The Covid-19 pandemic has left no element of daily life untouched, even in our tight-knit West Fel community. If you’ve found yourself recently furloughed or unemployed, don’t panic. You are not alone; 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment insurance during the first week of April alone, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. So take a deep breath, then take these five steps to manage your finances while facing a loss of income.
Apply for unemployment benefits. If you’ve been laid off, furloughed, or had your hours reduced due to the Covid-19 crisis, you’re eligible for unemployment insurance. You can file a new claim with the Louisiana Workforce Commission at louisianaworks.net. Due to the high volume of recent claims, you will likely experience a delay in your claim being processed. (Prior to the outbreak, processing time was one to three weeks.) Remain patient and continue filing your weekly certification. Note: The maximum weekly benefit in Louisiana is $247, but the CARES Act—the Coronavirus stimulus package passed by Congress on March 25—expands unemployment benefits by an additional $600 a week for eligible recipients through July 31. The $600 weekly stimulus payment is expected to be distributed through the LWC starting this week. Freelance contractors, gig workers, and self-employed people are also eligible for benefits under the stimulus bill. Click here for a breakdown of the bill.
Assess your finances. Take a hard look at all of your expenses and triage your monthly budget. Suspend or cancel any non-essential expenses, such as subscriptions or auto-renew payments. Make a note of past due and/or upcoming bills.
Contact your bank, bill providers, or lenders. If you anticipate being unable to pay a bill, contact your bill company, bank, or lenders immediately and inquire about financial relief options for clients experiencing a temporary loss of income due to Covid-19. Many companies are offering bill payment extensions or deferrals, temporarily suspending payments, or offering payment plans.
Access local resources. Communities are pooling resources together for those most affected by the crisis, and West Fel is no exception. Student meals are being provided at West Feliciana Middle School, and the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank and Salvation Army Baton Rouge are providing meals to those in need. You can also apply to receive SNAP assistance, also known as food stamps, at the Louisiana DCFS website here.
Evaluate short-term options for financial relief. If you are in need of immediate financial relief, consider taking out a personal loan. BSF’s Helping Hand loan offers up to $1,500 to existing customers for assistance with immediate cash flow needs due to the pandemic. As a result of the $2.2 trillion federal stimulus package passed by Congress on March 30, $1,200 stimulus checks are expected to be directly deposited into qualifying taxpayers’ accounts starting April 15. Click here to see if you qualify. If you’ve already filed your 2019 tax return, the IRS has your information and no action needs to be taken. If the IRS doesn’t already have your direct deposit information, you can enter it online here. Otherwise, you’ll receive a paper check in the mail, which are expected to begin sending out on April 20.
Over the next few weeks, Bank of St. Francisville is publishing a series of Coronavirus-related articles with financial advice for this unprecedented time. Check back here for local resources and additional information on how to handle your debt, investments, and more during the pandemic.
Now more than ever, BSF is here to help. Call us at 225-635-6397 to speak with a loan officer to explore your options, or click here to make an appointment. To access our Covid-19 resources page, click here .