Offered by: Tim Roberts – Edward Jones
As we go through the coronavirus pandemic, with its constant threat to personal health and its devastating impact on the economy, it can be hard to find a silver lining. But if there is one, it’s that government agencies, private businesses and nonprofit organizations have contributed, in one way or another, to helping relieve some of the stresses – financial, physical or emotional –that many of us are feeling. So, it’s important for you to know what types of help are out there. Here are some of the key areas in which resources are available:
Unemployment – The CARES Act, a major piece of the recent economic stimulus packages, expanded several aspects of unemployment insurance, including eligibility, amount and duration. To learn more about unemployment insurance flexibility during the COVID-19 outbreak, and to find a link to your own state’s unemployment insurance office, visit: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/unemployment-insurance. You might be able to collect some benefits even if you’re still working. Specifically, if your hours have been reduced, you could receive part of your unemployment benefits as short-time compensation. Your company’s human resources area can let you know if you’re eligible.;
Banking/Credit Cards/Consumer and Student loans – Many financial institutions are offering loan modifications, fee waivers or new lending products to help consumers during this time. To see what’s available, contact your own bank or credit union. Credit card issuers and other consumer loan providers are also offering programs to help borrowers; to learn more, visit these creditors’ web sites or call their customer service lines. And, as part of the CARES Act, borrowers can stop making payments on federally held student loans through Sept. 30, 2020.
Health care – Losing employment often means losing health insurance. If you’ve recently lost your coverage, you may be eligible to participate in the special enrollment period to sign up for an Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance plan. Depending on your income, you may be eligible for subsidized health insurance. To see if you qualify for the special enrollment period, or for Medicaid or CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), go to https://www.healthcare.gov/screener/. If you don’t qualify for Medicaid or CHIP and can’t afford health insurance, you may be able to get free or low-cost services at a community health center. To find one near you, go to https://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/.
Mortgage – Another provision of the CARES Act allows you to apply for suspension or reduction of your mortgage payment for a limited time if you have a federally backed mortgage (FHA, VA, USDA, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac). You’ll need to contact your own mortgage service provider to request this relief.
Utilities – Many gas, electric and water service providers are temporarily suspending disconnections of customers unable to pay their bills due to the effects of the pandemic. Also, some utilities are suspending late fee charges. Contact your local utilities to determine the benefits for which you may be eligible.
Telecommunications/Internet – Numerous broadband and telephone service providers (https://www.fcc.gov/keep-americans-connected#pledges) have agreed to temporarily stop terminations and waive late fees for customers facing financial struggles arising from the pandemic.
And some providers (https://www.fcc.gov/keep-americans-connected/above-and-beyond) are also offering other benefits, such as free internet service to students and teachers and increased broadband speeds for customers working remotely.
These are challenging times, to say the least. But by availing yourself of the appropriate resources, you may well be able to make your life easier.
Edward Jones. Member SIPC.