Freebies for furloughed federal employees

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October 3, 2013, 7:38 pm
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(NECN: Peter Howe, Boston) - It’s a tough time to be a federal employee - three days into a shutdown-imposed furlough, unclear when your next paycheck will come.

But a small silver lining: More and more businesses want to help.

The Greatest Bar on Boston’s Friend Street, near Boston Garden, began offering a free cheese pizza to anyone coming in who shows their federal agency identification card Thursday. That establishment sits a half block from the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. federal building on Causeway Street and the John F. Kennedy federal building on New Sudbury Street.

"A ton of our customers are federal employees," said Greatest Bar marketing director Kayla Harrity. "Our hope is that it'll make it a little easier. A lot of them are out of work."

Also pitching in is TD Bank, which is offering to waive credit-card late fees for furloughed federal workers, provide mortgage relief if needed, and the equivalent of an interest-free short term loan of $1,000.

For federal workers coming in with proper identification and furlough letters, TD Bank’s Boston metro area president Kevin Malone said, "We’ll immediately credit their account for a $1,000 overdraft account. There's no fees associated with this ... It's aimed at a short-term -- hopefully short-term -- help for everybody that's a federal employee that can just demonstrate they've been impacted."

Malone said the program for furloughed federal workers is similar to what TD Bank has done for customers affected by other crises, like Superstorm Sandy or the Boston Marathon bombings that left much of Boylston Street locked down for days.

Local Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee Paul Kiami told the Downtown North Association, which represents area businesses near the two Boston federal buildings, starting Friday, he’ll offer federal employees a 20 percent discount at his Dunkin’ outlets at 59 Causeway Street, 180 Canal Street and 100 City Hall Plaza.

Around the country, more and more businesses are making offers like this. Several Washington, D.C. area restaurants are offering discounts for federal workers – some also threatening to double bills for members of Congress – while United Airlines has offered to fly the entire Air Force Academy football team to this weekend’s game with the Naval Academy if the shutdown grounds Air Force.

Across Massachusetts, about 29,000 people work for the federal government, though it’s far from clear how many are being furloughed.

"Many of the people affected work today in the private sector," noted Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick. "They process grants. They work in the life sciences, the medical industry. They work in the defense industry. They're on contracts."

Those contracts have been suspended because of the shutdown.

"I know they're going through a difficult time right now," Harrity said. "And for us, just offering them a free pizza, which is a very simple thing for us to do, it could brighten their day."

With videographer Dan Smith

Tags: Boston, barack Obama, massachusetts, congress, Senate, President Obama, Dunkin' Donuts, Peter Howe, Democrats, TD Bank, House of Representatives, John Boehner, Republicans, Boylston Street, furloughs, Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, government shutdown, shutdown, The Greatest Bar, Thomas P. O'Neill Jr., Kevin Malone, Paul Kiami, Kayla Harrity
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