It’s no surprise that paying for college is one of the biggest stressors for young adults. Many students depend on savings from their parents, student loans, and work-study programs to cover their costs. With the impending economic downturn and the elimination of work-study programs on campuses that have gone remote, the challenge can feel impossible to tackle right now.[Read more…] about Funding Your College Education
Summer is over and the kids are back to school. Any other year back to school would be business as usual. With COVID-19, for most local kids back to school really means buckling down at their kitchen table to attend school virtually. Is your house prepared for you to work from home and have your kids schooling from home? We have a few tips to get set up while on a budget.[Read more…] about At Home Essentials on a Budget
We’ve been working hard out in the community doing what we can to provide businesses and individuals some relief in this trying time. We’ve already seen the impact that COVID-19 has had on our communities but we are optimistic about our resiliency. It’s our responsibility to make sure you’re equipped with the information you need to make it through this period of uncertainty.
Learn more about the Economic Impact Payments and how you can put them to good use.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the COVID-19 Stimulus Package
How much money will my check be? According to IRS.gov, the U.S. Treasury will disburse up to $1,200 per adult for individuals making $75,000 or less and $500 per child under the age of 17. For any $100 above the $75,000 threshold will reduce the amount by $5.
When will my check arrive? The Treasury reports that individuals could see direct deposit as early as April 9. Many Americans have begun to report their direct deposits arriving.
What do I do if I do not have direct deposit set up with the IRS? You can submit your banking information to get a direct deposit here: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment
How do I know if I qualify? If you are a taxpayer who filed in 2019 or 2018, you automatically qualify. Non-resident aliens, individuals without a Social Security number or Taxpayer Identification number, and some dependents do not qualify.
How will I get my payment? Most people will not need to take action to receive their payment. The IRS will use the account information used when filing taxes to send via direct deposit. If the IRS does not have your direct deposit information you will be able to submit your information online through a web-based portal.
If I am receiving a paper check, when will it arrive? You can track your stimulus check on the IRS website at https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment
Please note that the arrival of stimulus payments are dependent on the IRS’s payment schedule. Highlands Community Bank is not able to provide arrival estimates.
When You’ve Lost Income
If you’ve lost your job due to COVID-19, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Once you recover from the initial shock of your situation, there are a few steps you should take to prepare.
1. Review your budget. Take stock of all of your monthly payments and debts. If you don’t already have a budget drafted, you’ll want to make sure you have a full view of your finances before you seek out assistance and decide where your stimulus check will be best spent.
Not sure how to budget? Here are 3 proven techniques!
2. Take advantage of any relief programs. Once you have an idea of your current standing, you can begin reaching out to utility companies and creditors. Whether you need to pause your subscriptions or defer your loan payments, many organizations are set up to help you in your time of need. In addition, apply for unemployment if you qualify.
3. Make a budget for your stimulus check. Now that you have eliminated some of your short term financial obligations, you’ll have a better picture of where your stimulus money should go. Focus on non-negotiable, basic needs like housing and food. By making sure your basic needs are met, you should feel a sense of relief.
4. Consider additional credit options. For many, even payment deferrals and stimulus checks won’t solve all of your problems. If that’s the case, you may need to consider borrowing additional funds for short term relief. As long as you have limitations in place about what you will use it for and how it will get repaid, a personal loan could be another option.
When You Have Maintained Steady Income
Some individuals have been lucky enough to maintain their employment status and steady paycheck. For those who will be able to use the stimulus as a “bonus”, now is a great time to build financial resilience.
1. Get ahead on debt repayment. Even if you’ve been able to maintain your income, most people accrued have some amount of debt they owe anyway. Consider getting ahead on your monthly payments or paying down a credit card with a low balance.
2. Build your emergency savings. If there was ever an example of why you should build an emergency fund, it’s the current state of the world. While you may feel secure right now, it is clear that your stability could change at any moment. Deposit your stimulus check into a high-yield savings account or money market so that you can continue to build your emergency fund.
3. Consider helping others. If you’re employed, are in good standing with your debts, and already have a healthy emergency fund, consider yourself lucky. Use your check as a true economic stimulus by spending your money locally or donating to charities or loved ones in need.
4. Shop Small, Help Big. Your community is banking on you. The economic stimulus package was also created to provide funds for individuals to put back into the economy through local businesses. The Alleghany Chamber of Commerce is keeping an up to date list of how local businesses continue to provide products and services in your community here.
We’re Here to Help
While we may have answered some of your questions, we understand that many answers likely spark more. Our people and our focus are rooted in the Highlands. We’ll always only be a phone call away.
It’s a seemingly age-old question: Should you bank with a national bank that offers all of the newest bells and whistles in banking? Or do you bank with a local bank that offers simpler services but is rooted in your community?
It’s a hard question to answer. If you travel often, it can be tempting to open an account with a bank that you can find in other localities across the country. But being able to walk into a bank where someone know your name comes with its own set of benefits.
Here are a few reasons you should consider banking locally:
In the 2000s, large banks began buying up smaller banks, forming new megabanks that were larger than any ever before seen. When the recession hit in 2008, people questioned the ethics of how these megabanks were run and regulated. Since then, large banks have been on the hook for other scandals, such as Wells Fargo for creating fake accounts in their customers’ names.
It’s not that megabanks are bad in and of themselves, but they certainly don’t have a community to support and be held accountable to. As Bankbound.com explains, “All four of the top megabanks–Wells Fargo, Citibank, Chase, and Bank of America–routinely make the list of worst companies in America.” Local banks, rather, serve a smaller customer base and depend on strong customer service to remain successful in their communities.
A couple of decades ago, large banks offered online banking well before small banks were able to adopt the technology. However, in the past several years, things are leveling out to the point that smaller banks can offer just as many services as large banks, such as online and mobile banking, but with a personal touch. In a way, these technological developments allow customers to have the convenience of viewing their accounts online but also have the opportunity for more personalized care from their local bank and its staff.
Some online-only banks such as Ally and Simple have very little overhead because they conduct their business entirely online or over the phone. Because of that, they can offer high interest rates for your savings accounts and low fees. However, you’ll never be able to walk into a branch to have staff help you with more complicated banking questions or issues.
Megabanks, on the other hand, have very high overhead costs. They often charge you if you do not keep a minimum balance in your account and offer low interest rates for your savings. They also make money off of extra fees like overdraft charges. In fact, several megabanks have reported making nearly $2 billion a year in overdraft charges.
Local banks are the happy medium in this scenario. They have some overhead costs because they have a few local branches and hire staff to run them, but because the overhead is not exorbitant, they are able to offer low checking account fees and great interest rates for savings.
Helping Local Economy
Because local banks do hire staff to run their bank branches, when you bank local, you are supporting your local economy. In addition, the investment that these banks do often remains local, supporting the new coffee shop in town or even community centers. For example, we worked with the Alleghany Highlands YMCA to provide a loan to construct a new facility in 2007. Because we were able to partner with them, members of our community have a wonderful place to stay fit and participate in community events right in town.
Banking You Can Trust
Highlands Community Bank is committed to serving our customers with the highest customer service. If you have a question or concern about your business or personal finances, we’re happy to help.
Nothing is more challenging or stressful than an unexpected loss of income. Many people in our community found themselves furloughed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While some are finally returning back to work, the financial impact of this crisis will last much longer. Things won’t be easy, but we’re in this together. The key to surviving such a setback is to create a plan and take proactive steps to protect yourself from future challenges and forge better habits for long term success.
Take a Moment to Assess
Losing a job or having your salary slashed is scary and stressful. You may start to feel panicked, but it’s important that you keep a clear head and make a thorough assessment of the situation. Ask yourself these questions:
- How much income do I still have?
- How much do I have in savings?
- What are all of my fixed and variable expenses?
- Is this a temporary or permanent situation?
Take the time to account for all of your assets and liabilities. You need to know what you have and what you owe in order to create a plan. Highlands Community Bank offers online and mobile banking so you can review your accounts in real time. If you have an emergency fund, don’t be afraid to use it! This is what you’ve been preparing for.
Sort Out Your Priorities
Now that you have a clear picture of your expenses, you can differentiate your “wants” from your “needs”. Your wants will be the first thing to go. Consider pausing any entertainment subscriptions, reduce your budget for self-care extras like getting your hair and nails done, and start finding ways to reduce your utilities.
Revisit and update your personal budget to match your new situation. Make sure your basic needs (food, shelter, etc.) can be met with your new budget and cut any other additional costs.
Take Advantage of Relief Programs
If you’re eligible for unemployment benefits, begin that process immediately. While you’re waiting for approval, contact your creditors and utility companies to see if they are offering crisis forbearance. Many organizations have stepped up to provide flexibility in this great time of need.
If you find that you’re still struggling to pay for your basic needs, there’s a variety of health and human services in the Allegheny Highlands and throughout Southwest Virginia. They’re there to help.
While it may seem like your money is locked into your assets, there are ways to extract cash from things like CDs, life insurance policies, and 401k’s to provide an extra cushion. Play close attention to penalty information and weigh the pros and cons from cashing out early. If you have good credit and feel confident that you’ll regain your income, you can also look into taking out a small personal loan, home equity line of credit, or credit card to provide temporary relief.
Learn from the Experience
Taking all of the available information – your present income, your savings, your bills, your debts, any available aid or assistance, and your priorities – you should create a spending plan and stick to it. But, as the situation evolves, so should you. If you find additional income or receive a hardship plan from a creditor, update your plan accordingly.
With any significant financial disruption it can be very difficult to get back to “normal.” But you can find level ground much sooner if you simply act fast and face the situation proactively. Highlands Community Bank is here to support you.
The Alleghany Highlands community has always been known to lift each other up in times of crisis and their response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been no different. While the hospitality may not look the same as it has in the past, and you can’t see the typical smiles for being covered by masks, resilience and hope remains the common tone for local business owners.
Cakes Your Way
Main Street Covington business, Cakes Your Way, has adapted by offering virtual cake decorating classes and expanding their services outside of the Highlands area. Owner, Theresa McCoy says that the classes have been amazing and a ton of fun to host. While McCoy has no plans of leaving her storefront downtown, she sees the internet side of her business sticking around to make her confections accessible to everyone.
As for her relationship with Highlands Community Bank, Theresa only had great things to say. Both her personal and business banking experiences have been smooth, supportive, and personal.
“Highlands Community Bank has always shown support by purchasing from us. We have a small loan through them, and they have made the process super easy. They have made a point to check in on us several times throughout all of this,” says Theresa.
The Flower Center
For Erin Huffman, owner of The Flower Center in Clifton Forge, sustaining business throughout the pandemic has been all about working together with local business owners and staying connected with her customers.
In addition to teaming up with Cakes Your Way, The Flower Center has continued home deliveries throughout the entirety of the shutdown order. While Huffman and customers have both enjoyed the deliveries, she is looking forward to reopening her storefront and the return of weddings and other group gatherings in phase two.
“I can’t say enough good things about my customers. They have shown their support by ordering things they normally wouldn’t. I have really great customers and I’m blessed that they have shown us love the way that they have,” says Erin.
Erin had nothing but praise for Highlands Community Bank in both her everyday experiences and how they’ve handled the Paycheck Protection Loan process. For The Flower Center, the loan provided a way to keep the lights on and the flower deliveries going.
“Highlands has been phenomenal. I know many business owners who have still not gotten their PPP loan from other banks and I had mine on the first day. They were on top of things,” she adds.
COVID-19 has provided many challenges to overcome, leaving small businesses like Cakes Your Way and The Flower Center searching for creative solutions to keep business going. The two business owners collaborated to deliver cupcakes, cakes, and flower arrangements together, brightening the days of both the recipients and Erin and Theresa as they got to connect with their customers after being apart for so long.
Our local businesses are the backbone of our community and they need our support now more than ever. The team at Highlands Community Bank encourages you to continue to shop small and help big, your neighbors are counting on you!
Have you seen other businesses show incredible resiliency in these tough times? We want to hear about it!