These are scary times, but you do have some control. Take action now to make a difficult situation a little easier.
- Review your auto-debit payments.
This is prudent, even in good economies. Review your bank and credit card statements for auto-debit, ACH, and subscription payments. Common reoccurring charges include streaming services, clothing subscriptions, and magazines and newspapers.For discretionary items, determine how necessary the product or service is or under what conditions you might put them on hold.
- Change your spending habits.
Easier said than done, but by dialing back unnecessary and discretionary spending you can build up a cushion in the case of a job loss or economic downturn.
Especially now, in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic you may even be able to trim your spending significantly if you’re working from home. If a vehicle lease is up, you might be able to forego a car and a car payment for a few months. Reallocate the funds you would typically spend on coffee or lunches out at the office to savings.
- Prioritize your bills.
Review all of your bills and categorize them into vital and those that can wait. Some credit cards allow you to sort your payments this way to make it even easier.Call your service providers and ask if they are offering support or payment abatement to customers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 13, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission launched the Keep Americans Connected Pledge to ensure everyone will continue to be able to access the internet during the pandemic. More than 650 companies across the country signed the pledge. Many utility companies are following suit.
- Reach out to credit card companies, banks, and other creditors and lenders.
If you’re expecting a loss in income or having difficulty paying your debts, don’t wait until the situation is dire. Many credit card companies are extending grace periods or financial hardship options due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even mortgage lenders may allow you to defer payments without negatively impacting your credit score. Just make sure you understand when and how they will need you to resume payments.The FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) is working with federal and state banking agencies and financial institutions to consider all reasonable and prudent steps to assist customers and communities affected by COVID-19. Stay up to date with their actions here.If you have a financial advisor, now is the time to ask them for assistance.
- Change how you pay student loans.
Federal student loan borrowers are automatically being placed in an administrative forbearance, which allows you to temporarily stop making your monthly loan payments. The suspension of payments extends to September 30, 2020.Additionally, several types of federal student loans owned by the US Department of Education have dropped the interest rate to zero percent through September 30, 2020.Learn more about student loan relief due to COVID-19.
The US Department of Labor expanded the criteria to be eligible for unemployment benefits to include loss of income due to quarantine, risk of exposure or infection, or to care for a family member. Read our recent post on unemployment and learn more at the New York State Department of Labor website.
If you’re experiencing food insecurity, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) may be beneficial to you and your family. It provides a cash benefit for food expenses. For information on eligibility and to apply online, click here. Food pantries are another source of food during trying times; locate a pantry in New York City, Westchester County, Rockland County, and elsewhere in the Hudson Valley.
COVID-19 has significantly impacted the restaurant and bar industry. If you are a bartender experiencing a shortage of cash due to coronavirus, the USBG National Charity Foundation is offering grants. You do not need to be a member to apply.
The Hebrew Free Loan Society is offering a Coronavirus Financial Impact Loan to qualified individuals facing financial hardship due to the pandemic. There are income limits and a co-signer is required, but there is no loan fee or interest.
The uncertainty of the pandemic is a major stressor, impacting not only your financial well-being but also your family’s physical and mental health. NYC Well can connect you to free, confidential mental health support. You can speak to a counselor via phone, text, or online chat and receive a referral to mental health care providers if necessary. They also have an extensive wellness app library. Visit NYC Well for more information.