More Companies Helping Consumers Who Lose Jobs

April 15, 2009 01:57 PM
by Emily Coakley
Carmakers started the trend, but many other companies are offering plans to help people who have lost their jobs hang on to their possessions.

Offering Reassurance in an Uncertain Time

The automobile, clothing, travel and housing industries are just a few that are starting to offer plans to protect people who have been laid off.

The California Association of Realtors recently started a program for first-time home buyers. Those who are eligible and have been laid off could receive $1,500 per month for six months to help pay their mortgage, according to the site The association has allocated $1 million and says up to 3,000 families might benefit this year.

Home builders are also getting into the act. The Columbus Dispatch reports that Toll Brothers Inc., Pulte Homes Inc., Lennar Corp., M/I Homes and the Ryland Group Inc. are all offering some sort of protection plan for people who lose their jobs after closing on a new home.

For example, Toll Brothers has a plan that pays up to $2,500 a month for six months if a person loses a job within two years of closing on a new home, the Dispatch reported. People are only eligible if they use “the company’s mortgage lender,” the paper said.
Beyond the housing industry, the travel industry also offers protections with travel insurance, though job loss has been part of many policies all along.

“If you or your traveling companion loses a job, travel insurance will compensate you for nonrefundable outlays such as prepaid tours, cruises, or airline tickets,” in many cases, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

JetBlue is now allowing “cash refunds to passengers who lose their jobs after buying tickets,” according to the Inquirer. There are some rules for the requests, though.

Norwegian Cruise Lines is also offering insurance policies to refund cancellation fees for people who lose their jobs. The newspaper suggests travelers study the fine print before buying or refusing such insurance.

Men’s clothing store Jos. A. Bank also offered a promotion for customers who bought a suit between March 16 and April 9. If the buyer loses his job by July 1, Jos. A. Bank “will refund the price he paid for the suit, up to a maximum of $199, and he may keep the suit,” according to a company press release.

In the prepaid cell phone world, Virgin Mobile has recently announced that it would “waive up to three months of charges if you lose your job,” reported USA Today’s Technology Live blog. Virgin calls the plan “Pink Slip Protection.”

Even the federal government is feeling the spirit of leniency toward people who have been laid off. IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman said his agency is going to be more flexible for people who are struggling. CNBC quoted Shulman as saying, “we’re going to work with you,” if someone can’t pay his or her taxes this year.

That doesn’t mean people can just not pay their taxes or not file a return, though.

“Be proactive and contact the authority if you’re having problems, even if you can’t pay all that you owe (log on to or call 1-800-TAX-1040),” CNBC said. Shulman said people should file their returns today, or file for an automatic extension.

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Background: Car manufacturers start latest wave of job-loss protection plans

Faced with horrible auto sales figures, companies started rolling out plans to help people who buy a car and then get laid off. The idea is that giving customers this support will encourage them to buy a new car.

Hyundai was the first company to do it in January, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. General Motors and Ford soon followed.

GM will make car payments up to $726 for nine months for eligible customers, while Ford will make 12 payments of up to $1017, the paper reported.

Related Topic: What not to give up during the recession

Though people are taking all sorts of steps to cut back, there are some things that are essential to keep. Readers have suggested health insurance and job interview clothes are among five things not to cut back on.

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