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With Sunday being one of hope for Christians, as well as for several other faiths, and all of us facing the most terrible health attack since 1918, this Easter column examines a few more ways we can help save our homes and help stave off the financial Boogieman.

The pandemic is causing both many layoffs and driving a crippling collision upon our economy. In fact, over 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the outbreak began.

While much advice has come down the pipeline about assistance with bills when faced with temporary or worse — permanent — unemployment, it's imperative to figure out how to save our homes. Now more than ever, our homes are our refuge. Whether renters or homeowners, and regardless of circumstances, I believe we must stand up for ourselves and try to find workable solutions. In fact, I've discovered over the years that communication — written and/or oral — is the fundamental tactic to help resolve thorny situations of any kind. Try the following negotiations:

* COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is the frightening monster hiding around the next corner for the vast majority of Americans; therefore, we must be proactive in the event any one of us contract the virus. While the federal government has ordered mortgage lenders to be flexible with homeowners financially affected by the pandemic, relief for renters is uncertain. Plus, landlords likely won't benefit from the breaks afforded to traditional mortgage borrowers, making it harder to pass on relief to their tenants. If you rent your abode, don't just ignore Linda Landlady.

If she or the management company doesn't know your place of employment has shut its doors or, perhaps, you've been furloughed with no pay. Pick up the phone. Assuming you've been a good tenant, the landlord/lady/company may negotiate, at least to allow you to pay late. Just don't expect deals like this to come along on a regular basis.

* Bartering is a tool mentioned over and over. Let's face it: this world often operates on a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" arrangement. Bartering is no different and why shouldn't we use our talents to help ourselves if the need occurs? (Of course, it's nice to use those talents to help others for free.) A few years ago, I offered my expertise as a proofreader/editor for newsletters and a web site to a local appliance store. In return, I received a brand-new dishwasher! We both came out ahead in money and in time. Think of ideas and talents you possess in exchange for a rental reduction or tardiness — before the fact, please. Abilities such as typing at home, snow-shoveling, web design, tutoring, even baby-sitting, among others, may afford you a financial break when you most need one.

Regrettably, we can't live on severance pay or unemployment benefits for long, especially if we're taking care of a family. The following three practical ways, compliments of Ken Coleman, the host of the nationally syndicated radio show, "The Ken Coleman Show," may help to make that monthly payment, at least until much of the crisis passes

* It's not what you know, it's who you know. My father's oft-used advice had stood me in good stead for most of my adult life so use your own connections to help move into another field, at least for the time being.

* If your particular industry is sidewinded, don't hesitate about checking into other situations, even if it means taking a lower salary for the foreseeable future.

* Start with those in your immediate circle who can help you link up to another field. Don't be shy with telling them about your soon-to-be visit to the poor house, especially as we would hope a real friend will want to help if the person is able. I've often said the absolute worst thing that can happen with a query is a simple "no."

* OK, maybe it's not who YOU know but, instead, who THEY know. Keep expanding your network; while it may take days or weeks, chances are you'll meet with at least some success. (And as one who knows the power of the pen — i.e., computer — dust off and spiff up that resume. After all, it speaks before you do.

* Be on the lookout for those industries that continue to experience high demand. For example, New York just last week sent out the call for any medical providers to quickly travel to New York City and other parts of the state to help with their flood of Coronavirus patients.

* Medical: Clinics and hospitals experiencing extra strain might be hiring support staff. No one needs an M.D. to answer phones or file paperwork. Moreover, telemedicine is also a growing industry that could utilize remote/contract administrative work during this time.

* Grocery: Stores and supermarkets are desperately trying to maintain employees by offering bonuses and protective measures in order to stay open and supplied during the pandemic. Stocking shelves, anyone?

* Cleaning services: Businesses must comply with CDC cleaning regulations to remain open; therefore, this field is wide open.

* Delivery services: Since most restaurants are offering to-go orders only, there's probably an increased demand for drivers and fulfillment services. In fact, a number of companies that shop for and deliver to folks are talking about a walk-out. Because of this alarm, folks interested in the industry are going to become essential.

As we virtually hold hands in the face of such a horrific worldwide catastrophe, we must remember we've overcome really unspeakable situations in the past and will do so again. We are Americans. We. Are. One.

* Tax tip: To claim a home-office deduction, you'll need to figure out what percentage of your home your office takes up. Once you have that info, you can deduct that percent of utilities, such as electricity and heat, as well as mortgage interest, property taxes, home insurance, security expenses, homeowner association fees, home repairs, and maintenance expenses. You can also deduct the full cost of a dedicated phone line into the office if you have one, and the full cost of work done on that room, such as painting it. An perfect example may be If you pay $10K for a new roof and your home office takes up 10 percent of the house, you may be able to deduct $1,000.

Contact Ellen Phillips at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com.

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Ellen Phillips

 

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