The COVID-19 pandemic has hit everyone hard, but for those who are furloughed or laid off, things can seem particularly dire. Here are our step-by-step instructions for what to do when you find out your income has been ended.
- Allow yourself to be shocked. Losing a job out of the blue is traumatic. But you aren’t going to lose your house or starve to death if you take 24 hours to process what just happened.
- Establish if this is temporary or permanent. If you were furloughed, remind yourself that you still have a job you can return to after the pandemic. Any new income sources you need will be temporary. If you were laid off completely, plan on finding a new permanent position. It’s uncertain if your old employer will be able to hire you back once the pandemic ends.
- Review your budget and identify expenses. Make an itemized list of your monthly expenses. This will help you think realistically about what life changes you might need to take.
- Inform your utilities and creditors. Many utilities aren’t disconnecting services if a household can’t pay their bills because of this pandemic. Contact your utilities, insurance agencies and creditors to let them know your income has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and find out if they’re willing to help.
- Apply for unemployment benefits. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act extends unemployment benefits for a variety of American workers. Submit your unemployment claim online if possible. If you have to call, expect to be put on hold as millions of people are applying for benefits right now.
- Revisit your budget and establish your income need. Once you’ve worked out what your adjusted monthly budget is, you’ll have an idea of what your adjusted income needs are. You’re likely still going to need to pay for things like groceries, healthcare and Internet access. Can you get by with a short-term part-time or full-time job, or are you going to need more than that? If so, are your skills transferable into one of the many industries that desperately need workers right now.
- Contact your job-search support services. If you have had a vocational rehabilitation case in the past, contact your counselor or their office to let them know you’d like to open your case again. Organizations like Starkloff Disability Institute can also help you restart your job search. They can also help you complete step 8.
- Apply for other services if applicable. Do you now qualify for food stamps, Medicaid or other public assistance programs? If so, complete an application as soon as possible. Applications for these programs tend to take a long time to be processed. Medicaid and food stamps may take up to three months to develop.
Special circumstances exist if you want to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and unemployment benefits at the same time. Check with your state’s unemployment office to find out how your benefits might change if you apply for or begin receiving Disability Insurance.
- Prepare your next job search. Update your resume and LinkedIn profile and make sure everyone in your network knows you’re looking again. Create a weekly schedule for job searching and start identifying companies you want to work for.
- Have faith and be patient. The COVID-19 situation is changing on a daily basis, but it won’t last forever. Many organizations have stepped up to ensure households don’t go hungry or lose what they need to survive. Try to stay calm and informed and remember that you’re not the only one in this situation.