More coronavirus stimulus unlikely before the election: What can you do now?

The Senate is in recess until November 9, dimming hopes of coronavirus relief before the election.


Hopes have faded that a potential coronavirus stimulus bill would be passed before the November 3 election, especially after the Senate officially announced it will recess until November 9.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was advocating for the Senate to vote on the House-approved $2.2 trillion bill, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin didn't want to go higher than $1.8 trillion. Last week, the House voted down a "skinny" bill worth an estimated $500 billion.

As negotiations on Capitol Hill come to a halt, financial struggles accelerated by the outbreak continue. About 787,000 Americans filed for unemployment for the first time the week ending October 17. The country has recovered just half of the 22 million roles lost since March, and the recession has been particularly hard on women.

A recent Bank of America survey shows a third of the more than 2,500 millennials polled say their financial situation has gotten worse in the past six months. Since the virus was declared a pandemic, 14% of Americans — up to 46 million people — said they've wiped out their emergency savings. And new cases of coronavirus have been surging nationwide.

All this commotion can make it more difficult to maintain a budget or plan for the future if you've been affected by the outbreak. Here are some steps to consider that could help.

Trim your expenses

When 37-year-old Brian Gersh had to close his family-run furniture store, he and his wife looked for ways to cut costs. The couple had already seen expenses like child care drop but decided to buckle down even further, canceling discretionary trips to visit family.

Missing out on overseas excursions and treks to San Diego "are huge bummers," Gersh told Grow in May, but ultimately, forgoing travel is a smart move that can help reduce spending.

You don't have to cancel a big vacation to save money. Take a look at everyday expenses you may have forgotten about, including streaming subscriptions you no longer use. Call your credit card company and cellphone provider to see if you can land a better rate.

Take advantage of existing programs

You may be eligible for relief on your housing payments. Many local and state governments offer local emergency assistance programs and temporary measures that protect renters. If you're a homeowner with a federally backed loan, you could be eligible for a six-month deferral or temporary reduction on payments while you get back on your feet.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers a "Find a Counselor" tool that gives those struggling with mortgage payments a list of counseling agencies that advise on loans, credit, and foreclosure. 

Pick up extra income

Delivering groceries or taking surveys online can be great ways to make some extra cash. About a third of workers, 34%, say they have a side hustle outside their normal job to prepare for an unexpected expense or loss of income, and another 19% want to start one.

Get creative about how you can make money if you need to. Some of these eight in-demand roles for a post-coronavirus economy, for instance, can pay over $100,000 a year.

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Whether you take on an extra job or find another way to earn more, setting aside a portion of money in a high-yield savings account can help you capitalize on it. Unlike traditional savings accounts, high-yield vehicles can offer compound interest.

The national average high annual percentage yield on regular savings accounts is just 0.05%, per the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or more than 16 times less than what the highest-yield accounts offer.

Borrow if you must

If you find yourself still needing more money to cover essentials, one option might be to withdraw funds from a 401(k), 403(b), or individual retirement account. Through the end of 2020, people under the age of 59 1/2 are allowed a coronavirus-related distribution of up to $100,000 without the typical 10% early distribution penalty.

Keep in mind you'll still owe taxes on the withdrawal that can be paid over three years.

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Try to make reasonable contributions to a retirement account instead, though, if you can, and don't forget about stashing away what you can for a rainy day. If the crisis has made anything clear, Erika Safran, a certified financial planner and principal at Safran Wealth Advisors, recently told Grow, it's that an emergency fund can save you from a surprise bill that might "build up expensive debt."

Even if you haven't suffered any direct financial fallout from the pandemic, it makes sense to plan for the future now by recalibrating your financial goals and setting specific landmarks.

A recent survey from savings and investing app Acorns, which polled 2,000 adults, shows that simply having better organizational tools can help younger Americans get their finances in order and become more conscious of their bottom line: Of the survey respondents aged 18 to 24, nearly 30% say the fact that they don't maintain a budget keeps them from stashing more away.

Take a critical look at your spending, Dorothy E. Bossung, a certified financial planner and executive vice president of Lowery Asset Consulting, told Grow: "Going through the process of tracking down how you spend now will help you approximate how much money you will need."

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