Orlando, Fla. - People out of work or on reduced hours are worried about how they're going to pay their bills, but experts say there is help out there.
Experts say if you cannot pay your bills, the best thing you can do it pick up the phone and call the creditor or utility company. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling said you should make the calls to let companies know if you've been impacted by the COVIV-19 pandemic and that you need help.
"You can’t assume these programs are going to kick in automatically until after you’ve had that conversation with these companies because otherwise if you start missing payments without explanation, you might not be protected," said Bruce McClary, Vice President of Communications National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). "You will experience long wait times, you will get frustrated about the process. You may get disconnected after waiting for an hour. Don’t give up."
Several utility companies are making changes to help customers:
- OUC is waiving late fees and suspending disconnections
- AT&T, Spectrum, and Verizon said if you call them, you can ask to waive late fees. They will not stop service for people financially impacted by COVID-19
As part of the CARES Act, homeowners of federally-backed loans can request to put payments on hold for six months. And, if you need more time you can ask for another 180 days. If you have a private loan, the NFCC says companies are offering help. They suggest calling your lender right away.
"Don’t’ make assumptions about what you see and who’s covered and who is not," McClary said. "That’s why it’s very important to call your lender and find out if they have something."
For more financial tips you can find help on the NFCC website.
If you need help making a plan, you can contact a non-profit credit counseling agency for free.