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If you’ve been affected by fallout from the coronavirus, we’d like to point you in the right direction for help. Agencies around the country are swinging into action to offer relief to workers who have seen their income cut or found themselves jobless amid the spreading pandemic.
We’ve put together some of the latest information on government benefits and free services that may be available to you if you’ve been laid off or otherwise seen a loss in income. A massive federal government response to the quickly evolving situation has included money for small-business loans, sick leave and food assistance. Other actions include help for renters and homeowners, student loan debt relief, and meal service during school closures.
State and local government agencies are also offering a number of programs and services, including the suspension of utility service shutoffs, tax relief for small businesses, aid to the unemployed and the extension of the enrollment period for Obamacare.
Our editors want to help you get through the current situation and will continue to add information about aid as it becomes available.
Federal coronavirus relief measures
$2 trillion stimulus package — President Trump has signed a massive $2 trillion emergency spending bill into law. The measure will provide economic relief for Americans, businesses and the healthcare industry in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic. The comprehensive aid package includes direct payments to Americans, an expansion of unemployment insurance and billions in aid to large and small businesses. Source: Washington Post (free access to coronavirus-related articles)
President declares national emergency — The March 13 declaration allowed the White House to utilize the Stafford Act, a federal law governing disaster-relief efforts. The declaration is expected to make $50 billion in emergency funding available to states and territories. Source: National Conference of State Legislatures
Congress approves research, aid to state governments — This law provides $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. The measure includes money for vaccine development, medical supplies, small-business loans, and grants for state, local and tribal public health agencies. Source: Congress.gov
Federally mandated paid leave — The Families First Coronavirus Response Act gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave at full pay if they are ill, quarantined, or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for the coronavirus. Qualified workers can receive two weeks of paid sick leave at two-thirds pay if they are caring for sick family members. Source: IRS
- Most workers at small and midsize companies and nonprofits can get the paid leave, as can government employees, as long as they’ve been employed at least 30 days. Companies with 500 or more employees are excluded.
- Provides $500 million in food assistance for low-income mothers with young children and pregnant women.
- Puts $400 million into food banks and $250 million into a senior nutrition program.
Help for renters and homeowners — The Department of Housing and Urban Development will suspend foreclosures and evictions for mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration until the end of April. The Federal Housing Finance Agency also ordered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the companies behind about half of the nation’s $11 trillion mortgage market, to suspend foreclosures and evictions for at least 60 days on any single-family mortgages they back. Source: Politico.com, HUD
- These measures apply to borrowers who are unable to make their mortgage payments due to a decline in income resulting from the impact of COVID-19.
- You can find out if Fannie or Freddie owns your mortgage by going to makinghomeaffordable.gov.
- Earlier this month, the FHFA announced it was providing forbearance to borrowers with enterprise-backed mortgages impacted by the coronavirus.
- Forbearance allows for a mortgage payment to be suspended for up to 12 months due to hardship caused by the coronavirus.
U.S. Tax Day moves to July 15 — Americans grappling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic will get some extra time to file and pay their federal income taxes this year. The IRS has extended the April 15 deadline for tax filing and payment to July 15. Unless lawmakers act, many states will still require filers to submit their returns by standard state filing deadlines, which is also April 15 in many states. Source: Credit Karma, Internal Revenue Service
Many states move Tax Day to July 15 — States are being encouraged to follow IRS guidelines and delay their income tax due dates. We’ve compiled a list of states that have announced tax relief — including filing extensions and interest and penalty waivers — for businesses and individuals affected by COVID-19.
Small-business relief programs — The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the coronavirus. Source: U.S. Small Business Administration
Student loan debt relief — Almost all borrowers with federally held student loans will be given the option to suspend payments for at least 60 days without penalty. The government had already announced it will stop charging interest on those loans, for the duration of the crisis, the week prior to this announcement. Source: Wall Street Journal, U.S. Department of Education
Meal service during school closures — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced proactive flexibility in allowing meal service during school closures to minimize potential exposure to the coronavirus. School meal programs usually require those meals to be served in a group setting. Source: USDA
Broadband and telephone providers offer relief — A number of internet companies — including AT&T, Comcast, Cox Communications, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon — said on March 24, 2020, that during the following 60 days they would not terminate services for residential or small-business customers who can’t pay their bills. The Federal Communications Commission has a list of companies that have signed the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. If you need help, call your service provider.
Special education guidance for school officials — Federal law calls for people with disabilities to have an equal opportunity to participate in everything schools provide. As more schools across the nation shift to distance learning, the federal Office for Civil Rights reminds school officials of their responsibility to make distance learning accessible to students with disabilities, unless equally effective alternate access is provided. Source: U.S. Department of Education
State coronavirus relief measures
Legislatures are moving quickly to ensure that agencies and local governments have the funds to prepare and respond to the coronavirus outbreak. To date, at least 12 states have enacted legislation that either appropriates additional funding for coronavirus-related tasks or authorizes a transfer of funds from the states’ rainy-day funds. For more info on individual state action, see the NCSL blog. Source: National Conference of State Legislatures
State health departments
You can visit your state health department for information about the coronavirus and more at USA.gov.
Health insurance — As cases of the coronavirus rise throughout the state, health officials announced that Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace, would extend its special enrollment period until the end of June in an effort to provide health insurance to more people. Eligibility is based on federal poverty levels. Individuals making up to $17,237 qualify for MediCal, while those making over $17,327 and up to $49,960 are eligible for a subsidy on a Covered California plan. Source: Covered California
Utilities — Six utilities serving more than 21 million Californians have announced that they will not shut off customers’ power for nonpayment as the coronavirus continues to disrupt daily life. Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric and Pacific Power are taking the step until further notice. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will not shut off power or water for nonpaying customers until at least the end of March, and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District made the same announcement for its power customers. Source: CalMatters
Resources for employers and workers — The state Labor & Workforce Development Agency offers guidance for employers and workers on disability insurance, paid family leave, unemployment insurance, paid sick leave and workers compensation. Source: Labor & Workforce Development Agency
Small-business loans — The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program is supporting small businesses affected by COVID-19. The bridge loan program, managed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, will provide short-term, interest-free loans to small businesses that experienced economic injury from COVID-19. Source: State of Florida
Unemployment relief — If your employment has been negatively impacted as a result of the mitigation efforts in Florida to stop the spread of COVID-19, you may be eligible to receive reemployment assistance. Check the state’s reemployment assistance FAQs to learn more. Source: Florida Dept. of Economic Opportunity
Economic assistance — The state is taking a number of actions to support families and businesses during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. Visit the state’s website for information about eligibility for federal loans for small businesses, unemployment insurance, utility relief, food access, Medicaid waivers, info for taxpayers and businesses, and free or low-cost internet access. Source: State of Illinois
Utilities — To help those experiencing potential hardship from COVID-19, utility disconnections in Kansas have been temporarily suspended. The state directive covers all electrical, natural gas, water and telecommunications utilities under the Kansas Corp. Commission’s jurisdiction. Source: State of Kansas
Small-business tax relief — Massachusetts announced proposed measures that would provide tax relief for the hospitality sector, as dining rooms and gatherings of 25 or more people have been banned in an effort to stem the impact of the coronavirus. The proposed measures include postponing the collection of regular sales tax, meals tax and room occupancy taxes that would have been due in March, April and May. Source: Worcester Business Journal, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Unemployment relief — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill into law to speed up payments to those unemployed amid the coronavirus outbreak. The Department of Unemployment Assistance will waive the one-week waiting period and immediately begin paying benefits to eligible people who have experienced job loss due to COVID-19. Source: Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Mortgages — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York State will direct that mortgage payments be waived for 90 days based on financial hardship, with no late fees and no negative impact on credit.
“That will be a real-life economic benefit,” the mayor said at a press conference. “It will also be a stress reliever for many families.”
Job protections — Gov. Cuomo signed emergency legislation guaranteeing job protection and pay for New Yorkers who have been quarantined or whose minor child has been quarantined as a result of novel coronavirus. Source: New York State
Medical, student debt — The New York governor’s and attorney general’s offices announced the suspension of the collection of state medical and student debt as the coronavirus continues to rock the country. Source: New York State
Job protections — If you are affected by COVID-19, the state has programs that may be able to help. The Employment Security Department has adopted a series of emergency rules to relieve the burden of temporary layoffs, isolation and quarantine for workers and businesses by taking steps to increase access to unemployment benefits. Source: Employment Security Department
Local coronavirus relief measures
Protections for tenants — The Los Angeles City Council has approved a plan to ban evictions and late fees, and require landlords and residential mortgage-holders to work out payment plans with affected residents. The plan also moves to reduce city business taxes and create a citywide rental assistance fund. The measures will not take effect immediately. Instead, the council’s vote directs the city attorney to draw up an emergency eviction plan, which could be finalized this week. Source: Los Angeles Times, City of Los Angeles
Microloan program — A newly established Small Business Emergency Microloan Program can provide financing of loan amounts from $5,000 to $50,000 for small-business enterprises that have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Source: Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.
Small-business aid — The city will provide relief for small businesses seeing a reduction in revenue because of COVID-19. Businesses with fewer than 100 employees who have seen sales decreases of 25% or more will be eligible for zero-interest loans of up to $75,000 to help retain employees and ensure business continuity. The city is also offering small businesses with fewer than five employees a grant to cover 40% of payroll costs for two months to help retain employees. Source: City of New York
Nutrition and school meals — The San Francisco Unified School District will provide free meals to all children 18 and younger during the school closure. Families will not need to enter the school building for pickup. Meals can be picked up from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday at these locations. No identification or proof of school enrollment is required, but a child must be present. Source: San Francisco Unified School District
Utilities — The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission announced on March 14, 2020, that for the following 60 days it would no longer shut off water or power for delinquent payments and would waive late fees on overdue payments. Source: City and County of San Francisco
Residential evictions — The city has enacted a moratorium on residential evictions related to financial impacts caused by COVID-19. The moratorium will prevent any resident from being evicted because of a loss of income related to a business closure, loss of hours or wages, layoffs, or out-of-pocket medical costs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Source: City and County of San Francisco
Commercial evictions — Mayor London N. Breed announced a moratorium on commercial evictions for small and medium-size businesses related to financial impacts caused by COVID-19. In San Francisco, businesses with gross receipts of less than $25 million are eligible for the extra eviction protections. Source: City and County of San Francisco
Emergency childcare centers — The Recreation and Park Department is operating indoor recreation facilities as emergency care facilities for children of parents on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak. The centers will operate through March 31. The families of San Francisco’s COVID-19 first responders, which include San Francisco–based hospital staff, Department of Public Health employees and DPH community clinics, and activated disaster service workers, are eligible. Source: City of San Francisco