What can I do if I Can’t Pay My Bills Because of Coronavirus?

Picture showing dilemma of how can I pay for bills during coronavirus

“I can’t pay my bills because I was laid off because of Coronavirus.” Sound familiar? This is a scary scenario but unfortunately this is a reality for many today amid this pandemic. This reality is apparent when we see that in just one week in Canada, over 1 million applied for EI or other emergency support benefits. If you find yourself in that scenario, what can you do to help yourself and your family?

Communication – Talk to Your Bank or Utilities providers

Communication seems overly simple but this is vital especially when everything is so fluid right now and it is hard to know what information is correct. So, whoever you pay bills to, you need to contact them and let them know your situation and see what options you have to lighten your bills because of your changing job situation, due to the coronavirus. There might be options to help. Here are some things you can do if you have bills to pay in these five main areas.

Mortgage Payments

A few days ago, the countries six largest banks announced a plan for deferral of mortgage payments to up to six months. Individuals and business owners should contact their bank to discuss available options. Each deferral request will be reviewed by a case by case basis.

Rental payments

At the moment there does not appear to be a program to address help for rentals. Some areas like Ontario are encouraging landlords not to evict anyone during this time. However, the best thing to do is to contact your landlord to see if there are any options to help provide some financial relief. You can also look into the government’s Covid-19 relief package to see if you qualify for any of the relief. Also, you can look into any provincial relief packages that your province might provide to help give you money to pay for your rent. (Updated March 26/20 – B.C. now has provided help of up to $500/month to help renters pay the rent on their homes.)

Car Payments

Contact your financial institution to see if there are options regarding paying the loan or lease of your vehicle due to financial hardship. For example here’s that information from the RBC website concerning this:

Client relief: The events surrounding COVID-19 are truly unprecedented and disrupting the daily lives of Canadians. RBC has put in place financial relief programs for personal and business clients who have experienced financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. To help clients with immediate relief, some of these programs are available by self-serve, including skip a mortgage payment, an auto-loan payment, and personal loan payment. These options will provide you with direct relief for one month. Please know that we will continue to work with you to provide further financial assistance, including further payment relief (for example, up to 6 months on mortgages), should you need our help.

Utility Payments Such as Power, Phone, TV, and Internet

It is best to contact your provider to see what options you have due to financial hardship. These companies and utility providers are well aware that many people are in this scenario and they are looking to assist. For example, here’s an excerpt from Shaw’s website:

We continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and we know that the threat posed by the spread of the virus will result in some Shaw customers facing unexpected financial challenges. We also know that particularly in times like these, we rely on being connected – to our family, our friends, or our workplace – or keeping our families informed and entertained. If you are having any concerns about paying your monthly Shaw internet bill due to hardship resulting from the COVID-19 situation, we will work with you to find a flexible payment arrangement that considers your financial and connectivity needs.

Credit Card Payments

It is best to contact your financial institution and let them know of your situation. Communication again is key! Fortunately, many banks and financial institutions are reaching out to clients and letting them know their options to help lighten the financial burden. For example, here’s an email I received from Capital one:

We understand that COVID-19 is having an impact on our customers’ lives. For those who are experiencing financial distress, we’re working on options to provide support through this difficult time. As soon as we can, we will make more information on these options available.

For additional information about our response to the COVID-19 situation, please visit our webpage. We’ll continue to update it with relevant information.

Conclusion

Not being able to pay your bills during the Coronavirus pandemic is a horrible prospect. We are in uncharted waters and do not know how long this will go. As result, it’s hard to make decisions – especially financial ones. The best thing we can do is to get as much information as possible on our options for potential relief by directly communicating to the companies we owe money to.

There’s an old saying that there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors. This is true because the more information we get from our creditors, the greater chance of some sort of financial relief. So look at your bills one at a time and see if there is a chance of some sort of relief. The result might be a little less stress in these already very stressful times. Take care and be safe.