What If I Can’t Pay My Bills Because Of The Coronavirus Crisis?

Updated: September 4, 2020

In the wake of COVID-19 and the varying state and federal guidelines about essential and non-essential jobs, you may be worried about how you can pay your bills, both now and in the near future. Whether you are an employee, freelancer, or small business owner, there are financial implications of the distancing and stay-at-home mandates to consider.

The good news is that the federal, state, and local governments, as well as many businesses and organizations, understand that you are in a position you wouldn’t otherwise be in.

Here’s what you should do:

Do A Personal Financial Assessment

First, look at your monthly bills and determine what you can still pay given your current income. It may also be smart to determine a projected worst-case-scenario income for the coming weeks and months, now that the shelter-in-place mandate has been extended to April 30th, and could go on much longer.

With no sense of when this may end or how long the financial repercussions will continue once closed businesses can reopen, it may be necessary to create an interim budget to follow for the duration.

Determine where you can reduce spending immediately. Since your new lifestyle most likely takes place almost entirely at home, fuel, meals, entertainment, and travel will be easy places to reduce expenses. Other areas may be more difficult but necessary to conserve as much money as possible.

Be Proactive And Transparent

Contact the companies you know you won’t be able to pay and request a deferment. Some companies are even deferring payments for a short time, while others are waiving interest.

These proactive businesses include mortgage companies, auto loan providers, and student loan lenders. Also, many utility companies are stating they will not shut off any services for non-payment.

Additionally, Covered California and other health insurance marketplaces recommend informing them of any changes to your income. You may be able to get further healthcare insurance premium reductions or even qualify for Medicare. 

Take On A Temporary Career

Despite rising unemployment, there are industries that are booming and need urgent help. Apply for any of the newly in-demand positions for delivery drivers, retail, grocery stores and other businesses where you might be able to get a temporary paycheck. 

Numerous social media sites regularly share articles and information about local job opportunities. You can also find jobs on sites like Snagajob and Indeed. Moreover, your city may offer job-search resources. In Long Beach, California, the city government recently launched an online job-matching program to help unemployed city residents find temporary work.  

Adapt Your Current Job

Can your skills become mobile? Consider creating a mobile business based on services you can perform curbside or some other non-contact basis. Many people are adapting their work in flower design and delivery, eyeglass repair, mobile device repair, and more. 

Others have leveraged online platforms to create virtual sessions and events. This includes yoga studios, personal trainers, karate schools, tutors, and music teachers. 

Tap Into Your Emergency Fund

The COVID-19 situation is a prime illustration of why it’s important to have emergency funds in savings. If you have any money saved up for a rainy day, such as an emergency fund, now might be the time to dip into it for necessities such as groceries. 

Remember: your emergency fund does not contain an endless supply. To make sure it lasts through what could be a long crisis, use the funds as sparingly as possible. 

Get Financial Assistance

The federal government has promised a stimulus check in the next few weeks through the recently passed CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program

If you need more assistance to keep your small business afloat or to cover your bills, consider applying for a grant or emergency loan through federal, state, or local assistance programs. Places to apply include the Small Business Administration (SBA) and your state or city government’s COVID-19 website. 

Numerous financial institutions such as Chase, industry associations, and perhaps even your own employer offer additional financial assistance to help America’s workforce and businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

John Boitnott has been writing for TV, print, radio and internet companies for 25 years. He’s written for BusinessInsider, Fortune, NBC, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur and Venturebeat, among others.

Feature Image: Twenty20