Dollar, Dollar Bills Y’all: Resources for Paying Bills During COVID-19

The past few days have been somewhat of a whirlwind.

Just last week we felt the temperatures rising, felt the days getting longer in a good way. Our group chats were getting sent all the concerts and parties that were coming up and we couldn’t wait to attend. Now many of us now left anxious, confused and worried about how COVID-19 will affect our daily lives for the next month or two.

Finances are a major concern for numerous people in my social circles, both virtual and IRL. I am 50% a freelance writer and 50% a service worker; being a creative means that the two go hand-in-hand. Restaurants are cutting shifts or closing doors due to the lack of patrons and freelancers are flooding editor inboxes with the pitches they’ve been drafting for weeks. Everyone is trying to keep afloat while also staying prepared but that also means money is going out and not coming in as frequently as it was before. Bills still need to get paid and the hustler in me immediately went looking for ways to help people do that.

As of Thursday night, many cell phone carriers, internet providers and utility companies are offering ways to help their customers during this time. I am not hyping up these companies for doing the bare minimum, but I am happy that they decided to offer assistance in the ways they have to help ease some of the financial pressure that many will soon be under.

I’ll keep this list updated with resources and information as they come available (in between binge-watching episodes of Living Single). You should feel free to reach out to me via social media if you find a resource you want me to do some research on!


Cell Phone / Internet Bill Payment

Sprint Customers

The Lowdown

  • No service termination (disconnection) for customers unable to pay due to Coronavirus.
  • Waiving late fees incurred due to economic circumstances surrounding the pandemic.
  • If you currently have payment arrangements that you won’t be able to meet, please call Sprint Customer Service to get more information.

Time Range:

  • Began Friday, March 13, 2020, and will be in effect for the next 60 days, the equivalent of two billing cycles.

How to Redeem:

  • You don’t have to do anything to redeem the above. Your account will be adjusted on its own, BUT feel free to reach out to Sprint Customer Service if you want verbal confirmation and peace of mind.

Extras:

  • Customers with metered data plans will receive unlimited data per month for 60 days (a minimum of two bill cycles) at no extra cost.
  • Sprint will provide customers with an additional 20GB of mobile hotspot data per month for 60 days (a minimum of two bill cycles) at no extra cost.
  • The above will go into effect by Thursday, March 19, 2020.

Contact:

Verizon Customers

The Lowdown:

  • No service termination (disconnection) for customers unable to pay due to Coronavirus.
  • Waiving late fees incurred due to economic circumstances surrounding the pandemic.
  • If you currently have payment arrangements that you won’t be able to meet, please call Verizon Customer Service to get more information.

Time Range:

  • Began Friday, March 13, 2020, and will be in effect for the next 60 days, the equivalent of two billing cycles.

How to Redeem:

  • You don’t have to do anything to redeem the above. Your account will be adjusted on its own BUT feel free to reach out to Verizon Customer Service if you want verbal confirmation and peace of mind.

Contact:

T-Mobile Customers

The Lowdown:

Time Range:

  • Began Friday, March 13, 2020, and will be in effect for the next 60 days which is equivalent to two billing cycles.

How to Redeem:

  • You don’t have to do anything to redeem the above. Your account will be adjusted on its own BUT feel free to reach out to T-Mobile Customer Service if you want verbal confirmation and peace of mind.

Extras:

  • T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile customers will have an additional 20GB of mobile hotspot/tethering service for the next 60 days.
  • The above has no set date to go into effect but T-Mobile says it’s “Coming soon”.

Contact:

AT&T Customers

The Lowdown:

Time Range:

  • Began Saturday, March 14, 2020, and will be in effect for the next 60 days which is equivalent to two billing cycles.

How to Redeem:

  • You don’t have to do anything to redeem the above. Your account will be adjusted on its own BUT feel free to reach out to AT&T Customer Service if you want verbal confirmation and peace of mind.

Extras:

  • All AT&T consumer home internet wireline customers, as well as Fixed Wireless Internet, can use unlimited internet data.
  • Their public Wi-Fi hotspots will remain open.

Contact:

Comcast Xfinity Internet Customers:

The Lowdown:

Time Range:

  • Began Saturday, March 13, 2020, and will be in effect for the next 60 days which is equivalent to two billing cycles.

How to Redeem:

  • YOU MUST CONTACT COMCAST and let them know you can’t pay the bill during this period. Their care teams will be available to offer flexible payment options and can help find other solutions.

Extras:

Contact:


Utility Companies

Utility companies, and their response to the financial hardships that COVID-19 may put on their customers, vary from state to state. I suggest going to the website of your gas company, electric company, and water company providers to get more information. Many will have a banner on their homepage with a click-through link to give you more information. Many are suspending disconnections, waiving late fees and etc during this time.

YOU CAN ALSO ALWAYS CALL AND ASK TO SPEAK TO SOMEONE. Many utility companies also offer a text chat option, which I often go for so that I can have tangible evidence of my conversation later should I need it in case a dispute arises.

You can shoot me a DM over on Twitter with a link to your cities utility companies’ websites and let me know if they are offering COVID-19 hardship help. I’ll add anything that gets sent to me here on this list.

Colorado

  • City of Longmont -The City will not disconnect a customer’s utility services until further notice. (Updated March 18, 2020)

Illinois

  • ComEd — Suspending disconnects & waiving new late payment charges at least through May 1, 2020. (Updated March 14, 2020)
  • Peoples Gas — No COVID-19 financial hardship information released. (Updated March 14, 2020)
  •  Nicor Gas — Suspending disconnects due to non-payment through May 1, 2020 (Updated March 14, 2020

Michigan

  • DTE Energy — Suspending non-payment shut-offs for low-income customers and seniors through at least April 5, though they acknowledge that could be extended depending on the trajectory of the virus outbreak. (Updated March 15, 2020)
  • Consumers Energy — Suspending shut-offs for low-income customers through ending April 5. Details on Consumers’ payment assistance program on their website. (Updated March 15, 2020)

Maryland

  • BGE – Suspending disconnects & waiving new late payment charges at least through May 1, 2020 (Updated March 18, 2020)

Nevada

  • NV Energy – Suspending disconnects & waiving new late payment charges (Updated March 18, 2020)

Texas

  • Austin Energy – Currently suspending both residential and commercial disconnects. (Updated March 18 2020)

Student Loan Payments

It was announced on Friday that as part of the national emergency declaration, interest on all student loans held by the federal government have been waived until further notice.

There are still a tremendous amount of unanswered questions concerning future student loan payments due to COVID-19. More information is rolling out and I wouldn’t suggest calling your respective loan servicer for more information as of yet. You’ll likely end up with long holding times and end your call more frustrated than when you began.

Keep a lookout in your inboxes. Information and answers are certain to come by week’s end.

New York


Rent

Many people are already living paycheck to paycheck monthly, and they are using at least one of those checks to pay the rent. During this crisis, employees are being sent to work from home while others are simply sent home. Worrying about how to pay for housing during the time of COVID-19 is one of the top concerns. Los Angeles, Boston and most recently Seattle have joined other cities in halting residential evictions for at least 30 days during the pandemic.

That means landlords in those cities cannot evict a tenant due to non-payment of rent, and they have put a hold on the evictions that were already in process. They can still, however, evict tenants for other issues not concerning non-payment.

There is nothing out currently that helps those who aren’t necessarily in danger of being evicted but who are just concerned about paying rent as soon as next month. There are online petitions being started and Reddit threads going on trying to get the attention of governments to waive rent during the pandemic as many aren’t able to work due to all the closures and the encouraged social distancing to help stop spreading the virus.

You can take action yourself with your landlord. I suggest communicating via text or email (to have a paper trail) and explaining your situation. Being upfront before your financial situation gets too bad is best. Ask what the options are concerning paying rent, see if you can come to a mutual agreement on waiving rent or paying a reduced rate, and also most importantly speak about the future. Ask if your rent will accrue if you can’t pay (meaning if you will have to pay the back rent when things return to normalcy) or if your rent will be waived and start fresh once things start to settle.

Look at your finances, be honest about what you can pay and don’t promise more than what you can do. If you have roommates speak candidly (and kindly) with each other about rent so there are no surprises and that you go in together.

No matter the outcome of your conversation, be sure to get SOMETHING IN WRITING FROM YOUR LANDLORD. If they prefer to have a conversation over the phone just request if you can have also get email on what you’ve settled on (even if it is in the negative). You can even offer to draft something up so they don’t have to do the work.

I know it’s difficult, but try your hardest to stay calm and keep up to date on what your city/state/country is doing about rents and mortgages.


Insurance

Lastly, should you feel as though you have the symptoms of COVID-19 — how do you go about paying for and receiving medical care?

If you have insurance through your job or anywhere else, call your provider. Visit their site (many have a dedicated COVID-19 page) and ask all questions you need to get information about what is covered.

Some insurances, including Medicare or Medicaid, are waiving the copays and other costs of the test, but not the treatment. If you are uninsured you may be charged at the rate set by the doctor or office you have chosen to visit.


“People will always show you who they are if you just let them,” is something my mama always says that sticks with me, especially in times of anxiety, panic or need. I may not be able to help everyone directly financially as much as I’d like, but I hope this shows you how much I care about you and all those in our community.

I’ll be updating this list as often as I can (with your help) with more resources and information concerning various forms of financial hardship help during COVID-19.

Love you all lots!

— Shelli

Shelli Nicole is a Detroit-raised, Chicago-based friendly black hottie whose work on race and culture has appeared in Bustle, HelloGiggles & Missbehave Magazine. Follow her on Twitter (@HiShelli) for fiery emotions & Instagram (@AyoShelli) for fire selfies.

Shelli has written 16 articles for us.

10 Comments

  1. 211.org or dial 211:

    This United Way resource aggregator can help you find resources in your area in a number of ways. Call / go online, and they will help guide you to what you’re looking for. Long call times these days, though.

    Employment / Unemployment

    Basic Human Needs Resources – including food and clothing, shelters, housing, utility assistance.

    Disaster Response and Recovery – works with the emergency management team during a disaster to offer support and place for dissemination of information.

    Mental Health and Health Resources – including counseling, support groups, drug and alcohol treatment, health insurance programs, Medicaid and Medicare, maternal health resources, health insurance programs for children, medical information lines, clinics, and hospitals.

    Employment Supports – including job training, employment services, transportation assistance and education programs.

    Older Adults and Persons with Disabilities – including adult day care, community meals, respite care, home health care, transportation and homemaker services.

    Children, Youth and Family Support – including child care, after school programs, educational programs for low income families, family resource centers, and recreation programs, mentoring, tutoring and protective services.

    Volunteer Opportunities and Donations – Individuals who wish to donate time, goods or money to community organizations can find this information by dialing 211.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.