The outbreak of COVID-19 has severely affected many businesses and workers, here in our community and throughout the country. If you were laid off or furloughed, make sure you know about these resources.
- Unemployment assistance: If you lost your job and have not filed for unemployment benefits, don’t hesitate to file a claim with your state. Because there is a record-high volume of unemployment applications, be aware of special instructions for filing your unemployment claim, and expect delays if applying by phone. The State of New York advises applying online for faster results.
- Expanded unemployment eligibility: Unemployment benefits are traditionally for workers who receive W-2s and are laid off. In March, however, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which expanded unemployment eligibility to many other workers, including those who were furloughed, independent contractors, gig workers (such as freelancers and rideshare drivers), part-time employees, and those who are unable to work because they have COVID-19 or are caring for a sick loved one.
- Increased unemployment benefits: The CARES Act also provides additional Unemployment Insurance (UI) assistance of $600 per week, on top of regular benefits through your state, and it extends coverage from 26 weeks to 39 weeks. For more details, see the New York Department of Labor’s FAQs sheet.
- Economic Impact Payments: To help ease the financial burden that many Americans are experiencing, the CARES Act also authorized one-time Economic Impact Payments for eligible individuals and their dependents. If you have not received yours, learn more here or through the IRS website.
Learn how Ridgewood is supporting customers who are experiencing financial hardship.
Bills & Debt
If you’re struggling to pay your bills due to the economic impact of COVID-19, here’s what you should know.
Help with utilities: Many states and counties have placed a temporary moratorium on utility shutoffs during the pandemic. If you can’t afford to pay your utility bills, cell phone bill, or bills for other essential services, contact your provider to learn about any temporary policies or payment plans they may be offering for those experiencing financial hardship.
- Managing student loans: The CARES Act suspended payments for federal student loans through September, with no new interest accruing during this time. If you have private student loans and cannot make your monthly payment, contact your lender.
- Paying off debt: If you’re carrying substantial loan or credit card debt, working to pay off this debt can be hard, but it’s one of the best ways to increase your long-term financial security. Having a plan is key. These debt-payoff strategies may help.
- Debt consolidation and balance transfers: Even if loan or credit card debt isn’t a major burden, people who are carrying high-interest loan or credit card balances can help simplify their bills, and potentially save money each month, by consolidating unsecured debt with a low-rate personal loan or transferring credit card balances to a lower-rate card. Ridgewood’s No-Fee Personal Loan or Platinum Mastercard® are two great options.
- Assistance from your bank: Many community financial institutions are offering assistance for those who’ve been financially affected by COVID-19, such as temporarily waiving certain fees or providing special options for borrowers.
See how Ridgewood is here to help.
Your mortgage payment or rent is likely your largest single expense, especially if your area has a high cost of living. Here are some important things you should know.
- Mortgage forbearance: Through the CARES Act, homeowners with federally backed mortgages can request a mortgage forbearance of up to 12 months. This pauses mortgage payments for six months, then an additional six-month term if necessary. If it’s difficult to pay your mortgage right now, you’ll need to request forbearance from your loan servicer, and you’ll still be responsible for paying the missed or reduced payments later.
- Temporary protection for renters: For those experiencing financial hardship, keeping up with monthly rent payments can be a significant challenge, and communities and lawmakers are still working to find long-term solutions. For now, the State of New York has placed a temporary moratorium on COVID-related evictions, and the CARES Act has also done so for residents in certain types of federally supported housing. However, renters are still responsible for paying their rent. If it’s hard to pay your rent, your first step should be to contact your landlord, explain your situation, and work with them to find a solution, such as creating a payment plan.
- Mortgage refinancing: If you’re looking to lower your monthly mortgage payment, now may be a good time to refinance your home. By taking advantage of today’s very low rates, eligible borrowers can lock in a low fixed rate that may save them money every month, or pay off their home sooner and potentially save thousands in interest.
Learn about Ridgewood’s mortgage refinancing options and apply quickly and safely online.
Saving & Budgeting
With smart saving and careful spending, you can enjoy more peace of mind today, and be better prepared for tomorrow.
- Emergency savings fund: Experts recommend saving three to six months’ worth of living expenses in a fund that’s just for emergencies such as a job loss, medical bills, or home or car repairs. It’s a good idea to keep this money in a separate account to avoid dipping into this fund for non-emergency needs.
- Cutting spending: Check your bank and credit card statements to examine your spending habits and see if there are any extravagant purchases or services you could do without, such as unused gym memberships, streaming services, or online shopping sprees. Ridgewood’s free Money Management (MX) tool, available in Online and Mobile Banking, makes it easy to create a personalized budget and track spending in real time.
- Building up savings: Even if you’ve already built up some savings, it never hurts to set aside a little more. Setting up automatic transfers from checking to savings is a great way to build up your emergency or long-term savings.
Help keep yourself and your money safe with these tips.
- Safer shopping: In light of safety concerns related to COVID-19, avoid using cash – which can carry germs. Switch to safer contactless payments by adding your Ridgewood Debit Card to the mobile wallet on your phone, smartwatch or fitness tracker, then “pay with a tap” wherever contactless purchases are accepted.
- Safer payments: Zelle® is a fast, safe, easy way to send and request money.
- Accessing banking services: While new safety concerns or limited branch access may temporarily affect your banking routine, you can complete a variety of transactions surcharge-free at 55,000+ Allpoint ATMs. Need to deposit a check? Use our Mobile Banking app on your smartphone to deposit checks from the comfort of home.
- Fraud and scams: A public crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic can lead to an increase in fraud and scams preying on people’s fears or desire to help others. The Federal Trade Commission warns consumers to be wary of communications about government stimulus checks or ads for COVID-19 test kits, as well as unsolicited text messages, emails, or phone calls claiming to be from an agency like the CDC. Also, when donating to a charity, do your homework to ensure the organization is legitimate and use a traceable payment type like a check or credit card, not cash.
- Monitoring your finances: Regularly check your bank and credit card accounts and quickly notify your bank if you see any unfamiliar transactions. You can add additional protection to your Ridgewood Debit Card with Debit Card Fraud Text Alerts and Card Controls, available through Online Banking. If you ever need it, 24/7 ID Theft Resolution Services are free for all customers with a Ridgewood checking account.
If you have questions or need assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Our knowledgeable, caring team is here to help.
Products, services, terms, conditions and information set forth is subject to change without notice.
Zelle and the Zelle related marks are wholly owned by Early Warning Services, LLC and are used herein under license.