Activist, local businesses helping furloughed federal employees

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DANE COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV)-- As the partial government shutdown reached day 35 on Friday, a local activist and several local businesses are helping out federal employees who are struggling during the partial government shutdown.

A Madison Muslim activist's loan program for furloughed federal workers is getting national attention.

Masood Akhtar announced he and others in the local Muslim community raised $80,000 to help federal workers not getting paychecks.

Masood tells NBC15 the word about the loan program has spread and people across 5 different states have reached out for help.

"I approached my Muslim community and said we need to talk about this issue, because all of these guys are not going to be paid and they have these bills to pay," he said.

He said the process is simple. Any federal employee in need is eligible regardless of their religious beliefs, ethnicity, or color. Akhtar said after he is contacted, he will then send a promissory note requesting some basic information, including the need for money, the amount, its use, and how it would be repaid once the government opens.

The loan agreement would be between the borrower and one donor.

Several local businesses, including three Dane County restaurants, are offering discounts or free meals and services for furloughed federal workers.

Wildwood Cafe in Stoughton is offering free meals to furloughed workers and families. They began helping furloughed worker on Jan. 12.

"Stories like this hit close to home and if we really believe community is extended family, we need to be doing what we can to take care of each other," according to a post on Wildwood's Facebook page.

The owner of Wildwood Cafe in Stoughton, Ryan Baughn, said a lot of regular customers are government employees.

"We have a lot of people in our community here that are in a very sticky and hard situation. So, we felt like as a place that people commune and come and where they see other people in their community, we need to do something," he said.

Other Dane County restaurants including Pasture and Plenty and Bloom Bake Shop followed Wildwood's example and began offering free meals to furloughed workers.

Eastside Automotive and Transmission in Madison and DiMaggio's Sales and Service in Monona are offering free labor for car repairs to unpaid federal employees.

Metcalfe's Market in Madison and Wauwatosa is offering a 20 percent discount at the checkout on groceries.