5 Financial Tips for the COVID-19 Era

COVID-19 has created a lot of emotional and financial uncertainty among people with cystic fibrosis and their families. Here are some tips to help with some of those challenges.

| 5 min read
Susanne’ Muenzel, LCSW

In this time of uncertainty, the one thing that I can say for sure is that none of us imagined that this year would be going like this. As a country, we went from a two-week social distancing request, to a stay-at-home request, to mandated orders … and we are still facing unusual circumstances more than three months later. Providers and care teams are now experiencing some of the “social distancing” our CF patients and families endure every. single. day.

As we all take on this new normal, life looks a bit different. Some are out of work. Some are out of school. Many are staying home 24/7 with nothing to do and nowhere to go. However you embrace the current state of the world - fear, hope, strength, anxiety - now, more than ever, we have to be willing to acknowledge and express our needs.

How is your stress level? How is your anxiety? Have you been feeling sad or depressed? Do you have enough food for you and your family? Do you have money to pay the bills?

Each of the families I have contacted have had different needs during this time. Some parents appreciated hearing a familiar voice on the other side of the phone. Some needed help with applying for pandemic unemployment. Some needed letters to provide to their employer verifying that they have a child at home with a serious health condition. And some needed help buying food or paying bills. As I heard the needs, I worked on providing support, connecting families to resources, and sharing tips.

One mom I spoke to felt stuck between working to make money, which she needed to pay the bills, and exposing her child to COVID-19. We talked through all the recommended precautions, which her employer did not follow. We discussed her priorities, keeping her family safe from illness, and next steps. She applied for unemployment, but it was denied as she did not meet the qualifications. She then applied for pandemic unemployment, which was approved. She also received a stimulus check. As none of us know how long this pandemic will last, I suggested making a plan for using the money that she received to pay ahead on her bills. And that is what she did! She paid three months ahead on her car insurance, electric bill, and rent. This has given her peace of mind as she knows the bigger bills are already paid.

There are so many who have been impacted by this pandemic. More families need help right now than ever before.

Reach out to your cystic fibrosis care team and have an open and honest discussion with what you and your family are currently experiencing. There are several agencies that are providing assistance during this time.

Here are a few helpful tips: 

Stretch your stimulus to the max. Use your stimulus payment to cover large expenses before they're due.

  • Determine what your largest expense is.
  • Pay rent, utilities, or car payments as many months in advance as possible.

Make a financial plan (budget) for your paychecks or unemployment payments.

  • Plan which bills you will pay each week. You can look up your due dates and see which bills you can pair together for the weekly payments.
  • Set up auto-pay if you can (this really helps me).
  • If you have any money left over, you can set up a separate savings account.

Find the resources to help you catch up on any back payments.

  • Ask companies what loans or payments you can get a deferment on due to COVID-19.
  • Just remember that you'll still need to make that payment eventually.

Stretch your food budget.

  • Have you applied for food stamps (EBT)?
    • You might not have heard this, but many states have raised the income limits for food stamps during the pandemic emergency. This means that even if you made too much money to qualify for food stamps before, you might get approved now.
    •  Also, the food stamps program (Pandemic EBT) has expanded to provide additional funding for school-aged children in the home.
  • Now is the time to use those coupons!
  • Compare food prices at different stores.
    • The dollar stretches a lot further at some stores.
  • If it is still difficult to have enough food to get through the month, check with your local food bank or church to get a little extra help; many have food boxes you can pick up. See what is available and then buy the any remaining items you need.

Ask your CF team.

  • Many times the social worker on your CF care team can connect you to the resources you need.
  • You can also contact CF Foundation Compass.  

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) is an organization that works to end poverty-related hunger in the U.S. I encourage you to check out FRAC's COVID-19 page for updates, statements, and resources on actions to address the food security, public health, and economic impacts of the COVID-19 emergency. Explore FRAC's Pandemic-EBT page, which tracks this new federal program across the country.

This site contains general information about cystic fibrosis, as well as personal insight from the CF community. Opinions and experiences shared by members of our community, including but not limited to people with CF and their families, belong solely to the blog post author and do not represent those of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, unless explicitly stated. In addition, the site is not intended as a substitute for treatment advice from a medical professional. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment.

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Susanne' started working with the cystic fibrosis center in Augusta, Ga. in September 2012, shortly after the introduction of Kalydeco®. She is very passionate about helping patients and families develop solutions to their problems and balance CF care with everyday life. Susanne' serves on the Access Steering Committee and the Food Security Committee with the CF Foundation. She is also a co-facilitator for the CF Social Work Mentor Program. In her spare time, Susanne' loves to learn, travel, and experience new things.

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