woman with hand to mouth looking stressed (Photo: Shutterstock)

For workers who have been laid off (or fear it), or whose work has otherwise dried up thanks to COVID-19 – the bills are still coming in. What’s a person to do? There’s plenty you can do, according to an NPR report and a blog post by Ken Coleman on the Dave Ramsey website.

The first assumption is that you’ve filed for unemployment.  Changes in the rules surrounding unemployment that were included in that $2 trillion relief package make nearly everyone who lost work eligible to file, and that way you’ll at least have grocery money—and then some—coming in.

And that goes for gig workers, freelancers and even some of the self-employed. See if you can keep your health insurance, or sign up for Medicaid.

Call your creditors

But once that’s done, line up all your bills and start calling your creditors.

According to NPR, the government is ordering mortgage companies to allow forbearance for those who are unemployed or without income because of the coronavirus.

But it’s not just mortgages you can ask to have deferred; other kinds of loans can be postponed, too, as long as you arrange it beforehand with the creditor—and get it in writing.

Payments on auto loans, credit card payments, fee refunds, small business loans—you name it—could all be either reduced or suspended during the current crisis. Make sure you ask for the new rules on whatever options they offer—postponing three months’ worth of payments might extend your loan by three months, but it shouldn’t stick you with extra penalties or fees.

Examine spending and cut where possible

Next is the need to cut your spending to the bone. Cancel automatic or auto-pay subscriptions—streaming, music, fruit-of-the-month club—whatever is automatically taking money out of your accounts or charging your credit card without your having to approve it, cut it away. Then you can reevaluate and see what’s really important to you (and what you can actually pay for in these changed times).

Explore job sources

Hunt for a new job, if you can—perhaps you can parlay contacts in another field into employment that could even bring you a new profession. Or check out the “essential workers” fields to see who’s hiring. The Ramsey post points out that while you “can’t become a doctor overnight,” there’s a huge need for medical support staff—or perhaps for administrative support for telemedicine. Cleaning is huge and growing bigger, as is the need for grocery and shipping personnel. The only comfort there is is you’ll have a lot of company as more and more people file for unemployment.