COVID-19

Paying the bills when you’ve been out of work

Andie Corban Apr 30, 2020
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A resident looks out an apartment window in New York. For many, the rent is due tomorrow. Angela Weiss/Getty Images
COVID-19

Paying the bills when you’ve been out of work

Andie Corban Apr 30, 2020
A resident looks out an apartment window in New York. For many, the rent is due tomorrow. Angela Weiss/Getty Images
Share Now on:
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For many of the more than 30 million Americans who lost their jobs in the past six weeks, tomorrow is a stressful due date: rent day. We caught up with three people we spoke to last month, when they suddenly became out of work, to hear how their financial lives changed in April.

April Oliver

April Oliver of Boseman, Montana, recently graduated with her master’s degree in biochemistry and landed her dream job. However, her lab closed down before she was set to start working.

Oliver filed for unemployment but was told she didn’t qualify due to a clerical error. However, Oliver received her official job offer because the lab is reopening.

“I have to wait another month until my first paycheck,” Oliver said. “But we feel confident we’ll be able to make bills and credit card payments on time.”

Seth Schulman

Seth Schulman, a musician in Chicago, teaches private lessons at a local school and performs on the weekends. He hasn’t been able to teach his students since mid-March, when the school closed, and live performances have stopped too. Like Maria Barillas, he applied for unemployment insurance over a month ago. However, he hasn’t been able to receive any benefits yet.

“I’ve got a nice enough landlord to let me pay around half of my rent,” Schulman said. “But it feels pretty pathetic having to write a really long email or call them and be like, ‘Hey, things really suck. Can you spare me a bone?’ ”

Schulman recently heard from the school he works at that he can start virtual lessons with his students, which will help him make ends meet.

Maria Barillas

Maria Barillas works as a server and barista at a Brooklyn restaurant that closed in mid-March due to the coronavirus outbreak. She almost immediately started collecting unemployment insurance, along with the extra $600 that was added because of this crisis.

“It’s basically given me a full weekly wage,” Barillas said. “I feel confident that as long as I have unemployment, I can pay for stuff.”

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Which businesses are allowed to reopen right now? And which businesses are actually doing so?

As a patchwork of states start to reopen, businesses that fall into a gray area are wondering when they can reopen. In many places, salons are still shuttered. Bars are mostly closed, too, although restaurants may be allowed to ramp up, depending on the state. “It’s kind of all over the place,” said Elizabeth Milito of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Will you be able to go on vacation this summer?

There’s no chance that this summer will be a normal season for vacations either in the U.S. or internationally. But that doesn’t mean a trip will be impossible. People will just have to be smart about it. That could mean vacations closer to home, especially with gas prices so low. Air travel will be possible this summer, even if it is a very different experience than usual.

When does the expanded COVID-19 unemployment insurance run out?

The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March, authorized extra unemployment payments, increasing the amount of money, and broadening who qualifies. The increased unemployment benefits have an expiration date — an extra $600 per week the act authorized ends on July 31.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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