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Companies offering federal employees ‘furlough freebies’

Companies offering federal employees ‘furlough freebies’

Vicki Maturo, of Culver City, Calif., protests against the government shutdown outside the federal building in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013. President Barack Obama summoned congressional leaders to the White House on the second day of a partial government shutdown that has furloughed hundreds of thousands of workers and closed military cemeteries as far away as France. Photo: Associated Press/AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

By Victoria Cavaliere

(Reuters) – There are consolation prizes for some of the 800,000 federal workers finding themselves without paychecks during the government shutdown – discounts and freebies.

Across the United States, restaurants, bars, gyms and even a skydiving company were offering price breaks to furloughed workers, promoting the deals on social media such as Twitter.

Hyundai, the Korean carmaker, said it would defer car payments due from federal employees who are home without pay during the shutdown, which started on Tuesday after Congress failed to reach a budget deal.

The Republican-led House of Representatives has so far failed to pass a bill to fund U.S. government operations for the fiscal year started October 1 that is acceptable to the Democratic-led Senate or President Barack Obama.

The Alexandria, Virginia restaurant Pork Barrel BBQ said it was offering all furloughed employees who show a government ID a free pulled-pork sandwich during each day of the shutdown.

The Pork Barrel offer excludes members of Congress, who are continuing to be paid during the shutdown.

In Washington, D.C., DuPont Circle’s well-known Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe, a hybrid restaurant and bookstore, said it was extending its happy-hour prices until closing for the duration of the shutdown.

Members of Congress will be asked to pay double, it said on Twitter.

Thousands of miles away in Hawaii, a skydiving company was offering free jumps to furloughed federal workers.

“They have bills to pay, and they can’t afford to do things like this,” said Sonny Vaoifi, manager of Skydive Hawaii. “We’re going to take as many as we can for as long as our company can bear it.”

“It was just one of those things that we felt was the right thing to do,” he said.

Two furloughed U.S. Navy shipyard workers were the first to take advantage of the offer to jump out of an airplane some 12,000 feet above the Hawaiian island of Oahu, he said.

“They were pretty stoked,” Vaoifi said. “One of them said they’d be here tomorrow and the next day.”

For furloughed workers considering a career move, General Assembly, an educational institution for aspiring entrepreneurs and Web developers, was offering a free 30-day trial for classes in technology, design and business.

“We’ve just moved to D.C., and we want to be helpful to the community here as employees are taking a pause,” said Jordan Hepner, manager of its online education.

But the goodwill has already proved too costly for at least one business.

Washington’s restaurant chain Z-Burger, which had been offering free burgers to furloughed workers, said on Thursday on Twitter it was ending the program due to “overwhelming demand.”

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