City Government, Local Cultural Institutions Offer Relief for Federal Employees
It’s day 33 of the government shutdown, and 800,000 federal employees are going on a month without pay. As the shutdown has gone on, businesses have announced deals offering free food, movie tickets, and even visits to the Columbus Zoo.
Since then, the City of Columbus, the Columbus City Auditor and a handful of cultural institutions announced their own deals for federal employees. Read on to learn more.
City of Columbus
As the shutdown continues, the City of Columbus and Mayor Andrew Ginther have announced a plan to assist those affected in paying their bills.
The Department of Public Utilities will waive penalties to furloughed federal employees who reside in Columbus and are unable to pay their city utility bills. Eligible federal employees will be able to make minimal monthly payments until the shutdown is over. Furloughed employees can visit the walk-in payment office at 111 N. Front St., or call 614-645-8276 to begin the process. Proof of employment, such as a pay stub or an employee ID badge is required.
“Federal employees should not face penalties and potential loss of basic services like water because the federal government cannot work together to pass a budget,” Ginther said in a press release. “We will do our part to support families during this difficult time, but I call on the President and Congress to reach a resolution and reopen the government.”
They city has also issued a notice warning of certain programs and services that may halt until the shutdown concludes.
Expect delays in projects partially funded by the Community Development Block Grants, “including the new Linden Community Recreation Center, affordable housing projects, and the new Hilltop early childhood education center.”
School’s Out, a program that coordinates services during school breaks, and Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a food and nutrition service supplying supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income women and children could run out of funding by the end of February.
For more information, visit columbus.gov.
Columbus City Auditor
The City of Columbus Division of Income Tax, as part of the Columbus City Auditor’s office, is providing taxpayer assistance to federal employees working without pay or who have been furloughed.
“Federal workers who are going without pay should not be further penalized,” said Beth Brink, the Division’s Chief Administrative Officer, in a press release. “The Division of Income Tax is able to work with federal employees who may owe taxes to set up payment plans, allowing them to pay off their tax bills over time.”
Taxpayers can contact the Division of Income Tax by phone or visit them at 77 N. Front St.
For more information, visit columbus.gov/incometaxdivision.
Ohio History Connection
Now and until the end of the government shutdown, Ohio History Connection, located at 800 E. 17th Ave., is offering free admission to federal employees and their immediate families.
“This is our small way of contributing to positive family experiences during the duration of the government shutdown,” the organization wrote on their Facebook page.
Those interested can present their federal employee ID or badge at the Ohio History Center front desk. Find upcoming events here.
Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA)
Eligible federal workers with a government ID can obtain a free 31-day Frequent/Standard pass (usually $62) or Rush Hour pass (usually $85) from COTA during the government shutdown. Should the shutdown conclude before the end of the 31-day period, the remaining balance of the pass will still be valid.
“When the shutdown ends, the financial burden will continue for those impacted and their families,” said Joanna Pinkerton, COTA President and CEO, in a press release. “This benefit provides some relief beyond the conclusion of the shutdown.”
This effort will also benefit federal government contract workers impacted by the shutdown. A letter from their employer indicating their non-work or furlough status would be required.
For free passes, government workers can visit the COTA Pass Sales Office at 33 N. High St. between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
For more information, visit cota.com.
Furloughed federal employees and their immediate family members are offered free general admission to COSI during the government shutdown. COSI’s Atomicafe restaurant and Science2GO! shop will also be offering 10 percent off all purchases.
COSI has a few special experiences coming up as well, including the interactive scavenger hunt COSI Smart Challenge, which comes with a chance to win an Ultimate Family Membership. The center is also opening up a new exhibition, Crocs: Ancient Predators in a Modern World, this Saturday, Jan. 26 at 12 p.m., which is included in general admission.
For more information, visit cosi.org/promotions.
Columbus Museum of Art
With a federal employee ID, those affected by the government shutdown and their immediate families can get free admission to the Columbus Museum of Art.
“In times of stress and hardship, museums are places of respite where people of all ages can recharge and reconnect,” reads a post on the museum’s Facebook page.
For more information, visit columbusmuseum.org.