The government’s partial shutdown – a record one month and counting – has thousands of government workers in Houston living without a paycheck.
Meantime, area businesses are offering ways to help furloughed workers, from flexible bill payments to zero interest-rate loans.
Wireless, Internet, TV, and Phone Services
T-Mobile is offering flexible payment options that allow customers who are federal employees to spread their service payments over time. Payment deferral is also an option. T-Mobile Customer Care: 611 from a T-Mobile device, or 877-746-0909 from any phone.
AT&T also has flexible payment options. Consumers can access bill-pay options here. DIRECTV customers can go here. They will also work with government employees if late charges show up on their bills.
Sprint Customer Care is prepared to work with federal government employees seeking short-term payment solutions. Affected customers should call 888-211-4727 or go online to chat with a Care representative at Sprint.com.
Verizon customers can set up a flexible “promise-to-pay” arrangement in the My Verizon app or by going to www.verizon.com or by calling 1-866-266-1445.
Comcast is offering flexible payment options by pushing out billing due dates and waiving fees. Its care teams are available by phone, in retail stores and across social channels. Call 1-800-xfinity (1-800-934-6489).
CenturyLink, internet, TV and phone-service provider, said it has no special programs for furloughed workers. “CenturyLink has always worked with customers having difficulty paying their bills so there is no need to offer special payment solutions for those impacted by the government shutdown,” said Linda Johnson, a spokesperson for CenturyLink. Call 1-888-723-8010.
Chase Bank is automatically refunding overdraft and monthly fees for checking and savings accounts for federal government workers with existing accounts.
Amegy Bank is offering payment extensions on consumer loans as well as deferrals for home equity loans and mortgage payments on a case-by-case basis.
Wells Fargo will automatically reverse their monthly service and overdraft fees on accounts that had a payroll check direct-deposited into it in November 2018. Wells Fargo is also reversing and waiving late fees on credit accounts, including consumer and small business credit cards, personal lines of credit, and several types of loans, including small business and consumer loans.
Johnson Space Center Credit Union is offering financial relief to its members, including zero percent APR loans to cover missing paychecks as well as giving them the ability to skip loan payments. Call 281-488-7070 or visit a branch location for more details.
Bank of Texas is working with clients individually. Those affected should call (713) 578-3500.
Paypal is offering interest-free one-time cash advances up to $500, with a minimum of $250 to existing or new PayPal Credit customers impacted by the shutdown. Eligible customers must have a PayPal and PayPal Credit account in good standing. Customers should call customer service at 1-877-689-1975 and provide proof of federal government employment. The one-time cash advance will be interest-free with a 0 percent annual percentage rate until the cash advance amount is paid in full. Customers will need to make minimum monthly payments, and it will take one to three business days for the balance to be deposited into the PayPal account from the date that PayPal verifies the customer’s employment.
24-Hour Notary Houston, a mobile notary service, is offering free notary services to anyone affected. Text (281) 509-9241 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
NRG Energy and its brands, which include Reliant, Green Mountain Energy, Cirro Energy and Pennywise Power, is offering flexible payment options and is suspending late fees upon request. Customers who need assistance, who may be federal employees or government contractors, should call the customer service number listed on their utility bill to discuss options. NRG will work with customers to create a payment plan after the government reopens. Customers must provide the phone number of their employer to verify their employment with the federal government. “We’re just trying to be as flexible as we possibly can during this time,” said Pat Hammond, director of media relations for NRG Retail and Reliant. Hammond said details of payment options are determined on a case-by-case basis.
CenterPoint Energy is offering payment extensions, payment arrangements, levelized billing and energy assistance to customers affected by the government shutdown. Those who need assistance should visit CenterPointEnergy.com/PaymentAssistance and www.centerpointenergy.com/mybill. A spokesperson for CenterPoint said that these are standard offerings for customers who need help during hardships and that customers should contact the company right away for assistance rather than waiting until they receive a disconnection or shut-off notice.
TXU Energy is waiving late fees and extending payment due dates. TXU will provide benefits to affected workers through TXU Energy Aid, its donation-based program that provides bill-payment assistance. Deferrals will remain in place until the government reopens, and TXU will work with customers on a case-by-case basis to determine if longer-term payment plan options are necessary after the government reopens, a TXU spokesperson said. Customers should call 800-818-6132 to request waived late fees or deferred due dates from TXU. Those who wish to receive assistance paying their bill should call 211.
4Change Energy is waiving relevant late payment fees and offering more time to pay their current bill. 4Change Energy also has deferred payment plans available which will allow customers to spread out their current bill over several months. Customers are asked to provide some basic proof of being a federal employee, such as a photo of their government-issued employee ID badge. Affected government employees should call 211 to request direct bill-payment assistance.
Direct Energy is providing special payment arrangements to meet needs for impacted customers. More information Direct Energy website.
HealthWarehouse.com, an internet pharmacy, is offering furloughed government employees and their families up to 50 percent off on prescription drugs. Go to www.HealthWarehouse.com or call 1-800-748-7001.
Evolution Pharmacy in Sugar Land is offering deferred billing and payment plans for federal workers. Call 832-532-7961.
The Harlem Globetrotters will offer complimentary game tickets to any U.S. government employee currently on furlough to the 2019 Fan Powered North American tour. They will play at the Fertitta Center at University of Houston Feb. 15 at 7:30 pm.
Houston Party Playland, a children’s amusement center in Webster near NASA, is offering free admission through Friday, and $20 off birthday parties until the shutdown ends to affected workers. After Saturday, admission will be $5 for government employees until the shutdown ends.
Gringo’s Mexican has several locations throughout Houston and is offering four free meals or $75 off the whole ticket for federal employees who make a reservation for their family.
Killen’s Burgers in Pearland is offering a free cheeseburger, fries and a drink this week. Offer ends this weekend. Killen’s Barbecue donated free meals to those affected by the government shutdown last Friday.
Pipeline Pizza, at 3931 Spencer in Pasadena, is offering free pizza for affected employees who can show a government-employee ID.
Ouisie’s Table, at 3939 San Felipe, is offering a free main course of any item on the menu for lunch any day of the week. For dinner, the restaurant is offering any main course offering up to $30 at no cost.
Axelrad, at 1517 Alabama, is offering free canned beer to unpaid federal government employees with a valid ID.
This Is It, at 2712 Blodgett, is offering free breakfast and coffee to furloughed employees with a government employee ID.
Bistro Provence, 13616 Memorial, is offering a free lunch through Friday to affected employees with a government employee ID.
Rainbow Lodge, at 2011 Ella, is offering a free bowl of Smoked Duck Gumbo from 11:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. through Friday until the government reopens. Purchase of a beverage and gratuity required, one meal per visit, dine-in only. Proof of furlough with a federally-issued government ID will be requested. Groups of four or less only.
D’Amico’s, at 5510 Morningsofferingffereing workers and one guest a free lunch or dinner meal through Thursday.
Sample letters for creditors and mortgage companies can be found at opm.gov.
Unemployment benefits are applicable to federal workers, either furloughed or essential. Workers must apply with the Texas Workforce Commission and benefits are granted on a case-by-case basis. Employees have to repay benefits if they are paid retroactively when the shutdown is over.
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