The  partial shutdown of the federal government seems designed to inconvenience regular citizens as little as possible. Planes will keep flying. Mail will still arrive on time; passports probably will too. Even national parks and monuments will remain open, even though there may be fewer park rangers on hand to answer your questions. The people who keep us safe, such as soldiers and TSA employees will still be on the job.

But for 800,000 federal employees, some of them unskilled workers with low salaries, the shutdown is very bad news. About 420,000 have been told to continue reporting to work--without pay--because their work is considered essential. These include people who work in airport security or for the Customs and Border Patrol. The other 380,000 are getting time off with no salaries. They can take other jobs, but have to be cautious about conflict-of-interest rules. When the federal employees finally return to work, assuming the shutdown doesn't last so long that they give up and look for other permanent jobs, federal employees may receive back pay for the period when their salaries were suspended. Or maybe not. It'll be up to Congress to decide.

In other words, federal employees are collateral damage in the battle of wills between President Donald Trump, who says he won't sign a bill to fund the government without $5 billion allocated for a wall on the border with Mexico, and Senate Democrats, who say they will never agree to that level of funding, and without whose votes a budget can't pass. It's a raw deal, and a number of D.C.-area restaurants and other institutions have stepped in to help--and perhaps gain a little good publicity for themselves.

The freebies and discounts for federal employees were kicked off by chef José André?s who operates several restaurants in and around D.C., as well as other places around the country.

Other restaurants and museums in the area quickly followed suit. (Here's a list of many of them.) But at least one business is taking its generosity a step farther.

What's particularly nice about Chase's gesture is that it doesn't seem to be restricted to the D.C. area. There are federal employees everywhere, and not just around the nation's capital. Everywhere that there's an airport, a military installation or base, a passport office, a national monument or park, a coastline, a Social Security office, and on and on, there are federal employees. In fact, according to, 79 percent of federal employees work outside of the D.C. region. That doesn't include postal employees (who aren't affected by the shutdown since the Post Office relies on its own revenues).

Wherever you are, there are likely to be federal employees in your neighborhood. And they could probably use a little help or at least some encouragement right now. Do you run a restaurant or a retail store where you could offer them a freebie or a discount? Do you offer a service that they could use--resumé? assistance, perhaps? If you can offer anything that might help, consider helping. Maybe you can make this non-salaried Christmas just a little less dreary.