Majority of Consumers Are Struggling Financially with Pandemic’s Impact

It’s impossible to go for months on end with businesses restricted or shutdown and not see American citizens suffering financially. However, the pandemic financial stress is even more heavy and widespread than experts had previously imagined. A new poll released just last month from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, discovered that 46{ccc406ac899b381283f5603474df8da5eb5db6eb5b9023b3e12fac416d1d4c8f} of respondents are having “serious financial problems” – as in, using-up-all-or-most-of-their-savings kind of problems.

“Our surprise is how large the numbers are,” says Robert Blendon, a Harvard University public health professor who participated in working on the poll.

To make matters worse, this poll was taken after an extra $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits were still supposed to be flowing and stimulus checks had reached people, yet so many said they are still struggling to get by. One in six households shared that they missed or delayed paying major bills so they could buy food.

Some 56{ccc406ac899b381283f5603474df8da5eb5db6eb5b9023b3e12fac416d1d4c8f} of consumers said it was harder to pay bills because they’d lost their jobs or had sustained a reduction in income, according to a second-quarter survey conducted by Aite Group, a Boston-based financial-services research firm.

Bill payment has not just been affected by a reduction in income, however. Increased expenses have also been an issue consumers have had to deal with due to the pandemic. 53{ccc406ac899b381283f5603474df8da5eb5db6eb5b9023b3e12fac416d1d4c8f} of respondents said it has been hard to pay bills due to changes COVID-19 has brought about. In addition to major living expenses, consumers have also had to hold off on donations (39{ccc406ac899b381283f5603474df8da5eb5db6eb5b9023b3e12fac416d1d4c8f}), student loans (34{ccc406ac899b381283f5603474df8da5eb5db6eb5b9023b3e12fac416d1d4c8f}), cable and Internet bills (26{ccc406ac899b381283f5603474df8da5eb5db6eb5b9023b3e12fac416d1d4c8f}) and water and sewer bills (3{ccc406ac899b381283f5603474df8da5eb5db6eb5b9023b3e12fac416d1d4c8f}).

Potentially Permanent Shift in Bill Paying Process

As the pandemic has thrown people out of their workplace and caused businesses to close, for some permanently, there have been many changes across industries. From how tasks are completed to adding new services and shifts in billing processes, many of these changes are likely here to stay. One of the top longstanding trends is bill payments made online.

According to a new study, U.S. consumers paid a total of about 15.5 billion bills for a total of $4.6 trillion. Of those bills, consumers paid around 9.5 billion or 62{ccc406ac899b381283f5603474df8da5eb5db6eb5b9023b3e12fac416d1d4c8f} online. Experts say the share of bill payments made online will only grow faster, due to the impact of COVID-19.

“The long-term impact is that both [financial institutions] and billers are going to revamp the bill-payment experience (which has not changed for years) for consumers as more financial activities are now taking place online. Covid has accelerated the needs for these transactions/interactions to be made online,” says David Albertazzi, an Aite analyst who co-authored the report.

Author Bio: Michael Hollis is a Detroit native who has helped hundreds of business owners with their merchant loan solutions. He’s experimented with various occupations: computer programming, dog-training, accounting… But his favorite is the one he’s now doing — providing business funding for hard-working business owners across the country.