Our biggest concern during the COVID-19 pandemic is our health and the health of our loved ones. But lost work, lost business, and uncertainty are creating financial concerns for the healthy and sick alike. Sick individuals and their families may also be dealing with medical bills or, in worst-case scenarios, end-of-life expenses.
At The Ascent, we know this is a time for us all to come together and support one another. So we've put together this list of ways to get financial help during the pandemic that might provide some relief to you and your family. You'll see options from payment assistance to COVID hardship loans to business grants.
When the CARES Act expired, so did many of the protections put in place to help Americans withstand the pandemic. That said, some organizations soldiered on, providing help to their customers, members, and associates. While this list is not as long as it was when stimulus money was being distributed, it is our hope that it will be of some assistance.
There are still some nationwide organizations that are offering either relief programs or case-by-case assistance. Here's what we've found.
Relief remains available to customers of Ally Bank, including payment assistance options for homeowners facing financial hardship. Ally is also giving auto customers impacted by COVID-19 the option to defer their payment.
In general, banks, credit card companies, and lenders are asking customers who need help to contact them for personalized assistance. Some banks are waiving early withdrawal penalties on certificates of deposit. Some creditors are increasing credit lines.
In addition, interest rates are extremely low right now. Though personal loans are not technically a relief program, these low interest rates make them a feasible solution for crisis situations. If you have some emergency expenses -- like medical bills -- a personal loan might help.
If your bank offers them, you can also look into hardship loans during the pandemic. Banks have different requirements for hardship loans, so be sure to find out what's offered in your community. In addition to coronavirus hardship loans for individuals, banks may offer assistance to local business owners.
Some local utilities are suspending disconnections and waiving late fees for affected customers. If COVID-19 has affected your ability to make utility payments, check with your providers to see if they can help you.
If you have a short-term disability policy, you may be eligible for medical leave benefits if you can't work. Contact your human resources department or your short-term disability benefits company.
State disability insurance may cover those affected by the novel coronavirus.
The Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program distributed their last checks in August, and as of this writing, Congress has failed to provide another stimulus package. If Congress cannot come to an agreement before inauguration day, it will fall to the Biden administration. What that means is that the earliest we will know if there's more help on the way is late January.
In the meantime, the Small Business Administration is still offering its Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. This assistance provides up to six months of working capital. The fixed interest rate on the loan is 3.75%, and while payment can be deferred for one year, interest does accrue on the loan during that time. Borrowers have up to 30 years to repay the loan.
Although CARES Act money ran out months ago, a variety of organizations have picked up the slack and continue to provide financial help to small businesses during the pandemic. These grants do not require repayment.
The NASE grant program is open to all current members of NASE (and their dependents). If you're not a member, you can join and apply for a grant after three months of membership. Their Growth Grants® are worth up to $4,000 and are designed to help you focus on growing your business, even in the midst of a pandemic.
The Caleb Brown Venture Capital and Consulting Project runs a contest each month aimed at young urban entrepreneurs working to rebuild their communities. One grant is given out each month, so be sure to get your application in by the 15th to be in the running.
Bill and Melinda Gates are known for their philanthropic work around the globe, and if your small business focuses on ways to solve health and development problems, you may be eligible for one of their grants.
If none of these grants applies to your situation, locating more options may be as easy as donning a mask and visiting your local library. (Some libraries also offer help online, even if their doors are closed during the pandemic.) Many libraries around the country work with their local chambers of commerce (as well as a variety of business organizations) and can help you find business-specific grants. In addition, these folks have access to hundreds of databases and can help you pinpoint which grants apply to your company. Before you go, call your local library and ask if they have anyone who can help you in your search. If you live in a very small town, you may need to go to a city with a larger library.
Some of the following programs are always available, but it's extra important during these uncertain times to know you may be able to use these resources.
Remember, nothing is more important than your health and the health of your family, friends, coworkers, and clients. You can get help to recover from economic hardships related to lost income, but health isn't always recoverable. Please don't put yourself or others at risk if you feel sick.
Our communities can recover more quickly and do more to help those who are affected if we work together to stay healthy during this challenging time.
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