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Valley financial expert has advice for workers impacted by COVID-19

(Getty Images/Kevork Djansezian)

PHOENIX — A Valley financial adviser has some tips for the tens of thousands of Arizona residents who are struggling financially due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“For anyone who has been impacted, the first thing is to apply for unemployment benefits,” Jill Emanuel, a financial coach with Fiscal Fitness Phoenix, told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“If they were initially denied, I would still reach back out.”

She said it’s possible some people were denied because they applied before Congress passed a massive relief package that expanded the list of who’s eligible for unemployment benefits. Among those added to the list were part-time workers, contractors and gig workers like Uber drivers.

Benefits were also expanded to workers affected by the coronavirus, including those who were quarantined, were furloughed or left work to care for a family member.

Last week, more than 129,000 people in Arizona applied for unemployment benefits, according to the Arizona Department of Economic Security. That’s up from about 89,000 the previous week.

The weekly average before the coronavirus hit was 3,500 unemployment claims.

In total, nearly 250,000 people in Arizona have applied for unemployment benefits in less than a month.

Emanuel said anyone trying to file an unemployment claim will likely be on the phone for several hours.

“I know the phone systems have been crashing because there are so many people reaching out at once trying to apply,” she said.

In addition to filing an unemployment claim, Emanuel said she recommends coming up with an emergency budget.

“So figuring out is there anything that they can pause?” she said. “Are there things that they can cancel that they’re no longer using?”

“Can they look at how much they’re spending on groceries and see if possibly they can scale it back a little bit?” she added.

Another step Emanuel recommends that people take is seeing if they can defer payments without getting penalized, such as student loans and car payments.

She also encourages those in need to reach out to charities and groups offering assistance with expenses like food and utility bills.

“Tap into all of those resources first before saying, ‘I’m going to take out a new credit card and start putting things on it or I’m going to go get a payday loan,’” she said.

“Use those as an absolute last resort.”

Emanuel added applying for a job at places with high demand could help temporarily. She noted grocery stores, food-delivery services and online marketplaces like Amazon are very busy and in need of workers.

“There are definitely opportunities to make some money while you’re furloughed or laid off temporarily before everything picks back up,” she said.

 

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

 

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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