We’re living in unprecedented times. The novel coronavirus is showing us just how unprepared we are across the world for handling the crisis at hand.
As state and federal governments race to respond to what’s happening, more and more people are getting physically sick, and many others are experiencing the economic consequences as well. Some are experiencing both.
It’s clear that we (Goodbudget) are not capable of providing answers to address everyone Goodbudgeter where they’re at. But, we can say that for the folks that are experiencing partial or total loss of income, there are some things you can try to help close the gap.
1. Apply for unemployment, paid family leave, or disability leave
Folks can apply for unemployment insurance when they become unemployed at no fault of their own. And many states are amending their laws to support the influx of cases that result from businesses closing due to COVID-19. Check to see if you’re eligible for these benefits.
States that offer paid family leave (PFL) and disability leave are still in the minority, but they’re meant to protect workers from loss of income when they need to stop working to care for a sick loved one, or when they cannot work themselves because they’re sick. Check your state laws to see if they have programs like these.
2. Take advantage of paid sick leave
In the United States, employers are not required to offer paid sick leave benefits, but some still do. Check with your employer or human resources staff person to see what benefits they offer for folks that need to stay home due to illness. If you end up needing to stay home, you’ll know how to access these benefits.
3. Pick up an essential service gig
If you’re well and can work, but lost your main source of income, try picking up a gig doing an essential service. Hiring for jobs like grocery store clerks and delivery drivers has soared. Grocery stores and pharmacies need to keep up with public demand for food and supplies, and delivery services are in high demand because those who are isolating or quarantining themselves need items delivered to them.
4. If you have kids…
If your income qualifies your children for free or reduced lunches at school, you may still be able to receive those benefits even while schools are closed. Even if your child does not usually receive free or reduced lunch at school, they may be eligible for meal programs in your area. Check with your local school district for information.
5. Seek forbearance on your federal student loans or mortgage
The Department of Education recently announced they will automatically set the interest rate for federal student loans to 0.00% for the next 60 days at least. That means your loans won’t accrue more interest during the COVID-19 crisis. You may also postpone payments for the next two months, if you’re finding that you’re having trouble making ends meet, and you can do that by reaching out to your loan servicers by phone or online.
Federal regulators are also asking lenders to give relief to homeowners who have lost income due to the coronavirus outbreak. Some folks will be able to have their mortgage payments reduced or stopped all together for up to 12 months. Check the news in your state to see if you’re eligible, and then contact your lender to make arrangements. To clarify, you won’t be able to stop payments without speaking with your lender first.
6. Find help in your area
There are new and existing programs out there that aim to help those in need during the current coronavirus pandemic. Find programs in your area for things like food and bill paying assistance. In addition, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), passed last week, makes it unlawful (PDF) to evict renters living in single-family and multifamily properties financed by federally backed mortgages (i.e., by Fannie, Freddie, and Department of Urban and Housing Development [HUD] loans) and renters living in federally assisted housing. Take advantage of programs like these if you’re having difficulty paying for necessities.
We hope everyone reading is staying safe and healthy! Thank you for letting us come alongside you.