South Florida’s economy depends on tourism, and we also have a highly mobile local population that loves to travel. Orlando International Airport, Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale International Airport see more than 100 million passengers collectively every year.
With several cruise lines suspending operations, one of the biggest sectors at stake is Florida’s thriving cruise ship industry not only from Port of Miami, but from Port Everglades, Port Canaveral, Palm Beach, Tampa Bay, and Jacksonville. Billions of tourist dollars pay wages and provide jobs to South Floridians, so the impact might not simply be limited to missing a paycheck, but may extend to layoffs, and even some businesses having to close their doors.
The state has 217 cases of COVID19 as of March 18, but of deeper concern is the new virus’s fatality rate. While mortality among those between aged ten and 39 years of age are twice that of the standard flu infection, mortality increases exponentially for each age band above age 39.
Dollars and Lives
As we have seen with panic buying, there’s a huge flow of dollars going to supermarkets, big box stores, and other stores as people stock up. They need staff to keep the registers running and the shelves filled. A federal relief package is, at the moment, hypothetical though demands for cash relief for working people and mandatory paid sick days are on the table but only for payrolled workers.
While we practice social distancing and wash our hands, we also know that the clock is ticking for many businesses and individuals who might have been just making it before. Nothing stops the rent and bills from coming due.
When You’re On the Edge
Living from check to check doesn’t necessarily mean that you have enormous debt or any debt at all. Wages have failed to keep pace with the real expenses of daily life such as rent, transportation, groceries, medical care, and so on. Just because you’re scraping by doesn’t mean you’ve been profligate; it means that income has been relatively the same as outgo. You might have even needed to put a few emergencies on your credit card that it’s been hard to pay off. Unfortunately, coronavirus might be the push that sends many over the edge into Never-Catching-Up-Land.
“What Do I Do NOW?”
Now is the hard part. One thing that you can do is call your creditors and tell them that you have been laid off/closed your business/are in quarantine and need some help. Credit card companies may be willing to work with you and many offer a hardship plan that can lower your interest, reduce your payment, and also reduce or eliminate fees and penalties.
You might see a dip in your score after this, but it can take lots of payments until your creditors are reassured that you’re on the road to better financial health.
But when you’re in over your head and have no paid time off – a situation that millions of workers share – you may need to take more drastic action to halt collection actions, and that means bankruptcy.
Getting Past the B Word
Bankruptcy is a right authorized by Congress. It is designed to allow one to either walk away from or reorganize insurmountable debts that impair your ability to pay your rent and cover the expenses of daily living. Filing for bankruptcy immediately invokes something called the automatic stay. This legal operation immediately suspends all collection activity and gives you the breathing room you need to put your finances in order. Filing for bankruptcy also means that you will receive credit counseling, and learn how to manage finances and income.