Before the payment pause, Ms. Dorn had been relying on her credit card to cover expenses like an unexpected emergency-room visit, veterinary bills, health care co-payments and new car tires. She used credit to replace their water heater, cover a few car insurance payments, and install a new transmission in her husband’s car. Within the last six months, she paid off her credit balance and closed the card using a debt-solution program.
For Shantel Anderson, 27, the pause was a lifeline that allowed her to support her mother and help her avoid eviction. The two struggled when Ms. Anderson was growing up in Philadelphia, bouncing from apartment to apartment until they were evicted; they ended up at a homeless shelter for a week just before she started college. Her mother had lost her job earlier that year, and Ms. Anderson, then 18, had deferred her first fall semester of college because she couldn’t afford to go. Having lost most of her possessions during the eviction, Ms. Anderson relied on donations from people in her life, including her school guidance counselor, for dorm supplies.
Ms. Anderson secured financial aid and student loans to study political science at Eastern University while maintaining a work-study job and other employment, but still graduated in 2018 with $43,000 in debt. The moratorium, which freed up $455 a month, allowed her to cover her mother’s phone bill and some car repairs. Ms. Anderson also helped her mother with groceries, medication, gas and cat food. With these costs handled, her mother could put all of her income toward paying rent and utilities.
Ms. Anderson’s first full-time job out of school, at a veterinary hospital, paid $32,000 annually, and the hospital provided housing at the time. When the pandemic recession hit, her hours were cut. She made one last full student loan payment in March 2020, then a few more $50 monthly payments. But when she found out she would be losing her housing, she stopped making the debt payments to afford rent and other bills.