As the U.S. government shutdown enters its fourth week, a new website is inviting strangers to pay for beer for struggling federal employees not receiving their paychecks.

The campaign, cheekily titled “Pay it Furloughed,” allows people to pay for drinks at participating breweries for the 800,000 affected federal government workers.

One of the site’s founders said the inspiration came after hearing people speak about the shutdown’s “negative impact.”

“They wanted to do something to help. Maybe they can’t pay a car payment or make a mortgage payment but maybe, [they can help with] something small,” site co-founder Nevin Martell told CTV News Channel.

Martell’s friend Al Goldberg, who owns a culinary incubator in Washington, D.C., told him that craft breweries have been suffering since the shutdown.

“So we decided to marry those two ideas … and we stayed up three days straight drinking Red Bull and built a website,” he said.

“People can go online and fund a beer and then federal employees can go into a local participating brewery and just redeem as many beers as they’d like,” Martell said. “As much as they need to get through the day.”

The site, which launched Sunday, suggests that “beer makes everything better.”

As of Thursday night, approximately 2,800 beers had been donated with just over 500 beers being redeemed so far.

“It’s been really heartening to see people take advantage of it and walk out with a smile on their face,” he said. “We really feel like ‘mission accomplished’ on that point.”

But while Martell said it’s been “really nice” to have met affected workers in tasting rooms at some of these breweries, he’s also heard painful stories.

“They’re telling you just awful stories,” he said. “This is not a great time for them but they’re able to go out and have a few beers and maybe hang out with somebody in the same situation as they are.”

“Maybe they can commiserate or talk about something different,” Martell said, adding he noticed employees seemed depressed.

“People are just afraid of the uncertainty of it all. They don’t know when it’s going to end [or how],” he said. “And when they do go back to work, there’s going to be a mountain of catch-up for them.”

“This is not the way they many of them had hoped to wanted to spend their January, and part of December and God knows how much longer,” he said. “Free beer may take the edge off for a bit but at the end of the day everybody just wants to go back to normal.”

The government shutdown – now the longest in American history -- was prompted by U.S. President Donald Trump failing to sign a resolution unless it contained $5.7 billion in funding for his proposed southern border wall.

Since the shutdown began 27 days ago, garbage pickup in national parks has ceased and travellers have experienced longer lines at the airport.

Some estimates suggest that the U.S. economy loses $1.2 billion each week the shutdown continues. White House economic advisor Kevin Hassett admitted the administration underestimated the fallout.