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Financial Help for the COVID-19 Pandemic

I’ve been thinking how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting my family’s financial situation, and I bet a lot of you are, too. Part of my work at the library is to share information about managing personal finances. Luckily, there’s good information available online that may help you. 

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)is a great place to start. It has up-to-date information to help you in these areas:

  • Managing debt
  • Avoiding scams
  • Protecting your credit score
  • Being a good financial caregiver
  • Filing complaints

The CFPB identifies steps you can take if you are having trouble paying your bills, your mortgage, student or car loans, or if you have lost income. 

The following recent developments may also help provide financial relief.

Unemployment 

Many people have lost their jobs because of COVID-19. Unemployment benefits may be available. Illinois recently adopted emergency rules to make the Unemployment Insurance system more responsive. Information about Unemployment Benefits and COVID-19 is available from the Illinois Department of Employment Security.  

Here is a list of what's needed to file an Unemployment Insurance claim. File online or call 1-800-526-0844.

Recently passed federal legislation includes an additional 13 weeks of federally funded unemployment insurance and allows part-time, self-employed, and gig economy workers to access Unemployment Insurance benefits.

Banks 

Consumers can work with their banks to get help. Your bank may be offering payment deferrals; refunds for overdraft, insufficient funds, or maintenance fees; waivers of penalties for early withdrawal of CDs; and hardship assistance for mortgage and car payments. 

Contact your local bank branch for more information. You can find  information online for Bank of America, Chase Bank, CitiBank, Fifth Third Bank, and U.S. Bank. Forbes maintains a frequently updated list of banks that may offer assistance. 

Housing

Cook County suspended all evictions and foreclosures for at least 30 days. If you are unable to pay your rent, you cannot be evicted.

Governor Pritzker asked all water, natural gas, and electric companies to stop disconnecting customers until at least May 1, 2020.

ComEd will work with customers on a case-by-case basis. Visit online or contact Customer Care at 800-334-7661, 7 am-7 pm, Monday-Friday.

Nicor suspended service disconnections for nonpayment through May 1, 2020. To learn more about payment plans, visit online or call 877-866-4239, 8 am-5 pm, Monday-Friday,.

Check the National Fair Housing Alliance summary of relief to see if you are eligible for assistance with mortgage payments.

Tax Relief

The Federal Government extended the income tax filing deadline to July 15, 2020. Taxpayers can also defer federal income tax payments without penalty or interest, no matter the amount, until July 15, 2020.

The State of Illinois also extended the tax filing and payment deadline to July 15, 2020.

If you are older and need financial help, you may be eligible for government benefits. Check benefitscheckup.org to see if you qualify for any state or local assistance.