As COVID-19 spread across the nation, millions of Americans found themselves unemployed or furloughed as the virus affected both the economy and the job market. In turn, millions of requests for unemployment insurance payments were made and honored through state and federal government agencies. As additional federal unemployment insurance payments begin to phase out in the coming weeks, you may be feeling some unease or have questions about what’s next. Here is some guidance on how to navigate your finances and savings during this time.
Under the CARES Act, the federal government extended unemployment benefits an extra 13 weeks, on top of each state’s respective benefit period. Many states observe a 26-week unemployment period, though some states, like North Carolina or Florida, observe a 12-week period. For the majority of states, this means you are eligible for 39 weeks of unemployment. Though the extra $600 stipend from the federal government will end July 31st, 2020, your benefits will continue for a period of time, depending on which state you reside in. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) federal program provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to those who are not eligible for traditional unemployment insurance. This includes those who are self-employed, independent contractors or individuals with limited work history. If you are eligible for these benefits, they will stop being paid on December 31, 2020.
As businesses slowly begin to open up, there may be a small increase in the amount of employment opportunities in both seasonal or temporary jobs. Though it may be outside of your current career path, applying for and taking a position that will provide you with income in the coming weeks and months can help keep financial stability as you pursue other career opportunities.
If you haven’t already, use this time to update your personal resources and continue to reach out to your network or references. While many places of employment are still on hiring freezes, it’s important to stay top of mind for when they are able to hire again. It’s also important to keep your spirits high and not get discouraged. It can be hard to remain positive during economic hardships, but reaching out to your network and reminding yourself of your value can have a bigger positive impact on yourself than you may realize.
The SNAP program is available for families to purchase food for their household, if they meet certain eligibility requirements. If you are eligible for SNAP, it may be an option for a supplemental stipend you can use to feed you and your family. To receive SNAP benefits, you must apply in your state and meet certain household resource and income requirements. If you are eligible, you may use the program to purchase fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry and fish, breads and cereals, and other grocery items. Qualifying for SNAP may give you the opportunity to set aside money normally used for groceries into your savings account.
If you applied and received unemployment benefits, you probably have a good idea of what your weekly budget is. Calculate a new budget based on the absence of the $600 in federal aid, and try to stick to it as closely as possible. Are there any expenses you can cut out for a short time? If not, consider applying for SNAP or researching if you are eligible for any extended unemployment benefits. You can always seek the assistance of a financial advisor, who can help prioritize your spending and assist in strategies to save money.
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