The good news
Currently, you can suspend your federal student loan payments for two months ↗, but it’s not automatic. You must contact your loan servicer to ask for payment relief.
Tax Day has been moved to July 15 ↗: this means there’s an extension for both the filing deadline and for federal tax payments regardless of amount owed. But if you think you’ll be getting a refund, go ahead and apply now — you’ll still receive your refund before July 15.
H.R.6201 – Families First Coronavirus Response Act ↗ was signed into law, but that’s not the Act needed to provide checks to individuals. Keep track of current news to find out the progress on that. Currently, it’s stalled in Congress.
Check your state’s website (yourstatename.gov) to learn about protective measures
Some governors and mayors have issued emergency orders that prohibit courts from ordering the eviction of any tenant who can show that their failure to pay rent was the results of COVID-19—for example, because of lost or reduced unemployment, or needing to care for a school-aged child—or because they are diagnosed with, or under investigation for, COVID-19. Check to find out if your state or city has done so.
Some governors have issued emergency orders that prohibit electric, gas, water, sewage, phone, cable TV, and internet service provider companies from shutting off any residential customer’s service, or charging any residential late fees.
Some states have established special enrollment periods for health insurance because of the virus. Check with your state’s health exchange to find out if your state is one of them.
If you have children under 18, many states have applied for federal waivers to provide three meals and a snack per day to school aged children at limited school locations. Check to find out if your state is one of them.
Some states consider farmers markets to be an essential business and therefore, the markets will not close. It may be easier finding fresh food at these markets than at stores. Find a farmers market near you ↗. And remember, if you receive SNAP benefits (food stamps), some farmers markets will match your benefits dollar to dollar up to a certain amount. Check with individual farmers markets to find out if they participate.
Seek assistance from your local service providers
Check out Need Help Paying Bills ↗ for your state. This site has guides for each state for just about every common (and some uncommon) financial situations.
Try the United Way’s 211 services directory guide ↗. Search to find the 211 website for your area. 211 websites list support services from government agencies as well as non-government agencies such as non-profits and charities. Check out their pages specifically dedicated to services for COVID-19 ↗ and essential needs ↗.
You may qualify for the Small Business Association’s Disaster Relief program ↗. They provide loans to small businesses, private non-profits, homeowners, and renters. The best time to visit the site is in the middle of the night as high traffic is causing their servers to not respond.
You may qualify for unemployment insurance; each state’s requirements are different. Check here ↗ to find the requirements for your state.
Some states are launching emergency relief funding programs, both loans and grants, as well as layoff aversion funds. Check with your state’s website (yourstatename.gov) to find out if your state is one of them and if you qualify.
Pre-existing mutual aid groups and resources
Try this financial solidarity doc ↗ where you can request/donate.
Consider alternative income streams
Useful articles and resources on freelancing, side hustling, and gig work
Get creative about income from your existing work
Provide gift cards at a reduced rate.
Provide sliding scale rates.
Provide group discounts.
Join others in your industry to create larger online events — think profit sharing!
Create content for passive income, such as with downloads and courses via Teachable or Thinkific.
Consider: What do people really need right now? What might people be willing to spend money on right now? Given the above questions, what services or products can you provide?
Consider selling items of worth as a last resort
The only things being purchased for anywhere near their worth right now are precious metals and gems. If you reach the point where you need the money and you have something to sell, make sure to go to a jeweler and not a pawn shop. You’ll get more money from a small business that can do appraisals on site, too.
Budget your way out of a hole
Cancel recurring subscriptions and charges
Don’t forget to check your Google Pay, Apple Pay, and PayPal accounts for recurring subscriptions, too.
Use a budget worksheet to find out where you can cut costs
First, check out the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator ↗ to find out what the average budget is in your area. You might be appalled or surprised.
Here’s Ride Free Fearless Money’s Budget Worksheet ↗.
Here’s Ride Free Fearless Money’s Freelance Income Calculator ↗.
Get creative about cutting business expenses
Consider moving from paid platforms such as Zoom to open source, free or cheaper alternatives (that are often more secure, too!).
Now’s the time to join or start a collective of others who share your industry. Collectives can split costs amongst members. If your collective is or becomes a non-profit, it is then eligible for non-profit discount pricing with many services, including TechSoup ↗.
If food costs are a concerning part of your budget…
There is no shame in turning to a food bank or community pantry. They exist for this very purpose!
Try signing up for SNAP. Even if you only get $12 per month, that’s $12 more than you had. Additionally, in many areas you can double your SNAP allowance at farmer’s markets and CSAs.
If you have money you can spend, consider getting a subscription to your local community supported agriculture (CSA) program ↗.
If you have the space, try growing your own food. This can be done on a patio, balcony, in a driveway, even indoors ↗. Think vertically ↗ to grow more in smaller spaces. My favorite food cultivation books are: Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City ↗; Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community; The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre! ↗; and Vertical Gardening: Grow Up, Not Out, for More Vegetables and Flowers in Much Less Space ↗.
Financial guides, coaches, and articles
My grandparents used to get The Penny Hoarder ↗ in the mail and I used to chuckle at some of its ideas — but I was a kid then and had yet to do my own penny-pinching. The company now has a very easy to navigate website full of articles and guides on making money, saving money, budgeting, taxes, insurance, and more.
Clever Girl Finance have made all access to their financial resources and online personal finance courses ↗ free, indefinitely, due to the pandemic. Check out their business-related classes ↗.
My favorite financial consultant, Hadassah Damien, runs Ride Free Fearless Money ↗. She’s a feminist financial educator and consultant who offers courses ↗, workbooks ↗, coaching & workshops ↗; and hustle real talk for values-driven folks. I HIGHLY recommend getting a group of self-employed people together to hire her for a custom online coaching session/workshop geared toward your industry and the impact COVID-19 is having upon it.
If you were diagnosed with a disability before the age of 26
I highly encourage you to sign up for an ABLE account ↗. Most states have them ↗ and many allow you to sign-up for one without being a resident. I suggest using the feature comparison search tool ↗ to find the plan that best suits your needs.
The benefit to having an ABLE account is that if you’re using a federal income-qualified assistance program (such as Section 8, SNAP, Medicaid), any money that is deposited in your ABLE account 1) you don’t get taxed on as long as you spend the money on “qualified disability expenses” (for example, all of my support animal’s needs are paid out of my ABLE account) and 2) the money in your ABLE account is disregarded when considering your assets and income for federal income-qualified assistance programs. So, you can have, say, $10,000 in your ABLE account but still qualify for SNAP!
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