We’ve entered new territory as a country. With temporary closures of schools, businesses and other public gathering places, many families and businesses are struggling to make ends meet due to changes in income. This challenge is on top of the complete shock that the outbreak has caused in people’s personal and professional lives.
During this time of uncertainty, finding the resources you need can be difficult. To help you, we’ve tracked down various novel coronavirus-related resources available to the public.
Financial resources for people impacted by the pandemic
1. Student loan repayment information
Your student loans should be the last thing you need to think about during this pandemic. But for many borrowers, it’s at the top of their worry list. Fortunately, there are ways to get financial relief when it comes to your student loans:
- Federal student loans. The recent $2 trillion stimulus plan included an automatic suspension of student loans held by the Department of Education for six months through September 30, 2020. This relief bill also extended President Trump’s student loan interest waiver which went into effect on March 13, 2020.
Keep in mind that your student loans will still be there once the six-month forbearance and interest waiver have expired. If you have federal loans, you can lower your payment if your income has dropped because of job loss or other consequences of the novel coronavirus. Student Loan Planner founder, Travis Hornsby, offers a step-by-step tutorial on how to lower your payments. Most loan servicer phone lines are overwhelmed at the moment, so this video is a great resource for walking you through the process.
- Private student loans. If you’re struggling to make payments on your private student loans, reach out to your lender to discuss your options. Relief options vary by lender, but it’s crucial you contact them to explain how COVID-19 has affected your ability to make payments before you miss a payment or go into default.
2. Tax relief
The Internal Revenue Service pushed back the tax filing and payment deadline to July 15, 2020, for taxpayers owing up to $1 million for their 2019 taxes, regardless of filing status. This extension gives you an additional two months to come up with your tax payment.
- What about estimated quarterly tax payments? This relief measure also extends to first-quarter 2020 estimated tax payments that are normally due April 15. It’s unclear whether additional quarterly payment deadlines will be extended.
- What about state taxes? This measure only applies to federal income tax payments. Some states and local authorities are also offering different forms of tax relief. Check out this Forbes article for a continually updated list of state tax information.
3. Business loans
Businesses across the nation are taking a hard hit from this pandemic and changes in consumer behavior. These resources can help soften the blow and prevent long-term closures:
- Paycheck Protection Program. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was signed into law on March 27, 2020. Its Paycheck Protection Program — a $349 billion program — provides relief for struggling small businesses through loans, grants and credit programs. Employers with less than 500 employees can access funding to cover up to eight weeks of payroll and certain other operating expenses.
- Small Business Administration loans. SBA is providing low-interest working capital loans of up to $2 million. These loans are designed to provide economic support for small businesses that have lost revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic. For more information, contact 1-800-659-2955 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- State programs for businesses. Many states are providing resources and support to small businesses. For example, California and Colorado have work-sharing programs that provide partial unemployment benefits as an alternative to layoffs.
For local business support, contact your local SBA office or Chamber of Commerce for additional resources specific to your area.
4. Planning for a recession
It’s likely the coronavirus pandemic will cause a recession. The stock market in recent weeks has seen some of its worst days of the past several decades, and the global economy is in a state of flux. We can only speculate how long this pandemic will last and what the long-term effects will be.
Here’s some information to help you prepare for the unknown:
- Tips for borrowers in a severe recession
- How to protect your investments during the coronavirus pandemic
Other resources for people affected by COVID-19
These additional general resources are designed to help anyone impacted by the coronavirus. They can give you a good starting point for researching options that are tailored to your situation.
Support for those who’ve lost their income due to coronavirus-related closures
Many workers have seen a reduction in hours or a complete loss of income. Some families are having to choose between continuing to work versus staying home to care for children while schools are closed. Some need to stay home to care for an ill or quarantined family member. These resources are available to people facing such circumstances:
- Unemployment benefits. The Department of Labor has given states more flexibility to amend their laws to provide expanded unemployment benefits for people affected by COVID-19, which means you might qualify even if you haven’t in the past. You can search your state’s unemployment policies to determine whether you meet the requirements to receive available benefits.
- Disability insurance and paid family leave. Depending on the state you live in, you may qualify to file a claim for disability insurance or paid family leave through your state’s program. Check with your state if you aren’t able to work because of COVID-19’s impact.
- Public assistance programs. If you’ve lost your income, you may qualify for supplemental nutrition, medical or other financial assistance programs designed for low-income families. Use this benefit finder to help locate programs you may be eligible for.
Support for people who can’t pay their bills because of reduced income
If you’re having trouble paying your bills, there may be options to help alleviate some of your financial burdens during this time:
- Contact your lenders and loan servicers. Many creditors are providing temporary financial relief in the form of postponing payments, temporarily lowering interest rates or waiving fees. They won’t know that you’re struggling unless you communicate it. Be explicitly clear your inability to pay is a direct result of the coronavirus. Be prepared to explain your situation and provide an estimate of how much you can afford to pay.
- Seek professional help if needed. For example, you can use a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved housing counselor to discuss mortgage options. These housing counselors are often available at little or no cost.
Other COVID-19 relief programs in development
All levels of government are meeting to discuss potential relief options. The following options are pending finalization:
- Federal programs. The federal government is discussing a number of relief efforts for Americans affected by COVID-19. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law on March 18. It provides for free coronavirus testing, increased funds for Medicaid, improved food security initiatives and greater employee protections, such as paid emergency sick leave and enhanced unemployment benefits. Additionally, the CARES Act includes a provision for qualifying Americans to receive economic impact payments based on their adjusted gross income reported on their 2019 or 2018 tax return. Explore this list for additional federal resources that are available in response to COVID-19.
- State or local resources. Your city or state might have a list of resources for businesses and families affected by the coronavirus outbreak. For example, the City of Austin’s website includes community resources that detail relief programs in the area. Utility services, child care assistance, food programs, housing needs and business resources are a few examples. Check nearby authority websites for resources specific to your location.
You can also reach out to local nonprofit and community organizations in your area. Groups in every corner of the country are mobilizing to provide whatever relief they can in this time of need.
Where to get reliable coronavirus information
It’s important to stay updated as new information about the coronavirus is made available and new directives are put in place, especially given their economic and human impact. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation floating around between internet memes and the 24-hour news cycle, which can mix opinion with fact.
We encourage you to rely on credible sources, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), to get accurate updates about COVID-19. Following all federal, state and local guidelines as they are released can also flatten the curve of this outbreak.
Remember, we’re all in this together. Let us know in the comments if you need help connecting to additional resources.