Shutdown specials, furlough freebies: Businesses offer deals for shuttered federal workers

Day 34 of shutdown with no end in sight
Shutdown specials, furlough freebies: Businesses offer deals for shuttered federal workers

Call them “shutdown specials” and “furlough freebies.” Metcalfe’s added its name to the long list of stores offering deals to the 800,000 federal workers who have been working without pay for more than a month now. About 29,000 of those workers live in Wisconsin.

Three Metcalfe’s locations are extending their employee discount of 20 percent off purchases up to $200 to all federal workers living in Wisconsin. The chain is following the lead of other chains offering free meals, phone companies differing payments, and banks giving zero-interest loans to shuttered workers.

Owner Tim Metcalfe says he knows the discount is small, but he hopes it will ease some of the burden building up on federal workers for more than a month.

“Part of our mission is for all of us to take care of people in our community that need our help the most,” said Metcalfe. “And right now, it’s our federal employees. I think we all feel for them.”

Once Metcalfe officials announced the discount on Facebook, the response was immediate: more than 300 likes within the first two hours, plus more than 70 shares.

“I think being a grocer in general, you’re in the community, you see your customers on a daily basis and you feel what their families go through. You’re part of them getting together on a nightly basis as a family and celebrating life in general. Our company works with a ‘why’ in mind for everything we do. We believe helping those in need should be the responsibility of all members of our community, including businesses like ours,” said Metcalfe.

The Metcalfe’s discount is valid on purchases up to $200 through the end of the month. Federal workers have to show their government-issued ID. Metcalfe said he will consider extending that discount for as long as the shutdown runs as the end of the month approaches.

Around 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or working without pay since Dec. 21 and won’t receive their next paychecks until the government reopens.

Major wireless providers including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon are also willing to work with affected government employees.

AT&T: Federal workers are eligible for flexible payment options to keep services, like cellphones, television, and internet, running. You can make payment arrangements online at

Sprint: Customer service members say they will help federal workers find payment options that work for them to keep service uninterrupted during the shutdown. Impacted customers should call 888-211-4727 or do an online chat at

T-Mobile: The company is offering flexible payment options. Customers can call T-Mobile Customer Care to discuss options at 611 from a T-Mobile device or 877-746-0909 from any phone.

Verizon: Officials with the company announced its Promise to Pay program, which offers flexible payment options. It can be set up in the My Verizon app or on the company’s website. More help is available at 866-266-1445.

Several chains/brands are also offering deals to federal workers.

Potbelly Sandwich Shop: Government workers can get a buy one, get one free sandwich deal Wednesday, Jan. 23 to Sunday, Jan. 27 when they show a federal government ID.

Rosetta Stone: Furloughed government workers can get a free three-month online subscription. Email your name and validation information to

Sky Zone: Federal workers and up to three immediate family members can get 60 minutes of free play every Tuesday through Thursday in January. Valid government ID required. Learn more at

Several local entertainment options are offering deals, too.

Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra: Federal workers can get free tickets to the chamber orchestra’s Jan. 25 performance, “Masterworks” with cellist Miriam Smith.

Madison Children’s Museum: Furloughed workers can take advantage of the museum’s Access for Everyone program, which offers $1 admission per person.

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