Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.
Labor Day weekend marked a grim milestone for millions of people out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Unemployment benefits ended for about 7.5 million people after President Joe Biden’s administration declined to ask Congress to extend federal benefits again.
Another 3 million people lost a $300 weekly federal boost to state jobless benefits, though governors in 26 states had already withdrawn early from the program.
Expanded unemployment compensation has been a lifeline to millions of workers over the last year and a half. If your unemployment benefits just ended or got cut, don’t wait to take action. Here are several steps to take ASAP.
1. Look for a Job in an Industry That Hires Fast
If you’re still searching for employment, consider a bridge job. Basically, it’s any job that helps you pay the bills, even if it’s not your ideal job. Because many businesses are having trouble recruiting employees right now, you may be able to negotiate better wages than you could in pre-pandemic days in fields that don’t traditionally pay well.
Some places to look:
- Data entry: Many industries need data-entry clerks and offer fully remote positions. Typical pay ranges from $10 to $15 an hour. If you have solid typing skills, becoming a transcriptionist is another option.
- Online tutoring: If you have a special skill or a college degree, getting an online tutoring job can help you bring in extra cash. Typical pay ranges from $10 to $27 an hour.
- Food service, retail and hospitality: Across the country, employers in food service, retail and hospitality are holding job fairs, with many hiring on the spot and paying higher wages than they did in the past. For example, these 160,000 restaurant jobs pay over $10 an hour.
Also check out The Penny Hoarder’s work-from-home jobs portal, which regularly features remote entry-level listings.
2. Take Up a Side Hustle
Your goal here is to find any way to start generating income before your benefits end. There are plenty of easy side hustles you can take on now with little upfront cost to start earning extra cash. Some ideas include:
- Drive for Uber or Lyft. Ride-share companies Uber and Lyft have a driver shortage, making it possible for drivers to earn $25 an hour or more in some markets.
- Do odd jobs on TaskRabbit. Use the app to connect with people near you who need help with tasks like furniture assembly, cleaning and painting.
- Deliver groceries through apps like Instacart or Shipt.
- Babysitting. Find gigs through sites like Care.com and SitterCity.
- Pet sitting and house-sitting. As people resume travel, they’ll need services like pet care and house-sitting that weren’t in high demand last year.
- Sell stuff. It’s not really a side hustle, but if you have items in good condition that you’re not using, you could pocket extra cash by selling them. For example, here are 14 places to sell used clothing online or in person. You can also sell gift cards online for cash.
3. Search for Rental Assistance
While the federal eviction moratorium issued in connection with the pandemic expired Aug. 26, help is still available.
Congress has allocated nearly $47 billion to help distressed renters — but getting a piece of that money is maddeningly complex. As Vox reported, more than 340 agencies are administering that aid, each with their own set of rules.
To learn more about relief in your area, check out this state-by-state guide to rental assistance programs. Another good resource is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rental assistance page. You may also qualify for help with utilities and energy costs.
The 211 help line, which is operated by the United Way, may also be able to help you navigate local assistance programs. You simply dial 211 on your phone, and you’ll be connected with someone who knows about resources in your community. Because of the lengthy process involved, it’s essential that you take this step ASAP.
4. Get Food Assistance
The 211 help line can also connect you with food pantries near you. Also visit Benefits.gov to determine whether you’re eligible for SNAP benefits.
It can take up to 30 days to receive benefits through the regular application process, but you may qualify for expedited benefits, depending on your state.
5. Contact Your Unemployment Office
You may still be eligible for your state’s unemployment benefits, but the rules will vary by state. Most states have a limit on how long you can receive benefits.
As difficult as dealing with your state’s unemployment office can be, it’s essential that you contact them immediately to find out whether you’ll qualify for state assistance. In some cases, you may need to submit a new application or apply for an extension.
6. Ask Your Creditors for Forbearance
Though banks aren’t widely advertising forbearance programs the way that they were a year ago, contact your lenders to see if skipping or pushing back payments is an option. The best time to do this is always before you’ve missed a payment.
Be sure to ask how they’ll report your payment status to the credit bureaus. If they’ll be reporting your payments as delinquent, your credit score will plummet.
If you have federal student loans, take advantage of the automatic forbearance that’s in effect through at least Jan. 31, 2022. You can ask for a refund of any payments you’ve made since March 2020.
7. Don’t Pay Debt if You’re Putting Your Health or Housing at Risk
A bare-bones budget includes only your basic necessities: housing and utilities, food, health care and minimum debt payments. But in a true emergency, you may have to make even deeper cuts.
Try to work with your lenders. But focus on paying rent and utilities, keeping food on the table and getting medications you need before you make payments on credit cards or loans.
Yes, you’ll damage your credit score if you miss payments without your lender’s permission. But you can recover from bad credit. While your credit score is important, your health and housing are far bigger priorities.
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