Dear Christine: I’ve been an associate at a Chicago-area dental practice for two years. The practice has been closed due to the coronavirus since mid-March, and I have been furloughed without pay. How do I stabilize my finances in the near term? – Time to Pay Bills
Dear Time to Pay Bills: With little to no patients coming in to dental offices, layoffs and furloughs have, regrettably, been commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. Making the decision to reduce staff is a difficult one, one faced by millions of business owners nationwide. Some dental practices may be beneficiaries of the Paycheck Protection Program or other similar government aid, designed to help businesses get by without losing staff.
Aside from experiencing a temporary lack of revenue, many dentists have large student debt. If you’re carrying student debt, you can suspend your federal student loan payments with zero percent interest as part of the federal government’s student loan relief, which ends in September.
If you have not yet done so, call your bank and your credit card company and ask about available hardship programs. Most lenders have set up relief options for customers impacted by the coronavirus. If they can offer payment deferrals or reduced fees, take full advantage.
Given historically low interest rates, you can also look to consolidate high-interest debt and pay off multiple loans with a new loan, with the goal of getting a lower interest rate to reduce your lifetime interest costs and monthly payment. Banks and nonprofit credit counseling agencies can help with this.
All of us hope that circumstances will soon change for the better, and that we’ll be able to resume our normal activities in the coming months. For starters, I promise to reschedule my routine teeth cleaning as soon as possible. I miss seeing my local dentist and hygienist and hope everyone is staying safe and healthy.
A commercial banker since 2006, Ms. Olmstead Lopez advises mid- to large-size practices, leveraging her background in commercial credit underwriting and structuring, and providing industry-specific expertise and local market insight to add value, foster long-lasting relationships and — above all — helping dentists realize their vision for growth.
Editor’s note: This article is provided by BMO Harris Bank, the ADA Member Advantage-endorsed provider for practice financing. Call 1-833-276-6017 or visit bmoharris.com/dentists for more information.