6 Tips for Paying Bills While Unemployed

If you've recently lost work, you're not alone in trying to navigate the financial uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic. Over 10 million American workers who lost their paycheck because of COVID-19 need to find creative ways to pay bills. Here are 6 ideas to help pay your monthly expenses during tough times.

1. Apply for unemployment benefits

Recent federal legislation expands traditional state unemployment payments from 26 weeks to 39 weeks. State unemployment offices are also administering an additional weekly payment of $600 to unemployment benefit recipients courtesy of the federal government. This additional $600 weekly payment runs through July 31, 2020. If you haven't already done so, visit your state's unemployment insurance website to fill out your application. Remember, this federal unemployment assistance now applies to self-employed workers and part-time workers.

2. Consider your retirement accounts

While not ideal, you can withdraw up to $100,000 penalty-free from your retirement accounts because of the pandemic. You can then pay it back within the next three years without penalty or being subject to annual contribution limits.

3. Postpone your mortgage or rent payment

Talk to your mortgage holder and landlord about deferring a payment or two. Recent legislation suspends required payments on certain loans and halts foreclosures for at least 60 days. But you must contact your lender to discuss the specifics of your situation. It may be trickier to work with landlords to defer rent payments, but many property owners have signaled a willingness to work with tenants over the next several months to defer or forgive payments.

4. Talk to lenders about deferring payments

Call your credit card company or loan accounts to see if they are willing to defer your payment for several months. While credit card companies haven't explicitly said that consumers can skip or defer credit card payments, encourage anyone experiencing financial hardships because of COVID-19 to contact their customer service teams to discuss their individual situation.

5. Network for Job Leads

Tell everyone in your professional and personal networks that you are looking for work. While the U.S. unemployment rate is around 20%, that still means 80% of Americans are still working. There may be job leads from friends and family that could help you weather the financial storm for several months, but you won't know unless you ask.

6. Downsize your budget

Now is a good time to create a spending budget or update your monthly forecast for expenses. Keep track of where every dollar goes, so that you can spot areas you can improve upon. Identify non-essential spending you can postpone until you find your next job.

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