Photo by Flickr user Daniel Lobo.

On the winding streets of Naples, Italy there’s a tradition of buying a pending cup of coffee for a perfect stranger. The pay-it-forward concept known as “caffè sospeso” started in the area of the city where the working class fuels up for the day. Now the idea is being applied to beer and the hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal employees who are going without pay as the government shutdown stretches into its third week. 

A new website launched today, PayItFurloughed.com, allows good samaritans to buy local craft beer for furloughed feds. A payment of $7.50 funds one beer; $15 funds two; and the Daddy Warbucks of donors can buy a six-pack for $45. As long as there are funds in the account, workers who are 21 and older can go to participating breweries to get their gratis suds. 

So far, Atlas Brew Works (2052 West Virginia Ave. NE #102) and DC Brau Brewing Company (3178-B Bladensburg Road NE) are on board.

PayItFurloughed is from food incubator Mess Hall headed by Al Goldberg, food writer Nevin Martell, and app development agency 3Advance, with an assist from former Hill employee Erick Sanchez. The organizers hope the free brews become a pick-me-up for frustrated workers while also injecting cash into small businesses that are feeling the economic effects of the shutdown. They contributed the initial $1,000 to the fund to get it off the ground.

“Living in D.C., I know so many people who are really hard hit from the shutdown,” Martell says. “Paying someone’s electrical bill or rent isn’t feasible, but if you were sitting next to someone at a bar who was having a crappy day because of the furlough, you’d probably buy them a beer.”

Martell hopes to bring more breweries into the fold. “Breweries have been hit really hard by the lack of foot traffic,” he says. Atlas, in particular, has had a tough time, according to DCist. “This seemed like a cool way to help everyone out in a fun way. What’s more American than beer?”

*Nevin Martell is a regular City Paper contributing writer.

Photo by Flickr user Daniel Lobo.