The state of Louisiana has not been immune to the effects of the COVID-19 virus. In fact, Louisiana has been hit pretty hard. The state is home to many of the country’s petrochemical plants, so when America’s “engine” came to an abrupt halt, as the “oil” to that engine, our local economy has unfortunately fallen victim.
An article published last month showed that 29 percent of all jobs in the Houma-Thibodaux region alone were at risk of being affected by COVID-19’s aftermath, placing it as No. 8 in the nation. And Baton Rouge has not been spared either. Unemployment numbers seem to double overnight.
Although the recent classification of “essential vs. non-essential workers” may have brought temporary clarity, many plants across the state have only been producing at 50 percent of their normal production numbers.
Help Comes in Many Forms
Thankfully, the $2 trillion stimulus bill includes aid for citizens of diverse professions and backgrounds. (Read our recent blog post: A COVID-19 Action Plan, and How the Stimulus Bill Can Help.) Stimulus checks of up to $1,200 per American (depending on the income claimed on last year’s tax returns) are already being received. The first checks were sent on April 12.
Additionally, an extra $500 per child under 17 will also be dispersed to their guardians. No one expects this one deposit to hold an entire family over for the duration of the pandemic, so additional assistance is currently being discussed.
Earlier this month, U.S. Representatives Tim Ryan, and Ro Khanna, introduced the Emergency Money for the People Act, which would ensure a monthly $2,000 check for every qualifying American. The duration of the monthly payments would remain active until job employment numbers return to “pre-COVID-19 levels.” While this is a very new proposal, and at this point a little too early to speculate on, it at least shows that government officials are attempting to formulate plans that will carry us through this pandemic.
Align Wealth Partners is here for you, whether you’re a current client or not. Contact us if you have questions about your financial situation.
For anyone whose income has been affected through layoffs, cut hours or the virus itself, you may be eligible for added unemployment benefits. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act eliminates previous stipulations needed to qualify for unemployment and adds up to $600 weekly in unemployment pay.
In most states, the average unemployment weekly payout ranged between $250 and $350. Under the CARES Act, this limit has been increased to a range of $850 to $950.
In Louisiana, anyone who is qualified for at least $1 of unemployment benefits can be eligible to receive the additional $600 benefit from the CARES Act. This includes self-employed and 1099 workers, who are normally excluded from receiving state benefits, as well as employees who are still working but their hours have been cut due to the pandemic.
The time you can claim unemployment benefits has also been extended 13 weeks.
At Align Wealth Partners, we work with a lot of petrochemical employees, and we understand the concerns they have, especially now. To say that these are stressful, emotional times would be an understatement.
This stress can become even worse when you don’t know what to do.
If you’re currently working with a financial advisor, set up a meeting to review your portfolio. (This can be done while respecting social distancing – online, phone, email.) Focusing on your long-term goals and understanding the opportunities available to investors right now can provide a peace of mind – finding any peace of mind during these unprecedented times is key!
If you’re not currently working with a financial advisor, this may be the time to do so. (Remember: Not all financial advisors are the same. Make sure you work with a fiduciary financial advisor who has a legal responsibility to put your best interests first and who will not make a commission on the advice provided to you.)
Getting an outlook from an experienced professional can help you better plan for what’s to come. When you’re handling your finances on your own and it’s not your area of expertise, it can be easy to make short-term, emotional decisions that can affect you in the long run.
At Align Wealth Partners, we’ve been helping petrochemical employees with their financial planning needs since we began and have dealt with different market conditions. While the current environment is unprecedented, we understand the market and its volatility.
In times of anguish and uncertainty, it can be helpful to consult with a financial advisor. Not only should an advisor provide an objective perspective to your situation, but an advisor should also be up-to-date with how the stimulus package can help you bridge the gap during this health crisis.
There is a lot of noise and constant information coming in about the virus and the effects it is having on the world. While it may provide a sense of temporary peace, sticking your head in the sand is not the solution. In fact, staying uninformed can put you in a worse place when things get back to normalcy. And they will. It’s just that no one knows exactly when that will be.
We all need to be as proactive as possible. While it can be easy to get caught up in the news and become stagnant, remember: “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. But action breeds confidence and courage.”
Don’t panic. Remember your long-term goals. Continue to quarantine and practice healthy personal hygiene habits. Contact your financial advisor to discuss your current situation or reach out to a fiduciary financial advisor if you’re not currently working with one. Take care of yourself, your family and your loved ones. Let’s get through this together – and make sure your finances do as well.