Living paycheck to paycheck means having little to no margin for financial error. A government shutdown — either now or later, should a short-term spending bill get passed — will no doubt have tens of thousands of federal employees and contractors scrambling to figure out how to pay their rent, mortgages, and credit card bills. Others will be affected, those whose work hours depend on the spending of tourists or folks on the federal payroll, such as hospitality and restaurant workers. Unlike federal employees, they aren’t guaranteed backpay. Lost hours or even one missed paycheck can create a crisis for workers already living on the edge.
If a government shutdown creates hardship, here’s one thing you can do: Call for help. People often retreat and don’t communicate when they’re in crisis. But if you know you’ll struggle financially because of a shutdown, assistance may be just a phone call away.
Stay in constant contact with your landlord. This may seem obvious, and yet many tenants don’t take this route when they are in a financial bind. You may have a merciless landlord or a merciful one. But you will never know unless you call. Here are some options to raise during your call:
– Ask for an extension.
– Propose making a partial payment.
– If you paid a security deposit, ask your landlord whether that money could be applied to your rent payment.
– Ask for a payment plan for your missed rent.
– Ask for a waiver of late fees and penalties.
Call the company that manages your mortgage. Explain your situation. In the past, lenders have offered a wide variety of help to workers affected by a shutdown. One option is to ask for a forbearance. The debt is not forgiven, but forbearance allows a borrower experiencing financial difficulty to stop making payments. Make sure you get information about the forbearance in writing. And don’t worry about the impact a forbearance has on your credit history.
Call your credit card company. It may be hard to ask to skip a payment, but it’s better than risking a late payment. For affected members, some credit card companies are waiving minimum payments for a certain period. The biggest credit score slayer is delinquency. Your payment history accounts for a significant portion of your credit score, so it’s important to take steps to protect it.
Asking for and getting a payment break can avert a ding to your credit. If you are struggling, please call and see what help is available. The sooner, the better. Remember, there are resources and assistance available to help those affected by a government shutdown. Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help during this challenging time.