Verizon has announced that government employees affected by the United States government's ongoing partial shutdown are not only welcome to make Promise To Pay agreements that stretch long enough for them to receive pay again, but they won't incur any late fees or other associated charges that usually come with doing so. The company says that "a disruption to government operations should not result in a disruption to your cell service."
This special deal will last for the duration of the shutdown, meaning that government employees can pay Verizon once they receive their back pay. Those who are furloughed indefinitely rather than forced to work without pay won't be receiving a large sum up front for back pay once operations are back in order, but Verizon is also willing to help them out on a case-by-case basis.
Background: The announcement is accompanied by instructions on how both cellular and residential service customers can make a Promise To Pay arrangement quickly and easily. The agreement usually allows customers to tweak their payment due date by up to a month in some cases, but given the shutdown, government employees will almost certainly see more flexibility depending on the length of the shutdown.
It is worth noting that Verizon is not offering affected individuals total bill forgiveness; you'll still have to pay for your service, and all of the normal charges will be incurred. The difference is that the carrier is being flexible about how and when you pay, as a gesture of understanding amid a time of financial uncertainty and insecurity for many government workers.
As the shutdown approaches a month, many employees have already begun to receive paycheck statements with no money on them. Those who are working without pay do have a back payment to look forward to once operations resume. Others have been given far fewer hours or days of work than normal. Still, others have been furloughed indefinitely, which is to say that they're essentially temporarily laid off. This is an especially precarious position to be in because they can't simply go and get new jobs in the interim, and many of them lack the technical skill for online freelance work.
Impact: Verizon's gesture is likely going to keep a lot of these government employees connected through the length of this tumultuous shutdown who would otherwise end up unable to meet normal payment agreements. While all carriers offer payment arrangements, Verizon is going out of its way to pay special attention to government workers affected by the shutdown, many of whom live in densely populated areas and sport a decent income under normal circumstances.
Essentially, these workers fall into Verizon's core customer base, given its price and value proposition. Alienating them would not only be a public relations nightmare but would also see the carrier lose a large chunk of its business. There are some 800,000 workers affected by the shutdown across the United States. Since not all of those are going to be Verizon customers, expect to see similar gestures from other carriers in the near future, though some may simply work with affected workers behind the scenes to come up with an acceptable billing arrangement.