How to Get Help with Bills During the Shutdown

With the U.S. Government shut down and workers going without pay, bills are stacking up. Fortunately, there are ways to get financial assistance until paychecks start coming again.

September 22, 2020

The U.S. Government is now in its longest shutdown of all time. As federal employees, contractors, and families prepare to miss yet another paycheck, bills continue to pile up. With nearly 80% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, you’re likely depending on that paycheck that hasn’t come to pay your monthly bills, including mortgages, car payments, cable bills, internet bills, phone bills, waste, water, power, and gas. The good news is if you’re looking for how to get help with bills during the shutdown, some of those providers are looking to help.

We’re compiling national providers who are offering financial assistance or lenience for workers during the shutdown.

General Advice

Finding out how to get help with bills during the shutdown depends primarily on your location and your providers, so there’s no one size fits all solution. Many providers are offering assistance delaying payments, waiving late fees, or offering payment plans if you ask. In addition to that, several municipalities and charities are offering financial assistance programs, so always check locally. For example, here are local resources for help with bills during the shutdown from Virginia and Delaware.

Everyone’s terms are different; some providers are helping only federal employees and some are helping furloughed contractors as well, some are offering “Promise to Pay” programs, while others are waiving some of their fees. At the end of the day, the best thing you can do is to call and ask. Very few of these providers have dedicated hotlines, but almost all of them have disseminated information to their front line customer service reps. Even providers that aren’t officially offering help may be able to work with you and providers who are offering limited help may be able to go further, waiving a bill or giving you discounts.

Generally, it’s going to go something like this: 

1. Get your providers contact information from a bill, their website, or online.

2. Ask them if they have a program to assist workers impacted by the shutdown.

 

3. If they do, amazing—use it. Ask specifically about payment deferrals, fee waivers, and make sure to ask if they have any thing else they can provide.

 

4. If not, tell them your situation, ask if they can make an exception.

 

5. If they still don’t help, try escalating it to a manager, posting on social media, or contacting the local news.

You won’t get help with bills during the shutdown if you don’t ask, so ask. Even if you don’t see someone on this list, it doesn’t hurt to call and ask. Here’s where we know how to get help with bills during the shutdown:

Banks & Credit Unions

There are a huge number of banks offering assistance during the shutdown. So, if you’re looking for how to get help with bills during the shutdown, your first stop should probably be your bank. 

The American Bankers Association has a fantastic list of bank resources offering assistance. 

As of September 2018, housing is American’s single largest expense, by far, taking up a third of annual expenditures on average. Vehicle purchases take up another 7%, so talk to your car note holder too. So, extensions or payment assistance from your mortgage holder may be the single biggest help you can get.

Many banks are also offering low or zero interest loans to help cover expenses as they post. If your bank isn’t on that list, don’t worry. They don’t have credit unions, who have been stepping up big time, on there. 

U.S. Employees Credit Union

USECU is providing 0.00% interest loans, not based on credit score, for up to 60 days if you are a government employee who has been impacted and already have an account in good standing. 

Navy Federal Credit Union

NFCU is also offering 0% APR loans if you meet their criteria—you have to already have had direct deposit, but no credit check is required and the loans max out at $6,000 depending on your last direct deposit. 

USPS Federal Credit Union

The USPS FCU has 4.00% loans for up to $10,000 for furloughed workers, but they’re also waiving fees on some loans, working on payment deferrals, and waiving early withdrawal fees from some investments. 

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo is offering fee reversals and waivers and you can contact them at 1 (800) 219-9739.

Bank of America

BoA has been vague about exactly what assistance they’re offering, but they do have a special priority assistance line at 1 (844) 219-0690 you can call. 

Chase

Chase was one of the first to announce a plan—has a special care line at 1 (888) 356-0023 and is offering to waive or refund overdraft and service fees. 

Cell Phones

Verizon Wireless

Verizon is offering “promise to pay” arrangements and waiving late fees and agent assist fees. You can set this up online or call 1 (866) 266-1445.

AT&T Wireless

AT&T says “our customer service team will adjust late fees, provide extensions, and coordinate with you on revised payment schedules.” Here’s their guide on scheduling a late payment or call 1 (800) 331-0500.

Sprint

Sprint is vague about their shutdown options, but says they will “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.” Try calling (888) 211-4727 for assistance.

T-Mobile

 T-Mobile is offering flexible payment options and payment deferrals. Try calling 1 (877) 746-0909 for assistance.

MVNOs

If you have a phone carrier who isn’t one of the big four, their policies may differ during the shutdown. You can still call them and ask for assistance. 

Don’t qualify for payment assistance or just want to pay less? You can always lower your phone costs by having BillFixers negotiate your current plan. You’ll keep all the same services, just at a lower rate.

Cable & Internet Providers 

Comcast

Comcast says they are offering “payment arrangements” to assist customers affected by the government shutdown. The fastest way to reach them is 1 (800) 934-9489 and tell them you are a government employee seeking relief. 

Charter Spectrum

As far as we can tell, Spectrum hasn’t put out an official word about assisting impacted workers. You can still call them at 1 (833) 267-6094

AT&T and DirecTV

AT&T and DirecTV both have flexible payment options available and are reporting they’ll waive late fees. Here’s how to set it up on att.com and here’s what DirecTV customers should do.

Cox

Cox says they are offering “Promise to Pay” options. They have an online guide available or you can call 1 (844) 221-3930.

Verizon FiOS

Verizon says “we want you to know that Verizon will have your back” and is offering fee waivers and “Promise to Pay.” You can set it up in app or online, or by calling 1 (800) 837-4966.

RCN 

As far as we can tell, RCN has not offered financial assistance publicly during the shutdown. You can still try calling them and asking for help at 1 (800) 746-4726.

Dish

Dish also doesn’t seem to have issued anything publicly about the shutdown and there are some negative stories on Twitter. Try calling 1 (800) 333-3474 to be safe. 

Utilities (Water, Gas, Electric, Waste)

If you want to find out how to get help with water, gas, electric, or waste bills during the government shutdown, you’ll likely have to turn to your local provider. Almost all of those services are regional and most are supplied by your city or municipality. 

Washington D.C.

The highest concentration of furloughed and unpaid workers is around D.C. The Washington Post has a guide for local utilities. 

Pepco waived late fees and is offering to extend bill dates. They also set up an emergency fund. You can call 1 (800) 735-2258 for assistance.

D.C. water is offering flexible payment if you call 1 (202) 354-3600.

Washington Gas is also offering flexible arrangements and has a fuel assistance fund at 1 (844) WASHGAS.

Unemployment Benefits

You may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Here is the OPM guide to how it works. Check with your state office here. 

Freebies, Deals, and Assistance

Lots of restaurants and attractions are offering steep discounts and free offerings, especially in the D.C. area. There are several good guides to this, including this one.  The Washington City Paper also has a good guide that includes free workouts, theatre tickets, and opportunities to keep busy volunteering or contacting your representatives.

A personal favorite: furloughed employees can score two free Harlem Globetrotters tickets.

For government workers in our hometown of Nashville, restaurants including Hopdoddy and Daddy’s Dogs are offering free meals, the Nashville Zoo has free admission, and Kings Bowling has free bowling and shoe rental.

Food banks around the country have been stepping up, providing assistance to federal workers. You can find local food banks here. Churches and non profits have also set up lots of programs to assist, so check with local organizations for help.

If you just need a drink, you can score a beer on Pay It Furloughed. On current count, there are 2,291 free beers available to federal employees and contractors who are furloughed or working without pay.

We’re working to expand this list of how to get help with bills during the shutdown. Please comment other resources or information below and we’ll add it to this resource.

We’re also always around to help.  We can negotiate your tv, internet, and phone bills and get you credits to help temporarily. You can sign up here. And don’t worry about paying us until you’re back on your feet. If you’ve been affected by the shutdown, just let us know and you can hold off paying until your paychecks start again.

Relevant Topics: shutdown assistance, furloughed worker assistance, shutdown help, how to get help during the shutdown, help with bills for government employees, government contractor assistance, governm