Amid historic government shutdown, organizations offer discounts and freebies

The 800,000 government employees and contractors affected by the shutdown can obtain payment plans, grab free meals, learn languages and watch films for free.

Govt shutdown deals

It’s the 24th day of the United States government shutdown, and hundreds of thousands are feeling squeezed during the longest funding lapse in U.S. history.

Marketwatch reported:

The stakes are high for some federal employees. About 800,000 government workers are going without pay under the partial government shutdown, sparked by a debate between President Trump and Congress over funding a border wall. Affected employees are expected to lose an estimated $2.2 billion every paycheck, according to the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning advocacy group. Back-pay for unpaid workers is customary, but not guaranteed.

Along with not being paid, many government employees and contractors are tweeting under the hashtag #ShutdownStories concerns about not being able to pay their bills about their credit scores dropping.

Marketwatch reported:

A missed payment could amount to as much as a 90- to 110-point drop on a FICO FICO, -1.13%  score of 780 or higher, according to Barry Paperno, community director for Credit.com. But there are other factors to consider, including account holders’ history with collection services, outstanding balances on delinquent accounts and the length of their credit history.

CBS News reported:

Some lenders, including banks and auto-leasing companies, say they are working to accommodate government employees who are not receiving paychecks, but their concessions vary, and some government workers tell CBS MoneyWatch they are struggling to negotiate deals with their creditors.

“The general flavor of what we have heard is creditors are waiving late fees, offering the opportunity to skip a payment, or offering short-term interest-free loans to federal workers that come with a grace period on repayment,” said Bruce McClary, spokesman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “Unfortunately, the landscape of concessions is widely varied.”

However, many financial organizations are stepping in to help federal employees survive the stress of not receiving their paychecks.

Inc. reported:

… With no clear end in sight, business owners have taken it upon themselves, and their wallets, to help relieve at least some of the stress that furloughed federal employees and government contractors–many of whom live paycheck to paycheck–are going through right now.

In a press release, Chase said:

Chase will automatically waive or refund overdraft and monthly service fees on Chase checking and savings accounts if an employee’s salary from an affected federal agency was direct-deposited into the account in November, 2018.

“We’re here for our government worker customers whose pay may be disrupted,”  said Thasunda Duckett, CEO of Consumer Banking at Chase.  “We all hope this will be resolved soon.”

Wells Fargo is also offering assistance to workers affected by the government shutdown, and posted numbers to its departments on a landing page.

Other financial institutions, such as TD Bank and Amarillo National Bank, tweeted statements and links to accommodations for federal workers:

Service providers extend payment options

Several wireless carriers offered payment plans and other assistance to furloughed workers.

AT&T said in a press release:

… Just because the government shut down, doesn’t mean that your phone, TV, and internet should stop working too.

We’re here to help ease the burden of trying to pay bills on time during the shutdown. As long as the shutdown is in effect, our customer service team will adjust late fees, provide extensions, and coordinate with you on revised payment schedules.

Sprint’s chief used similar language in the company’s press release:

“As with any Sprint customer who hits a rough patch, we want to help and will take a look at your account to see what we can do,” said Michel Combes, Sprint CEO. “Our Care reps will coordinate with qualified customers and our financial team to find a payment option that works and keep your service uninterrupted during the government shutdown.”

“Customers who are Federal government employees and need short-term account assistance can work with T-Mobile Customer Care representatives on solutions tailored to meet their needs, including flexible payment options that allow customers to spread their service payments over time,” T-Mobile said in its press release.

T-Mobile’s chief executive, John Legere, tweeted:

Verizon issued a statement from its senior vice president of customer service, Nancy Clark. It read, in part:

To those federal government employees impacted by the government shutdown: we’re here for you.

We know this is a difficult time for you and all those directly affected by this closure, and we want make sure you can stay connected to family, friends and loved ones with America’s largest and most reliable 4G LTE network. After all, a disruption to government operations should not result in a disruption to your cell service.

Verizon is standing by to help with flexible payment options to keep your service running. Our Promise to Pay program allows you to set a future date for payment quickly and easily.

The press release details the steps workers can take to enable Verizon’s “Promise to Pay” program, either via desktop or the company’s app.

Insurance companies such as Geico and utility organizations such as Enstar Natural Gas tweeted offers of bill assistance:

Many other organizations have also jumped in to offer assistance and give federal workers words of encouragement.

Free meals and discounts

Individuals and organizations such as Chef José Andrés and Fazoli’s offered up free meals to federal employees:

Many other restaurants and cafes across the nation offered food and drink in their areas.

Continuing education

Along with meals, some organizations have offered workers the chance to spend the time off honing their skill sets.

Rosetta Stone offered federal employees a free 3-month online subscription:

“Try to take your mind off of the shutdown by learning a new language,” Rosetta Stone said in its press release.

The American Bar Association offered up five continuing education courses, free of charge.

In a press release, the organization said:

“The ABA, as the largest representative of the legal profession, looked at how we could quickly mobilize to help lawyers affected by the government shutdown,” said ABA Executive Director Jack Rives. “We are offering a range of free CLE courses to those attorneys, including those who are not currently ABA members. This is a way to help lawyers during this difficult time who do so much for the country.”

Services and entertainment

Anthem Brewing, Howard University, Affordable Autos, iGottaGuy Services and several Alamo Drafthouse Cinema locations offered discounted beer, free basketball game tickets, discounted oil changes, deals on construction services and free movie tickets:

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (Asbhurn & Woodbridge) is offering all federal employees free movies throughout the month of…

Posted by Alamo Drafthouse DC Area on Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Publications including USA Today, ABC, and Inc. have published lists of resources and freebies for federal workers, as social media users have taken to Twitter and Facebook to share organizations’ offers.

Those organizations involved in easing furloughed workers’ financial strains can strengthen customer loyalty and gain positive PR in a time of growing concern and criticism over the continued government shutdown.

The organizations can also avoid backlash and negative word of mouth, such as seen below with one federal worker’s interaction with Quicken Loans:

What do you think of these organizations’ efforts, Ragan/PR Daily readers?

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