Several stories covering the public response to Coronavirus.
Coronavirus brings moratoriums on evictions, utility and water shutoffs, bank fees, and data caps
Here’s a list of the states, cities, utilities, and companies giving people a vital break on bills during the unprecedented coronavirus quarantine.
Kristin Toussaint, Fast Company, March 13, 2020
With major cities in states of emergency and thousands of Americans working from home during the coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. economy is taking a hit. Small businesses are struggling, those in the service industry are losing potential income as people practice social distancing, and some workers are just forced to go without a paycheck, whether because they can’t work remotely and have to take sick leave or because their employers are losing money themselves and have had to halt or scale back their business.
In these times, everyone needs support. How will Americans pay their rent while quarantined, if most live paycheck to paycheck? What if small business owners can’t pay their bills on time, because of the sudden drop in shoppers? Though we’re not (yet?) at the point where the government will give a lump sum of cash to every citizen, individual municipalities and corporations across the country are offering some relief measures. Here are a few examples of how governments and businesses are easing the economic burden of the coronavirus pandemic.
Moratoriums on evictions: San Jose was among the first cities to work on a plan to temporarily ban evictions resulting from the spread of COVID-19, and others are considering the same, including San Francisco and Philadelphia. Police officers in Miami, Florida, announced that they will not assist with eviction proceedings during the local state of emergency. New York is offering a one-week pause, which may not do much to help during a crisis of this length, but politicians are working on a stronger proposal.
Data caps waived: AT&T suspended broadband data caps and overage fees for home internet customers, and the FCC has since pledged to reign in potential abuses from internet service providers in general. For the next 60 days, starting March 13, the FCC has asked these companies not to terminate service for residential and small business customers and waive late fees incurred due to the economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic, and to open Wi-Fi hotspots to “any American who needs them.”
Suspensions of phone and cable shutoffs: Also covered under the FCC directive, called the Keep America Connected Plan, phone and cable companies have suspended shutoffs to ensure customers have connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic. Companies that have made the pledge include Verizon, Comcast, Century Link, Charter (which operates Spectrum), Altice (branded as Optimum), Cable One (branded as Sparklight), T-Mobile, Cincinnati Bell, and more.
Suspensions of utility shutoffs: The municipalities of Detroit, Phoenix, Salinas, St. Louis, New Orleans, and more have suspended water shutoffs as they try to slow the spread of COVID-19. Utility company PG&E, which provides gas and electricity across Northern California, announced it would not shut off services because of nonpayment due to the coronavirus. Statewide, New Jersey will keep the power on for all customers, and citywide, Seattle won’t shut off water or electricity for any residents.
Co-pays waived for coronavirus-related testing: The White House announced that major health insurers have agreed to waive co-pays for COVID-19 testing (but not treatment, if you need it). Before that announcement, individual states had issued their own orders to health insurers, including New York, Washington, and California.
Bank fees and penalties waived: Beginning March 9 and for “an initial 30 days” Citibank said it would waive monthly service fees and penalties for early CD withdrawal for regular and small business customers. Other banks have said they’ll work with customers who need financial assistance on an individual basis.
Exclusive: Zoom CEO Eric Yuan Is Giving K-12 Schools His Videoconferencing Tools For Free
Alex Conrad, Forbes, March 13, 2020
On Thursday, on the heels of Zoom’s biggest day ever for downloads the day before, CEO Eric Yuan was taking the time to remotely sign up schools to free accounts of his videoconferencing software. First was a prestigious school in Silicon Valley, then two schools in the Austin, Texas area.
“They told me they’d connect with my team, and I said, ‘no, I’ll do that for you,’” said Yuan, reached by Zoom at the San Jose, California-area home that is now his office for the foreseeable future. “I did it manually myself.”
As the Covid-19 virus sweeps across the planet, leading to quarantined cities and shut-down schools, Zoom has emerged as one of the leading tools to keep businesses up and running and students learning.
On Wednesday, the most recent day for which data is available, 343,000 people globally downloaded the Zoom app, 60,000 in the U.S. alone, according to mobile intelligence firm Apptopia — compared to 90,000 people worldwide and 27,000 in the U.S. just two months ago. (Zoom doesn’t share such numbers and wouldn’t comment on a third party report.)
And overnight, having already removed the time limit from video chats using Zoom’s free service for affected regions in China and elsewhere, Yuan took another measure to help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus: he decided to remove the limit for any K-12 schools affected in Japan, Italy and the United States.
Students or teachers who fill out an online form using their school email addresses and are then verified by Zoom will have any accounts associated with that school’s domain also gain unlimited temporary meeting minutes, according to a site set up for the process overnight.
The free Basic accounts are also available by request in Austria, Denmark, France, Ireland, Poland, Romania and South Korea, a spokesperson for Zoom said. “Given that many K-12 schools are starting closing, we decided to offer Zoom access to all K-12 schools in the country starting tomorrow,” Yuan wrote in an email overnight.