My Secure Advantage: Tips for navigating the COVID-19 financial crisis

As the number of businesses impacted by COVID-19 continues to rise, so does the number of unemployed and furloughed workers in our community. Members of your household may have been impacted by reduced work hours or lay-offs. An unexpected change in one earner’s income can greatly impact household budgets.

Fortunately, there are ways that you may be able to get financial help. Balanced You partners with My Secure Advantage (MSA) to provide free financial wellness resources to King County employees. Resources include webinars with the latest fiscal information on coronavirus, budgeting spreadsheets and calculators, and personalized Money Coaches.

Money Coaches are trained professionals who work with you over the phone to help you meet your financial goals and prepare for financial uncertainty. Together, you can talk about ways to get through this financial crisis with as minimal impact as possible.

Talk with a Money Coach about how to:

  • Thrive with a reduced income,
  • Understand the latest assistance programs,
  • Get tips to ask for help from your creditors,
  • Create a plan that accounts for adjusted income, and
  • Know what you can do during tough times.

All King County employees can receive 90 days of free money coaching per year. Click here for more information on Money Coaches and MSA’s other educational resources.

MSA has also provided these tips on steps you can take if your household income is impacted by COVID-19:

Unemployment benefits: Workers impacted by COVID-19 may qualify for unemployment benefits through their state agency. Federal law allows states to pay workers in the following situations:

  • If employees are prevented from coming to work due to COVID-19 related issues like having to close a business to comply with local requirements,
  • Any individual who is quarantined but expects to return to work after the quarantine has been completed, or
  • If an individual leaves work to care for a family member or has to leave work due to a risk of infection.

It’s important to note that the Federal law does not require an employee to quit their job in order to receive benefits due to the impact of COVID-19. For more information, click here. For more on how to file for benefits, click here. Affected individuals can also talk with their employer about options to use leave-time and any other options available to continue their income.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS): The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service are providing special payment relief to individuals and businesses, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.  The tax filing deadline and the payment deadline have been extended for ninety days to July 15, 2020. See the Coronavirus Tax Relief webpage for more details. Individual states may also provide relief.  Check with your state for details.

Creditors: From mortgages and car loans to student loan providers, lenders have responded to this crisis by offering programs to their customers.   Many financial institutions are reaching out to customers to communicate their willingness to work out alternate plans like skipping payments or waiving certain fees. If an earner in your family or household is not able to work, and not able to pay bills, call your creditors to ask for help.  For additional tips, click here.

Keep in mind that while many institutions have good intentions, there are also fraudulent individuals who want to take advantage of current events. If a creditor or financial institution calls you, consider hanging up and calling the phone number you have for that creditor or institution on your credit card or billing statement, and ask them if they are reaching out via telephone to confirm it’s really them.

Relief for student loan interest: Congress recently passed the CARES Act, which suspends payments, interest, and collections on government-held federal student loans. Borrowers will still be required to pay their monthly bill, but the payments will go towards a principal balance instead of interest. Keep in mind that the waiver doesn’t apply to three types of student loans: state, private and the majority of Federal Family Education Loans, including Sallie Mae student loans.

The office of Federal Student Aid recommends contacting your loan servicer as soon as possible if you’re struggling to make payments. If you’re concerned about your studies or loan repayment during the outbreak, you can find helpful information on the Federal Student Aid’s website where they answer important questions for students, borrowers and parents. The site will be adding information for students, borrowers, and parents on its page on a regular basis.

Government relief: In response to the current COVID-19 crisis, government officials passed the Economic Impact Payment, or stimulus checks for all qualifying Americans. You can check the status of your payment here.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides paid sick leave, free coronavirus testing, expands food assistance and unemployment benefits, and requires employers to provide additional protections for health care workers. For updates and new developments, see whitehouse.gov/news.

To enroll in MSA, click here or call 1-888-874-7290. For other questions, or for more information, contact balancedyou@kingcounty.gov.

 

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