Beware of Scams
Economic Impact Payments (a.k.a Stimulus Checks)
(For detailed information, please visit the IRS Economic Impact Payment Center)
You are eligible if you are:
- U.S. citizens or resident aliens who:
- Have a valid Social Security number,
- Could not be claimed as a dependent of another taxpayer, and
- Had adjusted gross income under certain limits.
- $1,200 payment for single individuals with income up to $75,000; $2,400 payment for married filing jointly up to $150,000. Based on most recent tax return, 2018 or 2019.
- Additional payment of $500 for each “qualifying child” -which will generally mean a dependent age 16 and under by end of 2019.
The IRS hasn’t been 100% flawless in handing out the stimulus funds. If you are still waiting for your check, or for your dependent funds, there are two important deadlines to know.
September 30, 2020: For federal benefit recipients who got their $1,200 but not their $500 for dependents, use the non-filers tool to claim your $500. If you have already registered your dependent through this tool, or filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return you do not need to do it again.
October 15th, 2020: If you do not normally file a tax return, you can use the non-filers tool to receive your funds by year end. Do not use the non-filers tool if you plan to submit a 2018 or 2019 tax return.
Read more about paper filing to claim, and dependent requirements here.
The CFPB put together this excellent and detailed guide to aid you in receiving your payment.
As always, read the IRS stimulus payment FAQ page here.
- 2018 or 2019 filers: No action is needed. Money will be direct deposited or send via check.
- Social Security/Social Security Disability/ Survivor’s Benefits/ Railroad Retirement beneficiaries: No action needed. The IRS will use information on your statements. Money will be automatically received the same way your benefits are received each month. (Most likely, through direct deposit.)
- Those not required to file taxes because their only income was from a non-taxable source (TANF, SSI, Workers Comp, Veterans benefits): will need to file a simple tax return here.
If you are wanting direct deposit and your bank account information is not on your most recent filed tax return, simply visit the Get My Payment portal to input your account information.
You will need your most recent tax return information and routing/account number information.
You may also update your address in this portal if you are wanting a paper check.
Our Favorite Toolkits and Resource Pages
The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education has created a resource page for various links to state directories, mental health agencies, and government updates. The AFCPE is also offering free 1:1 financial counseling to assist individuals in navigating financial uncertainty and hardship. Click here to access the resource page.
Quite possibly my favorite website on the web, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has easy to follow guides and worksheets to transform your finances. Their COVID-19 page is the number one page to visit if you have a financial question and are asking yourself “What do I do about ____?” during this global pandemic.
The pandemic is taking a toll on more than just finances. Stay Home Take Care is a website that is calling itself a “social distancing care package” to weather the pandemic. You can find activities for the family, mental health resources, and more to promote self care! Give it a look, it’s pretty fun!!
Payment Relief, Options, & Extensions
The CARES Act allows mortgage deferment up to 180 days and foreclosure avoidance. This act also provides some protection to renters against eviction. Check out this Forbes article that is tracking all mortgage and rent relief by state and by mortgage company. (EXPIRED JULY 25,2020)
The CFPB also put together a step by step guide to determine if mortgage forbearance is right for you. Check it out here.
This NCRC article describes forbearance and steps to take if you choose to pursue payment relief. (Updated May 29, 2020)
Big Picture: Borrowers of FEDERAL (not private) student loans will see a break in interest and payments amid the COVID-19 crisis as legislated by the March 26, 2020 CARES Act.
- Interest is reduced to 0% through September 30, 2020
- An automatic administrative forbearance has been placed on all accounts halting payments through September 30, 2020. After this date, automatic payments will resume as normal.
- This WILL NOT affect your payment history on your credit report or negatively affect your Forgiveness Program payments.
- You CAN still make payments on your student loans. If you choose to waive the forbearance, just contact your loan servicer to remove the administrative forbearance or make manual (not auto-draft) payments online.
On August 8, 2020, President Trump issued a deferment of payroll taxes for individuals making under $100,000 through December 31, 2020. This is the 6.2% FICA tax on your paycheck that is used to fund Social Security and Medicaid.
This temporarily more money in your pocket for the last quarter of the year. However, you will need to repay these delayed taxes come tax time 2021. Your employer is not required to participate in this memo, so reach out to HR for more details on your specific situation.
Again, this is another memo with a lot of moving parts. Check out this article that provides a nice summary.
As of August 8, 2020 President Trump extended the forbearance of student loan payments and 0% interest on all federally owned student loans due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. No payments will be required to be made until January 1, 2021. Click here for more information and qualification requirements.
Additionally, those who are striving towards Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), these forbearance months will continue to count as “qualified payments” towards your PSLF. Read more here.
Because the CARES Act eviction delay expired July 25, the CDC issued an eviction ban through December 31, 2020.
A few critical things to note:
- This doesn’t mean all of your rent payments disappeared. They will ALL be due January 1, 2021. If you can pay for your rent, continue to do so. This creates a dangerous cliff to fall off of if you are unable to catch up entirely by January 1.
- This basically means that the landlord could ‘get around’ this rule by evicting you for other reasons not related to back rent. This means your landlord CAN STILL evict you for any other violation of your lease terms (noise complaints, pets, etc).
This memo is real meaty, check out this article for more information.
Watch a Q&A on this memorandum here.
Access the form to submit to your landlord and a snapshot of qualifications here.
The most important thing to remember during the COVID-19 crisis is to keep in clear communication with your creditors and bill agencies. This article provides a live play by play of current legislation in place and which companies and states are offering utility relief.
This USA article is also super helpful giving a breakdown of which companies are participating in relief efforts on consumers.
Unemployment and Public Benefits
The SNAP program is a Federal program that is administered by states. The CARES Act on March 27, 2020 provided an extra $15.5 billion to the SNAP program to help folks feed their families. You will need to click here to find out what benefits and expansions have been made available to you in your specific state.
However, I can tell you that in my specific state (Missouri) the following provisions have been made:
- Phone interview requirements waived
- Provisionally accepting everyone who meets the income requirements for 3 months and then will reevaluate.
- Re-certification requirements temporarily waived
- The MAX amount allowed for your household size is being granted. (THIS IS BIG!)
- Normally, monthly SNAP benefit amounts are on a sliding scale based on the household size and gross income. Now, forget the sliding scale, if you are a household of 3 and are under the gross income requirement, you’ve got the full benefits for that household size coming your way. This benefit is called P-SNAP in Missouri.
- Those who have children receiving free and reduced lunches at school will receive those benefits on their SNAP card instead (called P-EBT) if your school has been closed due to the virus.
Again, those are just specifics based on my state of Missouri. All in all, just give them a call. You may qualify even if you think you don’t. And if you are currently receiving SNAP, check your balance cause it may have increased!
Note: Several individuals I have talked with have described feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment when needing to apply for unemployment or any public benefits. I want to let you know it is completely okay to feel that way, and it is also completely okay to take advantage of benefits. The government said your job had to stop. That is not based on anything you could have done, nor is it a reflection of your work ethic or capability. Keep your head up, millions of others are in the same boat. If SNAP is going to keep food in your little’s bellies, then that is all that matters.
The CARES Act expanded the current Unemployment Compensation program to include individuals affected by COVID-19. Closed businesses, reduced hours, and cut wages may qualify you to receive compensation. Each state is different in regards to amount, time eligible to receive benefits, etc so check your specific state for details regarding your financial situation. For detailed information, this article is great!
The main idea:
- Payments expended to receive up to $600 per week for unemployed individuals, in addition to the regular state amount.
- If you have already maxed out your eligibility in your state (i.e, you’ve used all your available weeks) you may qualify for up to 13 additional weeks through the federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program (FPUC)
- If you are self-employed/contract worker you might have not have qualified for unemployment before. There is now an option through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for contract workers to receive unemployment (YAY!)
To get started applying:
- You’ll need to start with your state. Click here for a state directory for unemployment benefits.
Note: Several individuals I have talked with have described feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment when needing to apply for unemployment or any public benefits. I want to let you know it is completely okay to feel that way, and it is also completely okay to take advantage of benefits. The government said your job had to stop. That is not based on anything you could have done, nor is it a reflection of your work ethic or capability. Keep your head up, millions of others are in the same boat.
In accordance with the 4 memos signed by President Trump on August 8, 2020, unemployment benefits have been extended. The new amount is $400 on top of your state benefits, down from $600 with the CARES Act unemployment funds that expired July 31, 2020
Basically, this new extension is mostly funded by the government and the rest is funded by the states. If the states choose not to renew the extra benefits then there will be no extra benefit extension in that state.
Read more here.
Where to Get 1:1 Help
The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education is teaming up with Wells Fargo and Yellow Ribbon Network to provide virtual one-on-one financial counseling for those affected by COVID-19. And it’s FREE!
When you work with an AFCPE® certified professional you receive financial education and guidance specific to your unique situation and needs.
Go to Yellow Ribbon Network to connect with an AFCPE certified financial professional for free.
(Author’s note: I am partial to this organization as I am currently studying to become an Accredited Financial Counselor through the AFCPE. You can be confident that the counselors you are paired with are held to the highest professional standards for financial counseling and very knowledgeable!)
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling and its member agencies are providing help during the COVID-19 crisis. Counselors are available by phone around the clock to assist if you are experiencing job loss, temporary loss of income or financial hardship during this time.
Click this link to find an agency near you and connect with a financial counselor. Counseling fees may apply.