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How to ease financial stress amid COVID-19

If you're one of the tens of millions of Americans out of work because of COVID-19, and wondering how you're going to pay your bills, now is the time to take action.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Many Ohioans are struggling to pay bills as businesses are shut down. 

But, according to certified public accountant Charlie Heid, there are resources that can help, even if you can't get through on the unemployment website.

"There is access to help out there, but people have to take the initiative," Heid said.

Heid said that you can't just sit back and go into default, so if you're like many Americans right now finding it difficult to pay rent, talk with your landlord.

"They might be able to have you make a partial payment. They might do a deferred payment. They might even allow you to use your security deposit to cover this month's rent knowing that your unemployment will have kicked in by June 1," he said.

Right now, Lucas County eviction hearings are on hold, but they will resume, so it's important to have those conversations now.

As far as mortgages go, the CARES Act, passed by Congress allows a 60 to 180 day moratorium on payments due on federally-backed mortgages. So, get in touch with your lender. 

In terms of those credit card bills, Heid said to make an effort to pay.

"Some of the programs I've seen: deferring payments, waiving late fees, but you need to reach out to them," he said.

Heid said that while it's generally not recommended, pay the minimum payment for now if you have to.

Utility companies are also willing to work with you if you can't make a payment. Again, just reach out and ask them for help, rather than simply ignoring the bill. 

Going forward, as things stay tough Heid suggests looking at your monthly spending. Focus on your needs and not your wants. 

"The wants are, 'oh geez, I have Netflix and Amazon Prime. Do I really need two streaming services?'" he said.

Heid also warns that scammers are out right now looking to take advantage of you, so be sure not to give out any personal information. 

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