Some Wabash Valley businesses and at least one city are lending a helping hand to federal employees who are working during the partial government shutdown but are not being paid.

That includes about 700 employees of the Federal Correctional Complex at Terre Haute and a small number of air traffic controllers at Terre Haute Regional Airport.

Between 10 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. today, federal prison workers can pick up a free chicken sandwich or eight-count chicken nuggets at the Chick-fil-A restaurant on U.S. 41 South. 

“We appreciate your hard work and dedication even in this time of financial uncertainty,” the restaurant said in a Facebook post. “Thank you for your service.”

A valid prison ID is required and the offer is limited to one per worker.

Fazoli’s, also on U.S. 41 South, is giving federal workers free baked spaghetti with the purchase of a small drink, also with a valid government ID. The offer, announced last Wednesday, had been set to expire today but has been extended until Jan. 21, said Kevin Riggs, general manager of the restaurant.

“It seems to be going over pretty well,” Riggs said of the offer. “We’re seeing more people each day.”

If the shutdown continues, the offer could be extended again, Riggs said, but the decision would come at the corporate level.

Federal workers with city water and/or sewer service in Brazil will not be hit with a late fee if they are unable to pay their bills on time.

“They’re in a position that they’ve got to go to work but they’re not getting paid,” noted Brazil Mayor Brian Wyndham, speaking primarily of federal prison workers. “If you didn’t go to work, maybe you could go out and find something else in the interim, but these folks are in a little different position.”

Waiving late fees is “the least we could do,” Wyndham said. “If it comes to it, we’re also willing to make payment arrangements with them once [paychecks resume].”

Duke Energy said it has help available for any customers experience financial hardship, including federal workers. For those unable to commit to specific dates for payments, the utility partners with the Helping Hand and Energy Assistance Program in Indiana. 

The utility also said in a news release that it has staff available “to discuss a customer’s situation and provide assistance to meet the customer’s specific needs.”

Information is available by calling Duke Energy Indiana at 1-800-521-2232 Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., EST.

Kenny Swick, a federal correctional officer and president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 720, said he and his co-workers are happy “the community has become aware of our plight and is stepping up and helping.”

Swick said he hopes the community realizes the impact of the shutdown.

“That’s 700 paychecks not being spent right now in Terre Haute and that’s a lot,” he said. “Our staff is starting to feel the crunch.”

The federal shutdown began Dec. 22. Some prison workers missed one day’s pay earlier this month and stand to miss a full paycheck this week for the first time. Many are taking such steps as carpooling more to get to work and are borrowing money from family members, Swick said. 

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