Alongside the dreadful human toll, the COVID-19 pandemic is decimating businesses as well. Many companies forced to close due to social-distancing restrictions are now struggling to stay afloat. The government has offered assistance to these businesses, but its Paycheck Protection Program is already out of money and may not be enough, even if additional funds are added.
This makes it likely that some businesses will close due to the extended lack of income during this crisis. That's a tough pill to swallow for business owners, but it's also tough on their employees, who will have to find a new source of income to support their families. If you find out your employer is going under, here are a few steps you should take to better manage this painful transition.
1. Apply for unemployment
You don't have to wait for your company to go under before you apply for unemployment. If you're laid off due to COVID-19, you can start claiming benefits right now. Apply on your state's unemployment website. You'll need:
- Your Social Security number
- Your address
- Your employment history for the past 18 months, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and first and last dates worked
- Bank account information for direct deposit
The amount you'll get and how long you can claim varies by state, but the CARES Act passed recently by the federal government adds $600 per week to your regular benefit amount, and enables you to claim benefits for up to 13 additional weeks.
Use this money to help cover your family's basic expenses until you can find new employment, and keep any leftover funds in a savings account, where you can access it easily to cover your expenses once your unemployment runs out.
2. Update your resume
You can't go to job interviews right now, and you might not find any applicable job listings in your area while so many businesses are closed. But you can use this time to update your resume, so it's ready when life starts getting back to normal.
Think about the kinds of jobs you plan to apply to, and tailor your resume to those. When you find a job you're considering applying for, tweak your resume even further to help illustrate how you fit the qualifications the company requires.
3. Start searching for other jobs
Watch a few job boards online to see what's available in your area. if you're interested in a position, apply as soon as possible after the job is posted. If you wait to apply, there's a chance the company will never even see your application because they've already received so many. Of course, that depends on the position and where you're located, but still, it never hurts to be first off the mark.
You might have to broaden your search criteria. If you aren't finding anything that appeals to you, consider work-from-home opportunities, or work that's a little beyond your initial search area. If things get really tight, you might have to take a job that's not exactly what you want, just to get some money coming in while you continue to search for something that's a better fit over the long term.
4. Trim back your budget
Keep your spending to a minimum until you have a steady source of income once again. Look over your current budget and identify areas you can cut back. If you're still spending money on nonessentials, you should eliminate those purchases for the time being.
Seek out ways to lower your essential costs too, like turning down your thermostat and the temperature on your water heater. You might also be able to lower your cellphone's data plan if you have Wi-Fi at home and you're using it most of the time. Check the internet and your local newspaper before buying anything, to see if you can find coupons to save you a few dollars.
5. Check into hardship-assistance programs
Banks, credit card issuers, and many service providers are offering hardship-assistance programs to those who are unable to keep up with their bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Note that relying on these programs will cost you: While they enable you to defer payments for a few months without penalty, your balance will continue to accrue interest during that time, meaning you'll owe more overall.
But if you can't make ends meet any other way, you should definitely take advantage of these programs. They'll give you a little breathing room without tanking your credit, or forcing you to take out costly debt, like payday loans.
Losing your job is stressful no matter when it happens, but it's especially stressful right now, when opportunities to search for new jobs are so limited. Follow the steps above to keep yourself financially secure during these challenging times and find a new job more quickly.