The coronavirus pandemic has already dealt a severe blow to the American economy and has caused financial insecurity for countless citizens. The situation seems poised to get worse before it gets better. If you’re experiencing financial hardship – such as a job loss or reduced income – because of COVID-19-related circumstances, there are local, state and federal assistance programs available.
Here are some of the resources you can turn to for financial assistance and relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Financial assistance programs can provide you with money and other forms of assistance to help get you through these difficult times.
1. Government Stimulus Checks
Congress is nearing passage of a historic stimulus package that is set to inject trillions of dollars into the economy and issue direct payments to 150 million American households. The amount you receive depends on your income declared in 2018 or 2019 (depending on if you’ve filed your 2019 tax returns yet) and how many dependents you have. “The Washington Post” has a handy calculator that can help you determine how much you can expect to receive.
You do not have to do anything to claim a direct payment if the government deems you eligible to receive one. If the legislation passes as expected, don’t expect a payment in your mailbox or bank account right away as it could take weeks to process.
2. Unemployment Benefits
If you experienced job loss or reduced income due to the COVID-19 outbreak, you may be eligible to apply for full or partial unemployment benefits through the state in which you worked. The necessary documentation and eligibility requirements vary from state to state. Use this map to find unemployment resources for your state.
3. Small Business Administration Loans
Are you a small business owner? The Small Business Administration (SBA) is working with states to provide low-interest loans to small businesses and nonprofits. The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program is providing emergency loans of up to $2 million to help small businesses overcome temporary losses of revenue. The pending coronavirus aid package aims to provide $349 billion in additional funding for this program.
Many state and local governments are enacting similar measures to help keep the businesses in their communities afloat.
4.Bartender Emergency Assistance Program
Bartenders and their families can apply for financial assistance through the Bartender Emergency Assistance Program. Many private companies are donating to the fund to aid bartenders who have lost their livelihood. Due to high demand, there may be delays when submitting your application. You can apply here.
5. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides benefits for low-income individuals and families to purchase food from authorized locations. You need to apply directly through your state; many states have loosened requirements and are expanding access to SNAP. The federal coronavirus aid package is set to provide an additional $15 billion in SNAP funding.
6. Local Food Assistance
If you need other sources of food assistance, look for food banks and food pantries in your local area to receive free food. Some schools are providing free school breakfasts and lunches for students while their doors are closed. Eligible seniors can receive free meals delivered to their homes by Meals on Wheels.
For financial relief, you can look for ways to reduce your existing expenses and cut costs.
1. Student Loan Forbearance
Federal student loan borrowers can already temporarily stop making payments for up to 60 days. With the incoming coronavirus aid package, borrowers can automatically have their payments paused for six months.
During this time, your loans do not accrue interest and you are not required to make any payments. Until the aid package is approved, be careful before you stop making payments and check with your student loan servicer first.
2. Deferred Evictions and Foreclosures
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it is suspending evictions and foreclosures for FHA-backed mortgages, at least until the end of April. People who can’t afford their rent or mortgage payments are able to stay in their homes (although this does not excuse you from owing rent or mortgage payments). Many states and local governments have enacted similar measures.
The coronavirus stimulus bill also places a 120-day ban on evictions and foreclosures for many renters and homeowners who are struggling to pay their bills.
3. Bill Relief
Some utility companies and service providers are suspending payments and offering other forms of assistance for customers who need help. Check with your utility companies to see if you can pause payments, reduce bills or receive aid.
Many credit card companies and banks also are offering relief. Several major banks have enacted policies including waived fees, deferred payments and interest and other policies designed to help customers. Check with your bank and credit card issuer to see what they can do for you.
4. Tax Debt Extension
If you still owe taxes for 2019, you have extra time to pay. The government has extended the tax payment deadline by three months, from April 15 to July 15. Tax filers have until then to pay their tax debts.
There are many additional resources available through local governments, nonprofits and community resources. Research local programs in your area to find additional sources of financial assistance and relief.
Also, during this time of financial hardship, there are actions you can take to manage and stretch your finances.