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No paycheck, no problem, Tri-City businesses tell federal workers

The Clover Island Inn is helping their neighbors during the federal government shutdown by offering free breakfast or lunch to members of the U.S. Coast Guard stationed across the street from the hotel and restaurant in Kennewick.
The Clover Island Inn is helping their neighbors during the federal government shutdown by offering free breakfast or lunch to members of the U.S. Coast Guard stationed across the street from the hotel and restaurant in Kennewick. Tri-City Herald

Tri-City businesses are stepping up to help government workers who are caught with no income during the partial government shutdown.

It’s a “very scary and uncomfortable time” for federal workers who are working without pay or furloughed, said Kagen Cox in a social media video.

“But we can do something at the shop about that,” said Cox, who owns Kagen Coffee and Crepes in Richland with his wife, Jennifer.

He’s offering free food and drink to federal employees not receiving a paycheck.

Bring in a federal ID and you “can at least take your family out while you are waiting to get paid,” he said.

He particularly feels for people like his brother-in-law, an air traffic controller, who are not getting paid despite continuing to work, he said.

Clover Island neighbor helping a neighbor

The Clover Island Inn in Kennewick is focusing on helping its neighbor, the U.S. Coast Guard, also on Clover Island.

After learning that the Coast Guard is working without pay during the partial government shutdown, the inn’s general manager Mark Blotz contacted the commander of the Coast Guard in Kennewick.

“I would like to offer your unit free breakfast or lunch until the shutdown is over,” he wrote in a letter to the commander. “Please don’t think of this as a ‘handout,’ but rather a neighbor helping a neighbor, and a way of us saying ‘thank you for your service to our great country’.”

Staff has been told to provide breakfast or lunch Mondays through Saturdays for anyone from the Coast Guard based on Clover Island.

Eat Kagen Coffee Crepes
Kagen Coffee & Crepes opened Oct. 16 in the Uptown Shopping Center in Richland. It offers a variety of crepes served as an entree or as desserts, as well as coffee drinks. Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

A couple of “Coasties” took him up on his offer and showed up for breakfast Saturday morning, Blotz said.

Furloughed government workers also may get some relief from their credit union.

Credit unions, as not-for-profit cooperatives, may be more likely to have options to help federal workers without paychecks, according to the Northwest Credit Union Association.

GESA Credit Union, for example, has some flexibility on waiving fees on overdrafts, said Richard Waddle, senior vice president of finance and marketing.

It is offering members affected by the federal shutdown zero-interest personal loans to help them get through the partial federal shutdown.

GESA also is waiving the fee on its skip-a-payment program for certain loans for its members who are not receiving their federal paycheck.

Payday loan warning

Bob Ferguson, the Washington state attorney general, is warning federal employees considering payday loans or tax refund advances to thoroughly investigate the costs.

The fees on payday loans can be much higher than the cost of interest rates that would be charged on a credit card, he said. And tax refund advances, even those promoted as free, can have hidden charges, fees or penalties.

Consumers also should be wary of offers to speed up unemployment benefits for furloughed federal workers in exchange for paying a fee, he said.

Ferguson recommends considering less costly options, such as a short-term loan from a family member or friend, asking creditors for more time to pay bills or freezing subscription services for gym memberships or streaming content.

Senior staff writer Annette Cary covers Hanford, energy, the environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She’s been a news reporter for more than 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.
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