As the longest-ever federal government shutdown drags on with no end in sight, more local institutions and businesses are stepping up to help workers who have been furloughed or forced to work without a paycheck.
Portage schools is inviting furloughed workers to apply for jobs as substitute teachers and substitute bus drivers as well as other jobs. Teachers Credit Union and 1st Source Bank are offering financial assistance. Crossroads YMCA will give affected federal workers free gym memberships, and Orangetheory Fitness will provide them with free workouts at its gyms in Crown Point and Dyer.
Doc's Smokehouse and Craft Bar is giving free lunch specials to workers who don't know when their next paycheck is coming and have been forced to tap into their savings to make ends meet.
Congressman Pete Visclosky's office estimates that 5,167 federal employees have been affected in Indiana since the shutdown began on Dec. 22.
Locally, federal employees work at many places such as the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the FBI and IRS offices in Merrillville, the U.S. District Court in Hammond, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Indiana in Hammond, the Gary/Chicago International Airport and the Adam Benjamin Jr. VA Outpatient Clinic in Crown Point.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency employees also canceled a public hearing on how the federal agency would clean up lead and arsenic in the soil at East Chicago's former West Calumet Housing Complex.
Crossroads YMCA announced it would give furloughed federal employees and their families complimentary memberships for the duration of the shutdown at its branches in Griffith, Hammond, Whiting and Crown Point. They just have to bring in a federal ID, and the Y will waive the joiner's fee and monthly fees so they can work out for the duration of the shutdown, as well as the first month after the shutdown ends and they return to work.
Orangetheory Fitness is offering federal employees free workouts and free heart rate monitor rentals at its 50 Chicago area studios, including in Crown Point and Dyer, from Jan. 17 through Jan. 31.
The gym specializes in technology-tracked personal training workouts with intervals of cardiovascular and strength training in which they maintain a target heart rate to stimulate metabolism and increase energy.
Orangetheory's offer is open to all U.S. government employees with proof of current employment.
“The people most directly affected by the government shutdown, due to reduced pay or the complete absence of paychecks, should not have to worry about making ends meet when it comes to exercise, the top activity that helps anyone battle stress and maintain physical and mental health,” Orangetheory Fitness Illinois Chief Operating Officer Brad Ehrlich said.
“Our hearts go out to those federal workers, many of whom are members at our studios across the country, who are carrying the large burden for themselves, their families and the nation. We wanted to support and help them push forward even during this extremely stressful time.”
South Bend-based Teachers Credit Union, which has branches in Hammond, Gary, St. John, Chesterton and Valparaiso, is offering relief to federal workers affected by the shutdown, including a 90-day member assistance loan to bridge the gap until pay returns, loan payment deferment assistance, a waiver of the early withdrawal penalty on certificates and "delinquent loan collection solutions to help members who fall behind on loan payments during the shutdown."
The credit union hopes to provide financial security to those who are experiencing a loss of income.
“TCU is based upon people helping people,” President and CEO Paul Marsh said.
“We have a history of helping our members during tough times and hope that these measures will provide some peace of mind to our members impacted by the government shutdown.”
Any TCU members who have been affected by the shutdown should visit a branch or call (800) 552-4745 for assistance.
Portage Township Schools is fast-tracking applications within the district for furloughed federal employees during the partial government shutdown.
The township is seeking substitute teachers, custodians and food service workers, as well as bus drivers and attendants.
The district promised a quick review of applications. Those who apply will receive a call from Portage Township this week to schedule an interview date and time, according to a Friday news release from the district.
Job postings and applications can be found at the school district's website, www.portage.k12.in.us, under the "Our District" and "Employment" tabs.
Interested parties can contact the Portage Township Schools Communications Department with questions by calling (219) 764-6124 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Times Staff Writer Carley Lanich contributed to this report.