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25 Investigates: What to do if you’re out of work and awaiting unemployment benefits

BOSTON — The pandemic is wreaking economic havoc on Massachusetts families.

A recent poll (TransUnion’s poll of over 3,000 U.S. adults ) found nearly 80 percent of Americans are worried about paying bills.

Cheryl from Amesbury was laid off nearly a month ago and she still hasn’t been approved for unemployment.

“I haven’t received a phone call. No explanation why and it’s going on four weeks now,” she said. “I have a doctor’s appointment and medications I gotta buy for and it’s like, if I don’t have the money coming in, I can’t afford medications.”

MORE: 25 Investigates: Mass. residents still facing issues with state’s unemployment system

Experts recommend prioritizing your expenses. Essentials like food, rent, utilities and medication should come first.

Make a list of all your debts and recurring bills. Your credit report will help with that.

Rod Griffin is a consumer advocate with Experian, the nation’s largest credit bureau.

“Know what’s in that credit report, use it to contact your lenders, tell them that you’re being affected by COVID-19, and work with them to implement forbearance, deferment, or to add a statement or all three to your report that says you’re affected by a natural disaster, declared disaster,” said Griffin, senior director of consumer education and advocacy for Experian.

The new stimulus package also offers some credit protections.

If your account was in good standing prior to the global health crisis, banks and other financial institutions are not allowed to report missed payments until 120 days after the national emergency declaration ends.

What happens if someone needs unemployment assistance or help from the stimulus will that affect their credit score?

“You do not have to worry about unemployment affecting your credit history or your credit score. So please, don’t be afraid to take advantage of the tools that are being made available,” Griffin said.

Your credit may be not top of mind but it's important.

Don’t wait to take action. Let creditors know if you're going to be missing payments.

It may be hard to get through by phone, but worth it in the long run.


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