Ways groups, businesses helping furloughed federal workers

Federal employees can get assistance with rent, food, much more

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville-area groups and restaurants have come together to help those hit the hardest by the partial government shutdown.

The Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry (BEAM) in Jacksonville Beach and the Greater Jacksonville Area United Service Organizations are offering assistance that includes helping with mortgages and rent, and providing food and other items needed.

The USO announced its plans to help the Coast Guard community by serving as a distribution point, along with BEAM and Feeding Northeast Florida. It is asking for specific donation items, including baby food, diapers, pet food and $10 or $20 gift cards to Publix, Winn-Dixie or Walmart. Cash donations and checks made payable to USO Jacksonville are also welcome.

A food pantry at Jacksonville International Airport was set up by Feeding Northeast Florida to help TSA workers also affect by the shutdown.

“Many federal employees are using food pantries for the first time in their lives and will not need our help after the shutdown ends,” said Feeding Northeast Florida CEO Frank Castillo. “We hope to help as many federal workers as possible during the shutdown and will keep our pantries at the USO and airport open until the shutdown ends.”

Federal workers impacted by the partial government shutdown who work or live at the beach can receive financial assistance and food from BEAM. It can help residents pay rent, mortgage and utility bills, as well as provide food for families. It also has a pantry with fresh vegetables grown in its garden.

BEAM pantry

The organization serves low-income residents in Jacksonville’s beach communities and relies heavily on community support to assist residents in a time of need. Executive Director Lori Richards hopes the continued support from the community will bring relief to those struggling to make ends meet.

"We are confident that the community will support these increased efforts and ask that our friends and supporters continue to monitor our social media and website for specific opportunities to contribute and volunteer. We are grateful for the past support that allows us to respond to this emergency," Richards said.

The services are only available to those who either work or live in one of the beach communities -- Atlantic, Neptune, Ponte Vedra or Jacksonville beaches. This covers those living or working in the following ZIP codes:


"Here at the beach particularly, but really Jacksonville, we’re neighbors and we want to help each other," Richards said. "So this isn’t really any different than borrowing a cup of sugar from your neighbor if you’re making something and you don’t have it that day. We want to be there to help people."

BEAM is also helping families apply for food stamps. 

There is a pantry in Mayport that is convenient for anyone stationed at the Coast Guard base and another pantry in Jacksonville Beach at 850 Sixth Avenue South. For more information, call 904-241-2326 or visit the website Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry.

People can also help make sure pantries stay active by making monetary donations to: Feeding Northeast Florida. Some items needed include diapers, formula and gas cards.

United Way

Richards said she recommends those impacted by the shutdown call the United Way by dialing 211. 

According to United Way, almost 128,000 Duval County households struggle to make ends meet and that’s not factoring in the furloughed employees.

A United Way spokesperson told News4Jax  there are local resources available to furloughed employees. Those include family foundations, which help with mental health and certified financial counselors, and free legal assistance at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and Three Rivers Legal Services. 

More resources for furloughed employees can be found on the United Way's website.

Florida Theatre

Government employees are entitled to receive one free ticket to each of the following performances at the Florida Theater:

  • Sara Evans on Jan. 27 at 7:30pm
  • Pink Martini on Jan. 28 at 8pm
  • Sinbad on Feb. 2 at 8pm

A valid government employee ID is required. The offer is only valid in person at the Florida Theatre Box Office at 128 E. Forsyth Street.

'2Cool Traffic School'

Free driver's education classes are being offered to federal workers who take an online course with "2Cool Traffic School."

To find out more, click here for the details.

Liberty Tax advance program

Government workers furloughed in Jacksonville are eligible for a tax refund advance of $500 with no interest or fees as long as their expected net refund is at least $1,001.

In addition, Liberty Tax is offering government employees a $25 discount on their tax preparation fee. For more information, go to Liberty Tax's website.

Food drive for pets of furloughed workers

From Jan. 28 through Feb. 1, Jacksonville Pet Funeral Home and Pet Cremation Center will be accepting pet food donations to be given to the United States Coast Guard or any verified furloughed government employee(s) who need help with food for their pets.

Anyone who would like to help and donate non-perishable pet food items can drop those off between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the funeral home. There will be volunteers there to help receive all donations into the building during these hours.

Drop off location
Jacksonville Pet Funeral Home and Pet Cremation Center
4969 Beach Blvd.
Jacksonville, Florida 32207
(The corner of Beach Boulevard and Emerson Expressway)
Public Information Phone Number: 904-724-5556

In addition and effective immediately

The funeral home and cremation center will also waive all service fees, effective immediately, for verified furloughed government employee(s) and will provide its basic cremation services free of charge for the duration of the government shutdown. Again, this service is being offered only to verified furloughed government employee(s).  

"This is just our way of saying thank you to those who serve our country and our way of being there and available for them in their time of need," the funeral home said.

For additional information, contact Director Jimmy Hughey at 904-724-5556.

The Jacksonville Humane Society is also opening its pet food bank this weekend for furloughed workers who need help getting pet food. The food bank will be open from 10-12 p.m. at 1821 Foster Drive, Jacksonville.

The Humane Society said they need cat food donations.

Treemendous BBQ 

The family-owned restaurant will provide a free sandwich, side and drink to active members of the U.S. Coast Guard at its restaurant and food trucks. Members need to bring their military I.D. for a free meal. For location and a look at their menu, visit their website: Treemendous BBQ.

What’s Smokin’ Food Truck

Coast Guard members can receive free meals on Friday Jan. 25 at Nocatee Splash Park from 5-9 p.m. For location information,  visit their website: What's Smokin' Food Truck.

Twisted Okie

The barbeque and taco food truck will provide free meals to any active duty Coast Guard members who present a military I.D. For location information, visit their Facebook page: Twisted Okie.

All three businesses said they will continue offering the free meals until the government shutdown ends.

Oil change for government employees

Coggin Nissan at the Avenues is offering free oil changes to government workers impacted by the shutdown. Workers must show an official ID that shows they work for a branch of the government affected by the shutdown. The dealership has already had some TSA employees come in for service.

St. Augustine contribution drive

The Palm Coast Navy League Council in St. Augustine has launched a contribution drive to support members of the U.S. Coast Guard. It is accepting household donations such as paper towels, toilet tissue, Pampers, canned goods, and other non-perishable items at Anastasia Baptist Church on 1650 A1A South in St Augustine. Items donated will be delivered to the USO Center at Mayport for distribution to USCG families.

Monetary donations can also be made directly to:

Northeast Florida Chief Petty Officer Association
4300 Ocean Street
Atlantic Beach, Florida 32233

St. Augustine Aquarium food drive

The St. Augustine Aquarium is having a food drive to help families affected by the government shutdown. 

Nonperishable food items can be dropped off at the following locations:

St. Augustine Aquarium
Courtyard St. Augustine I-95
Fairfield Inn & Suites I-95
Castaway Canopy Adventures

Food distribution will be through the Catholic Charities -- located at 3940 Lewis Speedway #2103, St. Augustine, FL, 32084 -- from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays and Wednesday.

Supporters of the food drive include 121 Federal Credit Union and The Arc of the St. Johns. 

If you wish to support the efforts, call Kathy Hiester at 904-495-5608 or email kathy@saaquarium.com.

JTA extends free fares for federal workers another 3 weeks

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority announced Friday that its free-fare program to help federal workers impacted by the government shutdown will be extended for an additional three weeks.

The free-fare program includes the JTA fixed route bus service, First Coast Flyer, the St. John’s River Ferry and JTA Connexion. In order to ride for free, federal workers will need to show their active federal identification badge when boarding buses or the Ferry.

“While the government shutdown has come to an end, we want to make sure those impacted federal workers will continue to have access to public transportation until they can get back on their feet,” said JTA CEO Nathaniel P. Ford Sr.  

About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident & broadcast news producer who's been reporting & writing for nearly a decade here at The Local Station.