The COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs. Fortunately, some companies are offering emergency financial relief to consumers. Let’s look at COVID-19 financial relief programs by industry and learn how you can get help.
Organize for a clear picture
Before contacting any vendors with whom you have accounts, make a list of all of them: your landlord or mortgage company, utility companies, the company that finances your vehicle loan and credit card companies. Check your online accounts for total balances and upcoming payment amounts. Prioritize these payments by order of immediate importance. Having a roof over your head plus electricity and water are essential, so begin with your rent and utilities. You must have transportation, so if you own a vehicle, next comes the lender on your car note. You need groceries, so figure how much you will need for food if you operate on a strict budget.Your credit card balances can come in behind these, although you certainly should pay what you can on them.
Check to see how long you can cover these essential expenses with savings. Then visit the website of each company you owe and look for information on what COVID-19 financial relief programs they offer.
Armed with this knowledge, begin contacting each vendor about their hardship accommodation program and explain your situation. You won’t get help if you don’t ask for it. And to protect your credit score, contact these creditors before you fall behind.
As part of COVID-19 financial relief, several states have ordered rental property owners to delay evictions for up to 90 days for tenants affected by coronavirus issues. Owners of multifamily properties whose mortgages are backed by certain federal government agencies can arrange to defer loan payments owed on their rental properties so long as they do not evict tenants.
Research online to see if these COVID-19 financial relief initiatives apply to you. Contact your landlord to work out a payment plan. Do not wait until you are already in arrears. Instead, get in touch before you miss a payment.
Many state utilities commissions have ordered utility companies not to cut off service to delinquent customers during the pandemic. Contact a customer service representative to set up a plan. You may be able to work out an average monthly usage amount to level out highs and lows in your bills from month to month.
Your auto loan
Contact your auto lender, explain your situation and ask to work out a payment plan. There are no governmental COVID-19 financial relief initiatives requiring auto lender cooperation, but lenders prefer to not repossess vehicles and thus may work with you.
Credit card companies
Most of the major bank credit card companies are waiving fees, allowing limited payment deferrals, and setting up minimum payment plans. If your credit card company will not work with you and you cannot pay off balances, try to at least make the minimum payments due each month.
Other important considerations
With each of these creditors, get your agreement in writing via a letter or email. Do not rely solely on what you are told in a phone conversation with a customer service rep.
The Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) provides protections for your credit score. If you’ve worked out a plan with a creditor, that company must report to the credit rating bureaus that you are in compliance with an agreed-upon payment plan.