Heart of Illinois
United Way

Help for Hard Times Guide

Heart of Illinois 2-1-1 Information and Referral Line Ready for Calls in Central Illinois

This guide has been designed to provide guidance if you're facing unemployment or adjusting to life on a reduced income. By taking control of your situation and learning what is available, you will be able to get back on your feet faster.

Step 1: Know What Resources are Available to You

Call 211 or 309-999-4029 to get connected to a specialist with our Heart of Illinois 2-1-1 Information and Referral Service.

Step 2: Take Control of Your Finances

Reduced income requires evaluating your financial picture. Use this checklist to help you get started . . .

Determine your financial resources:
Include savings, pensions, profit shares, stocks, cash value of life insurance policies, unemployment compensation, severance pay, spouse's income, medical benefits, etc.

Plan a realistic budget:
Set up a plan which allows for the basic needs of food shelter, clothing, and medical care. Be sure to include anticipated expenses like insurance premiums, etc.

Stop use of all credit:
Do not make purchases on credit if you can avoid it. This will save on interest charges.

Set priorities:
If your income does not cover all your bills, be sure to pay bills in the following order:

  1. rent
  2. utilities
  3. food
  4. transportation

Cancel unnecessary purchases and services:
Include cable, cell phones, subscriptions, etc.

Consider refinancing:
Refinance or renegotiate your loans to lower expenses including bank loans, car loans, or mortgages.

Step 3: Contact the following to discuss your economic situation:

  1. Your mortgage holder or landlord:
    Let them know in person if you cannot make a payment. Request a postponement until income resumes. If you have an FHA or Veteran's Insured Mortgage, ask for forbearance (an emergency relief program to avoid foreclosure). With a landlord, discuss ways to work or pay off your obligation.
  2. Utilities (phone, gas, electric and water):
    Contact them as soon as possible to show good faith. Take measures to reduce service as much as possible.
  3. Any creditor: (car, furniture, credit cards, etc.)
    Try to set up an alternate payment plan and or try to return collateral items (jewelry, furniture, etc.) to reduce debts. Keep full records of these transactions, including the name of the firm, person you spoke with, phone numbers, and account of what you agreed on, and the date. Make one copy for your file and file one with them for their records.
  4. Set an appointment with a consumer credit counseling service:
    Our community has several to choose from including Metec, Novadebt, and Chestnut Credit Counseling.
  5. Seek legal counsel:
    If you're served with a notice of delinquency or deficiency or with a summons to appear in court, you should seek legal counsel concerning your rights and responsibilities. Examples include, but are not limited to, evictions, foreclosures, and past due utilities or debts.
  6. File for unemployment insurance:
    File online at www.ides.state.il.us/ or visit your nearest Illinois Department of Employment Security office (Phone: 309-671-3113. )

    You will need your Social Security Card or ID that has the number on it, a second form of ID, and if you're claiming dependents you will need their SSN and date of birth. If you are not a United States Citizen, you will need your Alien Registration Information. If you have worked since Sunday of the week in which you are applying, you'll need to know the amount of gross wages earned this week. Once you've filed, you will need to call-in weekly to certify that you're still unemployed and are approved for benefits.