Government Shutdown 2019: 10 Bank Assistance Programs for Workers

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Since it began on Dec. 22, the latest government shutdown has resulted in an estimated 800,000 government employees either furloughed or sent to work without pay. Although Congress passed a bill that promises to issue backpay for workers impacted during the shutdown, there’s no telling how much longer they’ll have to go without pay.  Many have been left to find alternative ways to cover everyday expenses like food, housing and medication.

To help alleviate that burden while the shutdown continues, a number of banks have implemented hardship assistance programs. These are the same programs used to help their customers in the event of a natural disaster.

These policies should offer some relief to furloughed government workers as they often include waived fees and payment plans.

If you’re a federal employee who has been affected by the shutdown, it’s important you call your bank immediately. Some of these protections, like waived fees, are supposed to be automatic. However, not all affected customers will see this reflected immediately, if at all, in their accounts. Call your bank or visit a branch to ensure you’re being helped and if necessary, to negotiate a more effective plan for you and your accounts.

Here are the fee waivers and other programs in place to help federal workers at 10 of the largest banks in the country:

American Express

On its website, American Express® is running a banner asking its affected customers to contact the bank either through its mobile app, online chat feature or by calling the number on the back of your American Express card. The main customer service number for personal cards is 1-800-528-4800.

While American Express hasn’t put out a statement detailing its policies, a representative confirmed to MagnifyMoney that assistance can include waived late fees, returned check fees and future interest charges.

Bank of America

Bank of America® is offering its Client Assistance Program to any customers affected by the shutdown. The bank is reviewing individual accounts to see whether they qualify for assistance. It does not offer payday loans or personal loans.

To set up your own personalized plan, you can contact the bank’s priority assistance phone line at 844-219-0690 or by visiting a branch. You can even schedule an appointment with a banking specialist.

Bank of America also pledged $10,000 to the United Way National Capital Area Emergency Assistance Fund, which will help affected residents access food, rent and utility assistance programs.

Capital One

Besides a short alert from Capital One®, the bank has not issued a detailed statement specifying its plans to assist affected government workers. In this alert, the bank assures its customers that it offers “a number of options” and “personalized assistance to those in need.”

Capital One asks that you call or visit the bank for further assistance, since it’s based on your individual situation and relationship with the bank. While there is a general customer service number (1-877-383-4802), you might want to head to the bank’s website to find the specific number for the department you’re trying to reach.

Chase

If you’re a Chase customer, the bank urges you to call its special care line at 1-888-356-0023 to discuss your income hardships due to the shutdown. On the first day of the shutdown, the bank released a statement on its hardship assistance programs. The bank “will automatically waive or refund overdraft and monthly service fees on Chase checking and savings accounts.” To be eligible for this assistance, you need to have had your salary “from an affected federal agency” direct deposited into your Chase account in November 2018.

In its Dec. 22 statement, Chase originally stated that it would “waive or refund the affected fees from December 24 through January 4 or until the shutdown ends – whichever is sooner.” However, a representative confirmed to MagnifyMoney that this assistance is ongoing until the shutdown ends.

If you have a loan with Chase, including all car loans, credit cards and mortgages, the bank may waive or refund late fees, extend or defer payments on car loans and leases and/or protect your credit history. Chase is working with its customers on an individual basis, so it’s important to call the special care line to ensure you’re being protected and helped in the best way possible.

Citibank

Citibank’s shutdown statement assures its customers that the bank “has a range of assistance measures available” to help those who are struggling financially due to the shutdown. In an email to MagnifyMoney, a Citibank representative outlined the kind of help the bank is ready to provide. Credit card, mortgage and retail banking customers can all benefit from fee adjustments, loan modifications, forbearance programs, settlement programs and repayment plans, they said.

Citibank doesn’t publicly state the kind of help they can provide, so you’ll want to call the appropriate bank department to determine what specific options are available to you. The bank will continue to monitor the situation and actively assess how best to help its customers as the shutdown continues.

Discover Bank

Discover Bank hasn’t released a statement detailing its government shutdown assistance plans, but it could include reversed interest charges or the ability to skip payments. At the top of its homepage, there is a banner asking affected government employees to call customer service at 1-800-DISCOVER.

PNC Bank

In a news release, PNC Bank stated it will work with “customers who are experiencing difficult or unexpected issues” due to the government shutdown. Again, if you’re a PNC customer, it’s encouraged you contact the bank to ensure you receive the most effective assistance. You can reach customer service at 1-888-762-2265.

The bank stated that it is “prepared to waive monthly service fees and take other appropriate actions” to help struggling government workers. In addition, the bank can also offer loan options to its customers in need of immediate financing.

TD Bank

Although not easily found on its website, TD Bank is offering a short-term TD Cares Payment Assistance Program to affected government workers. This program will allow you to access up to $1,000 not already in your account without facing overdraft fees or costs. Any amount you take out will have to be repaid by the end of the program. The program extends until those affected begin receiving regular government pay again. The bank makes sure to indicate that all customers enrolled in their program must return their account to a positive balance by the end of the program. After it ends, you’ll face any and all applicable fees.

There are several hoops you have to jump through to receive this assistance. For starters, you must have had a TD Bank personal or business checking account in good standing for 60 days or more. Federal employees, contractors and those who receive federal benefits are eligible to enroll.

You will need to provide your furlough paperwork or proof of employment and proof that you have received two paychecks in the last 60 days from the federal government. These paychecks must have been deposited into your TD Bank account. Finally, you need to validate that you have missed a recent paycheck due to the shutdown.

If you have any TD Bank Visa credit card, you can receive a refund on late fees. Terms may apply. TD Bank is also offering loan assistance for those with mortgage, home equity, auto or personal loan accounts with the bank. Small business customers should contact the bank to negotiate payment options and fee flexibility.

U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank’s main offering to struggling federal workers is the opportunity to take out a loan ranging from $100 to $6,000. As of Jan. 11, the loan will have a 0.01% APY on a 12-month term and is only available to U.S. Bank customers with any U.S. Bank product, including mortgages, auto loans and U.S. Bank credit cards. You will still have to get approved for the loan, depending on your credit approval and program guidelines. Federal contract workers affected by the shutdown are not eligible to apply for this loan.

While a low-rate loan can help you make immediate purchases without accruing too much debt, it will still have to be paid back eventually. This is an added risk of taking on a loan during the shutdown, which is already a financially unstable time.

Depending on your specific situation, you may be able to get further assistance by calling U.S. Bank’s designated federal government shutdown line at 877-760-6046.

Wells Fargo

For affected customers who had a direct-deposited payroll check in November 2018, Wells Fargo will “automatically reverse their monthly service or overdraft/non-sufficient fund fees” on all deposit accounts. The bank will also automatically reverse and waive late fees for affected and eligible customers’ credit accounts, including consumer and small business credit cards, auto loans, personal lines and loans, student loans, small business loans, home equity and home mortgages.

If you do have a loan with Wells Fargo, the bank offers options to help you avoid negative credit reporting, auto repossession and foreclosure. You can also speak to a representative to create an assistance plan if the shutdown is preventing you from making payments. Mortgage and home equity customers should definitely contact the bank to discuss payment options. Still, the bank won’t apply late charges or report negative credit implications for up to 90 days. Applicable foreclosure activities will also be placed on hold, although still subject to court approval.

Wells Fargo is helping its customers largely on an individual basis, so it’s important to visit a Wells Fargo branch or call the newly established customer assistance line at 800-219-9739 to discuss your personal options. Even if you think you might not qualify for assistance, like due to the direct deposit stipulation for example, Wells Fargo encourages you to contact a representative anyway.

In addition to its individual customer assistance plans, the bank donated $250,000 to the United for U.S. Coalition to help provide basic needs for affected federal employees.

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