Modesto, Turlock hospital offer help to furloughed federal workers

Modesto will help federal workers not getting paid during the partial government shutdown with their city utility bills, while a Turlock hospital is dishing up free meals to federal workers and their families.

The City Council voted 7-0 on Tuesday to let these workers work out payment plans for their city utility bills and to waive late fees and penalties on these bills. The city also will not turn off service during the partial federal government shutdown that as of Wednesday was in its 33rd day and has left about 800,000 federal workers without pay.

Modesto’s help is for federal workers who have been furloughed and those who are working but not getting paid. The help also is for federal contractors and federally funded businesses that are not getting paid.

Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock is offering free meals in its cafe to federal employees and their immediate families during the shutdown. Employees need to check in at the hospital’s main entrance, show their federal ID or badge and accompany family members.

“They had (several) families come in last night,” said Krista Deans, a spokeswoman with Tenet Healthcare, Emanual’s corporate parent, on Wednesday. “They hope the word gets out, and more families use it.”

Federal employees and their families can eat once a day. The cafe is open 6:45 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends.

“We have local families who are struggling and we want to be at the forefront of assistance for our federal employees,” Emanuel CEO Lani Dickinson said in a news release.

Tenet Healthcare also owns Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, which is not offering the free meals. Deans said the decision on how to help federal workers is being made by individual hospitals. Deans said federal employees do not have to live in Turlock to eat for free at Emanuel.

Modesto Councilman Tony Madrigal asked that the City Council consider offering help during the shutdown. He said after the meeting he learned Long Beach and Clovis were offering similar assistance and believed Modesto could do the same.

City spokesman Thomas Reeves said in an email that the typical monthly utility bill is $140 for a single-family home. Modesto assesses a $10 late fee if the bill is not paid within 26 days of the bill’s date. Reeves said the household is eligible to receive a disconnect notice and another $10 charge within 10 days after that.

Kevin Valine covers local government, homelessness and general assignment for The Modesto Bee. He is a graduate of San Jose State University and grew up in San Jose.