Telling you not to panic is not a solution! This is not a case of fear related to a sudden episode with no apparent cause— the coronavirus pandemic is real and thousands of people are struggling with its implications. In an urgent situation, such as the one we are experiencing, there are solutions to help lower your level of apprehension.
How to Take Control of Your Financial Situation if You've Lost Your Income
While your payment obligations won’t just disappear, there are businesses out there willing to work with you during these trying times. Watch this video to see what you can do if you are no longer receiving an income.
In addition to our physical well-being, the coronavirus pandemic fallout has become very real to our financial health, and people are now struggling to pay bills, buy groceries and purchase prescriptions.
While it’s important to keep up with your payments if at all possible, financial experts are advising people to prioritize their food and shelter needs and then to work from those points.
Initially, they advise that you look closely at your budget and income, cutting unnecessary spending wherever possible in order to help make ends meet.
If you’ve already done that and are still struggling, you should contact your creditors to discuss your situation, whether it be for loans or bill payments.
Across the nation, financial institutions, lenders, utility and communications companies are encouraging customers to contact them about their current payment policies, which could change from month to month during the pandemic.
While options will vary from lender to lender and business to business, you might find that some are extending payment deadlines, waiving late fees, lowering some interest rates, possibly deferring payments, and doing things such as suspending utility disconnections.
Experts are saying to not just quit making payments without any explanation. You should personally reach out to your creditors and to explain your situation. Lenders and other businesses are asking that you contact them directly and that they will be working with people on a case-by-case basis. This includes financial institutions, credit card companies, mortgage lenders, utilities and landlords.
To contact these entities, look for their customer service numbers on statements, bills, the backs of payment cards, or find contact information or live chats on their websites. Customer service departments are already warning people that wait times could be significant and are asking that you be patient. They are not kidding when they say your calls are important to them.
While your payment obligations won’t just disappear, there are businesses out there willing to work with you during these trying times.
Besides filing for unemployment benefits—which will require time and patience—there are other tasks you can do to ease the anxiety and stress of suddenly losing your income. Here are a few ways to take control of the situation and put you in a better financial position:
1. Call the Landlord or Mortgage Company.
It is important to contact your mortgage company or landlord to inform them of your financial position as soon as possible. Communicating early is critical, don’t just stop paying your rent or mortgage. Landlords don’t want to lose good tenants and it can be easier for them to help you if they know what’s going on. And many mortgage companies are working with consumers to waive fees or defer payments.
If you have a mortgage or consumer loan with Lakeland Bank, we're here to help by offering a temporary payment deferral for up to 90 days with no late fees or impact on your credit. Learn more at LakelandBank.com/COVID-Loan-Relief.
The White House announced the Department of Housing and Urban Development will suspend all foreclosures and evictions for 60 days. For details, visit: https://www.hud.gov/
Also, check your state and local government websites for further information related to suspensions of evictions and foreclosures.
2. Contact Your Credit Card Company.
Reaching out to all your credit card companies is another good idea. Again, communicating with these companies will put you in a better position to get help with how to handle your balances, payments and late fees.
3. Contact Your Insurance Company to Review Your Policies.
Insurance is a critical component in providing financial security to protect your life, health, and property. Life insurance protects your family, health insurance assists with medical costs and homeowners, rental and auto insurance protect your property. Now is NOT the time to cancel these policies, but you should review them to ensure you have adequate coverage or possibly reduce coverage you may no longer need. Even if you make no changes to your policy premiums, it is worth the time to see if your carrier will delay payments related to your financial situation.
4. Keeping the Electric On.
Many state regulators are asking utility and gas companies to suspend disconnecting services due to nonpayment and many of them have done so for both consumers and businesses. And, some are even waiving late fees and offering flexible payment schedules. Check with your local provider for specific details related to these types of programs.
5. Cable, Phone and Internet Providers are Helping.
The best thing to do is check with the cable, phone and internet providers in your community. They all are providing some variation of the following for consumers and businesses:
- waiving late fees
- suspending termination for nonpayment
- providing unlimited data for all customers for a period of time
- providing free access to public Wi-Fi hot spots
- offering free broadband or Wi-Fi for a period of time to households with students in college or K-12
6. Automakers are Taking Action too.
Some automobile manufacturers are offering customers relief with potential delayed payments and others, such as Hyundai, have programs that will provide up to six months of car payments to new buyers if they lose their jobs involuntarily.
These are just six ideas to help you handle this difficult time. Taking control of your financial situation, even if it’s just one step at a time, can help you lower your anxiety and stress.
Visit our Coronavirus Update page to learn how Lakeland Bank is helping customers who are experiencing a financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can also check out our Simply Speaking blogs to explore others ways to improve or secure your finances.