There’s help available: Advice for those struggling with payments during the pandemic

A lot of families are struggling to make ends meet as they navigate through the pandemic. States of emergency have been extended and unemployment is at its highest since the Great Depression, but there is help available.
The biggest expense for most is housing, and experts say help is usually available. People with a federally backed mortgage are entitled to a forbearance for up to 12 months. Repayment options vary, but the best option is an interest-free extension.
"They may be entitled to the extension of the term. If they couldn't afford their payment or can't afford their payment now, their pre-crisis payment, then they're looking at a modification," says Andrea Bopp Stark, of the National Consumer Law Center.
Getting a forbearance should not hurt your credit, because your lender is required to report your payments as on time, as if you were making them every month. You'll want to make sure they're doing that, so keep an eye on your credit report at annualcreditreport.com. 
Assistance isn't as good for renters. There is a freeze on evictions and late fees in New York and New Jersey. Connecticut has a freeze on evictions. Renters who need help should reach out to an expert.
"I would encourage anybody to contact a HUD-certified housing counselor to do that," says Bopp Stark. "They will help you through this."
Help is probably available for people with student loans. All federal student loans are automatically deferred interest-free until the end of September. Most lenders for private student loans will give a forbearance upon request, though interest will continue to accrue.
Banks will probably offer help for other loans and credit cards, but you will have to ask for it. The amount of assistance can vary greatly. The American Banking Association maintains a list of banks and the levels of assistance they say they'll offer. If you ever find they're offering less than they said they would, file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Most people are driving less, but your auto insurance premium may have only gone down by 15 percent. You may want to call your insurance provide and let them know if you're driving much less. For people having trouble paying car and homeowners insurance, many companies will allow delayed payments or waive policy cancellations until the crisis is over.
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