According to Forbes, losing your job is one of the most stressful life events that can occur. In the wake of COVID-19, thousands in the Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia are living without employment—some for the very first time—with millions more across the country likely to join. In the shock of the aftermath of a job loss, there are safety net programs and benefits in place that can help you and your family prepare and move forward.
File For Unemployment Insurance
The first step as recommended by Maria-Jose Cantoni– a Financial Advisor at one of United Way of the National Capital Area Financial Empowerment Centers– is to file for unemployment benefits.
“The first thing they need to do if they just lost their jobs is apply for unemployment,” Cantoni shares.
You can apply for unemployment over the phone, but for quickest access its recommended to apply online through your state’s website. Once you visit the website, generally you create a profile and will be provided with a login and PIN. You should file for unemployment as soon as you get notification of a layoff, with the one-week waiting period being waived in several states and cities. With the passage of Congress’ new CARES Act to COVID-19, the federal government will be allotting an additional $600 a month on top of what states offer in insurance for the next four months.
You can also apply for unemployment if your hours have been reduced to no fault of your own or if you make under a certain amount per week. State benchmarks on wage qualification differ so be sure that you’re eligible before you file.
Adjust Your Budget
It might sound easy, but adjusting your budget to accommodate needs like food, rent and utilities can be a stressful task. It’s important to consider making changes in your budget like transportation if you can reduce that expense while “stay at home” mandates are in place. Additionally, you may qualify to apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits which can help reduce the cost of food and groceries. It’s also important to consider notifying your landlord as soon as possible if you’re unable to afford rent. Washington D.C has issued a suspension on evictions for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak. Renters should try and negotiate with their landlord or management company and see if there is an opportunity to postpone or reduce rent payments.
Reduce the Amount of Debt You Accumulate
While the COVID-19 outbreak presents the most immediate threat to financial stability in terms of lay-offs and pay reductions, there may be more turbulence ahead in the economy. While payments and interest on loans may be suspended for the duration of the outbreak, eventually those debts will resume collection. Taking out or using predatory credit cards and loans with high interest rates can set you back even further. Cut costs strategically and avoid using loans or other debtors to cover expenses like rent, food and utilities.
You can also seek free virtual financial coaching for through United Way NCA’s Financial Empowerment Centers. The Financial Empowerment Centers offer budget and bankruptcy workshops, workforce development, and small business coaching and tax preparation for free to anyone who schedules an appointment. Sign up online and take advantage of the free services to help you move forward. To schedule an appointment, please visit financialempowermentcenters.org