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Government shutdown: How federal workers in Philly can get help, from food to finances

With no end to the impasse in sight, organizations and businesses are offering aid to the 45,000 federal workers in the Philadelphia area.

People gather to receive free food from Philabundance. For the first time in its history, Philabundance is enacting its disaster plan in Philly to quickly distribute food to federal workers facing hunger because of the partial government shutdown.
People gather to receive free food from Philabundance. For the first time in its history, Philabundance is enacting its disaster plan in Philly to quickly distribute food to federal workers facing hunger because of the partial government shutdown.Read moreJOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer

Another day, another empty paycheck.

The partial shutdown of the federal government, now the longest in the nation’s history, means no pay for hundreds of thousands of federal workers across the nation as the stalemate between Congress and President Donald Trump over a U.S.-Mexico border wall continues.

While officials look for an end to the impasse, organizations and businesses are offering ways they can help the about 45,000 federal workers in the Philadelphia region. Whether it’s food or finances, here are details on how those forced into furlough can take advantage of the resources:

Financial help

There are ways for federal workers to get assistance making bill payments and repaying loans.

Banks and utility bills

Banks and utility and telecommunications companies are waiving select fees and offering other options for workers affected by the shutdown. Customers can contact the following companies if their bills become too burdensome:

  1. Wells Fargo

  2. TD Banks

  3. Chase Bank

  4. WSFS Bank

  5. Peco

  6. Atlantic City Electric

  7. PGW

  8. AT&T

  9. T-mobile

  10. Verizon

  11. Comcast

Inquirer and Daily News consumer reporter Christian Hetrick outlined further details and contact information for the companies earlier this month.

The City of Philadelphia is also encouraging those struggling to pay their water bills or real estate and city taxes at and to discuss flexibility options.

“If you reach out to us, we can delay enforcement actions, including water shut off and foreclosure,” Revenue Commissioner Frank Breslin said in a statement. “We can also waive interest, penalties, and any other charges that accrue once we receive payment when the shutdown ends. These workers need every break as the shutdown drags on, and we’re committed to doing what we can.”

Tuition payments and loans

Collection of unpaid tuition and other university fees from furloughed employees or their dependents has been temporarily postponed at Rutgers University, said President Robert L. Barchi.

The Student Loan Servicing Alliance encourages any impacted worker with student loans to contact the servicer to discuss possible repayment plans amid the shutdown.

» READ MORE: Here’s how federal workers in the Philly area can get financial help during the government shutdown


Philabundance has opened an “emergency market” available to government employees with ID at Front and Tasker Streets Wednesdays from 10 to 11 a.m.

» READ MORE: First day of emergency food for federal workers: ‘grateful' but ‘humiliated’

» READ MORE: Food agencies creating 'emergency market’ for federal workers squeezed by shutdown

Restaurants across the city, including Federal Donuts and Mike’s BBQ, are dishing out free, discounted, or “pay back later” meals to federal workers. Food writer Michael Klein has a full roundup with further details.


Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania are extending free dental care to furloughed federal employees with proper identification. Patients in need of emergency dental care can head to Temple’s Kornberg School of Dentistry on Broad Street near Allegheny Avenue in North Philly on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Walk-ins are accepted until 3 p.m.

Federal workers can also visit Penn Dental Medicine weekdays from 8 a.m to 5 p.m., located on 40th Street near Locust Street in University City.

» READ MORE: After her tooth pain became unbearable, furloughed federal worker received free care at Temple

Cultural institutions

A number of cultural institutions in the Philadelphia area, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Museum, and the Academy of Natural Sciences, are offering free or discounted admission to federal workers. Staff writers Bethany Ao and Grace Dickinson have rounded up museums providing relief to federal employees here.

» READ MORE: Here are the government shutdown deals in Philly

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How to help

Some federal workers are taking up side jobs as they continue to go without pay, while others are setting up crowdfunding campaigns. Local and national organizations are also accepting donations that will later be distributed to federal workers. Here’s what you can do:

  1. The Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association is collecting non-perishable foods and other items for federal airport workers at the Philadelphia Airport Marriott, Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., until the stalemate ends.

  2. Philabundance is accepting monetary donations on both its website and its Facebook fundraising page, “Food for the Furloughed.” 

  3. Black Lives Matter member Shakira King is collecting baby items like diapers and formula to help parents affected by the partial shutdown, according to BLM Philly. Reach out to for more information.

  4. Nationally, United Way has set up a United for U.S. Fund to assist federal workers. The National Park Foundation has set up a similar fund, and is also seeking volunteers. Looking for more ways? CNN has a round-up of other opportunities to help nationally. 

>>READ MORE: At Mike’s BBQ in South Philly launches pay-it-forward plan for unpaid government workers

» READ MORE: Muslim youth clean up Independence Mall amid government shutdown