Financial pressure continues to be a reality for many people following the COVID-19 pandemic. Help is available if you are having financial problems and you don’t know where to begin.
Your income could have dropped due to COVID-19 or you have new unexpected expenses that mean you can’t cover your usual outgoings.
If you’re having major money worries, there are supports and services to help you. This page looks at some of the issues you might face.
Try to take some control
If you find yourself in arrears with bills, loans, or rent because you’ve lost your job or had your hours reduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be able to get a social welfare benefit or some other financial help.
Contact your lenders or servicer suppliers if you:
- Can’t meet your bills or repayments
- Need more time to pay
- Want to discuss payment options
Banks, lenders and service suppliers, such as utility providers, will work with you if you are struggling financially.
You may have legal protections around mortgage and loan repayments and protections for tenants, but it’s important to engage with your lender or creditor to avoid getting deeper into financial trouble. There is a range of options available to help you.
Financial supports are available
If your income drops due to COVID-19, you may be entitled to income support.
The Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) ceased on 31 May, but you may be eligible for Enhanced Illness Benefit. This is available if you are an employee or are self-employed and you are unable to work due to being diagnosed with Covid-19, or if you have received instruction by a doctor to self-isolate or restrict movements. The COVID-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit will be in place until the end of June 2022. If you are ill for another reason or self-isolating because you are medically vulnerable, you should apply for the standard Illness Benefit.
Visit the Citizens Information website for more information on entitlements and supports.
I’m struggling to pay my bills and debts
It can be overwhelming if you suddenly have to manage on a reduced income or you have unexpected costs you didn’t have before. The cost of living has risen for everyone and you may be struggling to pay for food, heating and utilities or to pay your rent or mortgage. There are steps you can take to help take control of your money.
Develop a short-term budget for 3 months to give yourself a better understanding of money coming in and money going out and identify any shortfall. You can use the MABS budgeting tool or the MABS Full Financial Picture tool.
Then follow our 5 steps to tackling debt.
When you prepare your 3-month budget, focus on priorities – food, utilities, accommodation, phone and internet, medical care and expenses related to your children or dependants.
Expenses to prioritise
If your income drops due to COVID-19 or some other reason outside your control, you may find this money isn’t enough to cover your usual outgoings. You may also have urgent or unexpected costs.
Here are some steps you can take:
Step 1: Focus on priority living costs
Prioritise spending on food, medical care and utilities with the aim of prioritising your health and wellbeing.
- Food: You can get recipes to plan value for your money meals in this MABS 101 square meals recipe book
MABS 101 square meals recipe book (pdf)
- Medical costs: Monitor and follow the health advice from the HSE
- Utilities: Utility bills are things like electricity and gas. Continue to pay your utility bills so you’re not disconnected. Check if you are eligible for the vulnerable customers register. If you are, contact your supplier to register now.
Step 2: Make a list of all your debts and bills
Try to include:
- Who you owe money to
- How much your debts or bills are each month
- How much you owe in arrears or in total
Your debts might include mortgage or rent, credit cards, overdrafts and other loans, utility bills (gas, electricity, phone, internet, bins, TV licence and so on).
You can use our money tools to help you do this.
Step 3: Prioritise your payments
Work out the debts you need to pay first after prioritising food, medical and utility costs. Some debts are more important than others. Generally, these are where creditors have extra powers, for example, they can repossess property or evict you.
Mortgage payments: if possible, you should continue to pay your mortgage. If you don’t think you can make the full repayment due to a drop in income, you should contact your lender as soon as possible. You should keep paying the maximum amount you can afford towards your mortgage.
Rent payments: this is a priority because you want to keep up payments, so you are not evicted. If you are having problems meeting your rent payments, you can contact Threshold, the national housing charity for information and advice.
You can read more about how to prioritise your debts in our tackling debt section.
Step 4. Contact your creditors
Get in touch with your creditors if you feel like you might fall behind on your payments. Creditors are aware that COVID-19 has had an impact on people’s income. They should be willing to work with you to reschedule over the short term, where this is necessary based on what you can afford to pay. But remember, it’s important to get in touch early.
Bank supports may be available
Some lenders offered special COVID-19 payment breaks to help customers affected by COVID-19. From 30 September 2020, no new COVID-19 payment breaks are being offered by lenders. However, lenders are continuing to support borrowers in difficulty. Lenders encourage borrowers to contact them early to discuss their financial difficulties.
If you are in arrears on your loan, credit card, overdraft or mortgage payments, your loan could be classified as being in pre-arrears or arrears. Missed repayments after the payment break will also impact your credit record.
If you are still finding it hard to make repayments, contact your lender to discuss your options. But first, look at your full financial situation to work out what you can afford to offer. You can use our money tools to get a snapshot of your finances and then read through our 5 steps to tackling debt. This will help if you need to talk to your lender about revised repayments. You can also contact MABS if you need to.
Your lender may be willing to offer you some support on a case-by-case basis. It is important that you engage with your lender at this point to find what suits your circumstances best.
If you are still on a COVID-19 payment break and due to come off it, then start making repayments as soon as possible (if you can.) You can get more advice about coming off a COVID-19 payment break in these videos:
- COVID-19 – Your Mortgage from the Central Bank of Ireland
- Guide to coming off the COVID-19 Mortgage Payment Break from the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland (BPFI)
Supports available for renters
The COVID-19 Rent Supplement support has now ceased for private renters. However, if you are struggling to pay your rent, or you are in rent arrears due to your changed circumstances, you may be able to apply for Rent Supplement. These supports are provided by the Department of Social Protection.
Remember you will still have to pay any rent arrears built up. Landlords have been asked to show understanding and reach local arrangements in these circumstances.
Under the Residential Tenancies and Valuation Act 2020, landlords can serve you with a notice of termination for normal reasons but not for rent arrears caused by COVID-19.
Community Welfare Services may also support you with other Supplementary Allowance payments if you meet certain criteria. These payments may assist you to cope with the increase in the cost of living, especially in relation to electricity, heating and food, or if your rent has increased.
My debts are getting out of control
You may be experiencing debt problems for the first time or you may have had voluntary arrangements in place before being impacted by COVID-19. If possible, try to avoid borrowing more as a solution to your debt problems and avoid high-cost credit like moneylending loans.
You don’t need to struggle alone with your debt worries. If you owe a lot of money that you feel you can’t pay back, there are other options available that might be suitable for you. You can talk to a MABS adviser about what to do before you make a decision. They can help you with a plan to deal with your debts and explain the best option for you, depending on your personal circumstances.
If you already had arrangements with your creditors that you now can’t keep, do a revised financial statement and let them know the new situation or contact MABS for help with this.
If you already had arrangements with your creditors through MABS, contact your money adviser and arrange a review appointment.
What to do if you are on a formal insolvency debt solution
You may already be on a formal insolvency debt solution or are in the process of setting one up and now find your circumstances have changed because of COVID-19.
Check to see which debt solution you are on and contact your provider if necessary to let them know about your situation.
- Debt Relief Notice – If the application is still ongoing, contact your Approved Intermediary. You will only need to contact the Insolvency Service of Ireland if you were making payments following an income increase after your DRN was granted.
- Debt Settlement Arrangement – contact your Personal Insolvency Practitioner.
- Personal Insolvency Arrangement – contact your Personal Insolvency Practitioner.
- Bankruptcy – contact the Official Assignee.
- Voluntary arrangements – contact your lender, or if you negotiated your arrangement with help from MABS, you can contact your money adviser.
Returning to work
If you’ve been off work due to COVID-19 restrictions and are now returning to work or full-time hours there are a few things you should keep in mind.
- If you are returning to work you must close your COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) claim. You can do this is on MyWelfare.ie.
- If you’ve had any temporary arrangements with your lenders, you’ll need to let them know that you’ve returned to work and your normal repayments can resume
- You might find that on returning to work there will be a period of time where you’re not receiving a social welfare payment or your wages
You might still struggle to make repayments when you return to work, if so, revisit your short-term budget and see if you can adjust to accommodate the shortfall.
Getting more help
Help is available if you’re experiencing financial distress because of COVID-19. You can contact your local MABS office, or call the MABS helpline on 0818 07 2000 from 9am to 8pm, Monday to Friday for advice and support. Read more about how MABS can help.
The Citizens Information website has detailed information about a range of COVID-19 topics.