As the government shutdown continues, making it the longest in U.S. history, Emanuel Medical Center is looking to help local federal employees suffering from a lack of pay find their next meal.
For the duration of the shutdown, Emanuel is offering current federal employees and their immediate families free meals in the hospital’s café. Friday will mark the second missed payday for a majority of the 800,000 employees who have been affected during the partial government shutdown, and though they have been guaranteed back pay, making ends meet in the meantime has proven difficult for some.
Roughly 380,000 federal workers have been furloughed and 420,000 are working without pay. A study on the 2013 shutdown conducted by University of Michigan economist Michael Gelman and colleagues showed that many furloughed workers will have little choice but to delay paying mortgage or credit card debt so that they have more cash on hand, with the average worker in the study having only enough cash or other liquid assets to cover just eight days of their average household spending.
Last week, the number of furloughed federal employees seeking unemployment benefits jumped from fewer than a thousand per week before the shutdown to more than 10,000 during the week that ended Jan. 5, according to the Labor Department.
Emanuel CEO Lani Dickinson said she wants to make sure federal employees in the area know they are being supported.
“We have local families who are struggling and we want to be at the forefront of assistance for our federal employees,” Dickinson said. “We hope those impacted by the shutdown will stop by for a meal with their families. Emanuel is here for you.”
There are between 75 and 100 families of federal employees in Emanuel’s service area, according to the hospital. The free meals are available now and will continue throughout the shutdown, which could end soon as Senate Republicans and Democrats are expected to vote on a bipartisan bill later this week that would reopen the government.
Federal employees in need of a meal must verify their status by showing their federal ID or badge, and must accompany any family members to the café after checking in at the hospital main entrance. The hospital anticipates serving 25 to 30 families per day, who will receive a free meal consisting of an entrée, two sides and a fountain drink or milk. Typically, the meals can cost anywhere from $8 to $10.
Local federal employees who would like to receive free meals can visit the Emanuel Medical Center café from 6:45 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.