The economic impacts of COVID-19 are being felt in households everywhere. Resources (see below) are available to help consumers manage their finances at this time. This includes both income assistance and temporary relief from bills. (This information will be updated periodically.)
Many workers and business owners who would not typically qualify for unemployment benefits and other forms of assistance may qualify now. For more information and to apply, visit these sites:
If you receive unemployment benefits, note that federal taxes will not be withheld from the additional benefits ($600/week) currently available. You may owe taxes on those funds when you file next year.
Financial assistance for renters and homeowners is currently available through the New Jersey Department of Human Services. New Jersey residents can apply for up to $25,000 to help pay housing costs if they have been unable, or will be unable, to make payments due to the ongoing pandemic. Applications will be processed until funding is exhausted or no later than December 18, 2020. For more information and to apply, visit: https://nj.gov/humanservices/covid19housingassistance/.
Local assistance agencies may also have funds to assist those who are behind with housing payments. In Mercer County, visit Arm in Arm https://arminarm.org/ or Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton https://www.catholiccharitiestrenton.org/services/housing-food/.
Aside from government assistance programs, homeowners looking for mortgage payment relief should contact their lender. Options for skipping payments may be available to borrowers, but arrangements must be made with their lender. Ask about repaying missed payments by extending the loan term. For more information on options for homeowners, visit CFPB Mortgage Relief Options.
Renters in NJ cannot be evicted during the COVID-19 Emergency (see details here). Those unable to make rent payments should speak to their landlord. Security deposits can be applied to current rent (see details here).
Payments for most student loans held by the federal government are suspended at this time (March 13 to December 31, 2020). Check here for updates and more information. You can also visit the CFPB website.
Borrowers with privately held student loans should contact their servicer to discuss payment options.
Utilities, Credit Cards, and Other Services
As with other bills, it is important to contact your service provider if you are unable to make a full payment. Ask whether you qualify for assistance programs (e.g., gas/electric, internet). When possible, consider changing your services (e.g., cable, subscription services), if only temporarily. Ask about repayment terms, late fees, interest charges, etc. In many instances, late/missed payments are NOT being reported to the credit bureaus if you have an agreement with your lender/service provider. These additional fees and interest may be waived, but you will need to make up missed payments at some point in time. Visit provider websites for the most up-to-date information:
- Service shut-offs due to non-payment have been temporarily suspended at area utilities such as PSE&G and NJ American Water. Late fees may be waived. The moratorium on shut-offs is due to expire on October 15, 2020. For the most up to date information, visit https://www.bpu.state.nj.us/bpu/newsroom/reports/covid19.html.
- Insurance providers are required to provide a grace period of 60 or 90 days to customers per the NJ Department of Banking and Insurance. For more information, click here and/or contact your insurer.
- Many internet service providers have low-cost programs for income-eligible households. See information about these programs here.
- For advice about how to manage debts such as auto loans, credit cards, personal loans, etc. visit the CFPB.
Local assistance agencies may have funds for those who have fallen behind with utility payments. In Mercer County, contact Arm in Arm https://arminarm.org/ or Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton https://www.catholiccharitiestrenton.org/services/housing-food/. Also, visit https://www.nj211.org/ to find local assistance providers and to learn about other programs.
Isles Financial Solutions staff are available to speak with you about your situation and to help you set a budget, prioritize bills, and understand your options. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org 609.341.4740.
Watch Out for Scams
Unfortunately, fraudulent actors have responded to the current crisis by developing new scams. Some of these include ‘fake mandatory COVID-19 tests,’ ‘stimulus/government assistance scams’ and CDC imposters. For more complete lists and descriptions see NJ Department of Consumer Affairs Tips to Avoid Scams and the Federal Trade Commission.