For families of color, the pandemic brings an outsized financial hit

The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is hitting families of color particularly hard.

A large majority, 86%, of Latino households with children and 66% of Black households with children reported serious financial problems during the outbreak, including depleting savings, trouble paying credit card bills and other debt, and affording medical care, according to a September poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Meanwhile, 51% of White households with children reported the same.

A separate poll by the organizations found that 55% of Native American households also were facing significant money issues.

It's a stark reminder that people of color have long faced systemic money issues, said certified financial planner Lazetta Rainey Braxton, New York-based co-founder and co-CEO of advisory firm 2050 Wealth Partners.

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"We know that with the wealth gap that is in play, the wage gap that is in play, that any shocks are going to greatly shock the Black community because our starting point is so much worse than most populations," said Braxton, chair of the Association of African American Financial Advisors and a member of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council.

When it comes to unemployment, the rate for Black workers in October stood at 10.8%. Hispanics had an 8.8% unemployment rate, Asians came in at 7.6% and White workers had a 6% unemployment rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For many people of color, that may mean a dramatic shift in their lifestyle andfamily dynamics.

'Constant fear'

Nicole Bailey, 39, has been unemployed since she left her job in late March. A nursing assistant in Los Angeles, she was working in the Covid unit and was potentially exposed to the virus. She tested negative, but realized she couldn't risk her health or that of her 65-year-old mother. The pair live together and both have high blood pressure.

Her mother brings in some money as a private home health aide, but Bailey has significantly cut back her spending and is worried about when her unemployment expires. The additional 13 weeks of unemployment offered by the CARES Act, tacked onto the end of the traditional 26 weeks provided by the states, runs out in December unless there is Congressional action.

"It is this constant fear that lingers," she said.

Bailey has also dipped into the savings she started compiling with her overtime money, meant to be used to eventually get her own place. It's now her emergency savings. Her credit cards, which she paid off with some of her savings when the pandemic hit, are slowly starting to creep back up.

"I feel like I'm just here and I'm not making any progress at all," Bailey said. "I was on my way. I just feel stuck."

A setback

The pandemic is certainly going to set back some of the progress that has been made in trying to close the racial wealth gap, said Tiffany Aliche, a financial educator and founder of The Budgetnista, a financial movement aimed at women.

Pre-crisis, in 2017, the median Black household wealth was forecast to hit zero by 2053, according to a report by Prosperity Now and Institute for Policy Studies.

"My worry is that this pandemic can make that 2043," Aliche said.

"A lot of people that have lost their jobs are those who can't afford to lose their jobs."

Asian-American businesses have also been hard hit, due to shutdowns and xenophobia. In February, as fears about the virus grew, businesses saw a marked decline. Asian-American unemployment rates jumped by more than 450% from February to June 2020, according to a McKinsey & Company analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. That was a greater increase than that of other racial groups.

Meanwhile, as many families of color still struggle, they may soon face eviction. The nationwide moratorium on evictions expires atthe end of the year, unless there are new policies issued by the government.

With people eating through their savings and running up credit card debt, many are turning to predatory lenders, said Andy Posner, founder and CEO of Capital Good Fund, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) headquartered in Rhode Island. These organizations provide low-income communities access to financial services.

"We are going to see a lot of people with damaged credit and a lot of people with bankruptcy," he said.

Trying to forge a new path

Sherlie Martinez, a 31-year-old single mom from Providence, Rhode Island, once turned to payday loans but has since landed on her feet. In August, she told CNBC she had hopes of going to college and eventually opening her own cafe.

Fortunately, Martinez, who lives with her sister, 12-year-old niece,10-year-old daughter and 4-year-old nephew, is still working as a receptionist at a law firm and is now taking two online college classes.

However, she recently used her emergency fund to pay for her father's funeral services. She's starting to build it back up and feels confident about her ability to pay her bills. It's her dream of becoming a business owner that is starting to feel out of reach.

"A lot of food establishments have been hit so bad [during the pandemic]," Martinez said recently.

"That is my ultimate dream," she said "The pandemic is pushing that father and farther away."

Strategies for navigating the crisis

First, cut any excess spending. Get down to what Aliche calls your "noodle budget," named after cheap Ramen noodles, which is a bare-bones budget.

Then, if you have income coming in, save as much as you can. Aliche believes we'll be in this for the long haul, thanks to the forecast by the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates at zero through 2023.

"We are going to keep the economy on life support for another three years," she said. "That is very telling."

If you are in dire straits and can't pay all your bills, only pay your health and safety expenses, Aliche suggests. It's a lesson she learned after she went through financial difficulties due to a job loss. She paid everyone indiscriminately and found that while her cell phone bill was paid, she didn't have enough money to pay for her medication.

Also, know where your resources are in the event you need cash. Try not to dip into your retirement account, Braxton said.

"If you don't have emergency savings, where can you pull from in the least consequential way?" she said.

Then, make it your goal to replenish that money, even if you don't know when you'll get around to doing it. Don't get discouraged if you can't do it right away.

"You are just trying to survive right now," Braxton said. "Be nice to yourself because there are a lot of things out of our control."

Remember to communicate with your family and explain the situation as best you can to your children in an age-appropriate way. They'll pick up on stress and it's best they have the most fact possible, Braxton said.

"It is so easy to be stressed and not communicate," she said. "It shows up in your money and in your relationships.

Lastly, don't be afraid to ask for help, whether it is for a job lead or someone to watch your kids while you work.

"We have to almost take it back to old school and lean into family friends and neighbors," Aliche said.

"Lean into your support system."

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Still no $1,200 stimulus check? Final Nov. 21 deadline to get your money this year is approaching

  • With the CARES Act, Congress authorized the deployment of millions of $1,200 stimulus checks this spring.
  • But some people still have not received the money because the IRS does not have their information.
  • In order to get their money this year, the IRS is urging those who were excluded to submit their information by Nov. 21.

If you still haven't received your $1,200 stimulus check, you may be in luck.

There's one last deadline to submit your information to the government in order to get your payment this year.

But you have to act before 3 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 21.

If you miss that cutoff, you may still be eligible to receive a tax credit when you file your taxes in 2021.

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As a result of the CARES Act, the government began sending about 160 million stimulus payments this spring of up to $1,200 per individual or $2,400 per married couple, plus $500 per child under 17. Families had to be below certain income thresholds to qualify.

The payments were disbursed based on data the IRS culled from 2018 or 2019 tax returns, whichever was most recent. People who did not have their information on record because they don't typically file tax returns because their income is too low may have been left out. Others may have received checks that excluded their spouse or eligible dependents.

The IRS is encouraging people in those situations to use the non-filer tool on its website before the Nov. 21 cut off.

Individuals should not use the tool if they have already submitted their information, previously filed tax returns or qualify for tax benefits like the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.

The government plans to continue to issue outstanding payments through the rest of 2020. Those who are waiting on a payment can check on its status via theGet My Payment application.

Those who did not receive a payment, or who received less than they were due, may be able to claim the recovery rebate credit on their taxes next year, according to the IRS. Those who wish to claim the credit should use Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR when filing next year.

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Covid-19 stress is driving the most vulnerable Americans to the brink. These 4 steps can help you cope

The Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected low- and middle-income Americans as well as communities of color, exacerbating inequality and leading to increased financial stress.

Those hit hardest by the pandemic are now feeling the most anxiety about their personal finances. Nearly 75% of Americans with annual household incomes of less than $50,000 said they were at least somewhat concerned about their financial situation right now, compared to 63% with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more, according to a September survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education.

This marks a change over the last few months — in April, a similar survey from NEFE showed that financial stress was consistent for those on opposite ends of the spectrum. Now, the burden has shifted to lower income and minority families, whose wages and safety nets have been stretched further as the Covid-19 crisis continues.

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Even families that had an emergency cushion are probably seeing those funds getting low now, said Billy Hensley, PhD, president and CEO of NEFE.

"It's harder to make up for that the less you make," he said. "It's very troubling, and it will just continue the longer this goes on."

To make it through the pandemic, 74% of Americans have adjusted their personal finances, according to the NEFE survey, yet changes haven't been equal across the board. Eighty-six percent of Black and 74% of Hispanic people surveyed had made a financial adjustment, compared to 70% of White respondents.

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As the pandemic continues, it may be harder for the most vulnerable families to further cut back expenses, especially as they draw down any emergency savings. Still, there are actions that people can take to improve their financial standing, regardless of socioeconomic status.

1. Negotiate bills if possible

If it's not possible to cut back on essential expenses, there are other ways to lower monthly bills or at least gain some flexibility in payment, according to certified financial planner Lee Baker, owner and president of Apex Financial Services in Atlanta.

He recommends calling your bank and other creditors to see if there are any programs you could benefit from during the pandemic. Some credit card issues are offering flexible payments, or waiving late fees and interest because of the Covid-19 crisis. Borrowers may also be able to take advantage of mortgage forbearance programs that may lower or suspend monthly payments.

"We've been encouraging people to not leave any stones unturned — be proactive early on," said Baker, a member of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council.

2. Find a pro bono financial planner

If you feel overwhelmed by money and don't know where to begin, there are organizations that offer pro bono financial planning for those in need.

The Financial Planning Association offers free counseling for people who need emergency help due to Covid-19, and has advisors taking pro bono cases in many states.

If you feel that you've run out of choices, "definitely reach out to a pro bono planner," Dennis Moore, a CFPand chief operating officer of Dallas-based Quest Capital Management. "They'll help find ways to see what options are out there for them."

That could include anything from helping you organize your finances, making a plan to manage debt or assessing where to pull money from savings or retirement, said Moore.

In addition, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling has a number of resources to help people navigate money and housing during the pandemic, and the Foundation for Financial Planning has a Covid-19 resource center that includes free nonprofit financial experts to contact for advice.

3. Take advantage of free or low-cost resources

Increasing your financial literacy can help alleviate stress around money and help you better set yourself up for the future. Many organizations offer free or low-cost education sessions, said Hensley from NEFE.

NEFE has a free online program called Smart about Money that helps people learn the basics, according to Hensley. There are also local programs available across the country through United Way. And, AARP offers online education sessions for seniors, as well.

4.  Start building a plan for the future

Unfortunately, many families will continue to struggle financially through the coronavirus pandemic and recession, said Hensley. But eventually the crisis will subside and the economy will stabilize, putting many Americans back in better standing.

"It's hard to focus on tips when you're in a freefall," said Hensley. "But once you recover, create a plan for that, set goals."

He also said to accept that it may take time to rebuild your finances such as an emergency fund, especially if you had to draw from it during the pandemic.

"Don't beat yourself up if it's going to take a long time," he said. Don't be "discouraged by the fact that you had it, and you used it because you needed it."

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In-person learning is a luxury months into the coronavirus crisis

  • Months into the pandemic, students attending school in person are at an advantage.
  • For those without equal access to education, "this a profound tragedy with long-term consequences," said Vanderbilt Chancellor Daniel Diermeier.

Remote schooling remains a struggle for many families. Yet there is still a real risk in returning to the classroom.

As of a recent tally, 87% of institutions have combined in-person and virtual learning in response to the public health crisis, according to a report by the Institute of International Education that was based on data collected in July from more than 500 colleges and universities in the U.S. 

Now, months into the pandemic, the students who can learn in person are at an advantage, experts say.

The coronavirus outbreak laid bare how ill-prepared most schools had been when it came to remote learning. From grade school through graduate school, many institutions have struggled to provide the same level of education they did pre-Covid-19.

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Among students, most said the quality of their online classes in the spring was fair or poor, according to a survey by the nonprofit Junior Achievement USA.

Research by the Collaborative for Student Growth at NWEA, a national nonprofit that assesses learning, also found that school closures due to Covid-19 will likely result in substantially lower achievement levels. 

Still, reopening plans have varied nationwide, and now — halfway through the fall semester — some schools that initially reopened are closed and other schools that were closed have reopened for in-person learning.

At the college level, undergraduates voiced extreme dissatisfaction with remote learning, particularly at the same high cost they were previously paying for an in-person education.

Some have even taken their cases to court to argue that tuition should be lowered while they are studying from home. Tuition and fees plus room and board for a four-year private college averaged $49,870 in 2019-20; at four-year, in-state public colleges, it was $21,950, according to the College Board.

Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tennessee, was among the institutions sued by students after failing to refund a portion of tuition and fees from the spring semester. The university decided to reopen in the fall, and by most measures, the move was applauded.  

Students have been back on campus for over a month and the number of coronavirus cases remains low. According to the school's public dashboard, there is a 0.43% positivity rate among students compared to Tennessee's 6%.

"The bottom line is it's going exceedingly well," said Vanderbilt Chancellor Daniel Diermeier.

In addition to an ongoing dialogue with local health authorities and the capacity to do extensive testing and contract tracing, Diermeier credits the school's success to the strong message it sent to students early on to "step up."  

"We are counting on you," he said.  

Diermeier predicts more colleges and universities will reopen campuses in the spring as the stakes get higher for schools and students.

The institutions that remain remote risk undermining the value education provides to this generation, he cautioned.

"Education is a ticket to a different life, and we are not providing that right now," Diermeier said.

"This a profound tragedy with long-term consequences."

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Harris says GOP push to end Obamacare means ‘They’re coming for you.' How to make sure you stay insured

  • The Affordable Care Act is at risk.
  • People are losing their health insurance at work.
  • Here's how to stay covered during these uncertain times.

During the vice presidential debate on Wednesday night, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., had a warning: "If you have a preexisting condition — heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer — they're coming for you," Harris said. "If you love someone who has a preexisting condition, they're coming for you. If you are under the age of 26 on your parents' coverage, they're coming for you."

Of course, Harris was referring to President Donald Trump's efforts to strike down the Affordable Care Act. The law bans insurers from denying coverage or charging more to people with preexisting conditions, which some 1 in 4 Americans report having. 

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law on March 23, 2010, also required insurers to cover dependents until their 26th birthday.

In a statement, Ken Farnaso, deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign, denied that the president would leave millions of Americans without health insurance. 

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"President Trump has fought to safeguard patients with pre-existing conditions, lower prescription drug prices, lower premiums, and will always put the health of patients first," Farnaso said. 

Yet it may make sense to heed Harris' words of caution.

The Supreme Court is soon slated to hear oral arguments in a case seeking to overturn the law, commonly known as Obamacare, in November after the presidential election. As many as 30 million people could be stripped of their insurance if the law was cancelled. 

And even without those losses, the coronavirus pandemic has caused the ranks of the uninsured to swell. Amid historic levels of unemployment, as many as 12 million Americans may have lost their health insurance since February, according to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute. 

Finding coverage while the ACA is still in place 

Many people who've been laid off are in a fragile state, said Caitlin Donovan, a spokesperson for the National Patient Advocate Foundation. Trying to get re-insured can feel overwhelming, she said, but it's important to move quickly. 

"The last thing you want to do is remain uninsured," Donovan said. 

You want to first talk with someone in your company's human resources department to understand when your coverage technically ends. There's no blanket rule, she said: "For some, coverage may end immediately; for others, it may go until the end of the month.

"Either way, you should immediately start planning to transition to a new plan," she added. 

If you've been furloughed, an increasingly common circumstance amid the public-health crisis, there's a chance your coverage will not end. If your employer is allowing you to stay on the group plan while you're not working, you should still ask how it is handling the employee contribution, said Colleen Carey, a health-care expert and assistant professor at Cornell University. 

Some companies have said furloughed employees don't have to pay their premiums while they're out of work, which makes sense, experts say, since they're not receiving a paycheck from which the company can deduct the monthly payment. However, expect to have to pay those premiums when and if you're brought back to your job, Carey said. 

Navigating the health insurance landscape on your own can be stressful and confusing. There are resources you can turn to for help. 

If you have a diagnosed condition, including cancer, lupus or diabetes, you may be able to get support deciding on and enrolling in a plan with the National Patient Advocate Foundation, Donovan said.

You can also consult with a local health-care "navigator." 

Generally, newly laid off and uninsured people will have three ways to get coverage: through COBRA, on the Affordable Care Act subsidized marketplace (for now) or by enrolling in a public plan like Medicaid or Medicare. In some cases, if your spouse still works at a job that offers family coverage, you can request to join their group health plan, said Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Keep in mind you'll typically have to do this within 30 days.

COBRA, or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, allows people who work at companies with 20 or more employees to pay to continue their workplace insurance plan for certain periods of time. The option is pricey – $600 a month, on average – because you're now shouldering the cost of the entire plan.

"Most people find this option to be too expensive without their employer subsidies," Donovan said. However, she pointed out that if you have a Health Savings Account, you can dig into it for your COBRA premiums. Under this option, you also don't have to fret about meeting a new plan's deductible or losing your current doctors. 

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You have 60 days from the loss of your job to sign up for COBRA, Carey said. And because the coverage will be retroactive to when you were laid off, if you're in-between jobs, you could wait and see if you need care, and only enroll in COBRA if you find you do, Carey said. 

If you take this route, however, proceed with caution.

"The person should make sure they know the price of COBRA, and have that money set aside," Carey said, adding that they should also understand the exact enrollment steps should they need to quickly take them. 

For many people, the ACA marketplace will provide more affordable options. 

"Depending on where you live, you can access either the federal marketplace or your state marketplace," Donovan said. "Losing your job will qualify you for a special enrollment period for either option." The enrollment window online at lasts 60 days. 

Still, some plans on the marketplace will be costly, especially if you're newly unemployed. Because the subsidies are based on annual income, someone who makes a good living and is only out of work for a short time may find it difficult to qualify for them, Carey warned. Also: Any unemployment benefits you're receiving could be counted when applying for subsidies on the marketplace, Pollitz said. 

To figure out if you can afford a given plan on the marketplace, Donovan recommends asking yourself these questions: 

  • What is the maximum you can spend per month on a premium?
  • Do you have any predictable health-care expenses, like regular medications you take or appointments you need to keep? 
  • Then, evaluate how much a given plan will cost you, not just the premium, but the co-pays, deductibles and co-insurance expenses, too.

Confused? Here are some definitions:

  • Deductible: how much you'll have to shell out before a plan's coverage kicks in.
  • Co-pays: the fixed amount you'll pay for health-care services after you've paid your deductible.
  • Co-insurance: the percentage you'll still be on the hook for with covered services after your deductible is paid. 

The National Patient Advocate Foundation has a calculator to help you determine what your costs on the ACA marketplace will be. 

If you have certain doctors you don't want to give up seeing, find out if they'll accept a new plan before you sign up for it. Another option is to ask your current doctor if she would consider joining the provider network of your new health plan, Pollitz said. Still, she added, "whenever you change health coverage, there's a chance you might need to change doctors." 

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Many jobless Americans will turn to Medicaid. One of the main ways that the ACA sought to expand coverage is by opening eligibility for the program. 

"Medicaid has zero premiums in most states so, if cost is a problem, Medicaid should be the preferred option," Carey said. 

She pointed out another benefit: "Medicaid eligibility is based on monthly income so even a short-run decline in income should make someone eligible for Medicaid for those months." (Still, collecting unemployment may impact your eligibility.) 

If you were on your employer's plan and are over the age of 65, now might be the time to sign up for Medicare. There are time limits for this, as well.

Keep in mind that other options, including short-term health insurance plans and Christian ministry plans, are not regulated by the ACA. That means they do not have to cover essential services and can cap their benefits, potentially leaving you with an enormous bill if you're hospitalized.

In most cases, you shouldn't wait until you're employed again to get health insurance coverage. 

"You can always cancel your plan if you get a new job," Donovan said. "But most people don't know when that will be." 

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Ruby Tuesday joins list of companies seeking bankruptcy protection. What to do if your own business is struggling

  • If a struggling business has little or no debt and few assets, it could simply dissolve.
  • When financial obligations become unmanageable, there are different bankruptcy options that may make sense.
  • Sometimes, the business and the owner(s) file for bankruptcy because the debt was personally guaranteed.

For some small-business owners, watching their larger peers file for bankruptcy may do little to ease fears about their own financial solvency.

With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to take a toll on the economy, Ruby Tuesday has become the latest large restaurant chain to seek protection under the U.S. bankruptcy code. While many of its restaurants will close, others will remain open as the company restructures its business. Meanwhile, California Pizza Kitchen, which announced its bankruptcy filing in July, has now canceled its planned auction after no bidders came forward and is turning ownership over to its lenders, according to published reports.

While restaurants have taken a beating during the pandemic perhaps more so than some other industries due to earlier closures and reopening with limited capacity in most places, other businesses aren't immune to the effects of the current economic downturn.

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Of course, large companies aren't the only ones that can file for bankruptcy. And, going that route is not the only option for a struggling business — a firm could, for instance, just dissolve if it has  little or no debt and few assets.

However, those with obligations that become unmanageable may discover bankruptcy is the best way to move forward. 

Chapter 11 vs. Chapter 7

First, if you expect your business to remain viable in the long-term but need relief from creditors now, a new option under Chapter 11 may be appropriate. This path allows a firm to remain operational and, generally speaking, renegotiate its debt and repay over a set amount of time, as well as take other steps to return to profitability.

Called Subchapter 5, this route — it took effect in February — is for businesses with debt below a certain threshold (with some limitations). From now through next March, that cap is about $7.5 million. (Recently passed legislation raised it from $2.7 million for one year.)

This option is intended to make the bankruptcy process faster and less expensive for small businesses. It eliminates some costs and paperwork requirements, as well as allowing owners to retain their interest in the business, among other differences from typical Chapter 11 cases.

Nevertheless, a Subchapter 5 filing still comes with a hefty price tag: about $10,000 to $50,000, depending on the complexity of the case, said Stuart Gold, managing partner at Gold, Lange & Majoros in Southfield, Michigan. The filing fee itself is $1,717.

Before you get to the point of filing, however, you should consult with a bankruptcy professional to ascertain if that's the best choice.

"You want to make sure you have a viable business that can survive and is in need of relief to warrant the fees," Gold said.

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Meanwhile, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy involves a trustee liquidating the filer's assets and trying to  pay off creditors.

While this is a common route for individuals, it may not be suitable for a business  because it won't erase the firm's debt, said Cara O'Neill, a legal editor for and bankruptcy and litigation attorney in Roseville, California.

"Most business owners are concerned primarily with getting out from under their liability for business debt, and that's better done using a personal Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 filing," O'Neill said.

Personal guarantees

Even if your business is its own legal entity and kept separate from your personal finances, owners who provided a personal guarantee on their business debt are still on the hook even if the company goes into bankruptcy.

In that case, the way to potentially avoid your personal assets being seized — i.e., your house, car, savings, etc. — is to also file for personal bankruptcy. 

"That happens all the time," said Charles Bullock, a bankruptcy attorney and a founder of Stevenson & Bullock in Southfield, Michigan.

"It could be a medium-sized business where the ownership group has been forced to guarantee debt, or an individual owner where the debt is overwhelming," Bullock said. "We'll see both the individual and the corporation file bankruptcy to get a fresh start or [stop] collection of any debt."

Filing as an individual

Most individuals file under either Chapter 7 or 13, which have filing fees of a few hundred dollars, and enlisting an attorney can add $1,200 to about $3,500, depending on where you live and the complexity of your case.

Both methods stop collection activity like calls from creditors or debt collectors, wage garnishments and, potentially, lawsuits from creditors. (Court judgments already in place are trickier to get rid of in bankruptcy, as are some other types of debt including student loans.)

However, there are differences in who qualifies and how debt is treated in each option. Chapter 7 generally is for people who lack enough income to repay their debt and have little in the way of assets. It also is the most common way to file individual bankruptcy.

This approach quickly erases many forms of debt, including  credit cards, medical bills, personal loans and, potentially, those personal guarantees. It does not, however, necessarily stop your car from being repossessed or prevent home foreclosure.

Chapter 13 generally gives you three to five years to pay back certain debt and keep the asset, for example, a house or car. It also prevents creditors from garnishing your wages or putting a levy on your bank account. For this filing option, you must have income, and your debt (both secured and unsecured) must be below a certain amount (about $1.6 million total).

For individuals with debt above that threshold, Chapter 11 might be the best choice. This is the least commonly used option for individuals.

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Major insurers are still waiving fees for Covid-19 telehealth visits

If you're worried about Covid-19 and want to virtually check in with your doctor following news of President Donald Trump's positive test, there's good news: Many major insurance companies are still waiving fees for such visits.

Telehealth, or doctor visits done by video or telephone, have surged in popularity amid the coronavirus pandemic as a means to protect both patients and physicians. In light of this, major insurance providers, such as Cigna, UnitedHealth, Anthem and Aetna, which is owned by CVS Health, this spring waived cost-sharing for members seeking treatment including telehealth coverage for visits related to Covid-19.

At the beginning of October, some insurers, including Anthem and UnitedHealth, changed parts of their telehealth policies, meaning that some members may have to start paying for virtual appointments, depending on their plan.

However, the changes generally do not apply to virtual visits related to Covid-19, so such appointments will not carry any out-of-pocket costs for now.

Fees for these telehealth services won't be waived forever.

Cigna has cancelled out-of-pocket costs for virtual visits related to Covid-19 through Oct. 31, and UnitedHealth's wavier on telehealth visits for the virus goes through Oct. 22.

To be sure, these timelines generally refer to employer plans — for those in Medicare plans, cost-sharing has been waived by many major insurers for most types of visits through the end of the year.

For those who want to get tested for Covid-19 or want to visit a doctor in-person for treatment, costs may be waived for a longer period, depending on your insurance carrier and individual plan.

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To get more information about what types of visits, testing and treatments for Covid-19 are covered by your plan, it's best to check your insurance provider's resource center, or call your employer or benefits administrator.  

President Trump announced in a tweet early Friday morning that he and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the virus and would begin to quarantine immediately. Trump was experiencing "mild symptoms" after his positive test, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters later Friday morning.

There are more than 7.28 million coronavirus cases in the U.S., according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. So far, more than 207,000 Americans have died due to the disease. 

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Millions of Americans may not be able to pay their rent in October. What to do if you're one of them

  • The coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult for many Americans to generate income and, as a result, pay their rent.
  • As many as 35 million people in the U.S. could face eviction.
  • Here's what to do if you're at risk of losing your home.

Jasmine Johnson is constantly afraid of being evicted from her house in St. Paul, Minnesota. The single mother of five children, all under the age of 13, hasn't been able to earn enough during the pandemic to stay caught up on her $1,350 rent. 

First, the daycare where she worked slashed her hours. Recently, she was re-hired at a family shelter as a client advocate, but has now come down with symptoms of the coronavirus and needs to quarantine. 

"I'd have to call shelters to be on the waiting list," Johnson, 31, said. "But you don't know when your name will come up.

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"It's really hard to be homeless with five kids," she added. "It's going to be cold out." 

The coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult for many Americans to generate income and, as a result, pay their rent. As many as 34 million people in the U.S. may be at risk of eviction, according to a new analysis by global advisory firm Stout Risius Ross. Around 1 in 6 renters were behind on their payments in September. That pattern is likely to continue in October.

"The United States is facing the most severe housing crisis in history," said Emily Benfer, an eviction expert and a visiting professor of law at Wake Forest University.

At risk of eviction? 

Most tenants struggling to pay their rent will be allowed to stay in their homes until the end of the year, thanks to an announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month that made evictions for nonpayment illegal. 

You'll need to attest on a declaration form that you meet a few requirements, such as expecting to earn less than $99,000 a year in 2020. Documentation usually won't be required. 

"If a tenant cannot pay the rent, they should provide the declaration to their property owner as soon as possible," Benfer said. 

Try to give the form to your landlord in person and make sure to keep a copy for yourself. 

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Unfortunately, some landlords appear to be misinterpreting or ignoring the CDC's ban and continuing to file evictions anyway. 

Jim Baker, executive director of the Private Equity Stakeholder Project, has identified more than 3,500 new eviction cases filed by corporate landlords since the moratorium was announced on Sept. 1. 

"These evictions by private equity firms and other corporate landlords threaten the health of their residents and the broader public," Baker said. 

Another problem is that states are interpreting the CDC ban inconsistently. (For example, the CDC doesn't say anything about renters needing to provide documentation to prove that they qualify for the protection aside from the declaration form  but, in Maryland, evidence may be required.) 

If you're facing an eviction, you want to first try to understand what protections are available to you. In addition to the CDC ban, some states have issued their own rules around the proceedings.

Try to get a lawyer before your hearing. One study in New Orleans found that more than 65% of tenants with no legal representation were evicted, compared with fewer than 15% of those who did have a lawyer. 

Sometimes the paperwork you receive with your hearing date will have the contact information for legal services in your area. If not, you should be able to find your agency online, said Alexis Erkert, a lawyer at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services. 

"The court may also be able to give people contact information," Erkert said. 

You can also find low-cost or free legal help with an eviction in your state at

No matter what — and whether it's by telephone, over video or in person — try to be present at your hearing, Erkert said. 

"A lot of tenants don't show up, which means they will get a default judgment against them," she added. "If they show up, many judges will at least give them extra time to move." 

Other options 

Meanwhile, at, you can search for community resources for people at risk of eviction. And some states and cities have funds allocated to help people stay in their homes. 

Arizona earmarked $5 million for that purpose. Residents in Delaware can apply for up to $1,500 in rental assistance. Similar relief measures were made available to those in Montana, Ohio, Iowa and New York.

If you're accepted for the assistance, make sure to let your landlord know right away. Many landlords are showing a willingness to work with tenants who ask for payment plans, experts add. 

Some tenants are using their credit cards to cover their rent. Few landlords or property managers accept plastic, so you'd have to find a third-party processor, such as Plastiq, Paypal or RadPad. 

"Their pitch is that you could pay them with a credit card and then they would mail a check to your landlord or send an electronic funds deposit," said Ted Rossman, an analyst at 

But this option should only be used in dire situations. The companies charge a fee (up to 2.85%, Rossman said), and then if you can't pay the credit card balance off immediately, you'll be dinged with interest. The average rate on a card is currently around 16%. 

Other ways to come up with rent can include borrowing from family and friends or from your retirement plan, Rossman said. 

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