Lost Your Job due to COVID-19? Here’s What You Can Do.
I received an email from the public school system in my school district last Friday. It was a lengthy email with details on how they plan to start an online learning program for the students. As I read through the email, I could feel my stress level rising and questions popping in my head. There were mentions of video conferences, homework online, parents online resources, Zoom sessions, tutorials for platforms used,…and it went on and on.
The main concern I had (as would most parents) was this: is homeschooling a realistic expectation even for parents working from home? What about parents who have to continue working outside the home? While I was worrying about juggling homeschooling and work responsibilities, one of my friends called to tell me that she had just lost her job because her employer had to close due to the coronavirus.
One way or another, we are all feeling the pain and trying to adjust to a new life while we fight against the spread of COVID-19. Below are a few financial moves you could make if you recently lost your job or your income has decreased significantly.
Apply for Unemployment Insurance
Look into the benefits you are entitled to receive. If you qualify, apply for unemployment early. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (also known as CARES Act or COVID-19 stimulus bill) will provide you an additional $600 per week from the federal government on top of whatever base amount you would receive from your state. But the boosted payment is currently set to last through July 31, 2020. Almost everyone who has lost their income because of the coronavirus crisis should qualify. So, self-employed workers like Uber drivers and freelancers should be eligible if they are unable to work because of the coronavirus.
Few things you’ll likely need for the process:
- Key personal information: Social Security number, date of birth, driver’s license or state-issued ID, etc..
- Addresses of your former employer
- Work dates with your previous employer
- Reasons you’re no longer employed
- Some states may ask for additional personal information about dependents.
You Can Defer Payments
Contact your lender or landlord right away to let them know that you are facing a hardship. The Federal Housing Finance Agency has instructed lenders and landlords to allow borrowers of certain mortgages to delay payments. There’s a good chance you can delay your mortgage or rent payment if the outbreak has impacted your job. To qualify, you need to have suffered a financial hardship due to the COVID-19 outbreak that makes you unable to meet basic living expenses. Certain banks, credit card companies, and lenders are asking customers who need help to contact them for personalized assistance.
The COVID-19 stimulus bill put a temporary prohibition on nationwide eviction for certain renters and some landlords can’t charge any fees or penalties for nonpayment of rent for some period of time. If you are renting, use the search-by-state function on Just Shelter, to find local organizations that can provide advice to renters in distress. Certain states like New York have suspended eviction actions until further notice. But keep in mind that even though these rent and mortgage payments can be deferred for now, they will become due at some point; so be sure to ask what your options are when this forbearance period ends.
Focus on the needs, rather than the wants: scrub your budget and eliminate any items that you don’t need. Take a really aggressive approach even if you have an emergency fund because you don’t know how long it will take for your employment to resume again or for you to get another job. Even your online streaming subscriptions may have to be cut (or at the very least reduced) if you are in serious financial hardship because every dollar you save will help. Review things like phone plans and downgrade or negotiate discounted plans.
Use Your Stimulus Check Wisely
If you can manage to cover your basic living expenses with your unemployment check and by cutting down your expenses, it would be wise to boost your emergency fund with your stimulus check when you receive it. The more savings you have, the better equipped you will be to weather this storm or other future crises.
Pause Your Federal Student Loans
A payment waiver of at least 60 days has been granted by the The U.S. Department of Education. But the waiver may not be automatic and you have to call your loan company to make sure that your loan is eligible and to request a waiver. However, if your income has decreased significantly, it may be better for you to enter an income-driven repayment program , which could allow you to pause monthly payments for as long as your income stays low.
Get Subsidized Health Insurance
Many people who have lost their jobs can get subsidized health insurance. Several states have opened enrollment under the Affordable Care Act to allow those who lost their jobs to get subsidized health insurance.
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