Charles lost his job right before Christmas and is here to share the various resources and benefits available to the recently unemployed.
It was less than one week before Christmas on December 20th, 2021, when I lost my job. What a mess. If you've ever lost your job around the holidays, you know how stressful this can be.
I didn't just lose my job; I lost my career—nearly 25 years of hard work down the tubes. No severance, no access to nearly a year of saved sick and vacation days—everything gone. What now?
Take a Deep Breath
It was time to take stock of my life and do a quick inventory of my personal options. I had some savings, and I was to receive my final paycheck in about a week. Good. I have a bit of breathing room before any major bills are due.
My immediate concerns were rent, utilities, health care, food, car insurance, credit card bills, cell phone, and cash. I'll break down each category below and explain what resources are available from state and local government programs.
This is also a great time to begin looking for a new job. With the amount of free time on your hands and easy access to the internet, you shouldn't have trouble searching through job listings and scheduling interviews.
The first step in dealing with a potential lack of rent money is complete transparency with your landlord. I suggest you immediately contact your landlord and explain the situation. Be professional and reassuring when explaining your situation. A good landlord will understand and work with you to prevent the possibility of eviction.
Next up is applying for housing assistance. There are rental assistance options available in most states for folks that have lost their income and have become unemployed. A good start is to head to the internet and navigate to your particular state's homepage for unemployment resources.
Contact your utility provider immediately and explain your situation. They can recommend resources and benefits for low-income individuals and families that can help pay your utility bills until you either go back to work or begin receiving unemployment payments.
The most popular government resource is LIHEAP, The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Each state has an office that administers this resource and is available at the homepage of your respective state.
When you lose all of your income due to unemployment, this immediately makes you eligible for Medicaid. Medicaid is health insurance provided by the federal government to low-income individuals and families.
Visit Medicaid.gov for more information and to apply for coverage. Medicaid is accepted by most physicians and hospitals in America and the cost is free for qualified applicants.
Credit Card Debt and Loans
Contact your financial institution and explain your situation. Banks have resources for individuals and families to assist you while you are unable to pay. They may be able to forgive late payments or increase the grace period for late payments while you wait for your unemployment benefits.
The federal government has a program that provides free cell phones and data plans for qualified individuals. The two most popular companies that administer the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) are Assurance Wireless and Q Link Wireless. More information is available online at the respective websites.
The federal government offers cash and food assistance to low-income individuals and families with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Families First Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) program.
This program provides both a small amount of cash and food stamps monthly to help low-income individuals and families in need. The cash can be used to help pay for your car insurance, household items other than food, or whatever else you or your family may need. Each state administers this federal program, and information is available online at your state's homepage.
Remember, patience is a virtue. Unemployment benefits take a terribly long time to reach you after becoming unemployed. Eviction proceedings began in the middle of January, and thanks to my veteran's status, I was able to avoid eviction by the skin of my teeth. The SNAP benefits arrived within 30 days, and I was able to eat and put gas in my car for travel to the grocery store.
I am lucky to have served in the US military. Without the help I received from the VA, I would now be homeless. One of the first things I did was contact the Veterans Administration (VA) and explain my situation. They put me in touch with a wonderful veterans charity organization (Soldier On). With their assistance, they have made contact with my landlord and paid any back rent that was due.
They continue to support me monthly by following up with my state government applications for assistance and monthly rent payments until I am employed or start receiving state rental assistance. Thanks again to Soldier On!
Start a Fundraiser
Organizations such as GoFundMe and GiveSendGo offer people and organizations the ability to raise funds for people and families in need. I started a fundraiser with GiveSendGo to try and raise some money for my healthcare needs, as I am a heart attack and stroke survivor. GiveSendGo is free to use, and they give you the option to donate some of the proceeds to charity.
Don't Give Up!
I know this can be a stressful time. The key is to not give up. I know it takes time, and there will be many occasions where you just want to give up quit. Patience. Make sure to follow up with the multitude of applications, keep a notepad and pen close at hand.
Organize your pages with headings for each organization. Remember to keep track of and write down any account numbers, application confirmation numbers, and any account usernames and passwords to make it easier. Follow up at least weekly. Adjust your budget for the massive loss of income. Make an effort to live within your means during this stressful time. Good luck, and I hope this article reaches you well!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Charles Kikas