It’s nowhere near its peak, but the coronavirus pandemic has already torpedoed the stock market and robbed millions of Americans of their livelihoods. Experts think the unemployment rate could hit 20 or even 30%. Many of us have not experienced such a cataclysmic event in our lifetimes. Even those who keep their jobs may face reduced hours or pay, unexpected costs, and other challenges.
While most Americans will receive $1,200 from the government sometime in the next few weeks, as of this writing, that is just a one-time deposit that will arrive after rent and bills are due on April 1. So here are some other ways to soften the blow the coronavirus can take on your career and finances.
Contact bill collectors to request an extension.
Though landlords are reluctant to freeze rent, many banks, credit card companies, utility companies, and others are open to extending payment deadlines for April. You may have to wait on the phone for a while, but it’s worth contacting these organizations to see about an extension. They may be more flexible than you think, if only for public relations reasons.
Moreover, the stimulus package the Senate passed last night, which is expected to pass the House and be signed into law by the president, includes a six-month extension on student loan payments. This means you have until September 30 to make your next payment, which should provide some much-needed relief.
File for unemployment benefits, even if you still have a job.
Even if you haven’t been fired, if your hours have been slashed because of the coronavirus, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. The stimulus bill expands benefits over the next four months for part-time workers, gig workers, independent contractors, and even the self-employed. Under the new law, you could be eligible for an additional $600 per week, although the criteria for benefits still vary by state. (For frequently asked questions about the stimulus bill, relief checks, and new unemployment benefits, see the New York Times, which is offering free coronavirus coverage.)
Unemployment applications have soared, with 3.3 million applicants for the week ending March 21, so the sooner you file your claim, the better.
Keep track of which companies are hiring.
While most organizations are reducing their workforces, some are expanding them. Companies like Amazon, CVS, Walgreens, Domino’s, Walmart, and Dollar Tree are hiring tens of thousands of workers to meet increased demand for their goods. Grocery stores, too, need more employees to handle all the anxious consumers clearing out their shelves. LinkedIn has an updated list of opportunities, which job-seekers should check daily.
The hospitality industry has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus, with many bars and restaurants shutting their doors (or switching to delivery-only) indefinitely. A lot of these establishments have set up funds where people can donate to support their staff during the crisis. The Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation and Restaurant Opportunities United, among others, have also set up crowdfunding pages to aid hospitality workers.
You may be able to receive financial assistance via these types of organizations. You can also set up your own crowdfund and share it with family, friends, and patrons who want to help keep you afloat in this turbulent time.
Watch out for scams.
As if this all wasn’t scary enough, the past few months have seen the rise of both coronavirus scams and tax refund scams. See our previous posts, “Coronavirus Scams to Watch Out For” and “How to Protect Yourself From Tax Refund Scams,” for a full rundown of these schemes and how to avoid falling prey to them.
Some general tips: Don’t ever give out personal information (such as a credit card or Social Security number) over the phone to someone claiming to be from the government, and don’t click or download anything unless you’re 100% sure it’s from someone you know and trust.
Follow CDC guidelines.
To protect your finances, follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for protecting yourself: Wash your hands, maintain social distance, and clean and disinfect surfaces.
By staying healthy, you can spare yourself a sky-high hospital bill and put yourself in a better position to bounce back when the crisis ends.