Bills You Don’t Have To Pay During The Coronavirus Pandemic – Due to the novel coronavirus, many Americans have found it difficult to pay their bills on time.
Is There Going to Be Another Stimulus Check?
The good news is that cash-strapped individuals can take advantage of several relief options to help them pay their monthly bills. To combat the financial hardships created by layoffs, furloughs, and other financial losses, the federal government, state legislators, and private businesses have implemented forbearance and deferment policies.
One caveat is that a range of relief options in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, which was signed into law in March, will expire in the late summer and early fall. However, provisions dictated by President Donald Trump’s executive orders, signed in August, have been expanded or substituted in several cases.
Some analysts point out that these executive actions do not have the same legislative influence as Congress passing a stimulus bill. For the millions of Americans who are either unemployed or whose income is being disrupted, an extension of relief is critical. “Things aren’t slowing down,” Ashley Harrington, federal advocacy director and senior counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending in North Carolina, says. “I believe people are still anxious about their financial and health prospects.”
Although it’s always preferable to keep paying your bills on time if you’re willing, these services exist to ensure that the most vulnerable Americans can afford basic necessities like food and shelter.
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During the coronavirus, you might be able to miss, pause, or deprioritize some expenses.
- Mortgage payments.
- Rent payments.
- Student loan payments.
- Credit card bills.
- Bank fees.
- Car payments.
- Utility bills.
To begin, look over your credit card and bank statements to see which bills you’re responsible for each month. After that, see if assistance is available through a state or federal program or if you need to contact a private company.
You’re not alone if you’re having trouble paying your mortgage. According to a report released in August by the Mortgage Bankers Association, an estimated 3.8 million American homeowners are now in forbearance plans.
Payments for eligible, struggling homeowners are being paused by the federal government and some private lenders. Whether you have a federally backed or private mortgage determines your mortgage relief options.
The Federal Housing Administration, or FHA, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, among other agencies, make federal loans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website has resources to help you figure out who owns your mortgage.
Homeowners with federally backed mortgages can request up to 180 days of forbearance or a break from making payments, under the CARES Act, with an additional 180 days available upon request.
Forbearance does not cancel payments; instead, it suspends them while avoiding additional fees and interest. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, at the end of your forbearance, you can pay all of your missed payments at once, spread them out over months, or add them to the end of your mortgage.
When the initial 180-day forbearance period expires, homeowners should contact their servicer to request an additional 180-day forbearance period, potentially extending relief for a total of 360 days.
If you have a private mortgage, contact your servicer or go to their website to learn about financial hardship programs. “You must contact the mortgage servicers and request that relief,” Harrington advises.
Investigate what programs are available in your state, as it may offer its mortgage relief options. And, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, if you can afford to pay your mortgage, you should.
The CARES Act’s eviction rights came to an end at the end of July. On August 8, Trump released an “Executive Order on Fighting the Spread of COVID-19 by Providing Assistance to Renters and Homeowners” to avoid a wave of evictions.
However, experts point out that this isn’t a complete halt to evictions and lacks oomph in the absence of real legislative intervention. Instead, it directs those agencies to find ways to help landlords and tenants who are having financial difficulties. “It is not possible to do this without extensive legislation,” Harrington says.
If you can pay your rent, you will want to make it a priority before more robust relief measures are enacted. If you can’t afford to pay your rent, see if your state or municipality has put an end to evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. In several states, such as Pennsylvania, a statewide moratorium on foreclosures and evictions has been extended. Consult your landlord and look into available housing assistance services in your area.
Student Loan Payments
Your relief options are tied to who owns your loan, just like they are with mortgage and rent payments. Payments on federally-held student loans and interest are automatically suspended under the CARES Act until September 30, 2020. Student loan relief is extended until December 31 under Trump’s “Memorandum on Ongoing Student Loan Payment Relief During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Because of the CARES Act, paused student loan payments count against loan repayment initiatives like Public Service Loan Forgiveness, so participants in those payment arrangements don’t have to pay their student loan bill to keep moving toward their forgiveness target. Even if you can afford it, this is a rare instance in which you should not pay your bill.
According to Harrington, the executive memorandum does not specify whether nonpayments on income-based plans will continue to count over the extended period. It will be worthwhile to wait for more information before deciding whether those payments should be halted indefinitely.
According to Harrington, automatic relief only applies to loans owned by the Department of Education. For example, you cannot seek an automatic reprieve if you have Perkins Loans that may be owned by the institution you attended.
Contact your servicer if you have a private student loan. Some states have partnered with private loan servicers to provide relief to borrowers, according to Harrington.
Credit Card Bills
Consider negotiating with your credit card issuer to find some help if your credit card expenses have become unmanageable due to an employment loss or other source of income disruption. According to Simon Zhen, senior research analyst at MyBankTracker.com, “many credit card issuers are working with clients right now.”
Forbearance services, which allow you to postpone or minimize payments for a fixed period of time, maybe available from credit card issuers. Late fees and fines can also be eliminated.
If you can call your issuer to learn about your options, there have been reports of long hold times. So, according to Zhen, go to your issuer’s website and look for a request form to qualify for a financial hardship program. Get it in writing, so you know when payments will resume, whether you’ll be required to make a lump-sum payment and whether interest will continue to accrue.
Banks have several options to charge fees right now, such as account management or overdraft fees. However, there is some good news for Americans who are struggling financially due to the coronavirus pandemic. “The majority of banking fees and other fees are being waived and refunded,” Zhen says.
You may need to call to request a reduction in these fees, so keep an eye on your balances to see if you’re being charged and look into your bank’s relief options.
According to Zhen, lenders are also working with drivers to provide relief for auto payments during the coronavirus pandemic. When you are experiencing financial difficulty, work with your lender to reduce or delay payments.
Providers of essential utilities such as gas, electricity, and water are working with customers to guarantee a continuation of critical services if you can’t pay, Zhen says.
You may have to call and request hardship relief, Harrington says. Check also whether your state or municipality has any relief programs available. Many states have suspended public utility disconnections, according to the CFPB.
The Bottom Line
Many federal and state agencies can be able to help you with your monthly bills. It’s not assured that you’ll be able to stop or limit payments to private companies; however, many lenders are willing to partner with borrowers. Check to see if your state offers its assistance services.
It’s usually a brilliant idea to keep going if you can pay your bills. According to Zhen, if you’re having trouble making ends meet, take advantage of these services and use the money left over to cover necessities like housing, food, and health-care costs. Perhaps now is the time to put money together for an emergency fund or to make sure you can feed your family or pay for health insurance.
Keep an eye on what’s going on in the news. How aggressively payment is received on these costs may be influenced by guidance on the execution of Trump’s executive orders or possibly by further legislative action.
“We don’t know when this will end or what the long-term consequences will be,” Harrington says. “Think about your whole financial state and how this relief will help you handle it in the short and long term.”