More than 10 percent of Americans have been laid off since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. And even for those who have not lost their jobs altogether, families are feeling financial strain due to reduced work hours — whether because of the current pause on non-essential business, or because of a lack of paid time off and child care options for parents.
If you’re struggling to pay bills right now, or are worried about your family’s financial security, be sure to check out how the CARES Act and new paid leave options might be able to help. As for recurring monthly bills, you may also have the option to delay the due dates of some of your regular expenses to make your money stretch further during this state of emergency. Here are some tips for finding temporary relief on credit card bills, mortgage or rent, student loans, utilities, insurance premiums, and car payments or other loans.
Credit card bills
Many credit card companies are offering temporary pauses on payments, reduced interest rates, or late fee waivers to those impacted by the coronavirus. But to find out, you’ll need to call your credit card company directly to explain your family’s financial situation — specifically how you or other members of the household have lost income or are in danger of losing income.
Then you’ll need to ask what kind of assistance they can offer on credit card payments. If they do offer you accommodations, make sure you fully understand the terms of the arrangement, including the impact it will have on your credit score. Here’s a more thorough guide to the process.
Mortgage or rent
Some homeowners are eligible for delayed mortgage payments without penalty. Federal mortgage lenders Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are offering postponement of payments for up to 12 months with no risk of foreclosure. And some states including New York, New Jersey, and California are allowing homeowners to delay mortgage payments for 90 days if facing economic hardship.
In addition, many private lenders are offering similar arrangements for 90 days or more (see a list of banks here). To find out more about how it works and whether you are eligible, get in touch with your lender. But be sure to ask these important questions before deciding to delay payment.
Renters might be able to find temporary relief as well, as many cities and states have prevented landlords from evicting tenants during the public health emergency. Check this list to see the latest decisions in your area. Even if you don’t live in one of those states or cities mentioned, you can still reach out to your own landlord to explain your situation and see if it is possible to set up a payment plan or defer rent for a month or two.
Direct federal student loans have already been suspended until September 30, 2020. Automatic payments have been stopped, no additional interest will accrue, no penalties will apply, and credit scores will not be affected. But note that this does not apply to Federal Family Education Loans, Perkins loans, or private loans. Check this guide to determine if your student loans qualify. If they do, you don’t have to take any action; your lender will suspend payments automatically. If by chance you made a payment on a qualifying loan on or after March 13th, you can reach out to your lender and get it refunded.
If you have other types of student loans that do not qualify for the automatic federal suspension, the solution might be more complicated, but you can still contact your lender to find out your options.
Many energy companies are giving customers a break if they can’t pay on time due to the financial strain of the pandemic. In fact, some states, like Texas, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have even banned disconnecting various types of utility services, putting families that can’t pay now on a deferred payment plan instead. In addition, some internet companies are now offering deals, such as increased data availability or free internet for a few months for new customers with students living in their homes. Contact your local providers to find out what assistance is available.
Some large insurance companies including Allstate, Liberty, and GEICO are relaxing the rules on penalties if customers are unable to pay bills during this time. Several auto insurance providers are even offering partial refunds for premiums during the pandemic, since fewer drivers on the road means reduced risk for them—in many cases, these refunds will be automatic. Other insurance companies may be able to accommodate your situation too. Either way, contact your providers to see what deal can be arranged.
Car payments or other loans
Many lenders and car companies — see a list here — are allowing customers to reconfigure payment plans in order to make it through financial hardship. Offers for those economically impacted include extensions on car leases, pauses on repossessions, and waivers on late fees. Get in touch with your lender to see what might be possible.