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How to survive your pandemic unemployment

To get back on your feet, CBS News' Jill Schlesinger recommends prioritizing your bills and negotiating with your lenders.

Angela Lang/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

Extraordinary times. An unprecedented era. Uncharted waters. All (and more) have been used to describe the coronavirus pandemic the planet is now experiencing. And as Jill Schlesinger told CNET Editor at Large Brian Cooley, the public health crisis is only one part of it.

Now playing: Watch this: Do this first if you've been laid off or furloughed

"It's becoming clearer that this is not a short-lived crisis," says Schlesinger, a CBS News business analyst and the host of her Jill on Money podcast. "This is a health pandemic that's morphed into a financial and economic pandemic." (Editors' note: CNET is owned by ViacomCBS.)


Jill Schlesinger

CBS News

In a conversation part of CNET's Now What video series, Schlesinger gives her advice for anyone who's lost their job or has been furloughed as much of the country stays home to slow the spread of COVID-19. Her first suggestion is to make a list of your bills and think about which expenses you need to pay first. "Food is your priority, everything else is negotiable," she says. "If you miss other bills and are impacted by the pandemic, most credit agencies won't hold it against you."

Shelter should be next on your list, and she encourages people who will have trouble making a rent or mortgage payment to call their lender or landlord and ask for forbearance. It can't hurt and you may be surprised at the answer. "This is the one aspect of your life over which you can exert a tiny bit of control," Schlesinger says. "You can do something here."

Filing for unemployment, even when you're furloughed, is also critical. File online if you can and avoid the overburdened phone systems of your state's employment agency. "Systems are crashing," she says. "Be patient, but just do it."


Still, Schlesinger recognizes that not everyone has reliable internet access or will feel comfortable navigating an online system. And for that group, which may include a family member or friend, it's important that you help them in any way you can. 

"Reach out to family and friends who you don't think are going to be able to do things on their own. It helps," she says. "Do the kind of thing that you take for granted."

Schlesinger had much for to say, so watch the video for the full interview.

Now What is a video interview and panel series with industry leaders, celebrities and influencers covering the major changes and trends impacting business and how consumers connect in the "new normal" 2020 world and beyond. There will always be change in our world, there will always be technology helping us navigate that change, and we'll always discuss surprising twists, turns, and potential solutions.