If your pandemic unemployment benefits are expiring at the end of the year, here's a list of other resources for help with mortgage payments, student loans, groceries, and more
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- Many people who have lost work are set to lose important unemployment benefits on December 26, 2020, when the pandemic emergency unemployment and extended benefits under the CARES Act expire.
- Data from The Century Foundation estimates that about 12 million workers will lose these benefits when the programs expire.
- With no end to the pandemic in sight, other government agencies are the next best place to turn for assistance with student loan payments, mortgage loan forbearance, and even help with groceries.
- Government programs like income-based repayment for student loans, mortgage forbearance, Small Business Administration loans, SNAP benefits, and more can help.
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Paying for everyday expenses has become a challenge during the coronavirus pandemic for those who have lost work.
The CARES Act helped millions facing unemployment with an extra $600 per week benefit that expired at the end of July, and extended typical unemployment benefits to 39 weeks, adding to the 26-week period that's usually available.
But, the CARES Act's provisions for pandemic-related unemployment benefits are set to expire on December 26, 2020, leaving about 12 million Americans without assistance, according to estimates from The Century Foundation. Some benefits will still be available through state unemployment offices, but the full amount may not be available to everyone.
For anyone looking for assistance after other benefits expire, there are several government programs to help with expenses, from food and groceries to student loan payments.
CARES Act mortgage relief
- Who it's for: Homeowners with a federally-backed mortgage, including anyone who bought their home with an FHA loan, VA loan, or another federal mortgage loan program
- What's offered: 180 days of mortgage forbearance, with the possibility of extension to 360 days
- How to apply: Apply for an initial forbearance through your mortgage loan servicer by the December 31, 2020 deadline
Mortgage forbearance options are available through the CARES Act until December 31, 2020 for people with federally-backed mortgages. If you haven't yet requested forbearance, it could help you into next year. People who are eligible can apply until December 31, 2020 for a forbearance of up to 180 days. Contact your servicer to learn more about forbearance options and what's available to you.
Learn more about federal mortgage forbearance options during the coronavirus pandemic »
Small business loans
- Who it's for: Small business owners, including freelancers and sole proprietors who were in business prior to January 31, 2020
- What's offered: A low-interest loan for up to six months of what would have been six months' worth of working capital (including expenses such as "continuation of health care benefits, rent, utilities, and fixed debt payments," according to the SBA.)
- How to apply: Through the Small Business Association's website
Freelancers and independent contractors are expected to be among the most affected groups when the CARES Act provisions expire at the end of 2020. While traditionally-employed people have the option of filing for state unemployment benefits, most states only offered benefits for freelancers and independent contractors through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance provisions made by the CARES Act.
With that expiring, and no end in sight of the pandemic's economic effects, freelancers and independent contractors still hurt by the pandemic might want to consider a loan through the SBA — interest rates for these loans are a set 3.75% fixed rate for businesses, and 2.75% for non-profit organizations, with no collateral required for loans under $25,000.
Get more information about SBA economic injury disaster loans here »
Federal student loan relief
- Who it's for: Anyone with a federal student loan
- What's offered: Income-driven repayment plans can help reduce the amount you owe every month on your student loan, reducing payments to a percentage of your income or eliminating your payment altogether
- How to apply: Make a request for the income-driven repayment plan online, or by mail with a form from your student loan servicer
Without any intervention, student loan payments will resume in 2021, with interest accruing once again at the previous rate and payments due. However, anyone who has lost income or employment can consider an income-driven repayment option — this plan can reduce or even eliminate your student loan payment, depending on your income.
If you're not sure how you'll make payments in January, this benefit can help you both now and long term. Under some plans, student loan balances after 20 years can be forgiven, though it's worth noting that you could owe income taxes on any amount forgiven down the road.
Get more information about pandemic relief for student loans and income-driven repayment plans here »
Health insurance through Healthcare.gov
- Who it's for: Anyone who needs health insurance and isn't covered by an employer policy
- What's offered: Health insurance for 2021
- How to apply: Through Healthcare.gov's website.
If you've lost your coverage through an employer, have used up your COBRA coverage, or need to get covered for the coming year, Healthcare.gov is the place to start.
For anyone who needs coverage for 2021, open enrollment is happening from mid-November until December 15, 2020. If you're unsure where your health insurance coverage will come from after losing work, applying through the healthcare marketplace is the best option.
Healthcare.gov also offers immediate coverage for 2020 for anyone who's lost their employer coverage. Apply within a 60-day window of losing or leaving work to get coverage for this year.
Learn more about health insurance options from Healthcare.gov »
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Who it's for: Families with children who need extra help with typical expenses
- What's offered: This program helps with food, housing costs, utilities, childcare expenses, and job training.
- How to apply: Each state and tribal group offers a different program with unique benefits, often with different names. Find your state's program through the Office of Family Assistance's website.
Families who need money to help cover housing expenses, food, childcare, and other expenses could benefit from this program. Programs vary across the country, but can provide assistance all the same. Check your state's eligibility requirements and benefits to see if it's right for you.
Find out more about TANF benefits in your state »
SNAP food benefits
- Who it's for: Anyone who needs extra help covering groceries and food for their family
- What's offered: Help with buying staple foods for your household, including poultry, meats, dairy products, and other items
- How to apply: Through your local SNAP office; visit the USDA's website to find assistance available in your area
If you're worried about how you'll feed your family when unemployment benefits expire, SNAP benefits can help. This program provides you with benefits on a card that you can use at a grocery store on some essential food items. Each state runs its own program — find your local office to find out more about what benefits are available.
Find more information about local SNAP benefits through the USDA »
Private banks, lenders, and credit card companies that are offering help
If you're concerned about making payments on any of your bills, it's worth asking what help the companies you work with are offering. From mortgages to student loans to utility bills, companies are offering repayment plans, forbearance, discounts, and more during the pandemic, but you'll need to ask for the assistance.
Here's a list of institutions offering help, according to research by Business Insider's Laura Grace Tarpley:
- Banks offering assistance: Major banks including Ally, Capital One, Chase, and Wells Fargo (among others) are offering assistance on everything from car loans to mortgages to personal loans
- Mortgage assistance: Several major banks are offering mortgage payment help during the pandemic
- Personal loan assistance: If you already have a personal loan, you could get some help with repayment through your lender
- Insurance payment assistance: Several insurance companies can help you make plans for your upcoming payments on car insurance, homeowners insurance, and more so that your coverage doesn't lapse
- Private student loan assistance: Student loans from a bank aren't covered under the CARES Act, but some private student loan lenders can help you with payments
- Credit card assistance: Some credit card companies are allowing people impacted by the coronavirus pandemic to skip payments, or lower their interest rates. Contacting your credit card company could open up opportunities that aren't publicly advertised
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