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Denver musician struggling to pay the bills shares how he's getting help after COVID-19 shutdown

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Posted at 10:42 PM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-25 02:45:29-04

DENVER— A self-employed worker struggling to pay his bills is reminding people help is available.

Jonathan Romero works as a professional musician and makes extra money as a Lyft driver.

He had music gigs lined up this month to pay his bills, but as businesses shut down and a stay-at-home-order was put in place in Denver to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, his appearances were canceled or postponed, and his income plummeted. Yet, his bills came right on schedule.

"Pretty scary, kind of freaked out, you know, like where do I go?" he asked himself. "What am I going to do? How am I going to pay these? I don't want to ruin my credit."

Romero said he didn't know what to do until a friend suggested calling all the companies he owed money to.

"I was really surprised that every single one of them had something in place to help us at this time," he said.

He called his car lender, car insurance company, credit card companies, and more. Romero told Denver7 some companies let him skip a payment or defer payments for two or three months.

Just this month, 30,000 Coloradans have applied for unemployment, according to Cher Haavind, with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

RELATED: Colorado makes changes to unemployment filing process to ease volume on state website

As people grapple with unemployment, Governor Jared Polis and many companies have stepped in to ease the financial burden.

On Tuesday, Governor Polis authorized the Boulder County Treasurer's Office to wave or suspend interest for 30 days on late property tax payments.

Xcel Energy, Denver Water, Comcast, Century Link, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint all pledged to keep services running during these difficult times if people cannot pay their bill, and some are offering payment plans. Comcast, Century Link, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint are also waving late fees for a limited time.

We reached out to Chase Bank to ask what they're doing to help custmers affected by the health crisis. In an email, a spokesperson said the company is deferring payments and increasing credit lines for consumers and small businesses struggling financially.

Companies are advising clients to contact them as soon as they know they're unable to make a payment to work out a plan.

Romero isn't sure what's next, but for now, he said he's using his money to care for his dog, Atlas, and to put food on his table.

His advice to people struggling:

"First of all, don't panic," he said. "Second, be humble, swallow your pride, and ask for help."

If you lost your job, visit the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to file a claim — but before you do so, be aware that the filing process has changed. You can also visit the Colorado Department of Human Services for temporary assistance for families in need.