When officials began issuing local and statewide shelter-in-place orders in March to stem the spread of the coronavirus, scores of businesses across the country were forced to shutter, leaving a historic number of Americans unemployed and grappling with overwhelming financial loss.
To help soften the blow, Congress passed the CARES Act, a massive $2.2 trillion stimulus package. Among many other things, the bill includes one-time payments of up to $1,200 per person for millions of Americans with adjusted gross incomes of up to $75,000, plus $500 for each qualifying child. On April 11, the Internal Revenue Service announced it had issued the first set of checks.
But $1,200 only goes so far — especially in the Bay Area — and if you find yourself still unable to pay your bills, there are other forms of financial assistance potentially available. But before contacting creditors and lenders, it's crucial to come up with a solid game plan.
“I think the very first step that you need to take is to sit down and look at all of your financial resources and take into account everything that you have available to survive a reduction or loss of income,” said Bruce McClary, a spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, a nationwide network of nonprofit financial counseling organizations.
McClary suggests that everyone — even those with substantial savings — implement an emergency budget and be aware of relief options. “Things are changing on this front, and there are more programs that are likely to be announced,” he said.
If you’re experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic, navigating available relief options can be a downright overwhelming process. So, here’s what you need to know about paying the bills that might be on your plate:
- Calling About Payment Options? Read This First
- Banks and Credit Card Lenders
- Phone and WiFi
- Student Loans
- Car Payments and Insurance
- Rent, Mortgage and Property Taxes
Before contacting your creditors or lenders, make sure you’re prepared and know what to say in order to access the full range of payment relief options available, whether it be loan deferments and fee waivers options or payment plans and continued service guarantees.