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.
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.
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.
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.
… 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.
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:
— TD Bank (@TDBank_US) January 11, 2019
Federal employees, we’ve got your back. ❤️ Some federal employees aren’t receiving paychecks due to the government shutdown. For our impacted customers, we can help by deferring installment and mortgage loan payments—plus other accommodations. Details: https://t.co/x9BcQJMSFz pic.twitter.com/Rr33Ue5ohC
— Amarillo National Bank (@ANB) January 11, 2019
Service providers extend payment options
Several wireless carriers offered payment plans and other assistance to furloughed workers.
… 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.
“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:
At @TMobile we’re standing by to help federal government employees who are directly affected by the shutdown. We know it’s important to keep your wireless service available, so customers who need help with flexible payment/ deferral options should call 611 https://t.co/WfUVzyExUJ
— John Legere (@JohnLegere) January 6, 2019
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:
All #FederalEmployees and contractors that have been affected by the ongoing #GovernmentShutdown, we're here to help. To discuss your billing options, our insurance agents are available online or by phone at (800) 207-7847. https://t.co/9wK6JhECfV pic.twitter.com/mYPFYVtvC4
— GEICO (@GEICO) January 7, 2019
If you are a federal employee impacted by the government shutdown and need assistance with your ENSTAR gas bill, please contact customer service at 907-277-5551 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
— ENSTAR Natural Gas (@ENSTARNatGas) January 9, 2019
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:
Big news! We will open a kitchen on Pennsylvania Ave this week to join private sector effort to feed federal employees during the shutdown. It’s only fair to feed Americans in need! #ChefsForFeds 👨🍳👩🍳🥘 Follow @WCKitchen for more details! pic.twitter.com/PRBtlaNug6
— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) January 14, 2019
— Fazoli's (@Fazolis) January 11, 2019
Many other restaurants and cafes across the nation offered food and drink in their areas.
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:
Gov’t employee affected by the #shutdown? Learn a new language in the meantime: we're offering furloughed government workers a 3-mo gift to the Rosetta Stone app by emailing your name and validation info to email@example.com. Learn more here:https://t.co/Mi8qt3UhSa
— Rosetta Stone (@rosettastone) January 9, 2019
“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.
“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:
Thank you to everyone who keeps fighting the good fight, for not just breweries, but all businesses that are being effected by the Gov shutdown.🍻🖤 To help out a bit, we will be offering $1 off all Pints for Federal Employees 🍺#madeonearthbyhumans #heresmyanthem pic.twitter.com/pFFw8J2t6V
— Anthem Brewing Co. (@AnthemBrewing) January 14, 2019
As the shutdown for the "federal government enters its third week, which impacts an estimated 800,000 employees… Howard University [@HUBisonSports] is playing a role to help soften the blow," reports @HBCUSports. https://t.co/HNpZ3wpjPm
— Howard University (@HowardU) January 11, 2019
It is our honor to help those federal employees affected by the recent government shut down.
Affordable Automobiles would like to offer a $12.99 standard oil change to furloughed employees, just present your federal ID when scheduling your service to receive the discount. pic.twitter.com/9xegNdw55t
— Affordable Autos MB (@AffAutosMyrtle) January 14, 2019
If you are a federal employee & in need of emergency home services contact I Gotta Guy Services for special pricing consideration. Federal employees only! 877-67-WeFix #IGottaGuy #WeFix
(Please no political commentary – we are just trying to help out.) pic.twitter.com/ybCV5bsa0r
— IGottaGuyServices (@GottaServices) January 14, 2019
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (Asbhurn & Woodbridge) is offering all federal employees free movies throughout the month of…
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:
— Dave Snider (@DaveSnider) January 8, 2019
What do you think of these organizations’ efforts, Ragan/PR Daily readers?