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Private businesses step up for furloughed public workers

"We appreciate their service to our country, appreciate their business, and we've got their back," said one company head who is bending the rules for furloughed workers.
Image: Federal government shutdown protest
Hundreds of federal workers and contractors rally against the partial federal government shutdown outside the headquarters of the AFL-CIO Jan. 10, 2019 in Washington, DC.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

There's some good news for furloughed federal workers suffering under the government shutdown. Companies large and small are stepping up, offering to waive late fees on bills or postpone payments. Across the country, a swath of local restaurants has been giving free food to government workers.

"To those federal government employees impacted by the government shutdown: We’re here for you," said Nancy Clark, senior vice president of Verizon Wireless customer service, in a statement. She said the company would allow federal workers to set up plans to catch up on late payments on a future date.

Chase said it will automatically waive or refund overdraft and monthly service fees for checking and savings accounts. Other large national banks said they encouraged customers to call them and work things out.

1st Oklahoma Bank is going one step further for the federal workers who make up part of its 10,000-customer base. The bank accounts of those who this week are missing their first paycheck will be treated as if the money arrived, allowing them to make their house payments and buy groceries, Thomas Bennett, Jr., the bank’s chairman and co-CEO told NBC News.

"We appreciate their service to our country, appreciate their business, and we've got their back," said Bennett. "This is borne out of our core values: Treat others as we would want to be treated."

He said the bank would continue the policy "for a reasonable period of time."

Uber and Lyft are hiring federal employees as drivers as the unpaid workers seek to make ends meet. Individual rideshare drivers have reportedly been giving free rides to furloughed workers.

From the Great Lakes to the Deep South, a variety of restaurants are offering discounts and free meals to furloughed workers, and local food pantries have opened or received additional funding.

Several restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area are giving deals for affected workers during the shutdown. On Thursday, the local fast-casual Z-Burger restaurant gave away $12,000 worth of free burgers, fries and drinks to any worker with government identification, owner Peter Tabibian told NBC News.

"A lot of government workers are our customers and they have supported us in the past and are very loyal," said Tabibian. "I know it's only a burger or combo, but every little bit helps."

He said that during the giveaway, he overheard several conversations between the workers, some of whom didn't know each other but found themselves at the same table, talking about having to find extra jobs to make money. "They don't know how to pay their bills. Some have savings, some don't. When you miss a paycheck after the holidays I know it's devastating," said Tabibian.

“I just hope we can get President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over here," he added. "I think that with burgers, fries and a thick milkshake, maybe they can come back to their senses."