We push pause for one hour each week to talk, share, and listen to 60+ clients and partners who are participating in our Virtual Roundtable. As business leaders, employers, and human beings, this group discusses the impact of the latest COVID-19 developments, and ideas to help each other navigate the changing reality.

These are the topics discussed on June 5th. We hope these can help you and your teams as you make decisions moving ahead.


How Business is Responding as Americans Are Struggling to Pay Bills

While leading economic indicators have seen historic decline during COVID-19, Americans, especially younger generations, and people of color, are experiencing a significant impact on their employment and earnings.   Millennial’s were just beginning to recover from the 2008 recession before the pandemic hit – few have had a chance to build savings, purchase a home, and significantly reduce debt and student loans.  Gen Z , just now graduating from college, are facing student debt yet limited internship and job market prospects.

Hispanic Americans (51%) are seeing the greatest impact on employment during COVID-19, followed by Black (45%) Asian (44%) and White ( 31%) Americans.  For these more impacted groups of Americans, the pandemic is having a profound impact on their economic purchasing power and decreasing their sense of personal security, happiness, productivity, success, and sense of accomplishment.

As Americans have increased concern over their ability to pay monthly bills – they place highest priority on their basic needs of food, shelter, and electricity, followed by health insurance and medications.

In late April, nearly half of the public (48%) said business was doing an Excellent/Very Good job in their response to the crisis.  However, since that time we have seen that metric dip to 39%.  Only one-in-four Gen Z and Black Americans, and one-in-three Millennials and Hispanic Americans say business is doing an Excellent/Very Good job in their response today.

What actions are businesses taking to understand and respond to customer expectations and needs, particularly to those most vulnerable?

Americans say that some businesses have worked with them to provide access to programs that support deferments or partial payments of bills, while others mention refunds, free access to the internet/hot spots, or free apps and entertainment services from companies.  The public also recognizes the efforts of companies doing good for others in the community in which they operate.

USAA gave me a 20% premium reduction for my automobile insurance. Panera Bread gave me a free bagel every day for one week. …Lexus offered to personally pick up and return my car.

My bank is waving all monthly fees for customers. That is helpful because the monthly fee is not good to pay. My cell phone company also increases the data speeds in my area.

Southwest airlines is rewarding double points for each flight that is bought. Delta is allowing free changes and vouchers for cancelled flights.

Cell phone companies have given extra data usage, car insurance companies have given a credit on premium, and cable and satellite providers have given free usage of pay stations.


Highlighting Business Actions in the Housing and Electricity Industries

Freddie Mac

For homeowners, Freddie Mac is offering mortgage relief options for borrowers affected by COVID-19, including:

  • Providing mortgage forbearance for up to 12 months;
  • Waiving assessments of penalties and late fees; and
  • Offering loan modification options that lower payments or keep payments the same after the forbearance period.

To keep renters in multi-family properties in their homes and to support multi-family borrowers during the COVID-19 pandemic, they allow multi-family borrowers with a fully performing loan to defer their loan payments for up to 90 days by showing a COVID-19-related hardship and by gaining lender approval, with the condition those multi-family borrowers suspend all evictions for renters unable to pay rent due to this pandemic.

Additionally, Freddie Mac is providing outreach and education to borrowers and renters through a consumer resource website, MyHome to know their options if they are experiencing hardship.

ComEd

ComEd, an electric utility serving all of northern Illinois, including Chicago, is listening to customer needs and working to provide access to financial assistance, suspend service disconnects, eliminate late fees, provide energy saving tips to reduce bills and how to identify and avoid consumer fraud.

In support of the community, especially parents and teachers working from home and balancing child-care, ComEd has provided  STEM education activities and interactive experiments that can be easily accessed on their website, for customers, their families, and for educators.

ComEd translates company communications into multiple languages and their visual campaigns represent the diverse tapestry of their customers.

 


SURVEY DATA

Please reference the additional documents provided for our weekly tracking data findings and slides that we have shared.

Also, please go to http://heartandmindstrategies.com/covid-19/ to access any of this information at any time. Please feel free to share and use however is most helpful for you.