When you lose your job, unemployment benefits can help cover some of the financial losses. However, in many cases, the benefits are far below what you previously brought in as income. As a result, many households experience shortfalls. Where they simply don’t get enough money from unemployment to handle their expenses. Figuring out what to do can be a challenge. As taking a low-earning job may reduce your unemployment benefits. Leaving you in the same difficult situation. Luckily, there are alternatives. If you need to make up for unemployment shortfalls. Here are five ways to go about it.
1. Reexamine Your Medical Coverage
If your income fell significantly when you lost your job, but you initially chose to maintain your medical coverage through COBRA. You may want to reconsider. In some cases, households may qualify for Medicaid after a job loss. You can also lower cost plan through your state’s marketplace.
Now, it’s important to note that access to Medicaid isn’t based on your employment status. Instead, it’s purely income-based. Also unemployment benefits do count as income in these calculations. However, checking to see if you are eligible for this coverage is a smart move. It would let you eliminate the cost of insurance.
Similarly, if you don’t qualify for Medicaid but had a major income drop. You might be eligible for lower-cost coverage through your state’s marketplace. A job loss is a special circumstance. This allows you to check out options outside of the open enrollment period for a time. At a minimum, it doesn’t hurt to look.
2. Look for Relief Programs
If you were self-employed or working in certain sectors. A relief fund may have been created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Artist Relief and Freelancer Relief were both launched to help those who were negatively impacted by the coronavirus. At times, you may also find programs that target residents of specific cities or counties, such as the Harris County Relief Fund.
While those programs such as those may not always have funds available, others might. Additionally, if they gather new donations, they may reopen to applications, making all of them worth monitoring. Along with potential financial support, many of those groups also maintain large resource pages that could steer you to additional options.
3. Start a Side Hustle
In many states, you can earn some income and still have access to at least partial unemployment benefits. Exactly how much your unemployment is reduced would depend on the amount of money you make as well as the state where you live, as each state handles its own calculations. However, by reviewing what the reduction would look like, you may find a way to come out financially ahead.
By starting a side hustle, you may be able to maintain more control over your income level. This could allow you to bridge a financial gap while maintaining your unemployment benefits. With this approach, you may buy yourself more time, allowing you to find a new job that is a solid fit and provides you with enough income to make staying on unemployment unnecessary.
4. Rent Out a Room
In some states, income from renting out a room in your home doesn’t have to be reported on your weekly unemployment filings. While you want to contact your local unemployment office to confirm that applies to you, if it does, it could be an option for covering a shortfall.
Do keep in mind that finding a tenant may be more challenging. First, many people are still concerned about the coronavirus and may be wary of moving in with someone. Second, the pandemic has reduced interest in travel, so services like Airbnb may not be as lucrative or consistent as they once were.
Additionally, landlord-tenant law can apply, depending on the arrangement. Those rules can be complicated to navigate, so make sure you research the implications of going this route before you agree to let someone rent a room.
5. Look for Rental or Mortgage Assistance
While each program has its own rules and long-term implications, rental or mortgage assistance options may allow you to reduce your financial obligations, at least for a period. Even being able to skip a single payment could make a world of difference when you’re struggling with a shortfall, so it’s worth seeing what may be available.
Do keep in mind that mortgage programs through lenders usually come with financial obligations on the backend. For example, you may have to pay any skipped payments in a lump sum once you are no longer in a forbearance program. Even if loan modification options are available, qualifying may be a lot like applying for a mortgage in the first place, allowing your credit score, income level, and similar factors to impact your eligibility.
Competition for rental assistance funds can be fierce. However, there may be more programs available than you realize. Along with formal ones through state and local governments, charities, churches, and other groups may have support options as well.
Do you know of any other non-traditional ways to make up for unemployment shortfalls? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Tamila McDonald has worked as a Financial Advisor for the military for past 13 years. She has taught Personal Financial classes on every subject from credit, to life insurance, as well as all other aspects of financial management. Mrs. McDonald is an AFCPE Accredited Financial Counselor and has helped her clients to meet their short-term and long-term financial goals.