Help Me Hank's shutdown survival guide: Deals, freebies for federal workers

Government shutdown continues to impact thousands of people in Metro Detroit

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DETROIT – Federal workers say they’re concerned with how to make ends meet, pay their bills and put food on the table.

There are some companies and restaurants hoping to ease the stress with deals and freebies for federal workers affected by the shutdown.

READ: Help Me Hank's Shutdown Survival Guide: Resources for federal workers

Phone companies

Verizon: The company says it will waive late fees. It also has a “Promise to Pay” program which lets federal workers set future payment dates. Click here to find out how to access this program.

Sprint: Customer Care will work with employees needing short-term payment solution. Click here for more information.

AT&T: The phone company will adjust late fees and provide extensions for workers not getting a paycheck. Click here for more.

T-Mobile: Workers can call T-Mobile about deferring payments. Click here to find out how.

Banks

One Detroit Credit Union: For members with existing loans, we are offering payment extensions. We are also offering new loans with a 60-day payment deferment. Existing members and non-members may apply. Participants must provide proof of the notice/letter they received from the Government. When applying on our website, select "Personal Loan/Consolidation" as the loan type and when asked the purpose of the loan, comment "Government Shutdown." For a payment extension on an existing loan, call our Contact Center at 313-964-8640 or come into one our three branches. For more information, click here.

US Bank: The bank created a low-rate loan for federal workers affected by the shutdown. Click here for more information. They have also established a special phone line for federal workers: 877-760-6046.

Chase Bank: It will automatically waive or refund overdraft monthly service fees until the shutdown ends. Federal employees affected by the partial government shutdown can call a special line to discuss their options: 1-888-356-0023.

Wells Fargo: The company says it is “here to help customers who are experiencing hardship as a result of the federal government shutdown." Click here for more.

Bank of America: Federal workers can contact Bank of America through a special line -- 844-219-0690 -- to discuss their options. Click here for information.

Old National: Furloughed employees and employees of federal contractors impacted by the government shutdown can apply for a 90-day, no-fee, interest-free loan of up to $1500. They also can get loan payment extensions, refunds of overdraft fees, waiver of checking service charges and more. Call 800-731-2265

Michigan Credit Unions: All are offering programs ranging from formal relief programs to assistance on a case-by-case basis for members and non-members. The credit unions are offering furloughed workers budgeting help, no-interest loans of up to 12 months, waived fees for overdrafts and other assistance. Programs vary, depending on the institution. Here are the list of credit unions hoping to help: American 1 Credit Union, Awakon Federal Credit Union, Calcite Credit Union, Community Choice Credit Union, Community Financial Credit Union, CP Federal Credit Union, ELGA Credit Union, Filer Credit Union, First United Credit Union, Forest Area Federal Credit Union, Frankenmuth Credit Union, FreeStar Financial Credit Union, HarborLight Credit Union, Honor Credit Union, Isabella Community Credit Union, LAFCU, Michigan Schools and Government Credit Union, My Personal Credit Union, Northland Area Federal Credit Union, One Detroit Credit Union, Public Service Credit Union, Safe Harbor Credit Union, Shore to Shore Community Financial Credit Union and Soo Co-Op Credit Union.

People Driven Credit Union: This credit union’s motto is “Where people matter most!” As the shutdown continues, we are expanding our options to help our members get through this difficult time. PDCU has created a suite of options to custom tailor a financial plan right for those directly affected. We would also like to offer free financial counseling through our in house relationship with GreenPath Financial Wellness. Please contact your local People Driven Credit Union office or visit its website and click on the “read more” link at the top of the page.

Chemical Bank: Customer Care Representatives are assisting customers. They’re currently available to discuss solutions for making payments and avoiding late fees for Chemical Bank mortgages, credit cards, or loans. Chemical Bank encourages affected customers to call 800-867-9757 if they need help with their Chemical Bank accounts. Team members are available to assist Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Credit cards

Discover: The credit card company says eligible workers can contact the company asking to skip a payment and have the interest charges reversed if a payment is missed.

Restaurants

Toarmina’s Pizza: The restaurant in Ann Arbor is offering free lunch to federal employees during the week, from 2 to 5 p.m.

Union Joints: The local restaurant group is offering free mac n' cheese for an employee and one family member every Monday. These restaurants include Clarkston Union, Union Woodshop, Vinsetta Garage, Fenton Fire Hall, Gran Castor and others.

Great Harvest Bread Company: The Grand Blanc establishment is holding a "shutdown shelf." Government employees not receiving a paycheck can get a free loaf of bread. The free loaves are while supplies last. Click here to see the post.

Blue Nile Ethiopian restaurant: The Ferndale restaurant is offering 14 free meals per day, first come, first served.

Downtown Louie’s in Detroit: The restaurant is providing a free meal (soups, salads, pasta, sandwiches) to workers affected by the shutdown from 2 to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Click here to view the promotion.

Food

Gleaners Food Bank: Gleaners is supplying free boxes of food to furloughed workers in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston and Monroe counties starting this week. Affected workers can dial 211 to reach United Way of Southeastern Michigan and arrange for pickup.

Philip Lutheran Church: The Trenton church is hoping to help until the crisis is over.  We are open on Wednesday from 11am until 1 p.m. Find out more here.

First Presbyterian Church: The Birmingham church is holding a food drive to assist Gleaners. For information, contact Bethany Peerbolte at bethany@everybodyschurch.org or at 248-895-3933.

Forgotten Harvest: This nonprofit is partnering with United Way of Southeastern Michigan.  Anyone in the community who needs emergency help can call 211 toll-free to learn of Forgotten Harvest’s partner emergency food agencies most convenient to their locations and of other support programs. Click here for a map of locations and food distribution times.
 
Eastern Market Corporation: Due to the government shutdown, USDA has asked states to issue food assistance benefits for the month of February early. The Michigan Department of Health and Humans Services will begin issuing February Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. Eastern Market Corporation will be matching SNAP sales up to $20 through the end of February or until EBT distribution is back to normal. Click here for more information.

Jimmy’s Pizzeria: This restaurant in Livonia is offering a free large pizza and two-liter bottle of pop for federal workers during the shutdown. The owner says they would love to help people who serve our country. “Dinner is on us tonight.” The offer is for Monday-Wednesday until the shutdown ends. The pizzeria is located at: 27609 Plymouth Road, Livonia, MI 48150.

Wing Hong Restaurant: This Southfield restaurant is offering one free dinner size meal (chicken, beef, pork, and vegetable) to anyone with a Federal ID badge until the government shutdown is over. No restrictions on days or hours.

River Bistro: Chef Maxcel Hardy, owner of River Bistro, will offer furloughed government workers affected by the shutdown some relief with a free “Chef’s Special” meal at his Westside Detroit restaurant, located at 18456 Grand River Avenue in the Grandont-Rosedale community. With your Federal ID badge, you’ll receive a complimentary Caribbean Curry Chicken over Rice meal. The chef special is from Wednesday, Jan. 23, through Friday, Jan. 25, from noon until 8 p.m.

Toarmina’s Pizza: This family-owned pizza company based in Michigan, is offering a free pizza happy hour to those affected by the government shutdown. The happy hour offer is valid on Mondays from 2 to 5 p.m. This offer is available at participating Toarmina’s locations. From the owners: “Since announcing the giveaways on Facebook, our post was shared over 950 times, and it has reached over 40 thousand people. Everybody wants to make sure the news is spread, and that those affected by the shutdown can benefit from the free pizza offer. Our Ann Arbor location was the first to leap into action. Location owner, Frank Toarmina began giving free lunches to federal employees on January 14th. Seeing the positive response from the entire community, Company Founder Lou Toarmina (Frank’s father) suggested implementing the free lunches on a larger scale. We plan on extending this program for the duration of the government shutdown, which we truly hope will come to an end as soon as possible.” For more information on Toarmina’s Pizza, click here.

Stores

Premier Pet Supply: The company is offering a 20 percent discount for government workers facing payless paydays. Premier Pet Supply in Beverly Hills has been a staple in the community since 1992. Other neighborhood locations have opened in Rochester Hills, Novi, and Livonia. Additional locations to open in West Bloomfield and Canton by Spring of 2019.

Health

Beaumont: Retroactive to midnight, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018, Beaumont Health will waive emergency center and urgent care center copays and deductibles for federal workers who have been furloughed or are working without pay. This will also apply to their insured family members during the partial shutdown. This will remain in effect until the government reopens. Government workers and their insured family members will be flagged during the registration process at Beaumont Health facilities to ensure the fees are waived. If this applies to you, you can contact Beaumont at 248-577-9443 to adjust your bill.

Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS): Michigan residents still can apply for and receive Medicaid and public assistance benefits such as food and cash assistance; Women, Infants and Children (WIC); State Emergency Relief and child care reimbursement despite the partial federal government shutdown.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is clarifying the status of the programs, which receive federal dollars but are administered by MDHHS.

The state has determined there will be no impact to the availability of benefits through these programs in February even if the shutdown continues. There has been no official determination made on March benefits.

“The partial federal government shutdown has understandably created concerns from families that rely on federal safety net assistance administered by MDHHS,” said Terrence Beurer, deputy director of Field Operations Administration for MDHHS. “Programs that feed Michigan residents are a primary concern of the State of Michigan, and we have heard misinformation being spread about the immediate impact of the shutdown. We want people to know that MDHHS is prepared to continue to provide this assistance and that funding remains in place through the end of February.”

Below are updates on the status of various federally funded programs administered by MDHHS:

  • Food Assistance Program: MDHHS issued February food assistance payments early beginning on Jan. 17. The federal government asked states to issue the assistance early to ensure that February funding would be available to be issued. Recipients do not need to redeem their benefits in January and MDHHS is urging them to budget their food assistance benefits so they can meet their food needs through the entire month of February. 
  • WIC: Benefits, which include nutritious food for pregnant and postpartum women, infants and children up to age 5, are funded for the month of February and are being distributed according to the normal schedule. 
  • Medical assistance, including Medicaid and Healthy Michigan Plan: Programs are funded through Sept. 30, 2019, the end of the current fiscal year. 
  • Cash assistance: Funding is in place for January and February. 
  • State Emergency Relief: Funding for energy-related services such as heating assistance is in place to provide benefits through Sept. 30, 2019. Funding for non-energy-related services – such as home repairs and burials – is in place for January and February. 
  • Child Development and Care (child care assistance): Funding is in place through the end of April.

Clients who use Bridge Cards to redeem their food and cash assistance and WIC benefits are still able to do so in January and February.

State government generally can operate seamlessly for about 45 days after a federal shutdown begins. With the shutdown now beyond 30 days, the State Budget Office, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office and MDHHS are assessing the impact beyond 45 days and into March. Further information will be released as it becomes available.

Anyone who has questions about all programs above other than WIC can find contact information for their local MDHHS office by going to www.michigan.gov/contactmdhhs. Anyone with questions about WIC can find contact information for their local WIC agency by clicking here. 

Other

Rosetta Stone: For federal workers looking to learn a new skill, Rosetta Stone is offering a free three-month online subscription to learn a new language. Click here for more information.

Detroit Institute of Arts: Employees of the federal government can show their federal identification to receive free admission to the Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit.

SkyZone: The trampoline park in Canton Township is offering jumping time for families of furloughed workers.

Bodhi Seed Yoga & Wellness Studio: This studio in Mount Clemens is offering a special free yoga class for furloughed federal employees through Feb. 28. It’s on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. For more information on the studio, click here.

Kelly Services: Kelly, a global staffing firm with a location here in Metro-Detroit, is launching a toll-free number to connect furloughed government workers with short-term assignments in markets heavily populated with federal employees. Workers impacted by the government shutdown will be able to speak with a Kelly recruiter familiar with relevant, temporary employment opportunities in their region from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST. “We have immediate positions available across the country and we want to make individuals impacted by the government shutdown aware that these opportunities exist and put them back to work as soon as possible,” said Debra Thorpe, senior vice president of U.S. Operations for Kelly Services. Kelly has identified a number of short-term assignments that could be suitable for qualified furloughed workers. Nationally, positions range from light industrial and contact centers to scientific and educational staffing.  Recruiters with knowledge of local opportunities are on call at 1-888-309-5051. Click here to visit the Kelly website.

Woodhaven Animal Hospital & Odette Chiropractor: These two companies are teaming up to help federal workers who have pets. Woodhaven vet is offering discounts and Odette Chiropractor is offering free food for dogs and cats. Visit the animal hospital’s website here. Visit the Odette Chiropractic website here.

Consumers Energy: Consumers Energy is committed to helping Michigan residents stay safe and warm this winter which includes assisting federal government employees in Michigan who are affected by the ongoing shutdown. The company is encouraging customers who face hardship due to this ongoing shutdown to contact Consumers Energy immediately for assistance – which may include flexible payment arrangements or extensions that provide more time to pay a bill. Additionally, Consumers Energy encourages people to call 2-1-1, a free referral service statewide, that connects people with nonprofit resources and support in their communities.
Visit Consumers’ website by clicking here

Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC): The organization is providing dinners, grocery vouchers and gas cards to all federal workers who are not being paid in an effort to reduce the difficulties caused by the government shutdown. Helping neighbors is one of the core tenets of the Islamic faith. MMCC is honored to provide a small amount of relief to these workers. Visit the MMCC website by clicking here.

Tax

Liberty Tax: Liberty Tax has expanded its Easy Advance* program to offer Federal government workers furloughed in Port Huron/Fort Gratiot or working without pay due to the government shutdown access to an immediate tax refund advance of $500 with no interest or fees if they have an expected net Federal tax refund of at least $1,001**. In addition, Liberty Tax is offering a $25 discount on their tax preparation fee***. Liberty Tax customers in Port Huron/Fort Gratiot affected by the government shutdown who apply for an Easy Advance in any amount will be approved for a minimum advance of $500 without the normal loan approval process, or for a higher amount applied for, if certain underwriting criteria are met. Liberty Tax professionals can also help government workers furloughed or working without pay due to the government shutdown understand tax reform and the changes the new tax law may have for their tax return, tax deductions, and tax credits. To find a local Liberty Tax office, call 866-871-1040 or click here

Cities/counties

Oakland County: County officials said they will help anyone having trouble paying delinquent property taxes by creating a payment plan and accommodating them if the shutdown is what's causing the financial difficulty. If you're a federal worker living in Oakland County needing help paying your property taxes, call the treasurer's office at (248)-858-0611. The office is located at 1200 N. Telegraph Road in Pontiac. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Ferndale: Federal employees in Ferndale can receive a two-month extension on city payments. This includes; water bills, permits, parking and taxes for those on the monthly payment plan. The extension will extend for the length of the shutdown plus an additional 60 days after it ends.

Wayne County: Wayne County agreed to grant extensions for property taxes to furloughed workers. This was prompted after the county received calls from residents worried about being able to pay their bill.

City of Westland: The Westland City Council passed a resolution to wave any penalties accrued due to late payments of city water bills by unpaid federal workers. "As a Compassionate City, we understand that many federal employees are in dire financial situations as the federal government regards them as political pawns," commented Mayor Wild. "Federal employees residing in the City of Westland may have a difficult time paying their city water bills on time, and we want to make sure that it's one less thing for them to worry about during this difficult time."  For more information, contact Aubrey Berman, Administrative Secretary at 734-467-3200.

NOTE: Federal workers must be able to show their federal government ID badge in order to take part in most, if not all, discounts, deals and freebies at restaurants and establishments.

Here’s a resource from Michigan representatives for those who still have questions.

Visit this page throughout the shutdown, we will update with more freebies, deals and government resources as they come in.

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