For many Americans, stimulus payments are crucial in helping pay for housing, food, and other essentials during this crisis.
For others, it will offer an opportunity to pay down debt or build up an emergency fund. Depending on your situation, one or more of these strategies could help improve your financial outlook.
Covering the Essentials
First, make sure you can cover essentials like housing, utilities and food. If you are struggling to pay essential bills during the crisis, many lenders, landlords, and utility companies are offering forbearance programs and relief efforts.
Paying Your Mortgage or Rent
If you are worried about being able to pay your mortgage during this crisis, you should contact your loan servicer as soon as possible.
There are a variety of mortgage relief programs, help for renters, moratoriums on evictions and other efforts happening at the federal and state levels to help keep people in their homes even if they can’t pay their bills right now. But be aware of the long-term implications and fine print of any payment deferral or forbearance program that you may be offered.
IMPORTANT: You can’t just stop paying. You need to contact your servicer — the company you make mortgage payments to — and work out a realistic plan going forward.
Many utility and telecommunications companies are easing shutoffs and waiving late fees to accommodate consumers who might be struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, more than 550 companies have signed the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Keep Americans Connected Initiative, which promises for the next 60 days to:
- not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;
- waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and
- open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.
Paying Down Debt
If you have money left over after covering your essential bills, start tackling any debt obligations you have, beginning with your highest-interest debt first.
For personal loans and credit card debt, it’s important to pay at least the minimum on your balance — otherwise, you may owe fees and extra interest, and your credit score could be negatively impacted.
Ideally, you want to make payments in full every month to avoid being in debt longer and racking up additional interest. Even better, if you have enough money to make additional payments toward your principal balance, you can significantly lower the total cost of your loan.
With passage of the stimulus package, federal student loans will automatically have their interest rates set to 0% for a period for six months. Additionally, borrowers do not have to make payments during that six-month period.
The Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid has answers to some of the most frequently asked questions from students, borrowers, and parents. View FAQs >
If you’re worried about staying on track with your car payment, contact your lender. Major auto brands like Ford, Toyota and Nissan are offering payment deferrals, waiving late fees and encouraging you to reach out to discuss your options.
Building an Emergency Fund
In this unprecedented and ever-evolving situation, having extra savings could come in handy should any unexpected expenses arise.
If you have money left over after buying essentials and paying your bills, consider putting it into a savings account you can use to cover expenses in coming months.
COVID-19 FINANCIAL SUPPORT GUIDE
To help you find every dollar available to help during this crisis, we have compiled a list of government and private sector programs now available for people affected by COVID-19.