Strain of government shutdown eased by local businesses

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The Ruthie’s Rolling Cafe franchise features two food trucks that operate in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Source: Ruthie’s Rolling Cafe

While federal employees throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area missed paychecks due to the government shutdown, local businesses stepped up to help during their time of need. 

During the 35-day government shutdown, federal employees were either furloughed or had to work without pay. After two missed paychecks for federal employees, President Trump agreed to a three-week spending package that re-opened the government.

Many Transportation Security Administration agents, Federal Aviation Administration agents and other federal employees felt the financial strain of missed paychecks.

However, Ruthie’s Rolling Café, a local food truck, joined other local organizations to help the community make it through the shutdown.

The food truck created “Operation Feed the Feds” project, which worked to provide affected employees with free meals by traveling to different federal buildings throughout the shutdown. 

Ruthie’s partnered with Lyda Hill Philanthropies for this initiative serving more than 1,000 people. The food truck visited different facilities like the Dallas Love Field Airport and the Homeland Security field office in Fort Worth. Each employee received a free sandwich, drink and bag of chips. 

Robin Skinner, a long-time Ruthie’s employee, said the project’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed.

“The outpouring of appreciation was just so heartwarming,” Skinner said. “It was really amazing to see everybody coming together and working to help these people, because they really needed a little bit of relief.”

Ruthie’s has a past of giving back to the community.

Owner Ashlee Kleinert started the food truck with the intention of helping the community. Kleinert said the food truck was never created to take a profit, so all the money went back into the community to support businesses and nonprofits in the DFW area.

Even though many federal employees suffered financial strain under the shutdown, efforts from Ruthie’s and other local companies eased their burden.

Federal employees hungrily wait to receive Ruthie’s specialty grilled cheese sandwiches. Source: Dallas Does Good

“Even though it was just a sandwich, just a meal, I think just that people were thinking about them made them feel so good,” Skinner said. 

Another organization that responded to the shutdown was the Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB). TAFB partnered with the North Texas Food Bank, DFW International Airport and the Federal Executive Board to help provide food to affected employees.

TAFB brought their services directly to DFW International Airport so that employees had easy access to food. TAFB partners with 270 other food pantries including a mobile food pantry, making their services widely available in case of another shutdown. 

Federal employees could visit the makeshift food bank at the DFW International Airport. Source: Tarrant Area Food Bank

Lasting Effects of the Shutdown 

Had the government shut down gone much longer, it may have been a different story for federal employees, especially those benefiting from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

SNAP benefits, which include a benefit commonly known as  food stamps, would have continued through February, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The government reopened before March benefits could be in question. 

However, the government opened only when the White House and Congress agreed to a three-week spending plan. This package will ensure the government can function until February 15, according to the Washington Post. Considering there was no progress made to negotiate a long-term funding plan, federal employees may need to prepare in case of another shutdown soon.