Short on income and cash? Here are five steps you can take now to manage through this crisis.
Caught in the crossfire of economic meltdown? Unfortunately, you’re not the only one. In the last week of March, nearly seven million Americans filed for unemployment. That number shatters the previous peak of 665,000 claims filed the week of March 29, 2009, during the Great Recession.
The cause, of course, is the ongoing effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. Much of the U.S. is under some type of stay-at-home order, and nonessential business are closing their doors and often laying off workers as a result. The explanation, though, doesn’t take the sting out of losing your job — particularly if the job loss comes at a time when you’re low on cash savings.
You might feel panic, desperation, embarrassment, or some combination of all three. You can and should acknowledge those feelings, but then find a way let them go. Your energy is better spent planning your next moves to keep food on the table. Here are five to get you started.
1. File for unemployment
Panic has a way of cluttering the mind, so I’ll state the obvious. As a first step, file for unemployment. Before this pandemic, most states had a waiting period of about a week before you could receive unemployment benefits after a job loss. But in the wake of COVID-19, many states are waiving that waiting period. Double-check your state’s guidelines on its unemployment website, which you can find on the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop Unemployment Benefits Finder.
To file for unemployment, you’ll need your Social Security number, recent pay stubs, a copy of the communication you received about the layoff, your employer’s contact information, and the dates you worked at that job. You should also have your banking information on hand for setting up direct deposit, which may expedite your payment.
Try filing your claim online first. But know that state unemployment websites have been unstable because of the high demand. You might have the best luck at an odd time, like 3 a.m. If that doesn’t work, call and sit on hold until you reach someone.
2. Call your creditors
Several major financial institutions are authorizing payment deferrals for debtors who are affected financially by the coronavirus. Call each and every one of your creditors, from the bank that issues your credit card to the company servicing your mortgage. Or, if you rent, call your landlord. Be open about your situation. See what you can negotiate to get your recurring monthly bills as low as possible for at least the next six months.