This article was written and originally posted by The Financial Diet in partnership with M&T Bank.

In such uncertain times, thinking about money is often the last thing you want to do.

By Holly Trantham

May 14, 2020

In such uncertain times, thinking about money is often the last thing you want to do. We totally get it — avoiding difficult topics is a coping mechanism, and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. The spread of COVID-19 is affecting all of us, especially those of us who don’t have the privilege of good health or gainful employment. But sometimes, the best thing you can do for your long-term wellbeing is to face a problem head-on. That’s why we’re partnering with The Financial Diet to bring you actually-useful money advice during a period of anxiety. 

When you’re in the middle of a crisis — whether or not it’s a global one — it can be easy to feel like you’re completely alone with your problems. But there are so many resources available, from financial assistance to educational tools. The trick is simply knowing where to look. To make it a bit simpler, we’ve compiled this list of essential resources that are available whenever you’re in crisis mode:

Hotlines and helplines

There are many mental health and emergency-related hotlines and helplines that you can call anytime when you need help during a crisis. Many of them existed well before the coronavirus outbreak and will exist long after, such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, The Trevor Project (a 24-hour suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth), the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and the Disaster Distress Hotline

You should also see what helplines your state is offering for mental health and emotional support during this time — I easily found New York state’s helpline here.

2. Talk to your bank 

During times of heightened fear and confusion, such as COVID-19, scammers are looking to gain access to your sensitive account information. Your bank will never ask for personal account information, such as PIN, passcode, account or routing number, via text, email, or phone call. You will never have to click through a link to accept your funds from an email or text message. Please do not respond to any malicious and unsolicited requests that appear to be from your bank or the IRS. 

At M&T Bank, they understand that financial situations can change quickly, and they are here to help. Their caring team is skilled and ready to assist you, and they have empowered their staff to support customers’ specific needs. If you are experiencing financial hardship, please click here.

3. Free online exercise

If you have an internet connection, you already have access to thousands (if not more) of free exercise routines, from apps to articles to videos. We recently did a roundup of paid services and apps temporarily offering free trials, which covers a lot of fitness apps. There are also many YouTube channels dedicated to free home exercise, such as the ever popular Yoga With Adriene. And be sure to check out your local exercise studios! My regular Pilates place switched to all Zoom classes, including a few free community classes a few times a week.

4. Your community’s mutual aid group

“Mutual aid” groups are becoming increasingly popular these days. Essentially, they are community responses to mitigating a crisis, as explained in this VICE article:

“In systems of mutual aid, communities take on the responsibility for caring for one another, rather than forcing individuals to fend for themselves.

“Mutual aid is also not charity: rather than creating a centralized organization where one person is giving to someone else, forcing them to become dependent on yet another relationship negotiating their access to material resources, mutual aid creates a symbiotic relationship, where all people offer material goods or assistance to one another. Mutual aid organizing is volunteer-run, transparent, and driven by the needs articulated by community members.”

In my own community, I’ve seen mutual aid groups do anything from organize phone trees to deliver meals and groceries to the elderly. You can find an exhaustive list of mutual aid groups across the country here[FA9] .

5. Your library’s free app

I’ve personally talked up the Libby app  on multiple occasions solely within TFD’s platforms, but that’s only because it’s…incredible. It’s linked to my library and hundreds of others, so all you need is a membership to use it (which you may be able to apply for online if you don’t currently have one). I can always find at least one or two books immediately available from my to-be-read list, and I can automatically download them onto my Kindle. Here is a list of library-connected eBook apps  to check out, or you can go to your local library’s website to see what apps they recommend.

6. Codecademy  & other free online courses

I’m not going to tell you how to spend your time in the midst of a global pandemic. We’re all going through it, and it’s more than okay to focus on your immediate needs and wants rather than your cumulative productivity during this time. However, if you do find yourself with more free time than usual and want to use that time in a way that can help your future self, it might be a good time to pick up a skill you’ve been meaning to learn. If it’s a skill that could potentially help you in your future career, even better! Codecademy is an awesome way to learn the basics of coding for free (with the option to upgrade to a more involved “pro” account if you decide you want to dive deeper). Coursera also offers thousands of free courses in everything from business to ESL to psychology, all from accredited institutions. 

7. Local food banks, free food delivery services, and free meal distribution centers

Even though extreme social distancing measures are necessary, when it was announced that New York City schools would be closing, NYC citizens’ main concern was the same across the board: some of these kids depend on school for their main source of food, so how are they going to eat? Thankfully, the Department of Education has started offering three free meals a day to any student at 400 locations across the city, no ID needed. 

There are also food banks in most major cities, as well as many organizations that offer free food delivery to those in need (e.g. seniors and other vulnerable individuals who can’t risk leaving home). I found a map  of places to get free meals in NYC from a quick Google search — be sure to see if there is something similar for your city, should anyone you know need it (I found one for Philly here ). Also, pay attention to your local restaurants. My best friend is a barista who was laid off, and he’s been able to get a few free meals from restaurants in Brooklyn offering relief for out-of-work food service employees.

8. Your city’s free emergency alert system

I’m signed up to receive text messages from NotifyNYC, which sends alerts for all kinds of COVID-related updates. I’ve gotten texts for everything from school closure updates to food delivery availability to shelter-in-place extensions. Most of it doesn’t apply to me directly, but it does help me stay informed. Check to see if your city or local area offers something similar — I just found alert systems for LA and D.C. after a quick Google search.

9. Government-mandated paid sick leave

Finally, make sure you know your rights — such as your city or state’s paid sick leave laws. These will vary from place to place, but you may be entitled to more paid time off than you think. 

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To learn more about how M&T can help you reach your savings goals, visit a branch near you.

© 2020 M&T Bank. Member FDIC.

Disclosures: 

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not designed or intended to provide financial, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice since such advice always requires consideration of individual circumstances. Please consult with the professionals of your choice to discuss your situation.

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