3/28/20: Here are NY Times articles on more broadly applicable information regarding unemployment insurance, pausing payments on students loans and utilities, and more, and an FAQ on the stimulus package.
First, if making your payments is difficult, contact your creditors. Many, if not most, of them are already granting extensions for those affected by COVID-19. In fact, California homeowners can get a 30 to 90-day waiver on payments but you'll need to request the waiver. Even if you're not in California, your mortgage servicer will likely work with you. Just remember to be patient - many customer service lines have extremely long wait times these days. And follow my tips for making calls to customer service to reduce the stress.
Second, cut down on expenses. That can be difficult if you're also trying to stock up on items in case you can't get to the store, but use good judgment. If you're stocking up on groceries, go for bags of dried beans instead of fresh meat (assuming you can find beans - I know some stores have been wiped out). Cook at home instead of ordering delivery or take out. There are a bazillion online resources for saving money, but I recommend starting with Money Saving Mom, who is both practical and encouraging. For example, she shows how you can get you can get five dinners out of a pot of beans and has 19 activities for Frugal Family Fun.
Third, make sure you know what resources are available to you in your area. For example, LAUSD students can pick up two Grab & Go meals every weekday at 64 centers throughout the city, and sometimes other items are offered. California has a website with statewide info on a variety of topics, including the virus itself, public schools (with info on free internet access), and more. If you're not in California and want to find resources in your area, I would do a search on Google and follow local politicians and reporters on Twitter.
Below, for locals, I've copied a block of helpful text from the LA Times Essential California newsletter, which you can sign up for here:
- Knowing your rights, from paid sick leave to working at home. Here’s a guide to the rights workers have in California.
- Applying for state benefits: Californians can apply for unemployment here, disability or paid family leave here and food assistance here.
- Resources for seniors in their county: The California Department of Aging contracts with 33 agencies that coordinate a wide array of services to seniors and adults with disabilities at the community level. Find services in your county here.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters. The number for their crisis counseling hotline is (800) 985-5990.
- Are you struggling with how to talk to your kids about the virus? My science writer colleague Deborah Netburn has been answering kids’ questions, in kid-appropriate language.
- In the entertainment industry, more than 100,000 workers are now out of a job. Here’s a guide to entertainment industry-specific resources, financial and otherwise.
- Resources for restaurants and workers affected by the coronavirus crisis in L.A.: From our food section, a list of resources for hospitality workers blindsided by the loss of revenue and jobs.
- Free food for struggling hospitality workers: Here is a list of L.A. restaurants offering meals to people in the hospitality industry who have been laid off or had their hours cut due to the shutdown of nonessential businesses.
- An emergency loan program for small business owners in L.A.: Here’s what small businesses need to know about L.A.'s new emergency microloans.
- Los Angeles Unified School District continues to offer grab-and-go meals to all students who need them during the temporary closure of schools. Here’s where the 64 centers to find those meals are located.
- For seniors who need essentials brought to them, here’s a roundup of Southern California organizations ready to help.
- LAist also has a great general resource list of places offering assistance for Angelenos,from financial assistance, to food for adults and kids and other more specific situations.
Above all, remember that you're not alone in your struggles. Please let me know how I can help.