For many of us, rent, mortgage, car payment and other bills are coming due again. But what about those who are out of work amid the coronavirus pandemic and can’t pay those bills?
Many families have yet to receive their stimulus check or have not yet received an unemployment check, leaving their bank accounts on fumes.
Chrissy Roberts is one of them. She manages a bar that has been in her family for years. With the bar closed, her family has no income — but there’s still rent, a water bill and cable TV bill due.
“Even though no money is coming in, we still have to pay our bills and the rent,” Roberts said.
Roberts is hoping for relief under the Paycheck Protection Program but has yet to see it.
She asked about putting her cable account on hold for two months while her bar is closed, but learned the best her provider can do is let her delay payment for 60 days.
“We need a break,” she said. “We need something or we are not going to survive.”
Options You May Have
So what options are there for those who can’t pay the bills this month?
According to the Legal Aid Society, start by prioritizing bills. Nick Dinardo says rent should always be first, after basic needs like food.
“Tenants are still legally required to offer their rent,” he said.
Can’t afford the April or May rent? Many cities are prohibiting evictions, but the exact rules vary.
Many governors are asking landlords to grant small businesses a 30- to 90-day pause on rent, but states cannot force residential landlords to defer rent collection.
Anyone who can’t pay their rent will need to call their landlord and ask for a one-month delay in payments. Most should be sympathetic. However, Dinardo says not to expect landlords to waive rent. Renters will still have to pay it at some point.
Can’t afford the mortgage?
The federal government has banned foreclosure on federally-backed mortgages (that have Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac behind them). But homeowners should still contact their lenders to see if their mortgage is federally backed. It may not show up on a monthly statement.
Homeowners with federally-backed loans may also be able to delay payments for up to 12 months.
Not federally backed? Negotiate, Legal Aid says. Homeowners should try telling banks or landlords that they will pay them after they receive their stimulus or first unemployment check.
“There may be those $1,200 stimulus checks; there may be other unemployment compensation,” Dinardo said.
Gas and electric bill
Most major utilities are giving a grace period and postponing disconnection, but customers need to call and explain their situation. Customers shouldn’t simply skip paying, or they will be listed as delinquent — even if they don’t get disconnected.
Spectrum, Comcast, Xfinity and others say if you call, they will not terminate their customers for missing a bill or charge any late fees for the time being.
Anyone with outstanding medical bills will still need to pay a small amount to avoid falling behind, so patients should call their doctors. Sometimes a $20 payment will be enough.
Some lenders are allowing car buyers to suspend their payments for 30, 60, or even 90 days. Buyers should check with their car dealer or lender.
Federal student loans are being deferred for at least three months, which means students can skip payments and not be penalized. With private loans, students will need to call their lenders.
As always, don’t waste your money.