How to Help Your Vulnerable Readers Stabilize Their Financial Lives During COVID-19

by August 26, 2020
Business reporters can help vulnerable readers stabilize their financial lives by addressing these urgent concerns. (Image via Pixabay.com)

As their August recess approaches, Democratic and Republican lawmakers aren’t likely to agree on the funding necessary to help the millions of unemployed and struggling U.S. workers weather the continued economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

As this blog publishes, Senate Republicans introduced the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools, or HEALS Act, which includes $1 trillion for another round of $1,200 stimulus checks, funding for schools, and additional Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. But HEALS doesn’t extend the full $600 unemployment subsidy that has helped millions of U.S. workers stay afloat, or the federal eviction moratorium.

Business reporters can help these vulnerable readers stabilize their financial lives by addressing two urgent concerns:

My landlord is evicting me. What can I do?

Single mothers, people of color, people with disabilities and the formerly incarcerated are adversely affected by the federal government’s eviction moratorium. While the moratorium is extended until August 2020, it only covers tenants in federally-financed housing, or 25 percent of renters; the majority will begin to face eviction bans and proceedings depending on their city or state. Almost a third of these vulnerable renters missed their housing payments in June, reports the online rental platform Apartment List.

But there are steps to take, say housing advocates. Tenants may not realize they don’t have to leave their home. This link provides information on every state’s eviction process. It is illegal for landlords to evict tenants without going through their state’s formal eviction proceedings, says Tenants Union. For free help, renters can contact a local tenant’s organization or legal aid society, or the Legal Services Corporation, created by the federal government.

How do I pay my bills?

It’s critical to have a plan during a time of crisis. Use sources including credit and consumers experts, state and local government staff, and financial planners to develop stories on basic personal finance strategies, in addition to the special COVID-19 help that is available, to inform readers:

  • Stick to a budget trimmed down to necessary expenses.
  • Ask creditors for relief—don’t stop paying your bills.
  • Find out if help is available from local charities, churches and school food programs.
  • Some families may now qualify for certain federal and state social assistance programs because of COVID-19 (Medicaid; the Children’s Health Insurance Program; food stamps; the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program; and welfare).
  • Your state also may offer special COVID-19 aid. As an example, Pennsylvania offers one-time grants of several hundred dollars through their Emergency Assistance Program.
  • Another: State job boards for those who have lost jobs, or have had their hours reduced because of COVID-19. Here is one from the state of Kansas.