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How to use your stimulus check, stay financially healthy during COVID-19

Will you qualify for a $1,200 COVID-19 stimulus check?
Posted at 4:00 AM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 08:12:59-04

KANSAS CITY, MO — Multiple national surveys found a majority of Americans were already living paycheck to paycheck before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Now people around the metro are also finding themselves out of work.

"Sadly with all this going down, both bars had to shut their doors for the time being," Patrick Ard, who lives in Kansas City, said of his workplaces.

Financial expert Doc Compton told the 41 Action News Investigators there is no better time than the present to examine your budget.

"If you don't have one, you really need to get one at this point, especially if you had a decrease or total loss of income, because you're going to need to ration what you have available," Compton said.

The numbers already factoring into some budgets are the stimulus checks on the way.

"I'm probably going to either put it towards building a stronger nest egg or just invest it or donate part of it to charity," Jay Watkins, an essential worker who is still employed, said.

Others don't see the roughly $1,200 stretching very far.

"That's not even enough to cover, would barely cover one month's rent, and that's a one-time payment, and I'm out of work for who knows how long," Ard, who applied for unemployment, said.

For those unsure how they will make ends meet, Compton recommends contacting creditors now, before a payment is missed.

"The most important thing to do is communicate with your credit card company and talk to them about what options you may have in terms of suspending either your payments or the interest accruing," he explained.

When that stimulus check hits your account, try to pay off as much existing debt as you can so you can keep your credit score up.

"If you run out of cash, then you do have the credit cards to fall back on in an emergency," Compton said.

Refinancing your home is another option, but read the fine print when refinancing a car. Compton cautioned it could cost more in the long run as lenders must extend the note to lower your payments.

A bit of good news is that federal student loan payments are suspended until September, and no interest will accrue in the meantime.

You can find more information about credit card, mortgage and utility help here.

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