With the partial government shutdown nearing its second month, local businesses are doing their part to help furloughed federal workers keep their bellies full.
In the Kernville and Lake Isabella areas, several businesses are now giving furloughed workers credit allowances to help feed them and their families while the shutdown remains in effect. Workers just need to show their government ID to an employee to be eligible.
Some of the businesses participating are Sierra Gateway Markets, Pizza Barn, Cheryl’s Diner and Crossroads Market.
“These people are my friends and neighbors. Why would I not want to help them out?” said Cheryl Borthick, owner of Cheryl’s Diner and former Kernville Chamber of Commerce president. “This is a close-knit community. We want to help out as much as we can.”
Borthick said the idea came from current Chamber President Jon Feldschau, who wanted federal workers in the Kernville area — most of whom work for the U.S. Forest Service — to be able to get food.
Feldschau reached out to local businesses as well as the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce, after which a joint effort was announced with a Facebook video message on Wednesday.
“While we know banks and utility companies are trying to defer payments, that doesn’t help with putting food on the table, so we’ve contacted local grocers and restaurants to see how our community can really take care of our people,” Feldschau said in the video.
Sherilyn Littlejohn, a manager at Sierra Gateway Markets, said she’s happy the two chambers worked together to start this effort.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “We should help. It’s not their fault.”
Littlejohn said the market began offering credit of up to $200 per person on Wednesday. While she doesn’t believe any federal workers have come in yet, she expects that to change soon as they become aware of the effort.
“We expect them to start showing up any time, and when they do, we’ll be ready to help them out,” she said.
Borthick said her diner is also offering up to $200 in credit and said she also doesn’t believe they’ve had any federal workers come yet.
Kernville businesses aren’t the only ones trying to help out furloughed workers. There are efforts underway in Bakersfield as well.
The Kern County Bridal Association is offering free tickets to its upcoming wedding expo to all federal employees affected by the shutdown. The association said employees who present a valid federal ID will receive up to two tickets to the expo on Jan. 27 at the Kern County Fairgrounds, 1142 S. P St.
Tickets can be claimed the day of the event or ahead of time by calling 633-9200.
In addition, Romano’s Macaroni Grill is offering free spaghetti and meatballs to furloughed employees who show their ID through Jan. 23, or until the shutdown is ended. The meal is available between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Management of the Sikh gurdwara at 7000 Wible Road said it is also inviting federal workers to come to the temple for a meal. The temple is also open to hearing from workers about what else it can do to help meet their needs. The temple can be reached at 831-7222.