Good news has been scant for the federal employees going unpaid as America’s partial government shutdown drags on.
Around here, though, there's at least an offer of free breakfast on the table for them.
Locations of the Ruby Slipper Café are offering free meals to federal workers impacted by the shutdown, along with their immediate family members. The offer covers an entrée and a beverage.
“This came from our founders, it’s really about their philosophy of being neighborly and giving back in the community,” said Veronica Ridgley, marketing manager for the New Orleans-based company.
The Ruby Slipper was started by local couple Jennifer and Erich Wieshaupt in 2008 in their Mid-City neighborhood, which was then still rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina. It has since grown to 10 locations across the city and around the region.
Ridgley said early feedback on the offer has been positive.
“Our staff has been excited to offer it, almost everyone can think of someone they know who has been impacted,” she said.
The shutdown began after a spending bill stalled over funding for the wall President Trump wants to build across the U.S.-Mexico border.
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The impacts of the shutdown have been widespread. In New Orleans, federal employees now on furlough or required to continue working without pay range from TSA screeners and weather forecasters to federal prosecutors and Coast Guard rescue teams. Nationally, the shutdown has put programs from food stamps to disaster recovery aid in limbo.
In Washington, D.C., with its high concentration of federal employees, a number of restaurants have begun offering free dishes or discounts to workers impacted by the shutdown, according to a report by Newsweek.
That includes six restaurants run by José Andrés, a chef who has marshaled grassroots disaster relief food programs in the wake of recent disasters. Taking to Twitter at the start of the shutdown, Andrés pledged "Free Sandwiches to the poor men and women of the federal government, republicans and democrats, at every restaurant of mine in DC for lunch until they get paid again!" He'd made a similar offer during the federal government shutdown in 2013.
As its own breakfast offer rolls on, the Ruby Slipper Café is seeking to sidestep the politics of the situation.
“Everyone’s entitled to their opinions, but I think something everyone can agree on is helping out their neighbors when they’re down,” said Ridgley.
The company has made similar offers in the past, including breakfast for people displayed by Hurricane Michael last fall at its Pensacola, Florida location.
The rules for this offer are intentionally loose. Impacted federal employees need to show their ID badge or business card, though the restaurant hasn’t specified particular departments that are eligible for the offer.
“We’re relying on the honesty system, the golden rule,” said Ridgley. “It’s worked for us in the past, we trust people, and it hasn’t let us down yet.”
She said the Ruby Slipper plans to continue the offer until federal employees start getting paid again.
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