The COVID-19 outbreak may have you thinking about your finances now more than ever. With bills, investments, and mortgage payments to consider, some consumers in Massachusetts will need the advice and services that a Plymouth debt relief attorney can offer.
Even after the nation “re-opens,” you can expect the financial repercussions of the pandemic to last for months, and maybe several years. Fortunately, a variety of options are available to help Massachusetts consumers deal with their finances and obligations during the pandemic.
IF YOU HAVE TROUBLE PAYING BILLS OR MEETING OTHER OBLIGATIONS
If you’re having trouble with paying bills or loans on time, go to your lenders’ and creditors’ websites first. Many lenders and creditors are posting information to help consumers.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency funded by the Federal Reserve, is encouraging lenders and creditors to work with their customers to meet consumer and community needs during the pandemic.
If you cannot pay a bill or obligation, if you need additional time, or if you need to discuss your payment options, contact your creditors and lenders to inform them of your circumstances. Don’t just ignore the bill or obligation. Falling behind on payments will be detrimental to your credit.
BE PREPARED TO SPEAK WITH CREDITORS
Most credit card corporations are offering consumers several helpful options. Your credit card company may allow you to waive certain fees or to adjust, delay, or even skip some of your payments. When you contact a lender or a creditor, be ready to discuss:
1. your financial circumstances and your employment
2. what you are realistically able to pay
3. when you may be able again to make regular payments
4. the details of your assets, current income, and expenses
You may need to work with a credit counselor, your financial advisor, or a consumer protection attorney to help you understand and evaluate your financial options. In some cases, these professionals can negotiate on your behalf with your creditors and lenders.
IF YOU CAN’T MAKE A RENT PAYMENT
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump on March 27th, 2020. This $2 trillion-plus economic relief act is meant to protect consumers from the economic impact of COVID-19.
If you rent from a landlord with a federally-backed mortgage, the CARES Act provides for a suspension on evictions.
The CARES Act provides 120 days of eviction relief for tenants in federally-backed housing. Specifically, you may not be served with an eviction notice until July 25, 2020, and the landlord must give you 30 days to leave the property – until August 24th, 2020.
The CARES Act has also provided the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with an additional $17.4 billion in funding including resources for rent assistance, public housing, housing vouchers, and housing for the elderly. Learn more at the website, hud.gov.
IF YOU CAN’T PAY YOUR STUDENT LOANS
If your student loan is held by the federal government, your payments have been postponed with no interest through September 30, 2020.
For other student loans (a federal loan held by a commercial lender or a private student loan), contact your student loan servicer to learn more about your options.
WHAT ABOUT PAYING OTHER LOANS?
If you have difficulty paying an auto loan, your lender may offer some options. You may be able to change the date your payments are due, request a new payment plan, or ask for an extension on a payment.
If you owe on a debt that is in collections, try to work with the debt collectors to develop a more practical repayment plan.
IF YOU’VE LOST YOUR JOB
If you’ve lost your job because of the COVID-19 pandemic, your eligibility for unemployment insurance has been expanded. When your regular unemployment benefits expire, you may receive up to thirteen additional weeks of benefits.
Unemployment benefits have been expanded at this time to include workers who do not usually qualify for unemployment benefits: part-time employees and independent contractors, for example.
KEEPING YOUR CREDIT REPORTS ACCURATE
If your finances have been disrupted, and you’re working with creditors or seeking assistance with payments, check your credit reports regularly to ensure their accuracy. Credit reports can play a key role in your financial future.
Free annual credit reports are available to consumers through AnnualCreditReport.com. Each of the credit reporting agencies – TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax – offer one free credit report per year, and additional reports are available for a small fee.
If you find an error on a credit report, contact the agency in writing, and keep a copy of the letter you send. The agency should respond in 30 to 45 days. You should also provide written notice to the company responsible for the mistake (such as your credit card company or a utility provider).
Con artists and thieves are always looking to take advantage of honest working people and vulnerable elderly or disabled persons – especially during natural disasters and similar emergency situations.
Use abundant caution when you receive texts. emails, or phone calls that may be selling fake financial products or phony financial information.
The Federal Trade Commission has issued a warning about the rising number of scams related to phony COVID-19 test kits, vaccines, treatments, and air filtration systems. Fake charity scams are also increasing.
If you receive Social Security benefits, any communication that seeks any of your personal or financial information and tells you that the Social Security Administration is suspending or reducing your benefits due to COVID-19 is a scam.
HOW WILL A DEBT RELIEF ATTORNEY HELP?
If you have a problem with any financial service or product, reach out to the company first. They can probably answer your questions and help you resolve the matter. If they can’t, you may need the assistance of a Plymouth consumer protection attorney.
If you’re having trouble with a creditor, bank, mortgage lender, credit card company, or credit reporting agency, and you’re unable to resolve those difficulties after communicating several times with the company, a consumer protection lawyer can probably offer the advice you need.
In some cases, your attorney will be able to negotiate with the company and settle the matter on your behalf. If you’ve been cheated in some way, or if any company that you are dealing with is violating the law, a consumer protection lawyer may suggest taking legal action.
We’re living in a difficult, uncertain time, but you should know that the resources listed here are available to consumers who are struggling financially during the outbreak. Take advantage of that help so that when the pandemic has passed, you’ll be in the best possible financial situation.