The coronavirus and resulting quarantine have no doubt brought to light topics of concern in most households beyond those surrounding personal health. Financial constraints have left some having to prioritize which bills to pay. Those working from home or that have children participating in online learning may be concerned with whether their internet service can handle their increased usage- some may not have access at all. And, then there’s the factor of keeping everybody in the household occupied. Here are 8 categories of services where providers are offering discounts, complimentary services, or are working to accommodate customer’s needs as we all navigate these uncharted waters.
Most people have significantly cut down their driving time with the start of “stay at home” orders across the country. Some car insurance companies have reported as high as a 40% drop in mileage. In an effort to help put money back in their customer’s pockets during this time when many are experiencing financial uncertainty, various large insurance companies are offering discounts, rebates, and refunds on insurance plans. Here is detailed info from a number of providers- but please call your insurance carrier directly for information about what benefits you may receive.
So far, the telecommunications industry’s most broad and important response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. This pledge was drafted by the FCC and reads:
“Given the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on American society, [Company Name] pledges for the next 60 days to:
- not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;
- waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and
- open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.”
The 60-day period began on March 13, so it should be valid through at least May 6. The pledge has been signed by more than 550 companies and associations, including the largest cell phone companies.
Here is information from four of the largest companies with specific information about what they are providing:
Most of the companies stated that if you already have a plan with them, the benefits should be automatically applied to your account, but if you have questions, don’t hesitate to call them for more information.
More than 150 internet companies also signed the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. For many people, the biggest concern with working from home is the added bandwidth they will require for virtual meetings, online schooling, and additional streaming occurring within the household. Many providers are answering the call and waiving data caps and overage charges until May.
These internet providers have temporarily paused their data caps:
- Cox (until May 15)
- Comcast Xfinity (until mid-May)
- Mediacom (until May 15)
- Sparklight (until mid-April)
Utilities and Financial Institutions
For some, the financial impact of the coronavirus has been substantial. Basic utilities like water and power may be a concern when trying to determine which bills to pay. Responding to widespread concern, many large power companies have pledged to put a hold on disconnecting services during this time.
Tucson Electric Power has shared this information for their customers:
“We stand ready to help customers affected by this pandemic with payment extensions or enrollment in short-term assistance and bill discount programs. We know some customers could face financial challenges because of this public health threat, so we are suspending service disconnections and late fees until further notice.”
Tucson Water also states that they will not disconnect water services and will reconnect customers that are already disconnected, to ensure this necessary service is available to everybody.
If you are not from the Tucson area, or have questions, please contact your utility provider directly to ask about discounts, payment plans, and other available services.
Banks, mortgage lenders, and credit card companies have all offered a variety of ways to help customers get through financial uncertainty. From loan deferment to interest only payments and holding off on foreclosures, financial institutions are working with customers to provide ease of mind while they get back on their feet. Please reach out to your financial institution for more detailed information.
One of the best ways to pass the time is to exercise- it can be a much needed distraction from the monotony of the day, not to mention all the benefits that fitness provides your physical state. Here is information on 24 live stream fitness programs that are being offered by some of the biggest names in the business including Planet Fitness, Sculpt Society, Nike, and Barre. Don’t forget to check out other free resources on social media platforms like Instagram (check out hashtags like #fitnessmotivation #exerciseathome #exerisetips), where many fitness bloggers share daily workout suggestions, as well as how they are overcoming challenges working out at home.
We’ve shared the many ways music can benefit your health. Music can help get you out of a funk, liven up an afternoon that is dragging by, and also pump you up for your exercise routine. Some services are offering free trial periods, such as Amazon music – they are offering three free months of their service. Don’t forget if you’re already a Prime member, you have access to over 2 million songs with your membership!
Since concerts and other music events have been cancelled, getting your live music fix is not possible right now- but Billboard Music has compiled a list of many free livestream and virtual concerts that you can “attend” at home. Rock on!
For some, the extra time at home is an opportunity to catch up on reading. Many online resources have opened up their catalogs of books, journals, and magazines to the public, waiving subscription fees. Some resources (like openlibrary.org) also offer a K-12 student library so you can also utilize these resources during a family reading time. Here are a few of the most extensive resources:
JSTOR is digital library that normally requires a subscription, has announced that 6,000 of its ebooks and more than 150 journals will be freely available to the public.
Open Library is an open, editable library catalog, building towards a web page for every book ever published. There are books on every topic: biographies, cookbooks, science, art, fiction, classics- you name it, Open Library has it. You can download the books for use on Kindles, ePub, save as PDF or plain text. Some books are only available to “borrow” (versus download), but they are available to read for a period of time courtesy of registered users that have the rights to share the content.
Project Gutenberg is a library of over 60,000 free eBooks. Choose among free epub and Kindle eBooks, download them or read them online. You will find the world’s great literature here, with focus on older works for which U.S. copyright has expired (most of the books on here were published before 1924). Thousands of volunteers digitized and diligently proofread the eBooks, for enjoyment and education. This is considered to be the gold standard for online book sharing- and with good reason- it’s incredible!
Good ol’ fashion TV watching just can’t be beat. There are so many incredible topics, places, and people to learn about courtesy of the many streaming services that are available. One way to avoid becoming a couch potato and sitting too much is by mixing in your viewing with fitness. Throw on a show or movie and try these exercises at the time!
HBO is making 500 hours of programming available to those without subscriptions starting on Friday, April 3. Some of the shows include “Succession,” “The Wire” and “Six Feet Under,” while movies include “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” and “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”
The National Theatre in London will begin broadcasting a play every Thursday on its YouTube channel, which started April 2. The videos will be available to stream a week after they launch. Some of the productions include Richard Bean’s “One Man, Two Guvnors,” starring James Corden, followed by adaptations of Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre” and Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.”
Netflix Party: a Google Chrome extension
Movie night doesn’t have to be in person anymore. This extension allows you to watch Netflix with friends and family from afar. This is a fun alternative to Zoom hangouts and FaceTime where the experience is usually highly interactive; a Netflix Party lets you relax with people you care about and enjoy something together, as though you were lounging together on your couch!
Consumer Reports also compiled a list of other services that are offering free trials (or have extended the window for their trials) so that people may enjoy while at home.
These times are uncertain, but spending some time reaching out to providers and discussing what accommodations can be made to address financial constraints can go a long way in easing that area of stress. We hope that beyond addressing concerns that directly impact the household, that these suggestions are a source of creativity and entertainment while spending time at home.