Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Fun

Straz, Florida Aquarium also offering free tickets for furloughed workers.

More organizations step up to help those without pay during the government shutdown.

The Straz Center for the Performing Arts and the Florida Aquarium are also offering free admission and other breaks for furloughed government employees. They join a growing list of local organizations trying to help workers who are going without pay during the longest government shutdown in history.

The Straz is offering two to four tickets to three of its shows, with five performances total playing this week, and the aquarium is offering a free ticket to any furloughed employee until the government reopens.

"The Tampa Bay community is pulling together to support local government workers who have been affected by the shutdown," says Straz Center president Judy Lisi. "So, we're joining our colleagues at Ruth Eckerd Hall and The Florida Orchestra to provide an entertaining diversion while these workers wait for their jobs to start again. We're happy to do it."

PREVIOUSLY: Here's where furloughed workers can find freebies and help in Tampa Bay.

The Straz offer includes these shows:

• The Kid Time presentation of the family-friendly musical Rosie Revere, Engineer on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. (four tickets)

• The Club Jaeb performance by singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer on Monday at 7:30 p.m. (two tickets).

• Jobsite Theater's production of Shakespeare's Othello on Friday at 8 p.m. (two tickets) and also Saturday at 8 p.m. (two tickets) and Sunday at 4 p.m. (two tickets).

Tickets are available at the Straz ticket office 90 minutes before the show with valid government employee ID.

The Florida Aquarium said it will offer federal workers free admission until the government reopens.

"We know that government employees are facing hardships right now," said Florida Aquarium president and CEO Roger Germann. "Free admission to any place where they can come and relax for a little bit is the least we can do during this stressful time."

From now until the government reopens, workers affected by the shutdown can receive one free admission with their federally issued ID.

It was previously announced earlier this week that Ruth Eckerd Hall is offering free tickets to Wednesday's production of Disney's new a capella singing group DCappella. And the Florida Orchestra also offered free tickets to this weekend's performance of Schubert at the Straz Center and Mahaffey Theater. Both are offering four free tickets 90 minutes before show time.

More than 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or working without pay since the government shutdown on Dec. 21.

Other offers for furloughed employees include:

• Pinellas County Utilities is offering a payment deferment to any customer who is impacted by the federal shutdown and needs assistance with their water and sewer bill. Contact our customer service number at (727) 464-4000.

• Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa is offering Furlough Friday lunch every Friday until the shutdown ceases. Bring in your government idea and receive 10 free wings and a free beer or non-alcoholic beverage.

• The online shopping and coupon site TopCashback is offering furlough workers $20 towards purchases at Dollar Tree by clicking this link. The offer is valid until Feb. 17, 2019.

• An online traffic school is offering free classes for government workers. to help these families keep things going.

"Although driver's ed classes might not seem that big of a deal, imagine being a teenager waiting your whole life to drive only be told that your family can't afford it right now," a spokewoman for Too Cool Traffic School said in a news release. "Or, having a traffic ticket and being unable to meet the requirements to take a class for it and getting your driver's license suspended. We want to step in and help by offering all of our courses for free." Go to

• AT&T customers affected by the federal government shutdown are eligible for flexible payment options to keep their service running. "As long as the shutdown is in effect, our customer service team will waive late fees, provide extensions, and coordinate with you on revised payment schedules," a news release from AT&T said.

• The city of St. Petersburg announced that two of its most popular nature attractions will be free for federal workers for the duration of the shutdown.

Starting Saturday, Sunken Gardens and Boyd Hill Nature Preserve will be free until the federal government reopens.

Admission into Sunken Gardens, at 1825 Fourth St. N, is normally $10 for adults and $4 for children ages 2 to 11. Boyd Hill, at 1101 Country Club Way S, is $3 for adults and $1.50 for kids 3 to 16.

Federal employees must bring their government identification, or a recent pay stub and photo identification to gain free admission. They can bring up to three guests, according to city officials.

"It's a small gesture of our appreciation for our federal workers and helps to provide them and their families with two additional fun outings to enjoy at no cost," said Mayor Rick Kriseman.

The Hillsborough County School District reminded parents late in the week that they can apply for free lunch benefits for their children any time of the year. That was their trying-not-to-be-political way of making free lunch available to those families who will be without income for as long as the partial shut-down lasts. Parents can apply online or pick up paper applications at their children's schools. "We'll walk them through," said student nutrition manager Mary Kate Harrison. She sees the situation as comparable to the disruption of a house fire. Regardless of how much money the federal government may or may not repay them, school officials said in their notice that "we want to ensure our students have all the support and resources they need to be successful in the classroom."

Previously announced

Earlier this week, these offers and efforts got under way:

• Feeding Tampa Bay and United Way Suncoast are providing a daily popup food bank at Tampa International Airport for federal employees with the Transportation Security Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Donate to this effort at

• Gigglewaters in Safety Harbor is offering a free beer and a classic movie in its screening room. Show your badge or pay stub from a government agency. Find a movie schedule at

• The Humane Society of Tampa Bay is offering free pet food to furloughed government workers. The free food is available at the Humane Society's shelter at 3607 N Armenia Ave. in Tampa weekdays from noon-7 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Verification is required.

• Cajun restaurant Happy's Bayou Bites in Dunedin is offering free lunch to U.S. Coast Guard members and their families until the shutdown is over. It's open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. 431 Skinner Blvd., Dunedin. (727) 240-1102.

• Sky Zone Tampa is offering free jumps to federal employees currently without pay. They can get 60 minutes of play Tuesdays through Thursdays through Jan. 31, or until the shutdown ends. The indoor trampoline park is also hosting a food drive with items to be donated to the Feeding Tampa Bay Food Bank. Guests who donate will receive $2 off their jump time Tuesdays through Thursdays. 10137 E Adamo Drive.

• Trinity Cafe: Government workers can get a healthy, three-course meal at their two locations, 801 N Nebraska Ave. and 2202 E Busch Blvd., both in Tampa. Both are open from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. weekdays and 9-10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Nebraska location; Saturday only at the Busch location.

• Sylvia's Clubhouse LLC in Clearwater is offering free play in the indoor playground for families affected by the shutdown. The clubhouse is also collecting donations and posted a wish list for Coast Guard donations such as gas and grocery gift cards and baby and pet items. Donate any item from the list (found on its Facebook page) and get 50 percent off admission. 25016 U.S. 19 N, Clearwater. (727) 401-3202

• Craft Street Kitchen in Trinity is offering half off dinner for the families off all active Coast Guard members. 3216 Little Road. (727) 372-9491.

• Credit unions across the country, including Suncoast Federal Credit Union, have put together a variety of resources to help members stay fiscally afloat. The help ranges from waived fees for skip payments to lines of credit and financial counseling.

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at Follow @SharonKWn.