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MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle: What to do if you can't pay rent as a result of the coronavirus pandemic

The MSNBC anchor and NBC senior business correspondent answers some of the biggest financial questions Americans are asking as a result of the health crisis.
MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle.
MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle.MSNBC

As of last week, 6.6 million Americans filed for jobless claims amid the coronavirus pandemic. And as a result, many people are wondering how they can pay their rent.

MSNBC anchor and NBC senior business correspondent Stephanie Ruhle recently chatted with TODAY on what Americans can do, especially because there have not been any regulation changes on a federal level.

“The federal government, their perspective is they’re expanding unemployment,” Ruhle said. “They are now giving those refund checks. And Americans who are in need should use that money to pay their essential bills like rent.”

Last week, the Senate approved a $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill providing an extension of unemployment benefits to 13 weeks, and an expansion of unemployment checks to an extra four months of $600 weekly payments. This is added to the unemployment benefits that people receive from their state.

And for people living in federally-funded housing, there has been a 120-day freeze on evictions, noted Ruhle. She suggested going to to find out more. For people who have private landlords, she recommended reaching out to see if there is any type of relief program being offered.

“See if you can be put on a payment plan because there’s nothing official that’s happened across the country, at least not yet,” Ruhle said.

Meanwhile, many Americans in different situations are wondering if they’re now eligible for unemployment benefits.

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One frequent question many are asking is if they are eligible for unemployment benefits if they were unemployed before the virus.

“Most likely, the answer is no,” Ruhle said.

The relief bill’s expanded unemployment applies to people who have lost a part or all of their job due to the coronavirus, Ruhle explained. And if you were not already on unemployment prior, it will be difficult to receive the benefits.

“Normally, you have to apply within the first week or so from losing your job,” Ruhle said. “Now, they’ve waived that because there’s this huge influx of people applying because the websites are down and you can’t get anyone on the phone. So, there’s more of a grace period.”

She recommended going to, set up by the United States Department of Labor, to find out what the parameters are in your state.

However, “[you] would've needed to work at some point in this base period to apply and receive those unemployment benefits,” Ruhle said.

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What about those who are self-employed with no employees? Do they qualify for unemployment?

“You know I love good news,” Ruhle said. “The answer is yes.”

The CARES Act provides a $350 billion loan program for small businesses called the Paycheck Protection Program. It has expanded unemployment benefits to self-employed people, freelance workers and gig economy workers, Ruhle said. The program is a 100 percent forgivable, short-term loan for small businesses if they keep all of their employees on the payroll.

If you are on the payroll, “there’s a chance [you] might get that loan which turns out to be a grant. You need to call your bank,” Ruhle said.