Money Health

Will COVID-19 Stimulus and Benefits be Extended? 5 Things to Know

COVID CARES Act Benefits
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As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, eligible Americans have received an extra $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits. Despite measures to extend them, these benefits are scheduled to expire at the end of this month.

If the $600 boost in unemployment benefits, which has supplemented your state benefits has kept you afloat, you’re probably concerned. Here are five things you should know to help you prepare, no matter what happens next.

1. Determine whether your job will return

It’s important to be realistic about whether or not your job will return so that you can plan accordingly. Whether or not you’ll get your job back is driven by the industry you were in, your company, and your particular position. As of now, some of the occupations that are making the fastest comebacks include restaurant and bar workers, construction workers, retail workers, factory workers, medical professionals, janitors, and delivery workers.

On the other hand, jobs in industries like hospitality and tourism, arts and entertainment, and childcare may not return in the near term.

2. Make a plan if you’re likely to stay unemployed

If you believe your job won’t return, come up with a game plan of how you can cover your bills and improve your financial situation. Here are some tips.

  • Shift your health insurance: To ensure you continue to receive health insurance coverage, find out if you qualify for Medicaid, the Health Insurance Marketplace, COBRA, or get on your spouse’s health insurance plan.
  • Cut spending: Eat at home instead of dining out, opt for free or low-cost entertainment options, clip coupons, get rid of cable. Do whatever you can to slash the amount of money you spend each month.
  • Manage debt: If you’re unable to make your debt payments, reach out to your lenders to explore the options available to you. They may allow you to defer payments or make partial payments until you get back on your feet. Explore reliable ways to manage debt long term, including loan consolidation, credit counseling or debt relief. Managing your debt when times are tough can keep you from damaging your financial health in the long-term.
  • Start job hunting: The sooner you start to look for a new job, the better. Don’t forget to tap your personal and social network for new opportunities. Relying on sites like Indeed, LinkedIn, or ZipRecruiter is a great way to start, but ask those who know you best where they see you going next. The answer might surprise you.

3. Look into federal, state, and local assistance

If you think you’d be eligible for federal assistance, make sure to apply to programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. If you don’t qualify, explore new or expanded state and local resources that can help you find COVID-19 relief.

Find out if your state or municipality has created a coronavirus resource website or collected information on their main state or department of health pages. Visit 211.org or call 211 to receive assistance with essential needs like housing, food, and clothing.

4. Educate yourself

In times of trouble, knowledge is always power; that’s why it’s worth your limited time and energy to educate yourself. Think about:

  • New ways to find a new job: Speak to recruiters or human resources professionals in your network and ask for advice on landing employment during a pandemic. Do research or take a community college class about an industry you never thought you’d work in.
  • How to manage your money: The Freedom Debt Relief blog is full of information that can help you manage your money and get out of debt during these unprecedented times. Keep an eye out for new articles every week.
  • Follow federal and state assistance changes: Federal and state assistance programs are added and changed on a regular basis. Stay updated on these programs by following your favorite news sources to see if you qualify.

5. Consider entrepreneurship

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and have always wanted to pursue your own venture, why not take the plunge now? Believe it or not, some businesses, such as meal kit provider Blue Apron and pet supply company Chewy are thriving during the pandemic. Got a product or service that others may find particularly valuable in these times? There are resources that can help you bring your vision. Here are a few:

  • S. Small Business Administration (SBA): The SBA is a government agency that supports entrepreneurs and small business owners. It can connect you to funding that can help you plan, start, and grow your business.
  • Self-Employment Assistance Program (SEAP): SEAP provides the equivalent of unemployment benefits to people who are already on unemployment but are looking to start their own business. Rather than spending time looking for other work, SEAP participants spend their time getting their business off the ground. The program is only available in Delaware, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, or Oregon – for now.
  • SCORE: As a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), SCORE is the largest network of volunteer business experts who are dedicated to entrepreneur education. The organization has over 10,000 volunteer mentors across the country that help small business owners via one-on-one counseling and training programs.
  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): The PPP made its debut in April to help small business owners continue operations during the pandemic. If you apply for the PPP, you can receive a forgivable loan to cover payroll and a number of other business-related expenses. Since the PPP has recently been extended, it may be an option.

Check out our debt guide

Learning how to deal with debt, money, and planning for your future doesn’t need to be hard, you might just need a little extra advice – especially right now. We have developed a simple-to-follow guide to help you find the tools you need to move to a better financial future during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond. Get started by downloading our How to Manage Debt guide right now.

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Anna Baluch is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about all personal finance topics. She’s particularly interested in mortgages, retirement, insurance, and investing.