Most businesses—aside from restaurants, delivery services, and other essential companies—have shuttered their doors because of COVID-19. Without businesses operating, employees have lost their main income source, which has many people wondering how they will pay their bills during coronavirus.
You are not alone. Thankfully, Congress just passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill (CARES Act) to—among other things—provide small business loans to affected companies and COVID-19 relief checks to US citizens. This stimulus package will help mitigate the financial effects of coronavirus, but it will take time—time that most people with mounting bills and expenses don’t have.
Fortunately, you have some flexibility with the bills you owe. You may be able to put off paying some until the crisis is over. Every case is unique, and you should review your payment guidelines and contact your creditors to determine your options before foregoing payment.
With that said, here are a few bills that you may be able to delay paying during the coronavirus.
Credit Card Payments
If you have a business credit card, you shouldn’t immediately stop making payments on it just because of the coronavirus. Your credit card company likely will not know that you cannot pay the bills and may levy late fees and other penalties for a missed payment. However, you can contact your credit company and ask about their hardship assistance program during the coronavirus.
CNBC shared a list of credit providers that are helping customers and companies during the outbreak. For example, the financial hardship program offered by American Express helps cardholders:
- Lower their monthly payments
- Temporarily lower interest rates
- Provide relief from late payment fees
- Prevent your account from closing or going to collections
Call your credit card company first and see if you can get on this plan. This relief could lower or pause your bills for the next few months.
There is currently no federal ban on evictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but many cities have stepped in to create their own. Million Acres by Motley Fool curated a list of cities by state that have placed a moratorium on evictions for residents and businesses. Some of these were created to prevent eviction hearings in the local courthouse, while others are meant to help the local economy rebuild after the pandemic.
See if your city is on this list and talk to your landlord about delayed rent payments. You may find that your landlord will accept a delayed payment or lower rent payment this month if it means your company will stay in business after the pandemic.
In most cases, it would take a landlord more time and money to fill the space—especially now—if your company goes under or moves out, so it is in his or her best interest to find a middle ground under current circumstances.
Internet and Phone Bills
Internet and phone providers, including AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, have signed the “Keep Americans Connected Pledge” from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to keep giving their customers internet access during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many families rely on internet access for kids who are taking virtual school right now, parents who are working from home, and entertainment to maintain some sense of normalcy. Businesses also need internet and phone access to operate, communicate with customers, and market their brand during the pandemic.
These companies will not cut service to customers during the coronavirus, so you may be able to delay paying these bills until after it has passed. However, it is still important to make sure your specific local provider is on board with this pledge. You may want to reach out and make sure they know you won’t be paying but plan to once your business can resume operations.
Along the same line as internet providers, many electric utility companies have promised to keep customer lights on during the pandemic. For example, the Texas Public Utility Commission banned disconnections of water and power for the time being. This promise protects residents across the state who cannot pay their bills.
See if your local utility provider is offering a similar program. If not, consider contacting them about your current hardship and reach out to your local city council or state government and urge them to vote for similar measures as those passed by Texas. There are likely hundreds of businesses in your state that are unable to pay their utility bills but want to keep their doors open.
You may not be able to wipe out your bills entirely during the coronavirus lockdowns, but you can minimize your payments or delay them for a few weeks or months until COVID-19 passes. Taking a proactive approach now can help you work with your creditors and come to an agreement before they send your debt to collections.
Along with the federal disaster loans offered by the government, you may be able to take out short term small business loans to get you through the next few months. These loans can help you pay off your bills fully and consolidate your debt.