Since the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the United States in January, millions of people have lost jobs and seen their income dramatically slashed. In fact, over 16 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the last three weeks. If you’re one of those who lost your job due to coronavirus, you may be wondering what your options are. Here are a few productive things you can do to keep moving forward:
File for unemployment.
Many states are working to expand unemployment benefits, allowing for higher payments and eligibility for many who normally don’t qualify. Filing for unemployment usually involves a waiting period, which is most likely waived (depending on your state). However, it may take longer than normal to process your claim, so you’ll want to start as early as possible.
Call your creditors.
If you think you may have to miss a credit card or utility payment, get in communication right away. Many of them have relaxed late fees and charges, and almost all credit card companies have hardship provisions. Being proactive (and reaching out before your due date) could potentially save your credit score from taking a hit.
Make a budget.
Look at your emergency savings, unemployment benefits, and any other income you might receive soon, like severance payments or stimulus check. Map out all of your expenses. Are there are any areas where you can trim back? Give your bill collectors a call and see if you can qualify for reduced or deferred payments. Then make a plan to cover the necessities.
Weigh your options.
If your savings are exhausted and you need a short-term cash infusion, consider what options may be out there. You may want to consolidate debt at a lower interest rate or take out a personal loan to cover immediate expenses. Borrowing from yourself may also be an option. As part of the coronavirus economic recovery bill, you can take out up to $100,000 from your IRA penalty-free if it’s repaid within three years.
Learn a new skill.
If you suddenly find yourself with a lot of time on your hands, you may want to take up a new skill or trade. Thousands of classes and workshops are being now being offered online. If you weren’t happy in the career you were in before, many industries that were brick-and-mortar before are now hiring people to work from home or moving to the web. If you’d like to stay in your current field, look into continuing education or skill-building seminars.
Consider working for yourself.
Many people are pivoting the sudden change in the status quo to launch their own business or begin freelancing. Even if you continue looking for work in your field, having a part-time gig can help make ends meet and boost savings accounts. There are many businesses that you can start at home with a relatively small investment.
Don’t lose hope.
If anything has become clear through this health crisis, it’s that things can change very, very quickly. While that can be scary, it’s also encouraging, because even challenging circumstances can dissipate almost overnight. With local and federal governments working non-stop to support struggling citizens, help is on the way. The most important thing you can do is to keep looking forward until then.