Chris Arnold

Many state and local governments have decided it isn't safe yet to hold in-person eviction hearings in court during the pandemic. But apparently it's OK for people to be put out on the street during the outbreak if you do it after a Zoom call.

That's what's happening in some states as eviction moratoriums expire, and courts hold remote hearings for people who can't pay their rent.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The past few months have weighed heavily on Edgar Fields. He has been meeting with workers at chicken processing plants across Georgia and in nearby states. His union represents them, and many have become sick. Some have died.

"You know, you lay in the bed and you can't sleep because stuff is on your mind? I've got to do this. I've got to do that," he says. "That's what I wake up in every morning thinking, 'What can I do to protect my members to where they have a safe work environment to go to?' "

Americans are skipping payments on mortgages, auto loans and other bills. Normally, that could mean massive foreclosures, evictions, cars repossessions and people's credit getting destroyed.

But much of that has been put on pause. Help from Congress and leniency from lenders have kept impending financial disaster at bay for millions of people. But that may not last for long.

NPR is reporting on how the pandemic has upended every inch of our financial lives, from our ability to make money to how we spend it.

Millions of people have had to seek help from the government, whether it's unemployment benefits or business loans. Some have put off major life decisions because of the economic turmoil.

Now, some states are easing stay-at-home restrictions. And we want to know: Are you ready and able to go back to your normal work and social life?

Please fill out the form below. An NPR reporter may reach out to you for a story.

As businesses reopen, many Americans being called back to work say they don't feel safe — especially those who work in restaurants, hair salons or other high-contact jobs.

"With people eating food, not having masks on, with servers having to touch their plates and their silverware, there's just absolutely no way to keep the servers safe," says Lindsey, a waitress in Iowa.

She has been out of work for two months. But this week, the pub-style restaurant she works at is reopening.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

About 2.9 million homeowners have been allowed to put their mortgage payments on hold as the coronavirus shutdowns around the country put more people out of work. That's nearly 6% of all outstanding mortgages.

"We saw the share of mortgages in forbearance increase this week from 3.74% to 5.95%," says Michael Fratantoni, chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association which released the latest numbers Monday. "A lot of people are in distress."

About 17 million people have applied for unemployment benefits in the U.S. in recent weeks. It's an astonishing number that's nearly 10 times what the system has ever handled so quickly.

Updated on April 15 at 11:19 a.m. ET

Those $1,200 federal payments to help Americans through the coronavirus crisis have started arriving in some people's bank accounts via direct deposit. But many people will have to wait longer — and there could be pitfalls, such as debt collectors grabbing the money before you do.

Those who'll be getting checks in the mail may not see them for weeks or even months. To get the money faster, millions of people will have to provide direct-deposit account information to the IRS.

Updated at 2:58 p.m. ET

About a third of renters did not pay on time this month as business closures put millions of people out of work.

The National Multifamily Housing Council says 31% of renters didn't make their payment in the first week of April. Normally, about 20% of people don't pay their rent on time. The group tracks more than 13 million units through its survey.

Updated at 3:28 p.m. ET

Homeowners who've lost their jobs or income say their lenders are demanding punishing terms if they take part in what's supposed to be a government effort to help them.

To avoid a wave of home loan defaults, Congress and regulators told lenders that they have to let homeowners defer payments if they've been hurt financially during the coronavirus crisis.

Rent is due for the first time since millions of Americans lost their jobs or incomes as the coronavirus pandemic shut down large swaths of the U.S. economy.

Many renters are in a tough financial spot because they received fewer protections out of the $2 trillion economic rescue package than homeowners did.

The federal government took a major step toward helping homeowners this week, ordering lenders to give people hurt financially by the coronavirus pandemic up to a 12-month break on their mortgage payments.

But what about renters?

Many cities say they're halting evictions if renters can't pay. But that's about it, says Laurie Goodman, co-director of the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute.

Updated at 2:49 p.m. ET

Homeowners who have lost income or their jobs because of the coronavirus outbreak are getting some relief. Depending on their situation, they should be eligible to have their mortgage payments reduced or suspended for up to 12 months.

As the economy rapidly shuts down, many small businesses around the country are on the verge of collapsing. They have a message for the federal government: Please send money fast or we'll be out of business.

After the financial crisis hit in 2008, millions of Americans who worked at small businesses lost their jobs. It happened in just a matter of months. That's because many smaller businesses operate kind of like people who live paycheck to paycheck, without much savings.

In an unprecedented attempt to contain the coronavirus outbreak, thousands of stores and other businesses are closing their doors to customers.

Apple, Nike, Patagonia and scores of other retailers are closing thousands of stores across the country. In the nation's largest cities — New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco — officials said they were ordering restaurants, bars, and cinemas to close. Restaurants will be permitted to do takeout business.

In what's looking more like a public health debacle, the U.S. has a serious testing problem with the coronavirus. Only around 15,000 people have been tested so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And public health experts say that's not nearly enough to know how widespread the outbreak is and how to respond.

But the Food and Drug Administration has just approved a new test from the giant pharmaceutical company Roche that could represent a major breakthrough.

A dramatic drop in mortgage rates may give prospective homebuyers a chance to afford the house they've been eyeing — or may lower monthly payments for homeowners who refinance.

Last week, fears over the novel coronavirus outbreak's anticipated economic impact sparked the most dramatic stock market sell-off since the 2008 financial crisis. Stocks rallied Monday on expectations that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates to boost the economy.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

If you're looking to sell your home and avoid people tromping through your living room at open houses, there's a new option that's becoming popular in many parts of the country. Companies called iBuyers, or instant buyers, use computer algorithms to make you an offer, often within a day.

With rising home prices, many young people think they can't afford homes. But there are alternatives to the traditional 20% down payment, giving more people the opportunity of homeownership.

Listen to the full story on finding the right mortgage from Life Kit here.

Financial firms may be discriminating against people based on where they went to college, a watchdog group says. In particular, the group found that a lender named Upstart appears to be charging higher interest rates on student loans to graduates of historically black or predominantly Hispanic colleges.

A lot more people are getting loans these days from a new breed of lenders known as fintechs, or financial technology firms. And some of these lenders factor in where loan applicants went to college.

It has been more than two years since the nation's most powerful financial watchdog examined the companies that manage about $1.5 trillion of federal student loans owed by 43 million borrowers.

On Thursday, two members of the Senate Banking Committee said they're exasperated with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's continuing failure to pursue mounting problems with the way student loans are handled.

Your credit score can determine whether you can buy a car, get certain jobs or rent an apartment. It's a big deal. And so is this: Credit scores for many Americans are about to change — even if they don't do anything.

The changes will be extensive. About 40 million Americans are likely to see their credit scores drop by 20 points or more, and an equal number should go up by as much, according to Joanne Gaskin, vice president of scores and analytics at FICO, the company at the heart of the credit scoring system.

Updated at 1:26 p.m. ET Friday

If Jeff Bezos can't keep his phone safe, how can the rest of us hope to?

Sure, Bezos, Amazon's CEO and the owner of The Washington Post, is smart and presumably has good security people helping him, says Matthew Green, a computer science professor at Johns Hopkins University. But, Green says, "the bad thing about being Jeff Bezos is that there are a lot of people with huge amounts of money who want to hack you."

A few years ago, Lauren had a big problem. The Queens, N.Y., resident had graduated from college with an art degree as the Great Recession had hit. She had private student loans with high interest rates. For work, all she could find were retail jobs. And by 2016, her loans had ballooned to about $200,000.

" 'I can't afford to actually pay my bills and eat and pay my rent,' " she remembers thinking. "I was financially handicapped. I mean, my student loan payments were higher than my rent was."

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Saving more and spending less is a popular New Year's resolution, which doesn't sound like a lot of fun. So why are some of our listeners talking about budgeting like this?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: I'm actually super jazzed about it (laughter). It's, like, all I want to talk about.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: And I am a budgeting wizard.

MARTIN: A budgeting wizard - super jazzed - what's going on with these people? What are their secrets? NPR's Chris Arnold from our Life Kit podcast says this does not need to be a dreaded task.

Mike Calhoun is a man on a mission. He's flying around the country, warning state lawmakers and prosecutors, sounding the alarm at conferences and with members of Congress.

Updated at 12:26 p.m. ET

A nonprofit student loan group is suing the nation's most powerful consumer watchdog agency. The lawsuit, first obtained by NPR, alleges that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has abandoned its obligation to oversee companies that manage student loans, in particular a troubled loan forgiveness program.

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