The coronavirus outbreak has torn around the world, ripping apart the nation’s economy in its path in 2020. By April 16, 2020, 22 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits as non-essential businesses were ordered to shut down public services. Daily life as we know it has been disrupted. But no one is alone in this financial fight. Dozens of big businesses have stepped up to offer Americans some financial relief when they need it most. Credit card and finance companies are waiving late payment fees and temporarily lowering interest rates. Auto insurance companies, the DMV, and state law enforcement are working together to help see that no unnecessary financial burdens are placed on Americans at this time. For some of these savings, all you need to do is ask.
Auto Insurance Companies Are Giving Money Back
There have been far fewer drivers on the road since the coronavirus outbreak disrupted daily lives. Thankfully, auto insurance companies are giving their customers some money back while cars stay in their driveways. In April 2020, Allstate announced that it would reduce its customers’ premiums for April and May by 15%. Allstate CEO Thomas Wilson said in an interview with CNBC, “They can have it on their credit card or they can put it in their checking account.
Liberty Mutual also announced that it would give its customers a 15% discount on their auto premiums for two months while USAA is offering a 20% credit and Progressive, a 20% discount. American Family Insurance and Nationwide pledged to return $50 per vehicle to each of its customers.
American Express Customers Should Call To Take Advantage of Offers
Although call wait times can drag on during the coronavirus crisis, the effort can pay off. American Express is encouraging customers to call the number on the back of their Amex card to speak to a representative about options to help manage their finances during this time.
The company is giving its customers a few options, including temporarily lowering customers’ interest rates, waiving past-due payments and charges, waiving late payment fees, and lowering monthly payments.
The DMV Is Asking Law Enforcement To Be Flexible With Penalties
Across the United States, the Department of Motor Vehicles has been closing its doors to keep its employees and the public safe. While some of its services are still available online, the DMV is recommending that state law enforcement not penalize drivers for expired drivers licenses, identification or vehicle registration during this time.
While this isn’t guaranteed, state law enforcement has been instructed to be more flexible with giving out tickets as drivers don’t have an opportunity to visit the DMV and renew.
Electric and Water Companies Won’t Shut Off Service
Since the coronavirus outbreak, more than 22 million Americans have applied for unemployment, according to the Washington Post. As they await their checks, many households don’t have the means to pay their utility bills. In an effort to keep the lights on, several states have banned water and electric companies from turning off services, even if payment isn’t received.
The Texas Public Utility Commission voted to prevent services from being shut off for at least six months. Six major utility companies in California announced they would not shut off services, as well as New Jersey and New York.
Ally Financial is Waiving Overdraft Fees + Deferring Home Loan Payments
According to MarketWatch, pre-coronavirus, Americans incurred $50 billion a year in bank overdraft fees. We don’t have the numbers yet, but that number is sure to escalate as an estimated 20 million workers are expected to be laid off or furloughed during the coronavirus outbreak.
In response, Ally bank announced that they won’t charge their customers overdraft fees amid the crisis. They’re also allowing customers to defer their Ally Home Loan payment for up to 120 days.
Apple Card is Letting Customers Skip Payments
Apple is offering a customer assistance program during the coronavirus outbreak to help relieve their customers of some financial stress. A Goldman Sachs representative told Cnet that Apple Card users can contact their support through the Wallet App, on their iPhone, or online, to enroll in the program.
After enrolling, customers will automatically skip their March credit card payment without being charged interest. With several options of how to enroll in the program, Apple Card might be one of the easiest companies to offer financial relief. Also, check for extended offers.
Telecommunications Companies Waive Late Fees, Offer Wi-Fi
Sixty-nine telecommunications companies agreed to join the “Keep Americans Connected Pledge,” organized by the Federal Communications Commission in March 2020. The pledge includes waiving internet and other communication late fees for 60 days, as well as open public Wi-Fi hot spots. This was announced as many Americans began working from home, along with students attending classes online.
F.C.C. Chairman Ajit Pai said, “I don’t want any American consumers experiencing hardships because of the pandemic to lose connectivity.” Companies that have made the pledge include AT&T, T-Mobile, and Comcast.
National Publications Remove Paywalls for Coronavirus Coverage
Nearly every day, there are new updates on the status of the coronavirus from the World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control, state governors, and more. It’s up to American citizens to continually check for changing regulations for wearing masks, access to parks, and the status of checks and refunds coming from the government.
Major news publications including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are giving free access to news involving the coronavirus outbreak. However, many local news publications are struggling as advertisers pull out, leaving many Americans in the dark about local regulations and news.
Health Insurers Waive Coronavirus-Related Out-Of-Pocket Treatment Costs
Many health insurers are doing their part to help keep Americans healthy and flatten the curve by waiving out-of-pocket treatment costs that are COVID-19 related. The coverage includes both testing and treatment for coronavirus.
Health insurers who are on board with this offering include Aetna, Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Humana, Cigna, AllWays Health Partners, CareFirst, Fallon Health, and L.A. Care in California. CEO of Humana Bruce Broussard said, “We know we’re uniquely positioned to help our members during this unprecedented health crisis. No American should be concerned about the cost of care when being treated for coronavirus.”
PayPal is Helping in a Few Ways
PayPal announced that it has created several services in order to help its customers during the coronavirus outbreak. It’s allowing customers to defer payments at no additional cost. The company is also waiving fees for instantly-transferred funds from a user’s PayPal account to their bank account.
PayPal is also working with the U.S. Federal Government in the Paycheck Protection Program to approve loans for merchants and keep small businesses afloat. Those interested should check their website for an application.
Video-Sharing Tools Are Lifting Time Limits and Cost
More than ever before, Americans are using video chat to stay connected amid the coronavirus outbreak. Video chat and sharing tools like Zoom and Google Hangouts are being used for work, school, and staying in contact with friends and family. To help people stay connected, Google announced that it’s giving users free access to its advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing features through September 2020.
Zoom was the first video sharing tool to lift its time limits and allow users to access for free, in China. The product saw its daily active users climb from 10 million to 200 million in a matter of months.
Take Advantage Of Free Mental Health Care
If you’re like many Americans experiencing stress and anxiety during the coronavirus outbreak, you may want to take advantage of free tools for mental health care. Meditation app Headspace is offering a free collection of content and exercises to help with coronavirus-related stress and anxiety, as well as self-care app Shine.
Other free tools include Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741) and the PTSD Coach Online to help veterans cope with worry, anxiety, trauma, and sadness.
Paid Sick Leave, Increased Unemployment Benefits and Food Aid
For Americans who’ve either contracted coronavirus or had a family member who has, the effects can wreak havoc on their ability to do their job and pay the bills. In March 2020, a multi-billion dollar emergency aid package was approved and signed to help alleviate this stress.
The package includes offering paid sick and family leave benefits for Americans, increased unemployment benefits, and free diagnostic coronavirus testing, according to The Hill. It also includes food aid for low-income pregnant woman and their young children, as well as senior citizens and food banks.
Airbnb Is Offering Refunds and Travel Credits
Similar to U.S. airlines, Airbnb is offering its customers options, but not full refunds for all. Airbnb’s extenuating circumstances policy states that Airbnb bookings made on or before March 14, 2020, with a check-in date between March 14, 2020, and June 15, 2020, are covered by the policy.
This means that Airbnb will either refund customers’ payments or issue a travel credit that includes all service fees. Hosts will also be able to cancel without charge or impact their Superhost status.
Citibank is Offering Assistance
Citibank is offering several options for financial assistance to their over 200 million customers amid the coronavirus crisis. Citibank customers have the option to waive fees for early CD withdrawal and monthly service fees.
Customers may also contact Citibank for a credit line increase and to enroll in a forbearance program, in case they can’t make minimum payments as they’re due. A representative may also help customers enroll in other hardship assistance programs.
Disneyland is Offering Extensions on Annual Passports
On their website, Disneyland announced that the park will automatically extend the expiration date for Disneyland Annual Passport holders who have paid in full. Guests also have the option of receiving a partial refund for the theme park closure period, if they contact member services.
Disneyland went above and beyond for passport holders who are on a monthly payment plan. On April 5, 2020, the park announced that they automatically stopped payments while the park is closed.
U-Haul is Helping College Students with Free Storage
Nearly 300 American universities announced that they would be pausing on-campus classes and moving them to online amid the coronavirus outbreak. Several campuses also reported cases of COVID-19, including the University of Washington, Michigan State University, and Arizona State University.
In an effort to help those college students who’ve had to leave their housing, U-Haul announced that it would provide all college students who have been affected by schedule changes with 30 days of free self-storage. On March 12, 2020, U-Haul President John “JT” Taylor announced that the 30 days will be extended and any college students who want to take advantage should contact their nearest U-Haul store.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Will Suspend Foreclosures
In order to help Americans who have been hard-hit by the coronavirus outbreak, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac along with the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that they would suspend issuing mortgage foreclosures for 60 days.
Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency Mark Calabria said in a statement, “This foreclosure and eviction suspension allows homeowners with an Enterprise-backed mortgage to stay in their homes during this national emergency.”
Airlines Are Giving Out Vouchers, But Not Real Refunds
According to MarketWatch, passenger air travel has plummeted 97% since the coronavirus outbreak. Customers who had their flights canceled, or who have canceled their tickets themselves want their money back. Senators found that U.S. airlines are holding on to a reported $10 billion in customers’ cash. Most are offering customers vouchers for their already-paid flights, but U.S. senators aren’t satisfied with the exchange.
In a joint statement, U.S. senators announced, “If these companies released that money back to the public, it would provide a significant stimulus for struggling families. That’s why we once again urge the airlines to end their anti-consumer policies and offer real refunds during this emergency.”
Gyms Are Being Sued For Not Refunding Memberships
According to Money, one in five Americans belongs to a gym, paying around $60 each month for at least one gym membership. But while those gym doors are closed, many people are still getting charged. With more than 430 locations, 24 Hour Fitness has been sued for still charging its customers amid coronavirus.
Other gyms facing lawsuits include LA Fitness in Irvine, California, New York Sports Club in Manhattan, and Boston Sports Club. You still might get your money back, but there are no promises as of now.