Taxes, mortgage, credit cards and more: How to get financial relief during coronavirus

Struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 outbreak? Here's what to do.

Dori Zinn Contributing Writer
Dori Zinn loves helping people learn and understand money. She's been covering personal finance for a decade and her writing has appeared in Wirecutter, Credit Karma, Huffington Post and more.
Dori Zinn
5 min read
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The coronavirus is anxiety-inducing enough without worrying when you'll get your next paycheck. In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, workers in all sectors are facing layoffs or leave without pay. This means if you've lost your job or your hours have been slashed, you might not have enough money to cover most of your bills.

Many lenders, including credit card companies, are already offering financial relief to those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Here's how to handle your bills if you can't afford payments, plus what some companies have already started doing for customers.

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Car payments

Auto loan payments

If you have an auto loan, contact your lender immediately. Many car companies and auto loan providers are offering specific relief options during COVID-19, including:

  • Ally: Defer your auto payment up to 120 days. You won't get charged late fees, but finance charges will continue to accrue.
  • Hyundai: Offering up to six months of payment coverage if you bought a Hyundai between March 14 and April 30, 2020 and lost your job this year. It's also offering up to three months of deferred payments through April 30, as well as other coverage for customers who recently lost their job.
  • Wells Fargo: Suspending involuntary automobile repossessions. It's also offering payment deferrals and fee waivers on auto loans.

Auto insurance

Most companies are requesting customers reach out to them to discuss their needs. Some companies offering relief include:

Mortgages and rent

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has suspended foreclosures and evictions for at least 60 days. If you own a home with a Federal Housing Administration-backed loan, you won't lose your home if you fail to make payments. You can see who owns your mortgage by looking it up.

If you don't have an FHA-backed mortgage, HUD encourages you to directly contact your lender to review your options. 

For renters, it's a little tricky. HUD has suspended all evictions on properties that are FHA-insured. But not all rental properties are backed by the FHA, so evictions could happen in certain circumstances. Many state and local jurisdictions are halting evictions regardless of who owns or insures properties. For example, Michigan has suspended evictions through April 17. Orange County, Florida, has suspended evictions until further notice

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Many local utility companies have paused shutting off utilities during the COVID-19 outbreak. Eviction Lab has a growing list of municipalities and the actions they're taking. Since most utilities are handled at the local level, it's up to each local agency to decide how to handle shut-offs (and for how long). In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine issued a moratorium to stop electric and gas utilities from being shut off. 

The Federal Communications Commission has launched the Keep Americans Connected Initiative -- an order to make sure Americans don't lose their broadband or phone connections. Nearly 400 companies have signed onto the pledge, including AT&T, Comcast, Google Fiber and Verizon.

This means that if you're late making payments on your internet or phone bill, you won't see either get shut off. It's best to check with your individual provider to make sure you're covered during COVID-19.

Student loans

The US Department of Education has automatically set a 0% interest for federal student loans for at least 60 days. DOE has also announced that federal student loan borrowers can suspend their payments for up to two months.

If you've recently lost your job and don't have any income, you can move your loans into an income-driven repayment plan. IDR plans let you make affordable payments based on your income (usually 10% to 20%) and family size.

Private student loan lenders aren't required to waive interest rates or payments like federal student loans, but some lenders are stepping up. For instance, Navient is offering three months of disaster forbearance. Interest will continue to accrue but you won't get penalized if you don't make a payment. You'll need to contact Navient to see if you qualify.

If you have private student loans and aren't able to make payments, contact your lender directly to see what options you're eligible for. Many are evaluating borrowers on a case-by-case basis, so what works for you might be different than what works for someone else.

Credit cards

Each credit card issuer and bank has its own set of standards and guidelines for borrowers. Many are waiving fees and interest charges if you carry a balance from month to month. Others are offering lowering interest charges and raising credit limits.

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You now have until July 15 to file your federal tax returns without penalty. This is good for any taxpayer. If you're able to, you can file any time, but you won't face any fees or penalties if you file after the original April 15 deadline. 

If you've been laid off…

  • File for unemployment insurance. These benefits are drastically different based on where you live but can offer temporary relief until you can get a job again.
  • Contact lenders and issuers right away. Not all companies offer the same level of relief to borrowers. It's best to explain your circumstances as soon as your financial situation changes. 
  • Ask for help. There are hundreds of financial assistance options across the country -- and many are launching as more time passes. You may qualify for government food programs, housing help or emergency cash assistance. Frugal Confessions has a good starting point but please reach out to your community to see what's best for your situation. Call 2-1-1 and you'll be set up with help based on where you live.
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Correction, March 24: A previous version of this story stated that Navient was offering 0% interest rates. That is not the case.

Disclaimer: The information included in this article, including program features, program fees and credits available through credit cards to apply to such programs, may change from time-to-time and are presented without warranty. When evaluating offers, please check the credit card provider's website and review its terms and conditions for the most current offers and information.