For some Americans, the COVID-19 crisis has been a minor inconvenience. People may have to work from home, school is disrupted, childcare facilities are closed and families have to scramble for resources. For others, this is a very difficult time dealing with illness, worries about job security, the risk of getting the virus on the job, or even a business closure that leads to layoffs or lost employment. All of these can lead to financial worries — or a financial crisis.
You may have heard about a potential $1,000 check from the federal government as a part of a larger economic stimulus package. While helpful, those funds may only last a brief time. Here are some basic resources that you may be eligible for.
For people who have lost a job, unemployment insurance is an option. Many states are relaxing the stringent requirements for this benefit for working Americans. According to the Department of Labor, “unemployment insurance programs provide unemployment benefits to eligible workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own and meet certain other eligibility requirements.”
Unemployment insurance is a joint state-federal program that provides cash benefits to eligible workers. Each state administers a separate unemployment insurance program, but all states follow the same guidelines established by federal law. Federal law permits significant flexibility for states to amend their laws to provide unemployment insurance benefits in multiple scenarios related to COVID-19. For example, federal law provides states flexibility to pay benefits where:
- An employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, preventing employees from coming to work;
- An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over; and
- An individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member. In addition, federal law does not require an employee to quit in order to receive benefits due to the impact of COVID-19.
Visit this page to find your state’s unemployment benefits.
Another federal program is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP is a program funded by the federal government but administered by the states. Some states are relaxing requirements and eligibility due to the crisis so people can get some assistance they might need. Phone interviews are being conducted as many federal buildings are closed to public access.
Other food sources
While there has been a rush of people going to grocery stores to stock up on food and other household items, there is no food shortage. But if you lack the funds to buy food, local food banks may be a good resource in trying times. Feeding America has a nationwide list of food banks that distribute food to local pantries in your area.
For others, you may have some savings, but you will want to preserve as much of that as possible. To save money on food catch sales, buy produce in season, couponing can be a fun activity for the whole family, and you can buy frozen veggies and fruit. The advantage of frozen food is it does not go bad if kept frozen, and there are often sales. Frozen veggies and fruit are just as nutritious as fresh varieties, and some say even more nutritious since it is flash frozen.
What about utilities? Many utilities are waiving fees or not disconnecting services during this time if you are affected by COVID-19. The key is to communicate with the customer service department and let them know about your situation.
The United Way is a great resource for more local resources and services in your area and has a page on its website dedicated to COVID-19 response.
Your Health Advisor can help you navigate these and other COVID-19 challenges and provide resources to assist you. We’re here to help.