AOC: Call your bill providers and ask for deferred payments

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) this week took to Twitter to offer money advice to workers who’ve been laid off or experienced a drop in income because of the coronavirus.

“One thing that you can do right now if you’ve been financially impacted is call all your bill providers and ask to defer your April payment,” the representative from the Bronx tweeted on Monday. “Phone bill, mortgage, credit cards, student loans - many are doing so, but you must contact them.”

In a follow-up tweet, the Congresswoman reminded federal student loan borrowers that they can suspend payments for two months, but they must call their servicer first to set up.

The financial tips follow a rapid rise in unemployment claims and an accelerating number of layoffs hitting restaurants, hotels, airlines and other industries as much of the American economy has been put on hold to battle the spread of COVID-9. The numbers of unemployed could hit 3 million by the summer, according to estimates from The Economic Policy Institute.

Read more: Coronavirus: What banks, lenders, utilities and more are doing to help customers financially

This is worsening an already precarious situation for many people’s finances. Two in 5 Americans couldn’t cover a $400 emergency without borrowing money or selling items for cash, according to the Federal Reserve. And that was before the pandemic.

How to get a payment deferred?

Many companies are stepping in to ease customers’ payment burdens. Banks are waiving fees, allowing payment deferrals and hardship loans, but consumers must contact their banks to access these options.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored enterprises that back millions of mortgages, announced last week that homeowners can delay mortgage payments up to 12 months, for those experiencing a loss of income due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Utilities companies like ConEdison and National Grid are also suspending service disconnections for non-payment, and ConEdison is waiving new late fees for struggling customers who reach out.

Internet providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon — which owns Yahoo Finance — have agreed to help subscribers who can’t pay their bills due to coronavirus and won’t terminate service to customers unable to pay their bills in the next 60 days.

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To suspend federal student loan payments for 60 days, borrowers should contact their servicer and request administrative forbearance. There is no penalty for this.

Additionally, the Education Department has set interest rates to zero for those holding federal student loans, while New York has suspended debt collection for student debt, medical debt, and other forms of state-referred debt, for at least 30 days.

Denitsa is a writer for Yahoo Finance and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @denitsa_tsekova.

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