The coronavirus pandemic has had a major effect on the lives of people across America. Not only are they under stay-at-home orders aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, but tens of millions have also lost their jobs or experienced a cut in hours.
In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 33% of Americans have either personally lost their jobs or suffered a pay cut, or someone in their household has. If you're one of the many who has less income due to the crisis, there are things you can do to try to shore up your finances. Here are three:
1. Sign up for unemployment benefits
Unemployment benefits provide steady income when your hours are cut or you lose your job.
Each state runs its own program with its own rules, but the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (or CARES Act) has expanded unemployment benefits across the country.
Under the CARES Act, self-employed workers and others who wouldn't normally qualify can get unemployment benefits. Benefits are also boosted by $600 per week above the normal amount, and you can get them for an additional 13 weeks beyond your state's maximum limit (which is usually 26 weeks).
You can find your state's website to apply for your benefits at CareerOneStop. If you do this immediately when your job is affected by COVID-19, your benefits start ASAP. Many states normally require a waiting week without benefits after your job loss, but the federal government is incentivizing them to waive this by covering 100% of costs for that first week of benefits.
2. Look for side work you can do safely at home
There are currently companies hiring even amid the coronavirus crisis, but many of the jobs require you to be out in public.
If you aren't comfortable working with people during these high-risk times, you can still potentially find income by looking for gig work you can do from the comfort of your home.
Depending on your skills, you could try freelance writing, online tutoring or coaching, making and selling crafts, helping companies set up websites to sell their wares online, or providing telephone customer service. You can find job openings for freelancers at Upwork, Indeed, and FlexJobs, among other online sites. And these are just a few of many examples of things you can do to earn without leaving home.
3. Reduce spending
Whether you're living on less income, relying on unemployment, or drawing from your emergency fund, cutting spending is smart. By reducing your bills, you can avoid ending up in debt due to a reduction in income. You might even be able to save a little in case your financial situation gets worse before it gets better.
Fortunately, cutting spending is easier during these troubled times because social distancing has left people with few places to go. Your entertainment budget is probably already smaller, and you can shrink your food budget by cooking more at home and making a meal plan around what's on sale (and available) at the grocery store.
Don't let the coronavirus crisis derail your finances
But by signing up for unemployment benefits, cutting spending, and looking for work-at-home options, hopefully, you can limit the long-term financial damage and come through the crisis ready to get back on track.