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Finding Help for COVID Financial Strain

Though COVID still rages, COVID relief is coming to an end for those who need it most. Read on for some ideas on how to make ends meet as COVID financial relief ends.
A man uses a calculator to work on his post-COVID finances
By Shannon Lee
Updated on: February 23rd, 2022

Just when you think it might be over, surprise — there’s another wave of COVID. Not only does this leave many individuals wondering about what comes next, but it also wreaks havoc on schools, hospitals, retailers, and more.

The government recognized very early on in the pandemic that financial assistance would be needed for those who lost their jobs, their child care, or even had to teach their kids from home. But what happens now that moratoriums on rent payments are ending, extra financial help from the government is tapering off, but COVID continues to cause problems?

There are solutions to help with the financial strain of COVID. Let’s dive into the options.

Financial Strain as a Result of COVID

Many people have seen serious financial strain as a result of COVID. The effects of those who have fallen ill or even been hospitalized by the virus are obvious: They’ve missed work, sometimes for weeks or even months at a time, and that has cut off a source of income. They’ve also had the worries of overdue or unpaid bills, in addition to medical expenses.

There are other ways people have experienced financial fallout, including job loss or furlough, the loss of child care as daycare centers closed down, being unable to make regular payments on vehicles or mortgages, dealing with the illness of family members, or even trying to figure out how to survive financially after the death of a spouse or other family member.

Are you lying awake at night, wondering how you’ll pay your bills? Do you dread going to the mailbox? Are you maxing out credit cards while trying to figure out what to do about the loss of income you’ve seen since COVID began? Are you worried about what happens when the COVID relief from the local, state, and federal government comes to an end? The good news is that there could be other ways to find COVID relief.

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How to Relieve the Financial Strain Brought on by COVID

It appears COVID is here to stay, so learning to live with it will be a necessity. For some, that might mean starting over financially. For others, it might mean restructuring their financial lives. Here are some options:

Debt consolidation

If you’re like many people, you’ve been using credit cards to help bridge the gap while waiting for further relief or a return to the workforce. Those debts can add up fast and interest rates can leave you with eye-popping surprises. Debt consolidation loans can help you wipe those credit cards and get down to one monthly payment, thus avoiding the high interest.

Debt relief

For people who are dealing with significant debt that might be impossible to dig out of even with debt consolidation, debt relief options give the opportunity to create a settlement that can get you out from under that debt in a matter of years.

Balance transfers

Take a good look at your credit cards, the credit you have remaining on them, and the interest rates. If you can transfer a balance from a card that charges 23% interest to a low-interest credit card that charges only 18%, you’ve saved yourself some serious cash on a monthly basis.

Medical debt forgiveness

Many individuals were hit hard by the medical costs of COVID. If you have bills that seem insurmountable, contact your insurance company, the medical facility, or the healthcare company to determine any relief that might be available. There are often options for those who can’t pay their medical bills.

Bankruptcy

Though filing for bankruptcy is never a front-line solution and it can damage your credit for years, sometimes a financial situation gets so bad that there’s no way around it. This can be especially true if you are facing foreclosure, lost a business in the midst of COVID, or both. Talk with a financial advisor or attorney about the options when it comes to this last-ditch effort.

Where to Find Other Help

In some cases, financial help for those impacted by COVID is still available.

Student loan forgiveness or assistance might be available to you, depending upon your profession. There’s also the fact that the government keeps extending the moratorium on student loan interest and payments; don’t make payments again until this financial help runs out. You never know what Congress might choose to do in terms of further assistance.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition has information on the billions of dollars still on the table for those who need rent assistance. Those who are concerned about paying for health insurance premiums have new options through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace that can help lower their premiums. Those who qualify for Medicaid might also find assistance. Some might find further relief from medical bills through the Patient Advocate Foundation.

Speak with your tax advisor about the potential tax credits and other advantages offered to those who have been affected by COVID.

A 10-Step Financial Game Plan for the Future

How can you better handle your finances going forward, regardless of what COVID continues to do to the economy in general? Here’s how to create a firm financial foundation.

Step 1: Get copies of your credit report. You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies once per year. To make the most of that, spread them out. For instance, get Equifax in January, TransUnion in June, and Experian in October. As of this writing, all three credit reporting agencies are allowing a free report each week, thanks to the irregularities in credit due to COVID – take advantage of that while you can!

Step 2: Start cleaning up the information. Look for incorrect information; remember that someone typing in the wrong digit, somewhere, can turn into a negative showing on your credit report that you had nothing at all to do with. Challenge incorrect information to have it removed from your credit report. Your credit score will rise as the negative information is corrected.

Step 3: Start an emergency fund. Now is the time to make sure you have some money saved up for a rainy day. Yes, it’s hard to do this when you’re struggling financially, but it’s a vitally important step. Even saving a dollar or two here and there adds up. You’ll find it easier to save money when you lower your monthly bills (we’ll talk about that below).

Step 4: Create a budget. In order to keep more of your money for yourself, you have to first understand where it’s going. Keep track of every expenditure for one month. Write it down on a piece of paper. Then look at how much you have coming in, versus how much is going out. You absolutely must keep that number going out below the number coming in. If that’s not happening, it’s time to make some changes.

Step 5: Comparison shop what you can. Look at what you’re spending and where. Car insurance is a good place to begin. Look at what you pay right now, and then look at other companies. Are their rates lower for the same insurance? That’s comparison shopping. Moving to a cheaper company can save you hundreds of dollars every year.

Step 6: Look for ways to lower your monthly bills. Let’s say you’re already getting the cheapest possible insurance. Great! How can you lower it even more? Look at what your coverage is and ask yourself: Can you get away with less insurance? Does it make sense to go with a higher deductible? These changes can save money.

Step 7: Request lower interest rates. Contact your credit card companies and ask for lower interest rates. If you’ve been a good customer who is struggling to keep up thanks to COVID, many companies will be more than happy to provide you with a lower interest rate for a while.

Step 8: Refinance your home. If you have a mortgage, now is the time to talk to your lender about refinancing. Depending upon the terms, refinancing could save tens of thousands of dollars over the course of the loan.

Step 9: Make small changes for big gains. Though you might wonder where you can save money through little changes, you might be surprised. That $5 latte every morning, $2 snack from the vending machine, or $15 lunch every day adds up to quite a bit of cash. Make your own coffee, bring your own snacks, and eat a brown bag lunch to put that money away toward your emergency fund.

Step 10: Plan for even further into the future. Though it might seem in the distant future, retirement and saving for other big life events is a good idea. Talk with a financial advisor on things you can do right now to invest even the smallest amount in your future endeavors – every dollar really does add up.