Federal relief programs for mortgages and student loans were relatively easy to get and flexible. Programs for credit cards, auto and personal loans were more happenstance.

Jim Curran in Malvern, Pa., lost his job in March and got permission to pause his mortgage payments, freeing up thousands of dollars a month, with no damage to his credit score.
Patricia Orndorf in St. Louis Park, Minn., also lost her job in March. Her bank let her temporarily skip her credit-card bill, which had a minimum monthly payment of roughly $100, through July. But interest still piled up, and late fees for August, September and October added to her balance.