Consumer Catch-up: Earthquake retrofit grants open, Netflix adds record users, Americans confident in jobs, Bank of America rolls back free checking

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Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side have consumer stories you should know about for Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018.

Earthquake retrofit grants available

Starting today, homeowners can register for grants up to $3,000 to seismically retrofit older homes.

Homeowners have one month, until Feb. 23, 2018, to apply for the Earthquake Brace + Bolt program, or EBB.

EBB is expanding its eligibility to 17 additional cities in high hazard areas. The California Earthquake Authority (CEA) provided $6 million in funding for 2018. That's enough money for an additional 2,000 seismic retrofits.

Houses with qualifying retrofits are also eligible for up to 20% discounts on CEA earthquake insurance.

"The natural disasters of 2017 remind us of the need to be prepared for the major earthquakes that are inevitable in California," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "Californians can protect their families by strengthening older homes, which are particularly vulnerable to earthquake damage, and by making sure they have the financial strength to rebuild with earthquake insurance."

The expanded program includes the following Northern California cities:
Daly City
El Cerrito
Los Gatos
Redwood City
San Bruno
San Carlos
San Francisco
San Leandro
San Lorenzo
San Mateo

Netflix adds record number of users

Netflix's recent price hike didn't seem to hurt the company's bottom line. The streaming service added a record 8.3 million new subscribers from Oct. through Dec. 2017.

That's 2 million more than the 6.3 million new subscribers Netflix originally projected. The company now has more than 117 million global members.

Those new customers are a good sign that Netflix has become such a desirable service that its customers will accept future price hikes.

Netflix said those gains are because of its original content offerings. Most of the new subscribers are international users, as Netflix continues to expand abroad.

Majority of Americans feel safe in jobs

Most Americans are confident in their current job. In a new Marist/NPR poll, 84% said they are not concerned about losing their position in the next year.

This confidence was not quite as high for contract workers - a quarter of those workers said they were concerned their job might not last.

56% of poll respondents said they received a raise in the last year. In addition, 9 out of 10 people said they felt their employer valued their work.

Bank of America cuts back on free checking

Tens of thousands of Bank of America customers are protesting a change making it harder to keep free checking accounts.

The bank changed its e-banking customers into new accounts that charge a $12 monthly fee.

Bank of America does allow customers to avoid the fee, but only if the account keeps a balance of at least $1,500 or receives direct deposits of at least $250 monthly.

More than 54,000 have signed a petition against Bank of America, arguing the new rules hurt low-income families.

Betty Riess, a Bank of America spokeswoman, told USA Today, "Our Core Checking account provides full access to all our financial centers, ATMs, mobile and online banking and offers several ways to avoid a monthly fee, including a monthly direct deposit of $250, which equates to $3,000 annually. This is one of the lowest qualifiers in the industry and a great value."

Click here for a look at more stories by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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