Below are the top ways to keep your money safe if you have been financially affected by COVID-19.
Get In Control of Your Bills
- Contact your financial institutions. They may cancel late fees or allow you to delay making payments without penalty. Ask for written confirmation of any agreement(s) you negotiate. Contact your financial institution for specific information on available assistance; this list outlines ways that some banks are helping customers during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Contact creditors. If you are going to have trouble making payments, contact your creditors to discuss payment plans and options. Creditors could include companies that provide you with credit cards, personal or business loans, or student loans. Once you have confirmed new payment schedules with your financial institutions and creditors, make payments in the order they are due.
- Check for mortgage or rent payment suspensions. Local information and support for renters and homeowners can be found here.
- Contact your insurance companies to check premium payment deadlines. Some auto, rent, and homeowner insurance companies are issuing payment grace periods or offering financial assistance, waivers, and payment extensions to customers.
- Manage your utilities. Check with your utility company to ensure you do not face service interruption.
- Contact your student loan provider. For qualifying federally-held student loans, interest has been set to 0% and payments have been suspended. For loans that qualify, those benefits have been automatically enacted and are in effect until December 31, 2020. If your loans are not eligible for these benefits, check with your student loan provider on what repayment plans are available to you.
Apply for Benefits
- Apply for Unemployment Assistance. Milwaukee area residents who have lost your job or any portion of wages visit can apply for benefits here.
- File your taxes. The filing deadline for federal tax returns is April 15, however, the IRS urges taxpayers who are owed a refund to file as quickly as possible.
- Claim other government benefits. Check with your city government to see what benefits are being made available for those who are impacted by COVID-19.
Protect Your Money
- Beware of products, services, or unsolicited phone calls related to COVID-19. Never give your personal details, such as any account numbers, credit card numbers, or Social Security number over the phone to anyone unknown to you or claiming to be from a government agency. Government agencies do not make unsolicited calls to residents, so if you encounter a scam or believe that you are victim of fraud, contact your local authorities or State Attorney General to file a complaint. If someone contacts you claiming to be from a federal government agency such as the IRS or ICE, submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov).
- Open a safe banking account online to protect your money. Bank and credit union accounts, particularly those certified as meeting the Bank On National Account Standards, can support you to receive wages and government benefits safely and securely, using direct deposit. Bank On accounts are not subject to surprise fees – especially for overdraft, insufficient funds, and inactivity. Many Bank On certified accounts can be opened online to ensure the account opening process is safe and seamless. Click here for information on how to open a Bank On Certified account with an area financial institution.
- Meet online with a professional financial counselor. These entities can help you you:
- Create a budget to manage this crisis moment and prepare for potential shocks;
- Discuss options to manage debt;
- Open a bank account to directly deposit income and benefits
- Plan for dealing with lost income, including managing unemployment payments.
- Locally, Riverworks Financial Clinic, the Social Development Commission, Journey House, GreenPath Financial Wellness, and the YWCA Southeast Wisconsin can assist you.