Strategies to Negotiate and Pay Bills During COVID-19 – MoneyWise

  • July 1, 2020
  • By: Greenpath Financial Wellness

A MoneyWise article shares GreenPath’s suggested budget strategies amid the pandemic.

What’s the best way to negotiate and pay bills during COVID-19? The coronavirus crisis has a profound impact on the nation’s economy as well as at the individual level. Sudden income changes, temporary or permanent unemployment, and other challenges are increasing the number of Americans unable to pay their monthly bills.

The website MoneyWise notes that many Americans have bills coming due that they may not have the money to pay.

GreenPath Financial Wellness was included as a resource that can help.

The article mentions how important it is to reach out to creditors and tell them you’ve been affected by the coronavirus and ask them what hardship programs they have available.

Focusing on budgeting basics is also key.

To negotiate and pay bills during COVID-19, go line by line through your budget. With every bill, call customer service and tell them how you’ve been affected by the coronavirus and ask for help. You may be allowed to skip one or more payments or make a partial payment.

Pausing Loan Payments

“Mortgage companies are offering three months of forbearance on mortgage payments,” says Katie Bossler, a financial wellness expert with GreenPath Financial Wellness. This may not apply to all mortgage companies, but homeowners who have mortgage loans backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, along with V.A., FHA and USDA loans have been given relief through the CARES Act.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans can be eligible for up to 12 months of forbearance. Additionally, some states have spelled out additional relief for homeowners in those states. Some auto lenders and credit card companies are pausing payments as well, Bossler says.

Those paused payments may help you get on some solid footing with your creditor, but make sure you understand the details of any arrangement you make. “Although there is help out there, know the details of the help,” Bossler says.

Ask what your payments will be after the forbearance period ends. Will they go back to normal, or will you be expected to make higher payments? Find out where your account will stand after the relief period has ended. It is best to know in advance what is coming.

Monthly Bills

The goal to negotiate and pay bills during COVID-19 also applies to medical bills. The article notes that medical bills related to the coronavirus could be deferred. Reach out for payment assistance from your medical care provider. Let them know your situation and ask if they have a payment assistance program.

It’s also a good approach to focus on reducing payment for essential utilities such as water and electric services.

Find out what kind of hardship programs are available from your water and electric services. A couple of phone calls may be all that is needed to get some utility bill relief.

A budget can help with bills you can’t negotiate

This is also a good time to re-examine your budget or create one if you haven’t already. Are there bills you can trim or cut out altogether? Even if you temporarily have to do away with some goods and services, you can pick them back up again when life gets back to normal. “People are buckling down to the essentials,” Bossler says.

Internet and cellphone service payments may be able to be a negotiated cost to cut the amount you’re paying monthly for both of those services.

According to Consumer Reports, at least 60 communications companies have agreed to honor the FCC’s “Keep America Connected Pledge,” which promises to protect and keep internet service going to Americans who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Huge internet providers such as AT&T, Charter, Comcast, Cox and Verizon, along with dozens of others, have introduced consumer-friendly policy changes that can help you keep your essential internet service during this time.

A few tips can go a long way when figuring out finances. Read the entire article for more strategies to negotiate and pay your bills during COVID-19.