It is no secret that the rapid response to stem the spread of the coronavirusCOVID-19 has left many Americans jobless or placed on furlough. Young adults of color in low-wage and entry- level positions have been disproportionately impacted by layoffs. And, though public assistance during hard times such as these is available, many young people are not taking advantage of these resources.
According to our recent survey of more than 500 young adults ages 16-30 who lost their jobs due to COVID-19, less than half of the respondents said they have applied for public assistance despite expressing concerns about not being able to work, pay bills or access healthcare.
1. Apply for unemployment insurance ASAP
Make sure you are eligible for unemployment benefits. Eligibility may vary by state. If you are, then this is the first step you should take after losing a job. Since no one knows how long COVID-19 will be sticking around, unemployment benefits have been extended for 13 weeks beyond the timeframe that states typically allow. This extension is compliments of the federal CARES Act, which also allotts workers an extra $600 in unemployment benefits per week. The extra time and money can go a long way toward covering living expenses while navigating a strained job market. If you’re unsure how to apply for unemployment insurance, visit careeronestop.org for more info.
Pro-tip from workforce development expert Adrian Veliz:
You can extend your unemployment benefits if you apply for job training through an American Job Center or One Stop. In addition to job training programs, these centers have a huge database of employers that can help get back to work and on your feet. Visit careeronestop.org to find your local job center.
2. Consider deferring mortgage, rent, & utilities payments
Recent enhancements to unemployment benefits and the dissemination of government stimulus checks might not be enough to make ends meet. Fortunately, many states have urged property owners and public works departments to temporarily stop collecting payments from individuals who need this grace. It is important to note that you should only take advantage of this opportunity if you’re in a serious financial bind, because anything you don’t pay now will be due later. However, this opportunity can be beneficial for those who weren’t prepared for the challenges brought on by COVID-19 and could use some flexibility with their finances. Laws vary from state to state, so visit naurc.org to determine whether your state is offering a moratorium on bill payments and for up to date information on how your state is responding to COVID-19.
3. Take health insurance into your own hands
The rapid rise in the unemployment rate also meant many people have lost employer-sponsored health insurance. Although some states offer free health care, typically people are only able to apply for it during a set enrollment period. However, as states began to realize that a global pandemic mixed with an unemployment crisis was bound to cause a healthcare catastrophe, some of them began implementing a special enrollment period. In California, for instance, anyone who has lost their job or had their hours cut due to COVID-19 can apply for health insurance up until July 31, 2020. Since regulations regarding healthcare insurance vary by state, visit healthcare.gov to see if your state has implemented a special enrollment period.
COVID-19 has undoubtedly shaken our economy, but that is why we have public assistance programs. Take advantage of these resources, because they were put in place to mitigate the challenges that we’re facing right now. If you need assistance with accessing any of the benefits listed above or would like to know about other programs, check out our resource guides.