Washington – When the news broadcasts began to report that President Trump and congressional leaders had signed a deal to reopen the government for three weeks, renowned chef and philanthropist José Andrés asked the federal staff to defy the cold outside its World Central Kitchen location. Washington when they check the news on their cell phones.
The workers cheered when Andrés came to greet them. "Yes, thank you very much, Chef José," many shouted in the crowd. Andrés assured them that the kitchen would remain open for the next few days while waiting to be paid.
For weeks, thousands of federal workers have come to this kitchen managed by Andrés' non-profit organization near the National Mall to get a free hot meal. As part of the # ChefsForFeds initiative, World Central Kitchen opened 11 pop-up kitchens in Washington and collaborated with local restaurants and food trucks in more than 17 states and Puerto Rico to serve meals to the approximately 800,000 federal workers who have been thrown away or worked without to pay because of the shutdown.
On Friday, the second missed payday for employees in nine federal departments, the president announced that he would support a measure to finance the government for three weeks. The measure, approved by Congress but still requiring Mr Trump's signature from Friday evening, will break a 35-day stalemate in the budget negotiations between the White House and the leaders of Congress on Mr Trump's question financing for the construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border.
When they heard the news about the president's announcement, some of the employees waiting in line reacted somewhat relieved. For many, the economic and emotional toll of the longest shutdown in the history of the US – including two missed balances – has become extremely demoralizing.
"Of course this is great news, it's been a long time ago – but good news," Sonnia, a staff member who handles tenders for a federal agency, told CBS News.
Sonnia, who chose not to announce her last name, or the government agency that employs her, said the long-term closure was like a "hostage situation" for federal workers. She called on president and government leaders to reopen the government and then continue to debate the best approach to secure the border between the US and Mexico.
Andrés, a frequent critic of the president, welcomed an end to the stalemate on Capitol Hill and said that this would pave the way for a "compromise" between Democrats and Republicans. But he added that the three-week solution is still a temporary postponement for the federal workforce.
"We must understand that such a short deal will still cause much uncertainty among federal workers and the entire nation," Andrés told CBS News. "But that's better than nothing."
Andrés promised to keep his main kitchen open in Washington until at least Friday and said that he asked the restaurants participating in his initiative to continue their services to federal workers next week.
"We have prepared ourselves as this would last forever, because once again, when people are hungry – especially mothers with children – we can not leave them alone," he said.
Since setting up World Central Kitchen in 2010, Andrés has spearheaded the provision of meals to communities affected by natural disasters or plagued by poverty around the world, including Brazil, Cambodia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua, etc. Zambia and the United States.
With a quote from the novel "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck, Andrés said his non-profit organization will continue to help needy communities in the United States and in countries around the world.
"Wherever there is a fight, hungry people can eat, we will be there", he said, and he changed it "I will" in the quote of the novel in "we will."