WASHINGTON — A passel of Montgomery County, Maryland, restaurants are pooling resources to throw a potluck for furloughed feds and contractors.
The Shutdown Social is set for Friday from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Montgomery Blair High School, at 51 University Blvd. East in Silver Spring.
Councilmember Tom Hucker is the host, and 17 restaurants are donating food and drink, and musician and labor activist Joe Uehlein will play, along with special guests including the Northwood High School drumline. You don’t have to be a fed to come, but organizers are asking people to bring packaged, store-bought food as well.
Hucker said he’s talked to a bunch of furloughed feds and contractors and said they’ve “taken it on the chin and need some support.”
Even though the House and Senate have each voted to give federal workers (though not contractors yet) back pay when the shutdown ends, no one knows when that will be, and Hucker said workers don’t know which bills they can pay, or when they can count on money coming in again.
“They’re having a hard time,” Hucker said. “They don’t have an end in sight. Even people with good salaries tell me they’re eating all the fish sticks out of the bottom of the freezer.”
He added that many are suffering under the misconceptions a lot of people have of feds.
“Many of them have been unfairly criticized, because they see the president and other commentators saying they should just enjoy their vacation. Well, of course, nobody asked for this; nobody is on vacation. Everybody would rather be back at work. And … some of them work at the gift shop at the Smithsonian, or they do landscaping at a federal agency or they work at a cafeteria, and they make 30,000 or 40,000 in a good year. And now they’re not getting paid.”
So the point of the night is not only a meal but support. “I figured if we can offer them a night out with their families when they haven’t been able to go out for dinner in a couple of weeks, and to be in a supportive environment, hear some music and meet some of their neighbors, they would really appreciate that.”
Greg Whelan, the co-owner of McGinty’s Pub, in Silver Spring, is sending over shepherd’s pie and vegetables. He told Hucker the night was “a great idea.” As the shutdown drags on, “people are concerned about bills and mortgages.” “It was just a natural instinct to say yes.”
It’s not his first shutdown; they’ve been around for 13 years, and he’s “definitely noticed a dropoff” in his own business since Dec. 22.
He said people were “pretty relaxed” in the first day or two, but now he sees “a grave concern to people coming in. They’re talking about making their mortgages and paying their bills.”
Anyone interested in coming needs to RSVP; Hucker said more than 500 people have already done so. You can go to tomhucker.com/potluck to add your name.
WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.