. The list of banking organizations includes Eastern Bank, City of Boston Credit Union, Congressional Federal Credit Union, Hanscom Federal Credit Union, Navy Federal Credit Union and Service Credit Union are among many banking organizations making this pitch.

US Rep. Ayanna Pressley is meeting with furloughed workers today and her Massachusetts colleague Seth Moulton has created a website where federal employees can learn about heating assistance and SNAP benefits, and what to do if your son/daughter is planning on college but can’t complete their FAFSA application.

Restaurants are providing free or reduced-price food. Ola Café in East Somerville is offering full breakfast and lunch as well as a full espresso menu. Eater Boston has an exhaustive list of restaurants offering deals for workers who show government ID. Boston chefs are joining acclaimed chef Jose Andres and his nonprofit World Central Kitchen in an effort called #ChefsForFeds that serves meals to furloughed employees.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Furloughed workers are also turning to food pantries. Holy Tabernacle Church in Dorchester runs a food pantry that furloughed workers are using and the Greater Boston Food Bank shipped groceries to 800 Coast Guard personnel on the Cape deemed essential but unpaid. In Devens, where almost 500 employees work in a federal prison, FMC-Devens, Loaves and Fishes is inviting the furloughed employees to stop by its food pantry.

Furloughed employees also need to look good, so Lauren Craig Salon in Wayland is offering free cuts and blow drys.