The Coronavirus has impacted not only our health but also the financial security of millions of Latinos in the United States. If you are one of the millions who have been laid-off through no fault of your own due to the economic distress caused by the Coronavirus, here are five things you can do to try and maintain your family’s financial well being.
1. File for benefits
If you lost your job, were furloughed, or lost contracts/business as an independent contractor (self-employed) because of the Coronavirus, the federal government put in place the $2.2 trillion rescue/stimulus package known as the CARES Act to help people get through these extremely hard times.
The first thing to do if you are furloughed, laid off, had your hours reduced, self-employed, or receive a 1099, is to file for unemployment. This resource can help you find your state’s specific information.
Usually, your best bet is to file online through your state's website. In some cases you will have to call the state’s phone line to show that you qualify but, because of the high call volumes, you may have to try and call several times or wait and call back later. Remember, this program, like everything else, is being used by millions of people but was only designed for thousands so Just keep calling.
If you have been laid off and your employer provided your health insurance, you may also lose your health insurance. There are two ways to handle this: (1) the more expensive option: keep your employer provided plan for up to three years with a federal program called COBRA or (2) the cheaper option: purchase insurance through the Affordable Care Act commonly known as Obamacare (you can find out more information here.
The CARES Act relief package will provide a one-time $1,200 payment to adults making as much as $75,000, and $2,400 payments to married couples making less than $150,000 combined. Parents will also receive $500 for each dependent child. Lastly, if your income is more than $99,000 (single filers) or $198,000 (joint filers with no children), you won’t be receiving any payments.
How and when you get this payment depends on whether and how you filed tax returns for 2018 and 2019. If you filed the tax return for 2019, your payment will be based on it; otherwise, it will be estimated based on the tax return for 2018. If you set up direct deposit on your tax forms, you will get payments from the IRS sooner, otherwise you may need to provide banking information through an online portal that is being set up.
Many school districts are also providing meals for children and families (for example, New York is providing 3 family meals per day) that parents can pick up and take home when the schools are not in session. You can inquire with your local school district about whether or not this is something that will be available and where/when these meals will be provided.
2. (Re)do your budget
Now is the time to (re)assess your financial situation. Use our budget tool to update or make a new monthly budget.
This is a situation to find out what expenses you can do without-- maybe you can cancel a gym membership (particularly if gyms in your state are already closed), maybe you don’t need subscriptions to music or movie streaming services, and maybe it is time to cut down on eating take-out.
3. Understand your rights to better manage your bills
Even on a tighter budget, you might find out that you just do not have enough money to pay all the bills without. You should understand what rights and protections you have due to the Coronavirus pandemic before paying the bills and carefully consider which ones to pay and which ones not to.
If you are a homeowner and you have a mortgage backed by the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac (check to see if your mortgage is backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), the federal government has imposed a nationwide halt to foreclosures and evictions for as long as a year.
Even if your mortgage is not backed by those entities, many states, including California and New York, have paused foreclosure and eviction that would also apply to the remaining borrowers. In other states, you may have to negotiate specific arrangements with the mortgage provider, but banking regulators are encouraging them to be flexible with hardships. So please contact your provider and try to find out what you can do.
If you are a renter, the CARES Act forbids landlords from evicting tenants for 120 days on properties secured by government-backed mortgages (though your credit scores could be negatively impacted if the landlord reports non-payment).
Even if your property is not covered by the CARES Act, many states and municipalities have put in place regulations temporarily banning evictions -- you can lookup rules that are specific to your area in this blog.
The CARES Act also automatically suspends payments for six months for federal student loan debt until September 30th 2020. For private loans, we recommend that you reach out to your provider to see if they will allow you to delay/defer payments. For more detailed information we recommend the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s wonderful information.
If you have an auto loan, personal loan, payday loan or credit card debt, prioritize which one you are going to pay first based on its impact on your family’s well being (for example, your ability to get to work and medical appointments, pay with a card, or other benefits) and then negotiate down interest rate, fees, etc. with the provider.
Remember that you are not alone in this but decisions to delay payments on your bills should not be taken lightly because all of these bills will eventually come due and any non-payments will have a negative impact on your credit history. While your credit history is important for your future, it is less of a priority right now so try to manage things to the best of your ability.
4. Apply for jobs with the companies that are hiring now
While you may not be able to quickly get another job similar to your old one because thousands of companies are laying people off at the same time, there are also many firms hiring in “essential” fields, such as delivery, especially of grocery and drugstores, order fulfillment at warehouses and health care.
For example, Walmart is hiring 150,000 new employees, Amazon is hiring 100,000 new workers and CVS wants to add 50,000 more jobs. Here is a more complete listing of the active employers which includes companies all across the United States.
In addition to full-time employment, there are also opportunities to work as an independent contractor for delivery platforms such UberEats, Grubhub or Instacart but please be cautious and make sure the work environments do not put your health at risk.
5. Use this time to learn new skills
There are many online tools that are offering free classes because of the pandemic so you can use the time away from work to gain new skills and/or prepare for a new career.
Some of them are:
- Khan Academy
- Coursera (Only available in English)
- Class Central (Only available in English)
- General Assembly (Only available in English)
Finally, please be careful. Many online scams are trying to take advantage of people at this time by offering things that seem to be too good to be true--so make sure it’s a trusted resource.
We’re here for you. We’re in this together. Unidos.