With the longest government shutdown in U.S. history leaving many federal employees without a salary and a nationwide mess in its wake, now is a prime opportunity for all companies—large and small, public and private—to band together in the name of helping others, uniting toward a greater good.
But if you need an incentive, here it is: A 2017 study by public relations firm Cone Communications found that 78 percent of 1,000 U.S. citizens surveyed believe companies have an obligation to stand up for social justice issues, and 87 percent said they will purchase a product from a company that advocated for an issue they care about.
Amid the government shutdown, many companies across a wide range of industries already are leading by example—demonstrating not just what they stand for, but what they stand up for. A few of those efforts are mentioned below:
Food and beverage. Dozens of restaurants across the nation (too many to list) are offering free meals and drinks to furloughed employees and their families. Kraft has opened a pop-up grocery store in the nation’s capital, providing a variety of its products at no cost.
And it’s not just people being fed. Pet supply stores should take a page from an animal rescue league in California offering free pet food to pet owners directly affected by the government shutdown.
Financial services. Several credit unions are offering interest-free loans to those impacted by the shutdown, while several banks—including JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, and Discover—said they are waiving or refunding certain fees for furloughed federal employees.
Telecommunications and utilities. A handful of cellphone and cable companies—including Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, and DirecTV—all announced they will offer flexible payment options to furloughed employees.
“We believe that we need to step forward and do our part.”
Robert Garrett, CEO, Hackensack Meridian Health
A couple of utilities companies also are leading by example. Charlotte County Utilities in Florida, for instance, is offering a payment deferral program to federal employees affected by the government shutdown, while Memphis Light, Gas, and Water said all affected workers can apply for its Hardship Policy to avoid an interruption in service.
Healthcare. Hackensack Meridian Health announced it will waive co-pays and deductibles for emergency visits at all of its network hospitals and urgent care centers for furloughed federal employees and their insured family members. “We believe that we need to step forward and do our part,” said Hackensack Meridian Health CEO Robert Garrett.
Travel and entertainment. Airbnb is offering “A Night on Us,” in which government-employee hosts who share their home for three nights anytime over the three months between Dec. 18, 2018, and March 18, 2019, will get paid an extra night—up to $110—by Airbnb. “We hope this boost will serve to supplement the income government employees already earn from their home sharing,” Airbnb stated in a blog post.
Dozens of local sporting events, concert venues, museums, movie theatres, and many other family-entertainment businesses across the country similarly have chipped in, offering free or reduced admissions for government employees and their families.
Other companies are pitching in to assist with broader nationwide efforts. Beverage company Nestlé Waters North America has teamed up with Keep America Beautiful, a community improvement organization, to help mobilize affiliate organizations and volunteers across the country to clean up national parks, where unmanaged waste is piling up amid the government shutdown. And REI announced its intent to donate at least $250,000 to help with these restoration efforts.
Even when the government shutdown ends, the damage has already been done. For many individuals, businesses, and non-profits alike, it’s going to take a considerable amount of time and collective effort to boost the amount of resources and morale that have already been depleted. Perhaps other companies idly standing by will look to their competitors and peers for inspiration on how they, too, can follow suit, banding together in the name of helping others, uniting toward a greater good.