Black Lives Matter.

George Floyd, 59. Breonna Taylor, 26. Ahmaud Arbery, 25. Eric Garner, 43. Eric Reason, 38. Atatiana Jefferson, 28. Antwon Rose II, 17. Botham Jean, 26. Sandra Bland, 28. Philando Castile, 32. Jordan Davis, 17. Trayvon Martin, 17. Tamir Rice, 12. Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7. Emmett Till, 14. Addie Collins, 14. Denise McNair, 11. Carole Robertson, 14. Cynthia Wesley, 14. 

. . .  

Today, we lift up the names of African Americans whose lives were cut short by systemic racism and police brutality in our society, but the list does not end here.  

We mourn with the family and loved ones of these individuals and countless others who have been lost.  

Say their names.  

We applaud protesters in Charlotte and across the country who are braving a pandemic and taking to the streets to call for real and lasting change so that our national principle of “life, liberty and justice for all” rings true for all people in the United States—not just Americans of a certain skin tone. 

These murders are tragically nothing new or shocking for our neighbors, clients, colleagues and friends. Both despair and anger have festered for generations as Black people have endured intentional, targeted violence and subjugation without recourse, all while persistently fighting for their right to be valued as equal human beings.  

Now that a spotlight burns on their plight for all to see, we as Americans can no longer turn a blind eye, and the events of the past two weeks should not be a surprise given how we got here. 

The society we know today has been shaped by generations of policies that have deliberately perpetuated the notion that some lives are more valuable than others.  

We’ve seen countless instances where white people have used our white supremacist societal norms to their advantage and abused our police system to further intimidate and terrorize Black people. 

The most recent example happened in New York City’s Central Park last week, when a white woman called the police claiming she was being threatened by a Black bird watcher after he asked her to follow the park’s regulations and put her dog on a leash. This story echoes the calculated actions and tactics used to justify the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955. 

These same protections are not afforded to Black people as demonstrated when Atatiana Jefferson’s family turned to police for a wellness check on their loved one. Instead, she was murdered.  

To be clear: Black lives matter.  

Our nation was built by the hands of enslaved and exploited people, and that legacy lives on today. The wealth and power our country enjoys comes at the expense of deliberate exclusion, imprisonment, and marginalization of Black people and other people of color.  

This system enables the murders of these innocent individuals to take place. And it also actively promotes vast disparities in income, health, housing and employment that cut people of color off from socioeconomic opportunity. 

As our country burns, we must recognize that we started the fire. 

Dismantling our racist system starts with condemning police brutality head on while speaking truth to power. It is our communal responsibility to hold our public authorities accountable to ensure this need is met. We need to seek to understand and embrace the differences that enrich our community rather than use them as a means to divide.  

At Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, we believe that ALL people should have access to legal assistance and resources that ensure stability and promote opportunity. We fight for equal justice under the law every day. Racial justice and equity are inherent to this work. 

Black people were not contemplated when the phrase “justice for all” was originally coined. Equal justice for all is impossible to realize without eradicating the systemic racism that pervades our society. 

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy condemns the police brutality we have witnessed. We stand with those exercising their right to protest in efforts to enact significant change.  

We are doing a lot of introspection. We are listening. We are trying to recognize our individual blind spots to our own ignorance. We are trying to understand, and we will continue to work toward our mission of pursuing justice, every day, with all we have. 

All of us have a role to play in building a more just community.

Will you answer the call? 

COVID-19 Updates: Home Preservation

Home Preservation

Evictions from hotels/motels: (April 3) N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein is protecting residents who live in hotels or motels as their primary residence from being evicted by reminding businesses that they need to follow the law. New eviction proceedings are on hold in N.C. courts (see below). Stein reminded businesses that trying to evict guests without a court order is a violation of N.C. landlord-tenant and consumer protection laws.

Read more

Eviction and Foreclosure in N.C. courts: (May 20) From the Office of the Clerk of Superior Court, Mecklenburg County: “Given ongoing concerns about COVID-19, a soft reopening of Mecklenburg County Courts will begin on June 1, 2020.  Mecklenburg County Courts will employ a phased-approach in which courtroom operations will expand based on priorities set forth by Chief Justice Beasley.

Effective immediately, the Office of the Clerk of Superior Court will cancel all standing foreclosure blocks for Deeds of Trust and Claims of Lien.  All foreclosure hearings currently scheduled for dates in June 2020 will be continued.  Trustees and Substitute Trustees should not schedule any new matters for June 2020 or in their former standing foreclosure blocks

The Clerk’s Judicial Hearings Team is crafting a plan to hear continued matters in July 2020  and to identify future dates for new foreclosure actions. The new hearing dates will be based on courtroom availability, occupancy limits, and other safety protocols. Trustees can expect to receive new scheduling guidelines on or before June 5, 2020.”

(April 3) North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cherie Beasley has extended postponement of court cases in district and superior court to June 1, 2020.

(March 20) North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cherie Beasley directed local courts to postpone most cases in district and superior court for at least 30 days beginning March 17, 2020. This includes halting evictions and foreclosures during this time of uncertainty. In keeping with a new order extending the postponement, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office has announced it will not enforce court-ordered evictions until April 17, 2020.

HUD Suspends all foreclosures for 60 days: (March 18) U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) authorized the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to direct mortgage servicers to halt all new foreclosure actions and suspend all foreclosure actions currently in process for homeowners with FHA-insured Title II Single Family forward and Home Equity Conversion (reverse) mortgages for the next 60 days. See HUD’s website for more information.

Guidance for homeowners with federally guaranteed mortgages through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: (March 18)

Fannie Mae Assistance Options for Homeowners Impacted by COVID-19

Fannie Mae’s guidelines for single-family mortgages:

  • Homeowners impacted by the emergency may request mortgage assistance by contacting their mortgage servicer;
  • Foreclosure sales and evictions of borrowers are suspended for 60 days;
  • Impacted homeowners are eligible for a forbearance plan to reduce or suspend their mortgage payments for up to 12 months;
  • Credit bureau reporting of past due payments of borrowers in a forbearance plan as a result of hardships attributable to the emergency is suspended; and
  • Homeowners in a forbearance plan will not incur late fees.

After forbearance, a servicer must work with the borrower on a permanent plan to help maintain or reduce monthly payment amounts as necessary, including a loan modification.

Through its Disaster Response Network, Fannie Mae also offers help to homeowners with a Fannie Mae-owned mortgage who are navigating the broader financial effects of this national emergency, including:

  • A needs assessment and personalized recovery plan;
  • Help requesting financial relief from insurance, servicers, and other sources; and
  • Web resources and ongoing guidance from experienced disaster relief advisors

Homeowners can find out if they have a Fannie Mae-owned mortgage and access to the Disaster Response Network here.

Homeowners can contact Fannie Mae directly at 1-800-2FANNIE (1-800-232-6643). Get more information about your options.

Freddie Mac Assistance Options for Homeowners Impacted by COVID-19

Freddie Mac’s guidelines for single-family mortgages:

  • Suspension of all foreclosure sales and evictions of borrowers living in homes owned by the company until May 17, 2020;
  • Expansion of its forbearance program, to incorporate additional impacted borrowers;
  • Ensuring payment relief by providing borrowers forbearance for up to 12 months;
  • Waiving assessments of penalties or late fees against borrowers;
  • Suspending the reporting of delinquency related to forbearance, repayment, or trial plans to credit bureaus;
  • Allowing servicers to offer borrowers additional loss mitigation options that are typically only enacted to address natural disasters, including loan modifications that give servicers options to provide payment relief or keep the payment the same post the forbearance period; and
  • Offering forbearance eligibility regardless of whether property is owner occupied, a second home or, an investment property.

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, regardless of whether they have contracted the virus.

Forbearance plans provide borrowers with payment relief for up to 12-months and suspend borrower late charges and penalties. It also suspends reporting to credit bureaus of past due payments of borrowers who are in a forbearance plan as a result of hardships attributable to this national emergency.

Borrowers experiencing financial challenges due to COVID-19 should contact their mortgage servicer to discuss Freddie Mac workout options. Get more information on Freddie Mac mortgage relief.

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COVID-19 Updates: Community Stability

Community Stability

Updates from the City of Charlotte

U.S. Census: The U.S. Census count is still underway though the U.S. Census Bureau has adjusted 2020 Census operations to accommodate participation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes include:

  • Self-Response deadline (online, mail, phone) has been moved to August 14.
  • Door-to-door counts by Census workers have been postponed. When the door-to-door count resumes, Census workers will not come to your door if you have already completed the count for your household.

Respondents are urged to respond to the count online if possible.

N.C. Courts delay cases, will reopen June 1, 2020: (May 21) Chief Justice Cheri Beasley issues an order outlining how courts will expand operations after June 1 and new procedures that will go into effect. Read the order.

(May 20) From the Office of the Clerk of Superior Court, Mecklenburg County: “Given ongoing concerns about COVID-19, a soft reopening of Mecklenburg County Courts will begin on June 1, 2020.  Mecklenburg County Courts will employ a phased-approach in which courtroom operations will expand based on priorities set forth by Chief Justice Beasley.

Mecklenburg County Courts will implement safety protocols to restrict the number of courts operating and the number of occupants in the courtrooms.  Such protocols are necessary to ensure the safety of court personnel, court partners and the public.

Court docket sizes will be significantly reduced and Court partners and litigants should expect some delay in the scheduling of court matters.”

(April 3) N.C. Chief Justice Cherie Beasley issued an order postponing court cases to June 1.

Exceptions include:

  • Domestic violence hearings for protective orders
  • If the proceeding can be conducted remotely
  • Cases where there is a constitutional or statutory right to an immediate hearing.

Read the full order here

(March 16) North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cherie Beasley directed local courts to postpone most cases in district and superior court for at least 30 days beginning March 17, 2020. Exceptions include:

  • Domestic violence hearings for protective orders
  • Cases with trials already in progress
  • Cases where there is a constitutional or statutory right to an immediate hearing.

Read more.

Updated Mecklenburg County Courthouse Operations Schedule: (March 26) English Español

CATS Service: (March 25) CATS will make modifications to transit service to accommodate the current demand. By operating modified service, CATS will continue providing the community access to essential daily needs, front-line jobs and medical services. All service will be FREE during this time.  These changes are effective until further notice. Read more.

Unemployment Insurance Executive Order: (March 17) N.C. Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order to expand unemployment benefits for workers impacted by COVID-19. The order lifts some restrictions on unemployment benefits to help workers unemployed due to COVID-19 and those who are employed but will not receive a paycheck. Additionally, it adds benefit eligibility for those out of work because they have the virus or must care for someone who is sick.

For example, workers who lose income due to tips or scheduled work hours, but are still employed, would be eligible for benefits because of this Executive Order. Among other changes:

  • It removes the one-week waiting period to apply for unemployment payment for those workers who lose their jobs;
  • It removes the requirement that a person must be actively looking for another job during this time when many potential employers are closed and social distancing guidelines are in effect.
  • It allows employees who lose their jobs or, in certain cases have their hours reduced due to Covid-19 to apply for unemployment benefits.
  • It directs that employers will not be held responsible for benefits paid as a direct result of these COVID-19 claims.
  • It waives the requirement that people must apply for benefits in person; workers can apply for benefits online or by phone.

Read more.

Public utilities, internet service will remain available to customers: (March 16) The N.C. Utilities Commission put out an order suspending service disconnections during COVID-19 outbreak to ensure residents maintain access to water, power and gas.

Mecklenburg Clerk of Court Adjusts Hours: (March 16) The Mecklenburg County Clerk of Superior Court’s Office will reduce hours of operation and staff availability. They will be open to the public Monday through Friday, between 9 am and noon. This scheduled change will be in effect for at least the next 30 days. Read more.

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COVID-19 Updates: Healthcare Access and Public Benefits

Healthcare Access and Public Benefits

From our Family Support & Health Care team: Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Family Support and Health Care team is working to ensure family stability through fair access to vital healthcare and public services during this period of uncertainty.

We are particularly focused on the most vulnerable groups in our community who often do not have access to these services: children, seniors, people living with disabilities, immigrants and their families. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is monitoring the situation to make sure residents continue to have uninterrupted access to benefits and healthcare during the COVID-19 outbreak. Anyone experiencing issues should contact us by calling 704-376-1600.

Health Insurance Navigator Services still available by phone: The Advocacy Center’s Health Insurance Navigators are still available for phone appointments to help consumers understand their health coverage options and assist them with the following:

  • Marketplace applications (Affordable Care Act)
  • Medicaid applications
  • Food Stamp (SNAP) applications
  • Marketplace appeals
  • Medicaid denials/terminations
  • Issues accessing care through private insurance or Medicaid

Navigators can help people complete their applications online by phone.

To schedule a FREE appointment:

  • go online to ncnavigator.net, Local navigator appointments are available online under zip code 28204 listed as “Phone Appointment with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.”
  • call the statewide appointments hotline 1-855-733-3711,
  • call our new Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy Navigator direct line at 980-256-3782.

Navigators are also available to assist clients needing to communicate with Mecklenburg County DSS, specifically with the Office of Consumer Advocacy, to help them address with any barriers they may be experiencing regarding access to healthcare or food stamps.

Qualifying for Health Insurance through Special Enrollment Periods during COVID-19: As a reminder, many individuals may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) to enroll in Marketplace health coverage outside of Open Enrollment if they have had recently experienced any of the following:

  • marriage,
  • permanent move,
  • changes in immigration status,
  • release from incarceration,
  • adding a family member (birth, adoption, placement for foster care),
  • increase in income (from below 100% to over 100% of the Federal Poverty Level),
  • loss of coverage,

SEPs are generally life changes that effect your access to health coverage and enrollment must be done within 60 days of the change. Individuals interested in applying for Medicaid can do so all year around and do not need an SEP.

While our government and healthcare systems are expanding access to testing for the uninsured, enrollment in a Marketplace plan can cover any additional associated costs such as a hospitalization and provide peace of mind for consumers during this tense time.

Access to Medicaid during COVID-19: (April 1)

  • During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, states must NOT terminate Medicaid eligibility except for:
    • if the beneficiary moves out of the state.
    • if the beneficiary voluntarily requests termination of Medicaid benefits.
  • North Carolina County Departments of Social Services must accept self-attestation for all eligibility criteria except citizenship and immigration status, when documentation and/or electronic sources are not available.
  • Individuals who must pay an enrollment fee for NC Health Choice or an enrollment fee and/or premium for Health Care for Workers with Disabilities (HCWD) will be exempt from that requirement until further notice.

N.C. Medicaid Program expands access to telemedicine: (March 23) Medicaid is temporarily modifying its Telemedicine and Telepsychiatry Clinical Coverage Policies to better enable the delivery of remote care to Medicaid beneficiaries. In addition to telephone conversations and secure electronic messaging, the modifications will include the use of two-way real-time interactive audio and video to provide and support physical and behavioral health care when participants are in different physical locations. Read more.

N.C. requests waivers for Medicaid program: (March 23)

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approved NC’s 1135 waiver request to allow for more flexibility in providing healthcare access, such as:

  • providing services in alternative settings;
  • extending the amount of time individuals have to request a Medicaid fair hearing for fee-for-service eligibility and service appeal requests;
  • temporarily suspending prior authorization requirements for medically necessary services provided through the fee-for-service delivery system, and
  • faster application and enrollment processes for health care professionals to provide care to Medicaid beneficiaries.

Read more about the waivers here and here.

(March 18) The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services has requested waivers from the federal government to ensure uninterrupted services for the state’s Medicaid beneficiaries. The waiver request includes measure to:

– streamline the enrollment process

– waive limits on access to hospital beds and lengths of stay in the hospital

– waive restrictions to expand alternatives to institutionalized care, such as in-home care services

Read more.

Access to healthcare for immigrants and their families: (March 18)

According to the National Immigration Law Center, our national partner:

  • The Families First Act provides additional funding to pay for coronavirus testing for anyone who is uninsured. The funding will pay for testing at community health centers, outpatient clinics, and doctors’ offices.
  • Immigrants can continue to access services at community health centers, regardless of their immigration status, and at a reduced cost or free of charge depending on their income. However, people should call first to find out the availability of COVID-19 screening and testing. Health centers may do patient assessments over the phone or using telehealth.
  • Eligibility for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces has not changed.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently posted an alert clarifying that it will not consider testing, treatment, or preventive care (including vaccines if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19 in a public charge inadmissibility determination, even if the health care services are covered by Medicaid.

Learn more from NILC.

Changes to N.C. food stamp certification periods: (March 18) The N.C. Office Economic and Family Services announced plans to extend the state’s Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) certification periods for all cases that have certification periods ending March 31 or April 30, 2020, with the exception of Simplified Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamp) cases. Automatic extension will alleviate the need for FNS households to leave their homes to mail or deliver their re-certification forms or to retrieve required verification, reducing potential exposure to COVID-19.

Mecklenburg County DSS offices closed to the public: (March 17) Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy just learned that Mecklenburg County is closing its Department of Social Services (DSS) offices to the public as of tomorrow, March 18, and will be conducting all business via telephone and mail.

At Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s urging, DSS has agreed to honor the date of phone calls as date of application for applicants, to not terminate benefits missed deadlines, to allow late appeals, and to post clear signage in front of their buildings outlining this information.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is monitoring the situation to make sure residents continue to have uninterrupted access to benefits during the COVID-19 outbreak. Anyone experiencing issues should contact us by calling 704-376-1600.

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COVID-19 Updates: Immigration

Immigration

From our Immigrant Justice Team: Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is open through the COVID-19 crisis and will continue to accept new immigration cases for representation.  Our focus continues to be on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and asylum cases, but we will consider other categories of immigration relief on a case-by-case basis.  Please call 800-247-1931 to determine whether we can assist you. 

Here is what we know about how the COVID-19 crisis will affect immigration matters in the near future:

Charlotte’s immigration court is closed: (April 1) All non-detained hearings scheduled through May 1, 2020, have been postponed.

(March 19) The Charlotte Immigration Court is closed through April 10, 2020, which means that any hearings scheduled through April 10 are postponed.  It is unclear how and when hearings will be rescheduled. 

The Executive Office for Immigration Reviews has announced that the 800 toll-free number that individuals can normally can call to check for hearing information may not be updated and should not be relied upon.  The Advocacy Center is monitoring this situation and will update this page as soon as information becomes available.

ICE Check-Ins: (March 19)Individuals with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) check-ins should be contacted by an ICE officer to check in by phone—instead of in person—on their next scheduled report date.  The phone number to call for the Charlotte Enforcement and Removal Office is 843-746-2857.

USCIS Closes Field Offices: (March 18) United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has cancelled all routine in-person services.  The Charlotte Field Office will send notices to applicants and petitions with scheduled appointments and naturalization ceremonies impacted by the closure.  USCIS asylum offices will send interview cancellation notices and automatically reschedule asylum interviews.  USCIS will provide emergency services for limited situations.  To schedule an emergency appointment, individuals should contact the USCIS Contact CenterRead more.

El Centro de apoyo estará abierto durante la crisis de COVID-19 y seguirá aceptando nuevos casos de inmigración que requieran de representación. Nuestro enfoque seguirá siendo casos de Estatus de Inmigrante Juvenil Especial y casos de asilo, pero consideraremos otros tipos de casos inmigratorios dependiendo de cada caso.  Por favor llame a la línea de español ( 800-247-1931) para determinar si le podemos ayudar.

Esto es lo que sabemos sobre cómo la crisis del COVID-19 afectará asuntos de inmigración en el futuro cercano:

La Corte de Inmigración de Charlotte estará cerrada hasta el 10 de abril del 2020. Esto significa que todas las audiencias programadas para antes del 10 de abril se pospondrán. No está claro cómo o cuándo las audiencias serán reprogramadas. La Oficina Ejecutiva de Revisión de Casos de Inmigración ha anunciado que el número gratuito, al que normalmente puede llamar para averiguar información sobre su próxima audiencia, no va a estar actualizado y no debe confiar en la información que le dé. El centro de apoyo legal está monitoreando esta situación y vamos a actualizar esta página una vez la información correcta esté disponible.

Si tiene que registrarse con Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) debe ser contactado por un oficial de ICE para registrarse por teléfono – en vez de en persona – en su próxima fecha de reporte agendada. El número al que puede llamar para contactarse con la Oficina de Aplicación y Remoción de Charlotte es 843-746-2857.

Los Servicios de Ciudadanía e Inmigración de Estados Unidos (“USCIS”) ha cancelado todos los servicios de rutina en persona. La oficina de USCIS en Charlotte mandará notificación a todos los solicitantes con citas programadas y ceremonias de ciudadanía impactados por el cierre. Las Oficinas de USCIS de asilo mandarán notificaciones de cancelación de entrevistas y reprogramarán automáticamente las entrevistas de asilo. USCIS proveerá servicios de emergencia para situaciones limitadas. Para programar una cita de emergencia, debe comunicarse con el Centro de Contacto de USCISLee mas

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COVID-19 Updates

Wait… what’s happening?

We are living in an unprecedented moment, trying to adjust to a situation that continues to evolve. Life in our community has completely changed in a matter of days—so much so that it’s been hard to keep track of everything that has happened.

We’re here to help.

As a champion for those in need, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is committed to serving our community during this pandemic and beyond. Anyone needing assistance can contact us by calling 704-376-1600 (Mecklenburg County), 800-438-1254 (Outside Meckelenburg County) or 800-247-1931 (Linea de Español).

You can find updates for how our offices are operating during COVID-19 here as well as a community resource guide for Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Union counties.

LOOKING FOR A SPECIFIC AREA OF ASSISTANCE?

Click to these pages:

Consumer Protection

Home Preservation

Community Stability

Healthcare Access and Public Benefits

Immigration

Tax Assistance

COVID-19 Updates: Tax Assistance

Tax Assistance

From our N.C. Low-Income Tax Clinic team: Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s North Carolina Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic is available to help taxpayers experiencing problems with the IRS, trying to understand changes to tax season and any other developments resulting from COVID-19. We are currently working all tax cases by mail and phone, while monitoring policy changes at the federal and state level. Anyone with questions about can contact us by phone (704-376-1600) or online.

IRS closes e-service help lines: (March 27) The IRS is closing its e-service help phone lines as well as help desks for filing returns electronically and Affordable Care Act information returns until further notice. The IRS is also unable to answer questions about stimulus payments currently. Taxpayers with questions can still call 1-800-829-1040 to get tax questions answered between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. local time.

This announcement does not affect taxpayers’ ability to file their taxes by mail or online, and collections from the IRS are still mostly suspended.

IRS announces People First Initiative: (March 25) The IRS announced it will be adjusting procedures to “ease the burden on people facing tax issues” during the COVID-19 outbreak. These new changes include issues ranging from postponing certain payments related to Installment Agreements and Offers in Compromise to collection and limiting certain enforcement actions. The IRS will be temporarily modifying procedures as soon as possible; the projected start date will be April 1, and the effort will initially run through July 15. During this period, to the maximum extent possible, the IRS will avoid in-person contacts. However, the IRS will continue to take steps where necessary to protect all applicable statutes of limitations. Read more.

Tax Day deadline pushed back 90 days to July 15 for Federal and State Taxes: (March 20) The U.S. Treasury has moved the deadline to file federal income taxes from April 15 to July 15. Now taxpayers have until July 15 to file and pay.

North Carolina has since announced that it will also move its deadline to July 15. However, due to the state’s tax statute, people who do not pay their taxes by April 15 will begin to accrue interest on their taxes. This interest will not apply if taxpayers make payments by the July 15 deadline. Read more.

Free Filing for Taxes is still available: (March 20) Taxpayers whose adjusted gross income is $69,000 or less with access to a computer, cell phone, and internet can go to the IRS Free File site, choose a third-party preparer and file their taxes for free: apps.irs.gov/app/freeFile/

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COVID-19 Updates: Consumer Protection

Consumer Protection

From our Consumer Protection team: Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has been working with our state, local and national partners to help the most vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Advocacy Center continues to fight for vulnerable consumers to protect them from financial exploitation. In these uncertain times, our attorneys and paralegals can help protect you and your loved ones from scammers who want to make a quick buck.

People are understandably worried about losing their jobs, income, health care and the problems that will cause with every aspect of their financial lives from their ability to pay bills to the effect the crisis will have on their health and credit.  There are several bills working their way through Congress now to provide relief to consumers. As we get new information about new consumer legislation protecting and providing for consumers, we’ll post it here.

In the meantime, be cautious when dealing with people who promise something that sounds too good to be true. Some things to watch out for:

  1. Price gouging: From bare shelves to outrageous prices for basic products, people are trying to make a quick buck from the coronavirus crisis. If you think a merchant is price gouging, report the business to the N.C. Attorney General’s office. They can investigate and shut down any scammers, if necessary.
  2. Phony cures: Scammers promise to sell you a product or service that will prevent or cure the coronavirus, or, offer to sell you a product they don’t have.
  3. Fake charities: Say they will donate to affected communities, but will pocket the money instead.
  4. Door-to-door sales: Be cautious of anyone who comes to your door offering to sell you something. Don’t sign anything presented to you by someone that contacts you first. Take your time to read any paperwork and let someone else review any document before you sign it.
  5. Bogus “official communications” emails from government agencies: These emails could say they are from federal and state governments, Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). These emails will have the look and feel of an official memo, and purport to contain “important information” or maps relating to the COVID-19 outbreak, in an attachment; or other calls to action that involve opening a file or clicking on a link.  Instead, the files or links lead to key-loggers, bogus web sites that try to capture personal information, or ransomware.
  6. “Coronavirus Tracker” Apps: These appear as an ad or link for a free download of a mobile app that claims to provide real-time updates of COVID-19 outbreaks, mapped against your location.  But instead of an app, the download contains a ransomware payload.

And, remember, if you fall behind on your mortgage, rent or other bills, there may be some relief available to you. Contact Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Consumer Protection Program if you think you are being taken advantage of or need information about a consumer matter.

Student Loan Payments Deferred:  (March 20) The Trump administration announced that student loan payments can be stopped for 60 days with no accrued interest if the borrower will call and make a request from their loan servicer. Those who still want to make their payments can do so. These payments would apply directly to the principal balance, which may allow some borrowers to pay off their loan more quickly. Read more.

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Meck Bar Recognizes Access to Justice Pro Bono Attorneys

The Access to Justice Pro Bono Partners Program is proud to recognize its 2020 recipients of the Mecklenburg County Bar’s pro bono awards.

The Mecklenburg County Bar recognized these committed individuals May 21, during its Annual Meeting, which was held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These attorneys and advocates enable us to serve more people in need, to narrow Mecklenburg County’s justice gap, and to build a stronger, more just community for us all.

This year’s recipients include attorneys, advocates and firms supporting Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina through their joint pro bono program, as well as Council for Children’s Rights and the Mecklenburg County Bar.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy

Blas P. Arroyo,
Alston & Bird LLP

Blas P. Arroyo is a skilled advocate and outstanding mentor who is generous with his time and considerable expertise. As a part of his Senior Counsel status at Alston & Bird LLP, Arroyo has dedicated several hours each week to work with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy clients as part of the Consumer Protection Program. 

He has invested countless hours into Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s criminal records expunctions work, including reviewing records for hundreds of clients and serving as an expert at dozens of expunctions clinics since joining the organization in 2017.

In addition to helping with existing programs, Arroyo also connected Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and The Relatives and launched a partnership to help the teen and young-adult clients of The Relatives receive advice and representation on expunctions. He has also helped litigate several consumer-protection cases. Arroyo is always willing to take the extra time to mentor and share his advice and wisdom. He is incredibly talented and compassionate and has made a deep impact on the programs and clients at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.

Emma C. Merritt,
Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP

Emma C. Merritt has been a pro bono volunteer with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy since 2017, when she began serving clients with Medicaid and Social Security denials through the Medicaid Appeals Project at her firm, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP. She has secured over $200,000 in benefits on behalf of clients through these cases.

While continuing these cases, Merritt added a major pro bono activity to her plate in 2018 when she joined Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Health Insurance Navigator Project as a healthcare “champion” leading volunteer efforts to support health insurance enrollment for Advocacy Center clients as part of the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership.

Merritt consistently approaches her role with enthusiasm and is always willing to give her time and resources. During her first year with the Navigator Project, Merritt was there to enroll clients in coverage all day on the last day of the 2018 Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment period—a day that is often long and busy for navigators. During the most recent open enrollment, Merritt helped with consumer appointments, check-ins at enrollment events, and enlisted her assistant to compile 1,000 healthcare information packets for consumers. We at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and our health access clients are fortunate to have Merritt on our team!

Legal Aid of North Carolina-Charlotte

Paul R. Kinny

After a long career as a lawyer with Duke Energy, Paul R. Kinny spent 10 weeks volunteering with Legal Aid during his time off from his teaching position with Queens University last summer.  Although he is not licensed in North Carolina, Paul helped where he could on housing cases in numerous ways:  interviewing clients, negotiating with landlords, conducting research, and drafting pleadings and discovery.  Kinny has now been approved by the N.C. State Bar to represent clients in court and plans to continue his volunteer work with Legal Aid.  His dedication has resulted in better outcomes for many clients and eased the burden on Legal Aid’s housing attorneys.

Legal Aid is proud to recognize Moore & Van Allen, PLLC as this year’s recipient of the firm award for its work supporting access to housing.  Last year, 10 attorneys from Moore Van Allen volunteered to take on housing cases to protect tenants’ rights to decent housing.  Those attorneys spent a total of more than 300 hours working for those clients.  In addition, one of these volunteers continued to serve clients as one of three housing “champions” with the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership and placed dozens of housing cases with other pro bono attorneys at other firms in that role.

Council for Children’s Rights

Mandy Schuller was an obvious choice for this year’s pro bono award, as she is the epitome of a champion for Council for Children’s Rights. Schuller has been volunteering with CFCR in its Custody Advocacy Program for over 6 years, where she serves as a best interest attorney for children caught in the middle of high-conflict custody cases. In that time, she has successfully represented 14 children across 6 challenging, time-intensive cases.

Schuller has always gone above and beyond as a volunteer for our child-clients. If we have a difficult case that needs an experienced, dedicated, and passionate volunteer, we know we can always turn to her. For the last 3 years, Schuller, a member of Wells Fargo’s Legal Department, has been our point-person for the pro bono partnership between Wells Fargo and CFCR. She recruits and encourages talented Wells Fargo employees to volunteer with CFCR, and she is our liaison for matching up volunteers with children in need. We are so grateful to Mandy and all she does for CFCR, and we are so impressed that she does it all while being a busy lawyer and mom!

We are excited to announce Randi Guinn-Shirley as the recipient of this year’s pro bono award. Her passion to serve children and young adults is undeniable. Prior to relocating to Charlotte, she worked in New York representing children in matters involving custody and visitation, child protection, and juvenile delinquency to ensure their interests were protected and wishes expressed to the court. In January 2008, Guinn-Shirley and her family moved to Charlotte, and at that time she turned her focus on raising her children, one with special needs, and caring for her family.

When Guinn-Shirley reached out to Council for Children’s Rights about her interest in volunteering with the Special Education Advocacy for Kids (SpEAK) Volunteer Program, she seemed like a natural fit. She completely understood the need for students in foster care to have someone able and willing to make special education decisions on their behalf, especially for students who do not have anyone naturally involved in their life able to serve that role.

In May 2019, she was among the third group of volunteers to go through the SpEAK Volunteer Program training. Shortly thereafter, Guinn-Shirley was appointed to serve as the Special Education Decision Maker for a sibling group of seven, ranging from first grade to sixth grade. During this school year, she has dedicated countless hours (over 150!) to advocating for appropriate educational services for these seven students. She has become intimately involved, getting to know their schools, their teachers, their foster parents, their therapists, and most importantly these students. They have greatly benefited from her enthusiasm, commitment, and consistency. We are so grateful to Randi for her dedication and passion to this work!

Mecklenburg County Bar

Fitz Barringer is a partner at Robinson Bradshaw, where he plays an active role in promoting pro bono work within the firm.  In addition to coordinating a summer associate pro bono project in partnership with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Barringer also volunteers with Legal Aid of North Carolina on landlord-tenant matters.  His commitment to helping to serve the under served goes beyond the courtroom.  Barringer also volunteers his time advising the board of a preschool situated in a low-income area of Charlotte that offers tuition-free care and education.  In 2019 alone, Fitz reported 175 hours of pro bono work.  The Mecklenburg County Bar thanks you for setting the example and for your leadership in the community!

Lynna Moen of Moen Legal Counsel began her pro bono journey with Safe Alliance while still in law school.  She later became a Safe Alliance fellow and to this day continues to volunteer for Safe Alliance, representing domestic violence survivors.  She also volunteers with Moore & Van Allen’s Human Trafficking Project through the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Project, the Mecklenburg County Clerk’s Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and the U.S. State Department’s Child Abduction Project.  The Bar’s Pro Bono & Legal Recruitment Committee received an outpouring of heartfelt support for this nomination from both fellow Bar members and the leaders of the organizations with whom she volunteers. Congratulations, Lynna. The Bar and the community are lucky to have you in our midst!

Congratulations to the 2020 recipients of the Mecklenburg County Bar Pro Bono Awards!

Mecklenburg County Bar 2020 Pro Bono Award Winners

NCBA to Recognize Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership at Annual Meeting

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is proud to announce that the North Carolina Bar Association has selected the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership as the 2020 recipient of the Outstanding Pro Bono Collaborative Service Award.

This award is presented annually to a law firm, local, district or statewide bar organization whose members have engaged in significant and notable legal services or have contributed outstanding support for pro bono legal services for low-income individuals.

The Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership collaborates with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina-Charlotte to bring together local law firms and legal departments and address some the most critical legal problems impacting economic mobility in our community.

At least 71 percent of low-income residents in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region experienced at least one civil legal problem in the last year, but only 14 percent were able to get the legal help they needed.

The Triage project began two years ago to expand access to legal assistance in key areas of need for our community. Through this project, every client referred has received legal assistance.

Over the past year, attorneys have been working in the key areas of eviction defense, healthcare access, cleaning up criminal records and human trafficking—with the goal of increasing safety, financial security and family stability for all in our community.

“This award recognizes a commendable team of dedicated volunteers,” said Brandy Haynes, pro bono and community engagement specialist for the Advocacy Center. “With Triage’s support, our organizations are able to serve more of our neighbors with essential legal services.”

The N.C. Bar Association plans to recognize the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership during the NCBA Annual Meeting Awards Dinner June 25, in Charlotte.

Project partners include Bank of America, Duke Energy, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP, K&L Gates, King & Spaulding, McGuireWoods, Moore & Van Allen, Parker Poe, Robinson Bradshaw and Wells Fargo.

Special thanks to the individual Triage champions leading each legal effort: Angela Zimmern and Todd Stillerman; Mark Kinghorn, Nader Raja and Brett Shockley for housing; Lara Nichols, Fern Patterson and Chris Fernandez for expunctions; John Grupp, Chelsea Corey and Emma Merritt for health care; and Sarah Byrne and Sakeenah Thompson for human trafficking.