Help for Pandemic Credit Woes

Your Economic Impact Payment was spent a long time ago, your work hours were cut, and your bills are getting harder to pay. Well, you are not alone. Widespread unemployment and economic hardships from COVID-19 are anticipated by financial experts to create a financial and credit crisis. My regular readers have already been alerted to the many scams out there to take advantage of vulnerable people. Those scams include “help” with credit and debt issues. 

Good news! Reputable (and often free) help is out there to help with your pandemic credit woes. Here are three options for credit and debt counseling that really help:

  • Nonprofit Credit Counseling

Reputable credit counseling organizations can advise you on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget, and offer free financial education. Their counselors are certified and trained in consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. They discuss your entire financial situation with you, and help you develop a personalized plan to deal with your money problems. An initial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions. The Federal Trade Commission offers tips on finding an agency and questions you should ask before you start. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0153-choosing-credit-counselor

  • Credit Union Membership

Credit unions are nonprofit financial institutions, while banks are for-profit, meaning they are either privately owned or publicly traded. Credit unions have lower fees and are all about community. They often provide free financial wellness and other services to help their members make good financial decisions, stay on top of bills and payments, and manage a budget. Check out Bank Rate to find a credit union near you and how to become a member. https://www.bankrate.com/banking/best-credit-unions/.  

  • Community Development Financial Institutions

Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) are banks and credit unions that focus on serving people in low-income communities that have historically been locked out of the financial system. Unlike other financial institutions, CDFIs rely less on credit scores when providing loans and other products. In addition, they emphasize developing long-term relationships with members of the community to help them gain financial literacy, establish savings goals, build credit, and access affordable loans. Check out the official CDFI website to locate a certified financial institution near you. https://www.cdfifund.gov/programs-training/certification/cdfi/Pages/default.aspx 

Millions of people are suffering financial woes due to the coronavirus pandemic. If you or someone you know is impacted and needs help, nonprofit credit counseling, credit union financial wellness services, and CDFIs are some of the reputable resources that are out there for you. It might be difficult to take the first step, but that debt burden will feel lighter after you do. 

Who’s Keeping your Workplace Safe during COVID-19?

Businesses that are re-opening or expanding from limited operations want to be safe. Wanting to be safe is important, but not enough, especially these days. Keeping a safe workplace for workers and customers until we get COVID-19 under control requires even more planning than usual, because there are more health-related risks than usual. No business wants to be part of a coronavirus case spike.

American workers and businesses usually depend on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, known as OSHA, for workplace safety guidance and oversight. Now, when businesses and workers need OSHA’s help to implement safety guidance, little assistance is being provided, according to a report from NPR’s Weekend Edition on July 4th. You can listen to the whole story about OSHA inaction on the thousands of COVID-related complaints OSHA has received here – https://www.npr.org/2020/07/04/887239204/many-say-osha-not-protecting-workers-during-covid-19-pandemic.

This news is unbelievably bad for American workers and businesses who are essentially left on their own to figure out how to protect their people and keep their doors open. Knowing where to start is daunting, so here are three tips for getting started to keep your workplace safe during COVID-19:

  • Review Available Resources

Even though direct federal safety oversight is not available, written guidance is online from OSHA and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). You will have to review it yourself, determine what parts apply to you, and how to make any necessary adjustments. A good place to start is OHSA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf. Check out these sites for more information –  https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/controlprevention.html and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/office-buildings.html.

  • Engage Your Team

Gather your team to share the safety planning workload and to get different perspectives on what will be effective for your operations under the new COVID-19 scenario. People who do the work provide the best insight about the impact of operational changes. Talk through different situations you and your team will encounter to help you identify where changes need to be made.

  • Assess Your Operations

Use the OSHA and CDC guidance and your team’s insights to perform a coronavirus safety review specific to your business. The goal of the review is to identify gaps that need some adjustment under COVID-19. Walk through your workspace with your team to see how work areas and public spaces should be adjusted for physical distancing, high-touch surfaces that need frequent cleaning, protective equipment requirements, etc., etc. 

Businesses that are re-opening or expanding from limited operations need help being safe for workers and customers. Use these three tips to get started on the daunting task of keeping your workplace safe under the new COVID-19 scenario.

Need a Tax Payment Plan?

Many people are suffering financial hardship because of the COVID-19 economic downturn. 

Some of those people owed more money to the IRS when they filed their 2019 income tax return, but they didn’t have the funds to pay. Interest and penalties on unpaid tax balances keep adding to your tax debt, whether you have money or not. 

So, what do you do if you owe the IRS? Here is what you need to know:

  • Extended Payment Options – The IRS offers two ways for taxpayers to extend their tax payments over time:
  1. Short-term Payment Plan – If you can pay within 120 days, this option charges no fees and makes it easy to apply online. You’ll get an immediate notification of whether your application is approved. Interest and penalties continue to accrue until the tax is paid in full.
  2. Installment Agreement – Used when you need more than 120 days to pay, this option requires a set-up fee (e.g., $31-149 online and $107-225 via phone). Installment Agreements may require more information from you, depending on the balance due. Payments can be debited from your bank account, paid online, or by check. Credit card payments cost additional fees.

More details and a link to apply are at https://www.irs.gov/payments/payment-plans-installment-agreements#costs.

  • Tax Debt Amount Matters – Payment plan applications are generally easier to get approved for lower tax liabilities due than for large balances. Applications for $10,000 or less are automatically approved as a guaranteed Installment Agreement. For applications of amounts from $10-25,000, the approval is not guaranteed, and full payment must be made within six years. Tax debt payment plan applications for $25,000 up to $50,000 require information about your income, assets, and monthly expenses. Over $50,000 means a more thorough asset review to determine if anything can be liquidated to pay the tax due.
  • Offer in Compromise – A growing number of taxpayer households are suffering from long-term job loss, eviction, and medical issues with no insurance coverage. The IRS wants to collect all tax due but does not want to create an undue burden on taxpayers’ ability to provide for their basic needs. An Offer in Compromise allows you to settle your tax debt for less than the full amount owed if paying your full tax liability would create a financial hardship based on your assets, income, and expenses. See if you qualify at https://www.irs.gov/payments/offer-in-compromise.

Taxpayers who cannot pay their taxes due to the IRS in full have options to catch up. Depending on the amount due and your ability to pay, the IRS has extended payment plans and other mechanisms to avoid placing additional undue burdens on taxpayers who have already suffered financial hardship.