GREENSBORO, N.C. — With gyms, movie theaters and salons ordered to close in North Carolina tonight by 5pm, even more people will be out of work as we deal with the financial fallout from COVID-19.
It means some really good people are going to have to make some really tough decisions soon, including what bills to pay or how much to spend on groceries.
We talked with financial expert Ja'Net Adams via Skype.
She says first and foremost file for unemployment and then get on the phone.
"Call your creditors and your utilities. Tell them, 'I have been laid off thanks to COVID-19.' Those are the key words that you need to say and it will trigger some things to delay your payments or adjust some of the debt you might have. This is a way to stretch your dollar to save it for necessities like groceries and anything else you may need right now."
On top of making calls, make sure you know the rules where you live. Adams says some energy companies are not going to cut off your power right now because of late payment. Same with local governments not cutting off water or evicting people in some places.
Keep in mind, if you're not paying a bill now, Adams says make sure you have the money on the back end when companies come asking for it, because they will want to collect.
Another tip, cut off any extra expenses like gym memberships or other subscriptions that you can't use now that they're closed.
And here's a biggie, Adams says if you think a stimulus check is going to bail you out, think again.
"I'm not saying that it's going to bail them out, but I will say if lawmakers decide to send those checks, it will help for maybe a month to make sure their landlords are paid if they have rent that they can stay in their apartment or their home for the time being, but it's not exactly a bail out. It might only be $1,000 or $1,200 and that doesn't go very far no matter where you live in the United States."
As for parents who are looking for refunds from colleges and universities that sent their kids home and shifted to online learning, the key is to be patient. Adams says while some colleges have agreed to cover unexpected moving expenses for students to get home and refund room and board, other schools are still figuring out their next immediate step. It could be months before school boards make a final decision.
A final thought from Adams, if you're worried about your 401(k), don't check the stock market every day. It is all over the place right now and there's not much you can do about it. History shows, the stock market will level out or rebound just as it did during the 2008-2009 recession.