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Americans are open about their financial struggles in COVID-19 era



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With her family still waiting on an economic impact payment of $3,900, Stephanie Dann of Millsboro, Delaware, decided it was time to share about more than her latest failed attempt to reach the Internal Revenue Service.

So she created the “Still no Stimulus Check” Facebook page on April 29.

“I am a stay at home mom of 4 kiddos,” Dann, 28, wrote Wednesday in a post to the more than 1,000 members. She added that her husband is a kitchen manager at Chick-fil-A and his hours have been cut during the coronavirus pandemic. “We are behind on our rent, car payment and electric bill. We have applied for assistance but (we’re) afraid we might not meet the requirements.”

Motivated by delays in receiving their stimulus checks, people like Dann have created online groups that have attracted tens of thousands of members – and they’re doing more than just venting at the IRS. They’re also connecting in a personal way and, like Dann, disclosing details of their lives that might have been considered too sensitive to discuss publicly before the pandemic.

“We were depending on this check to get caught up with our bills,” Dann told USA TODAY, whose family is expecting a two-person federal stimulus check bolstered by the $500 per child bonus.

Dann, who said she works one day at week at Chick-fil-A and handles mobile orders, said this is the first time she has created a private group on Facebook and that she did it to bring people together. Comments at “Still no Stimulus Check” reflect a potential shift toward more openness about personal financial matters.

Kimberly Dyer, who lives in Nashville and starts her day by checking the Facebook page. Dyer, along with Dann, serves as co-administrator of the private group

“We’re hurting,” said Dyer, 30. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

The mother of one, said the $1,700 in stimulus funds she is waiting on are critical because she is a foster care coordinator who has taken a 50% pay cut during the pandemic. Recently, Dyer said, she found herself sharing with members of the Facebook group that she had fallen behind on her rent payments.

“That’s not something I would ever tell anyone,” she said. “But it’s like we’re all in the same situation. We’re all struggling.”

Anecdotal evidence suggests more people are seeking financial advice and talking about their plight more openly during the pandemic, said Geoffrey Brown, CEO of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

Brown said financial advisers and financials planners are talking about the current situation as “excellent example of the intersection of money and psychology.”

“Meaning that in the past we’ve had economic crises where people have felt it in their pocketbook and there was a psychological component to that,” Brown said. “But now you’re dealing with a health crisis and an economic crisis and I think it’s just really causing people to be a little bit more open, a little bit more forthcoming in how it’s effecting their lives in total.

“If this had happened 20 years ago, looking at it holistically we wouldn’t have had access to the communications mediums that we do now. So you couldn’t jump into a Facebook where you’re disclosing that sort of information.”

Lisa Gale of Springfield, Missouri, recently wrote in the “Still no Stimulus Check” groupthat she had 73 cents in her bank account and is living in a motel. (She told USA TODAY she is a vacation planner for Wyndham Destinations and has been unable to work during the pandemic.)

Kaydee Robinson of Oklahoma City wrote that she needs the stimulus funds in part because she is pregnant with her second child who is due June 7.

Amanda Butler Baldonado of East Layton, Utah, wrote that she and her husband have eight children, including three that have “severe medical needs,” and she is an independent contractor who has been out of work since March 12. “We are barely surviving,” she wrote.

Sharing your financial struggles can be daunting

Similarly, Alyssa Snyder, who started the Facebook page “Updated Not Stimulated,” said she is wary of scrammers who use tales of distress to solicit money.

“You have to decipher if it was a real story of not,” said Snyder, 32, who lives in Washington Court, Ohio with her husband and two children. She said she recently received the $3,400 stimulus funds her family was due. “People have hearts and want to help people.”

In fact, Snyder said, members of her private group donated about $500 in gift cards, along with gift baskets from members who make homemade skin care products and homemade lip gloss.

Rather than shuttering the group after most of the approximately 4,000 members received their stimulus funds, Snyder said, she renamed it “Consequential Strangers” and maintained the community.

“When I started this page, I didn’t think it would become anything like this,” she said. “I was just trying to get answers and seeing if anybody was in the same situation I was in.”

On another platform but with a similar thought, Andrew Gardiner of Stoors, Connecticut, said he was stunned to watch the “stimuluscheck” subreddit he created on Reddit attract more than 20,000 members.

Gardiner, 24, who builds websites and does online marketing, said he received $1,200 in stimulus funds April 15 by direct deposit. But he has stayed active on the subreddit that he created to be a source of information and also has become something more.

Baby photos have been posted, someone offered to buy pizza for people who were hungry and the comments kept on flooding in.

“I WANT TO PUNCH THE IRS WEBSITE,” wrote Dunkaroosarecool.

“Yep,” wrote Reddit user uiguigoo. “I make 30k a year. … rent (was)due Friday and I’ve already missed two months. Can’t be evicted(right now), but gonna leave voluntarily to avoid more late fees.”

This week, user uiguigoo indicated they are still is waiting on stimulus funds.

“I don’t care anymore,” they wrote. “Already kicked out of my apartment. I’m living out of my car now. I’m already in debt due to late fees and missed payments. I’m already ruined. $1,200 won’t do (anything) for me now.”

IM_NOT_BALD_YET chimed in: “I’m just here to cheer you all on. Fingers crossed!”

This story originated from a reader email. If you’d like to share your financial story, you can email us at moneyforum@usatoday.com

Follow Josh Peter on Twitter: @joshlpeter11.

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2020/05/08/americans-open-their-financial-struggles-covid-19-era/5179362002/





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