Coronavirus concerns: What to do if you can't pay your bills

Essentials like housing, food, utilities should be prioritized

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In March, 701,000 jobs were lost in the United States, which broke a decade-long record of employment growth as coronavirus regulations closed stores and forced people to stay home.

Even furloughed workers — like the thousands at Disney and Under Armour — may wonder how to make ends meet as they wait for the pandemic to end. NerdWallet personal-finance expert Liz Weston, offered some advice on what to do if you aren’t able to pay your bills in a report  published by The Associated Press.

Prioritize essentials

The $2 trillion CARES Act stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump includes a 120-day ban on evictions for many renters and a foreclosure freeze for most mortgages.

Americans with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and other federally backed mortgages, who can claim financial hardship because of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, can request forbearance from their lenders.

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Those worried about missed mortgage or rent payments should contact their lender about adversity and consider speaking to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-approved counselor. After seeing his tenants struggle, Mario Salerno, who owns 18 apartment buildings in a Brooklyn complex, canceled rent for the month of April.

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If you have some source of income still flowing, NerdWallet suggests focusing on the basics like food, housing, phone, internet and transportation if you’re an essential worker.

Focus on what’s next

The next most important expenses are taxes, child support and insurance, writes NerdWallet, and they can have big consequences if not paid on time. If you owe taxes, check the IRS website to see what your repayment options are. The filing deadline was moved to July 15.

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Child support payments can sometimes be modified in difficult financial times, and if you are falling behind on insurance, talk to your provider or shop around for cheaper options.

Student loan companies can also offer COVID-19 assistance, allowing borrowers to temporarily suspend payments. Interest on federal education loans have been waived during the crisis and some banks and some credit card issuers are allowing pay waivers.

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