Things have been tough for many Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s about to get worse, personal finance expert Suze Orman warns.
The virus is continuing to spread across the country, with nearly 3.8 million cases and more than 140,000 deaths now being reported. At the same time, several relief measures enacted to support people during the crisis are coming to an end.
You have all these things happening at once.”
Congress is currently working on another coronavirus aid bill. The House passed the Democrats HEROES Act in May. It is now in the hands of the Senate, which returned to work on Monday after a break. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is aiming to release an opening offer this week. However, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told CNBC Tuesday morning that he doesn’t expect a new bill to pass by the end of July.
The expiring relief measures include:
The temporary moratorium on evictions from federal subsidized housing, which was granted in the CARES Act, lasts through July 24. Once those protections end, you can be evicted if you aren’t able to pay your rent.
Emily Benfer, chair of the American Bar Association’s Task Force Committee on Eviction and co-creator of the Covid-19 Housing Policy Scorecard with the Eviction Lab at Princeton University, recently told CNBC that 20 million to 28 million people could be displaced from their homes between July and September.
“This level of displacement would be unparalleled in U.S. history and carries the potential to destabilize communities for years to come,” the report said.
There may be some relief at the local level. Many states and local governments have protections for renters, others do not. The Eviction Lab has a list of local eviction and foreclosure policies on their website.
$600 unemployment pay
Americans who have lost their jobs and are collecting unemployment were granted an additional $600 a week in benefits thanks to the CARES Act. That subsidy is scheduled to end July 31, unless Congress extends it. For many states, due to their pay schedules, it ends by July 26.
Its fate remains uncertain.
While Democrats want to extend it, Republicans want to revise, reduce or do away with additional assistance. About 25 million Americans are receiving the extra funds.
The CARES Act protected homeowners who have a federally backed mortgage from foreclosure until at least Aug. 31.
About 70 percent of outstanding single-family mortgages are owned or backed by a federal agency, while roughly 30 percent are privately owned and not backed by any federal agency, according to the National Housing Law Project.
In addition, if you are financially affected directly or indirectly by the coronavirus crisis, you have the right to request and obtain a forbearance, or a suspension or your payments, from your lender for up to 180 days, plus another 180-day extension. Again, it must be for a federally backed mortgage.
Anyone holding a federal student loan was able to suspend their payments until October thanks to the CARES Act. If there is no extension, they’ll have to start paying their monthly bill again after Sept 30.
House Democrats, as part of their HEROES Act, have called for extending the break until Sept. 30, 2021. It also includes $10,000 in federal student loan forgiveness and $10,000 in private student loan forgiveness.
While experts aren’t convinced the Senate will grant a suspension until September 2021, they think there’s a good chance it will extend the waivers a bit further.
Worse than the Great Recession
It all adds up to a picture that is far bleaker than 2008, Orman said.
“This is 50,000 times worse, in my opinion, because there’s no direction,” she said.
Plus, while the Great Recession was brought on by the subprime mortgage crisis, which then led to the near collapse of the financial system, this recession has been caused by a health crisis.
Thanks to social distancing, jobs that people turned to in 2008 to get by, like waitressing and driving cars, are not available, Orman said.
“We have COVID ramping up, which means in many states and cities and counties, jobs are not going to be coming back,” Orman said.
However, this time around the financial system is better prepared to handle a crisis and is better regulated. The Federal Reserve has also swooped in to buy corporate bonds, which has boosted the stock market.
The first thing people must do is to stop spending money, Orman said.
Any money that you are receiving, whether it is a paycheck, stimulus check or unemployment, put it into an emergency fund, after you pay the bills. Orman advocates building up an emergency savings that will cover you for eight months.
“Charge everything that you can on a credit card,” she said. “Start with the lowest interest credit card that you have, and pay the minimum payment due.”
Also, have a plan if your income drops. Take a look at new income opportunities that are out there for you, Orman advises.
“Stop thinking that your job is going to come back,” she said. “It may, but many of them may not.”
She also cautions against taking money out of your 401(k) or individual retirement account. The CARES Act allows you to withdraw up to $100,000 without penalty. You can pay it back within three years. If not, you’ll pay income tax on the amount.
“Retirement accounts are protected against bankruptcy,” Orman said.
So if someone takes out $10,000 to pay bills, they could still find themselves without any money, she explained.
“Now you’ve got to file bankruptcy,” she said. “You should have just left it there.
“So just be very careful where you go and what you do.”
—CNBC’s Hugh Son, Jacob Pramuk and Annie Nova contributed to this report.
Disclosure: Invest in You: Ready. Set. Grow. is a financial wellness and education initiative from CNBC and Acorns, the financial wellness app. NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.