NEW YORK, NY – March 18 MANDATORY CREDIT Bill Tompkins/Getty Images Norstrom store(s) closing(s) … [+]
At this point there are few people in the world that are not feeling the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. The hardest hit are those who are sick, or have lost their jobs.
According to a recent study, about 18% of American households report at least one member of their family has already either lost their job or had their hours reduced at work because of the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, it’s likely this number will continue to increase going into spring and summer. Several states have implemented policies that have closed restaurants, bars, salons, gyms and malls and more states will follow. Gatherings and events have been banned and cancelled across the nation, and the travel industry is taking an especially hard hit.
According to Bankrate.com, only 37 percent of Americans have enough in savings to cover a $500 emergency. A study by CareerBuilder shows that more than two thirds of US Americans live paycheck to paycheck. This all means that for many families right now, missing even one paycheck can be a disaster. It means they don’t have enough money for the current necessities: bills, food and mortgage.
If you are one of the many who have already lost your income due to the coronavirus pandemic, here are some steps you should take immediately.
File for unemployment:
File quickly, as soon as you lose your job or have your hours dramatically reduced. With so many filing right there, there could be system issues and crashes. Keep trying online until you can file it. You can also often call if you can’t get through online. Make sure you do you research on what’s needed and have it ready.
Even if you don’t think you’re eligible, try to file anyway. The federal government is allowing states to expand eligibility for unemployment benefits because of the impact of the coronavirus. For example, you can file if your employer had to temporarily shut down operations because of coronavirus, or if you are currently being quarantined, but expect to return to work after.
Another reason to file immediately? The amount of people filing unemployment right now due to the coronavirus may mean it will take longer to get benefits than normal. Typically, it takes about two to three weeks after you file your claim to receive your first benefit check if you’re approved – be prepared for it to be potentially longer than this.
Call your mortgage company and ask for assistance.
Depending on your specific situation, you may be eligible to have your mortgage payments reduced or suspended for up to 12 months.
Federal regulators are ordering lenders, through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to offer homeowners flexibility. The move covers about half of all home loans in the U.S., but regulators expect that the entire mortgage industry will quickly adopt a similar policy.
The first step is to call your mortgage lender to find out if you are eligible, and determine the course that’s best for you. And keep in mind that this is not mortgage forgiveness – homeowners will have to repay the missed payments, but they can work out a plan to do this with their lender.
Ask the same of your student loan provider and credit card companies.
If you owe any type of debt, now is the time to call and ask for assistance. Credit card companies often have financial hardship programs where they can temporarily reduce payments or lower interest rates.
There are already monthly student loan repayment plans set up specifically for individuals facing financial difficulties. You may be able to reduce or pause your monthly payments. Additionally, President Trump announce Friday afternoon that the administration would allow federal student loan borrowers to suspend their payments without penalty for at least 60 days.
Cut your budget.
If you don’t have a budget, create one now. Review all your expenses and see where you can cut. Tighten as much as you can, because no one knows how long this will last.
Look for side gigs to provide some income.
Coronavirus is hitting every industry and job, and that includes freelancers and side gigs. Get creative. Consider online writing, virtual services, creating online education programs, selling your art work or working on your YouTube channel. Reach out to neighbors and friends and see if they need any help.
Just because we are socially distancing ourselves from each other does not mean you can’t network. Update your resume and your LinkedIn profile. Reach out to friends and old contacts in your industry and let them know you are looking for work. Connect with others in your situation, and see how you can help them out.
During a time where there doesn’t seem to be much good news, it’s possible that Americans will soon get some financial help from the government. Details are still being worked out, but the stimulus package is likely to be more than $1 trillion in spending. Hopefully those in need will soon see a check in their mail.