Local experts weigh in on financial advice during COVID-19 pandemic

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: March 31, 2020 06:33 PM

Finances are on everyone's mind right now with many losing their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. This makes it a challenging time with rent and mortgage payments coming up. Northland financial advisors and housing specialists are offering some advice to those struggling.


Property management companies and the HRA are reminding folks that these payments still need to be made, but are making adjustments to help people struggling to get that money to them.

The HRA for example, is advising people living in public housing and section 8 recipients to talk with their housing specialist as soon as possible. With changes happening to income from layoffs, people's rent payments may change.

"With public housing people only pay 30 percent of their income for rent so if anybody has experienced a layoff and a reduction in their income, they should contact their housing specialist right away so that we can process and make any changes to their rent so they don't end up paying more than they need to be paying," said Jill Keppers, the executive director of HRA in Duluth.

This step also applies to section 8 recipients. The HRA is also not charging late fees or sending eviction notices at this time, but remind people that they still need to get their payments in. They continue taking in and processing applications as well. 

"So if there's going to be a delay in them paying their rent, they won't receive an eviction notice. They are still responsible for paying their portion of the rent and so we don't want people to get behind. So it's really important to see if they can make arrangements to get their money order or get their payment to us," said Keppers.

"If you can, talk to your banker, talk to the person that you have a rent with. It's possible you might make interest only payments or the person you're paying rent to may take a partial payment," said Brian Liberty, the first vice president of investments for Liberty Wealth Management of Raymond James.

Northland banks like the National Bank of Commerce are aware of people struggling with finances and are looking at ways to also help their customers.

"Most of the community banks are waiving some fees, they're looking at amortizing loans or doing interest only payment referrals," said Steven Burgess, the CEO and president of the National Bank of Commerce.

Burgess said the bank has been swamped with phone calls from customers wondering what financial help is out there.

"Everybody's looking to see what type of aid is going to be available, what the government's going to be doing for payment assistance," said Burgess.

Financial advisors and bankers say if people can, they should try adding as much money to their savings account if possible, since it's unknown how long the pandemic will affect people's finances and income.

"Right now we're really recommending building a lot of cash in your savings accounts, make sure you can get by at least a year's worth, because this could take a while to recover. So some people may need two years worth of savings. We also recommend looking at all your expenses, hopefully you can cut some expenses that you really don't need that should save some money," said Liberty.


Alejandra Palacios

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