7 Moves to Make if Your Unemployment Just Ended

A woman wearing a hijab poses for a portrait.
Ameena Ahmed poses for a photo near her home on Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. After her work as a substitute teacher in New York City dried up, Ameena Ahmed got a $4,200 boost last summer in federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits.Then New York state started taking it back. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP Photo

Labor Day weekend marked a grim milestone for millions of people out of work due to the pandemic.

Unemployment benefits ended for about 7.5 million people after President Biden’s administration declined to ask Congress to extend federal benefits again. Another 3 million people lost a $300 weekly federal boost to state jobless benefits, though governors in 26 states had already withdrawn early from the program.

If your unemployment benefits just ended or got cut, don’t wait to take action. Here are seven steps to take ASAP.

7 Things to Do if Your Unemployment Just Got Cut

Expanded unemployment compensation has been a lifeline to millions of workers over the last year and a half. If you’re worried about how you’ll stay afloat, here’s what to do.

1. Look for a Job in an Industry That Hires Fast

If you’re still searching for employment, consider a bridge job. Basically, it’s any job that helps you pay the bills, even if it’s not your ideal job. Because many businesses are having trouble recruiting employees right now, you may be able to negotiate better wages than you could in pre-pandemic days in fields that don’t traditionally pay well.

Some places to look:

  • Data entry: Many industries need data-entry clerks and have fully remote positions. Typical pay ranges from $10 to $15 an hour. If you have solid typing skills, becoming a transcriptionist is another option.
  • Online tutoring: If you have a special skill or a college degree, getting an online tutoring job can help you bring in extra cash. Typical pay ranges from $10 to $27 an hour.
  • Food service, retail and hospitality. Across the country, employers in food service, retail and hospitality are holding job fairs, with many hiring on the spot and paying higher wages than they did in the past. For example, these 160,000 restaurant jobs pay over $10 an hour.

Also check out The Penny Hoarder’s work-from-home jobs portal, which regularly features remote entry-level listings.

2. Take up a Side Hustle

Your goal here is to find any way to start generating income before your benefits end. There are plenty of easy side hustles you can take on now with little upfront cost to start earning extra cash. Some ideas include:

  • Drive for Uber or Lyft. Ride-share companies Uber and Lyft have a driver shortage, making it possible for drivers to earn $25 an hour or more in some markets.
  • Do odd jobs on TaskRabbit. Use the app to connect with people near you who need help with tasks like furniture assembly, cleaning and painting.
  • Deliver groceries through apps like Instacart or Shipt.
  • Babysitting. Find gigs through sites like Care.com and SitterCity.
  • Pet sitting and house-sitting. As people resume travel, they’ll need services like pet care and house-sitting that weren’t in high demand last year.

3. Search for Rental Assistance

While the federal eviction moratorium expired Aug. 26, help is still available. Congress has allocated nearly $47 billion to help distressed renters — but getting a piece of that money is maddeningly complex. As Vox reported, more than 340 agencies are administering that aid, each with their own set of rules.

To learn more about relief in your area, check out this state-by-state guide to rental assistance programs. Another good resource is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rental assistance page. You may also qualify for help with utilities and energy costs.

The 211 helpline, which is operated by the United Way, may also be able to help you navigate local assistance programs. You simply dial 211, and you’ll be connected with someone who knows about resources in your community. Because of the lengthy process involved, it’s essential that you take this step ASAP.

4. Get Food Assistance

The 211 hotline can also connect you with food pantries near you. Also visit benefits.gov to determine whether you’re eligible for SNAP benefits. It can take up to 30 days to receive benefits through the regular application process, but you may qualify for expedited benefits, depending on your state.

5. Contact Your Unemployment Office

You may still be eligible for your state’s unemployment benefits, but the rules will vary by state. Most states have a limit on how long you can receive benefits.

As difficult as dealing with your state’s unemployment office can be, it’s essential that you contact them immediately to find out whether you’ll qualify for state assistance. In some cases, you may need to submit a new application or apply for an extension.

6. Ask Your Creditors for Forbearance

Though banks aren’t widely advertising forbearance programs the way they were a year ago, contact your lenders to see if skipping or pushing back payments is an option. The best time to do this is always before you’ve missed a payment.

Be sure to ask how they’ll report your payment status to the credit bureaus. If they’ll be reporting your payments as delinquent, your credit score will plummet.

If you have federal student loans, take advantage of the automatic forbearance that’s in effect through at least Jan. 31, 2022. You can ask for a refund of any payments you’ve made since March 2020.

7. Don’t Pay Debt if You’re Putting Your Health or Housing at Risk

A bare-bones budget includes only your basic necessities: housing and utilities, food, health care and minimum debt payments. But in a true emergency, you may have to make even deeper cuts.

Try to work with your lenders. But focus on paying rent and utilities, keeping food on the table and getting medications you need before you make payments on credit cards or loans.

Yes, you’ll damage your credit score if you miss payments without your lender’s permission. But you can recover from bad credit. While your credit score is important, your health and housing are far bigger priorities.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].