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Tips for Handling an Uncertain Future

Mar 26, 2020

Tips for Handling an Uncertain Future
Recent public health concerns have prompted many industries to temporarily suspend their operations, and as result, individuals in many industries, including retail and hospitality, are facing uncertain futures regarding their work, finances, and day-to-day routine. Many companies are stepping up to help those who are negatively impacted by the coronavirus stretch their dollar in different ways, whether they’re offering help with finances and bills, or ways to entertain kids for free. Below, we’ve compiled some resources for those that need assistance in these new, trying times.

Companies That Are Offering Financial Help

Utility Providers

PECO is suspending service disconnections and waiving new late payment charges through at least May 1, 2020. Similarly, PPL Electric Utilities is waiving late bill fees for all customers until further notice in order to provide financial support for those who may be struggling to make ends meet.

Internet/Cable/Phone Providers

Comcast, Charter, Verizon, Google, T-Mobile, and Sprint have all signed a pledge to keep Americans internet-connected for the next 60 days, even if people cannot afford to pay.

Specifically, Comcast is offering free access to its Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots for everyone, including non-subscribers, until further notice. These spots are located in businesses, as well as outdoor locations. Comcast is also providing unlimited data to its customers at no extra charge and is not disconnecting internet service or charging late fees for customers who say they aren’t able to pay their bills. Additionally, the company is providing 60 days of free basic internet service to new customers, so if you didn’t initially have internet service and your child is home and needs to do homework online, sign up now!

Credit Card Issuers

Many credit card issuers are working with customers on an individual basis to find personal solutions, which may include waiving late fees or return check fees, waiving interest charges for a period of time, reduced monthly payments, or a temporary interest rate reduction. Reach out to your provider directly to see what they can do for you.

Use any digital banking services offered by your provider and call the number on the back of your card for personalized assistance. But, be sure to avoid financial scams online by only sharing your personal information with the number on the back of your card. Do not respond to any emails with your personal information as financial scams are (unfortunately) common during times of crisis.

Automobile Manufacturers

Almost all major automobile manufacturers have announced programs designed to help those who still need to purchase vehicles, as well as those who have already purchased and financed a vehicle through the manufacturer.

Ford Motor Company’s Built to Lend a Hand program is offering six-month payment relief for all new purchases in which the manufacturer will defer three payments and make three payments for peace of mind up to six months. The program will also offer financing options for 84 months at 0%. Additionally, Ford Credit is offering a program giving customers the option to delay their first payment for 90 days.
Existing Acura and Honda Financial Services account holders can request payment extensions and deferrals of up to 60 days, as well as late fee waivers. For new customers, the manufacturer will also contribute $1,000 toward buying a new Honda and $500 toward a new Acura. Honda also outlined a 90-day-deferred payment program on new financing, so reach out to your local Honda dealer virtually for more information.

According to J.D. Power, most automakers are asking their current customers who anticipate trouble making their payments to reach out to the financial institution that made the car loan or financed the lease, even if that lender is not linked to the manufacturer. This will enable customers to discuss their options, which can include flexible payment arrangements and payment extensions. Lessees might be able to arrange deferred lease payments as well. For more information on each manufacturer’s program, please consult this list compiled by J.D. Power.

Financial Resources for Those with College Students

There has been a lot of talk about how those with student loans are affected during this uncertain time and what resources are available to them. President Donald Trump has temporarily waived all interest on federal student loans for 60 days to mitigate the economic impact of the recent health pandemic. The interest waiver is automatic, but it is important to note that this only applies to those with federal student loans. Borrowers still need to pay interest on private student loans. You can also suspend the payment of your federal student loans for 60 days without penalty, so contact your student loan servicer for personalized assistance.

This time can be stressful for us all, but those who have college students who were sent home for the semester may feel some additional pressure to get their kids home quickly and safely. That’s why U-Haul is offering 30 days of free self-storage at U-Haul-owned and -operated facilities to all college students who have been impacted by schedule changes at their universities. Keep in mind that U-Haul has an age requirement of 18 with a valid driver’s license, so if your child’s school is out of session for the remainder of the semester, they can move out of their campus residence with a U-Haul truck or van.

Also, Enterprise Rent-A-Car reduced the minimum age for renting a car to 18 and is waiving its young renter fees through May 31, 2020 to make it easier for students to get home to their families. This applies to all rentals of full-size cars, minivans, small pickup trucks, and cargo vans. If your child wants to utilize this promotion, they should be sure to have their student ID with them when they book the rental.

Free Digital Resources for Those with Children

If you have children at home with you for an extended period of time, tune into WHYY-TV 12 and the WHYY PBS Kids 24/7 Channel — WHYY is streaming a wide variety of free educational, kid-friendly programming. From entertaining and educational broadcasts to online training and lesson plans, WHYY has many things planned to keep kids of all ages excited about learning from home.

Also, to help keep kids busy at home, Nickelodeon launched NickHelps.com, a site full of free tips, ideas, and video content. The channel launched #KidsTogether, which uses popular characters and talent from its shows to address what’s going on across the globe. The new content provides “kid-appropriate, kid-directed” information using original short-form videos, downloadable activities, and social content.

You can also experience multiple cultures and mediums of art from the comfort of your couch by taking virtual museum tours with your children during your free time. The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. has two online exhibits available through Google, and Google also offers a virtual tour of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, South Korea. Additionally, you can take a virtual tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, watch videos, and take engaging pop quizzes all online through #MetKids.

If you want more hands-on activities to keep your kids busy, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens has many at-home activities like coloring pages and activity sheets available on their website that are free to download and enjoy.

Many of us aren’t in control of our day-to-day routine or our work schedule, which can make these few weeks feel stressful in many different ways. It’s important to proactively reach out to your providers to work out a plan to keep you and your family afloat during these unprecedented times.

Erin Ellis

Erin Ellis
Accredited Financial Counselor ®
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