In recent weeks, millions of people have had their daily routines drastically changed as local and federal governments instituted changes to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. In the short-term, most of these changes are, at worst, inconvenient.
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However, as restrictions increase, many people are at risk of losing the income they need to pay for necessities. Low-income families and families with debt are more likely to feel the pinch in the coming weeks and months.
There are already restrictions on travel, schools, large gatherings, and even dining out in some areas. Additionally, major retailers like Disney and Walmart have closed or reduced hours at their locations. The trickle-down effect or reduced travel and spending will hit as employees experience reduced hours and lower paychecks.
If financial anxiety is already creeping up for your family, there may be some relief. Here are a few ways that companies and the government are helping make this time a little easier for everyone:
The federal government cut interest rates to 0 percent
To help offset damage to the economy in the wake of the COVID-19, the Federal Reserve dropped the interest rate range to 0 to 0.25 percent and are offering more loans to banks and credit unions. The lower interest rate makes it possible for local banks and credit unions to provide more small loans to those in need. If you are on the hunt for a car, get a loan, or refinance, now might be a good time to start shopping around.
Utility companies suspend shutoffs
Utility companies in many states, including Utah, California, and Georgia, are suspending residential shutoffs for non-payment for the next 30 days. Call your local gas and electric companies or visit their website to find out what type of assistance the company in your neighborhood offers.'
Comcast offers free Wi-Fi nationwide
To help low-income families affected by NOVID-19, Comcast is offering two months of free internet to everyone, including non-subscribers. The free Wi-Fi service will make it easier for students to access coursework, and for people to conduct work, or pass the time for the next two months. Additionally, Comcast paused charges for data-overage, disconnections, and late fees.
Disaster loans for small businesses
The Small Business Association is working with state governments to help small businesses obtain low-interest rate loans. The loans are specifically for companies that have been severely impacted by COVID-19. Interest rates on these loans are 3.75 percent.
Cell phone providers waive fees
If you’re worried about making payments on your cellphone plan, many companies are offering to waive late fees and withhold shutting off phone lines to help alleviate some worry. Verizon will waive late fees for the next 60 days for residential and small business customers. Sprint increased roaming areas for T-Mobile customers, canceled late fees for small business and residential customers affected by COVID-19. It also offered unlimited data plans to customers on metered plans for 60 days, free. AT&T will also waive late fees and open their Wi-Fi networks to all customers for the next 60 days.
Credit card companies waive fees and increase credit lines:
Some credit card companies are aiding individuals with an account. Apple is offering to let Apple Card account holders skip their March payment. Other institutions are waiving monthly service fees or making it easier for customers to qualify for a credit line increase. Here is a list of companies with help pages dedicated to helping people affected by COVID-19:
Service members qualify for relief
If your family has been affected by travel restrictions or closures due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for help from Army Emergency Relief, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, or the Air Force Aid Society. You can learn more about what types of services are available through Military OneSource.
If you need additional help, many state unemployment offices are opening services to workers affected by COVID-19. Check your state website to find out what information you’ll need to provide to receive financial help until you can get back to work.
The financial impact of the virus could be long-term for many people. Take preparatory steps now to make sure your family is protected over the coming weeks. Having a list of resources available can help reduce some stress when you need to reach out for support.