The shutdown sent more than 1,000 furloughed workers to obtain interest-free loans from one local lender, and plenty of other firms and institutions stepped up to support those working without paychecks.
Seattle restaurateur Jeremy Hardy was taking Friday’s news about the end of the 34-day government shutdown with a pinch of salt.
For two weeks, Hardy, co-owner of wood-fired pizzeria Mioposto, has been offering furloughed workers a gradually rising discount — a percentage point for every day of the shutdown — at its four locations, and he said Friday he’ll keep the offer in place until it’s clear when federal workers’ paychecks are actually being sent out.
“The declarations have been made, but we don’t know when workers will actually be paid,” said Hardy, who runs the restaurants with his wife and co-owner, Tiah Oakford.
Mioposto is one of a number of Seattle-area establishments that stepped up to help furloughed workers during the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
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The offers of help have come from across the spectrum of Seattle business and government. They ranged from free dinner at a tiny local watering hole to an interest-free loan from a large regional bank — and everything in between.
Seattle Opera offered furloughed workers two free tickets to “Il trovatore.” Crystal Mountain ponied up free lift tickets. The city of Seattle deferred utility payments and Piroshky Piroshky was giving away a piroshky a day for every furloughed TSA agent at its Southcenter location.
As the shutdown dragged on, the local offers of assistance appear to have been well- received.
More than 1,100 furloughed workers have already been approved for a 90-day, no-interest loan program that Seattle-based Washington Federal rolled out Jan. 16.
“The response has been a bit overwhelming,” said bank spokesman Brad Goode, adding that the program will remain until more details are known about Friday’s tentative deal to temporarily reopen government.
“We expect federal workers to continue coming in until this is truly resolved,” Goode said in an email Friday.
The inspiration behind the assistance programs seems to have been a mix of business interest, community spirit and simple frustration.
Hardy, for example, said he and Oakford came up with the discount after hearing a news story about Canadian air traffic controllers buying pizza for their furloughed American counterparts.
Hardy said it was “fricking ridiculous that another country was coming to the aid of Americans before Americans were.”
Though pleased the shutdown may be over, Hardy says the episode has made him and his staff much more aware of the impact the federal government has in the local community.
Hardy reckons as many as 100 people have used the pizza discount, which was up to 35 percent on Friday. Many of them have come into the restaurant’s Bryant location, just up the road from the Sand Point offices of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, whose employees often frequented the pizzeria before the shutdown.
“Our customers are federal employees far more than we knew,” Hardy said.
Read more about the partial federal government shutdown and reaction here »