NAVIGATING OPEN ENROLLMENT: Top Four Mistakes To Avoid

Woman holds child while talking on the phone and taking notes

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s health insurance navigators help families and individuals choose plans that are best for them within the Health Insurance Marketplace implemented under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). During the Open Enrollment Period, navigators take appointments free of charge with residents of Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Union County who are concerned about making common errors that could jeopardize their ability to maximize coverage and minimize cost. 

Find FAQs and how to make an appointment and keep reading to learn the top four mistakes navigators see people make on the Health Insurance Marketplace.

1. Missing the Deadline 

The Open Enrollment Period is Nov. 1 through Dec. 15, 2020. During this timeframe, participants will be able to select a health insurance plan for coverage that will start on January 1, 2021. It is very difficult to qualify to sign up for health insurance on the Marketplace beyond the designated timeframe. Usually, adjustments or new enrollments are allowed only as a result of a major life event, such as marriage, divorce, job loss or a new child. 

2. Misunderstanding Costs 

During Open Enrollment, some people only look at the cost of premiums and don’t take into consideration the deductibles, copays, coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximums. These are all important factors that will help determine your overall health care costs in 2021. 

3. Over- or Under-Insuring 

A basic high-deductible plan generally has the lowest monthly premium, but it requires the policy holder to spend more before full coverage kicks in. Some people mistakenly select this option because they think it will be cheapest, but they ultimately pay more out of pocket. Navigators suggest a quick assessment of your health care spending over the last couple of years. If you tend to undershoot your deductible, you might be better off moving to a high-deductible plan. If you usually hit your deductible before it resets, you could come out ahead by paying a higher premium for a heartier plan. Remember: The cost of many preventive measures, such as mammograms, colonoscopies and cholesterol screenings, are covered 100% before you meet your deductible and require no copay.  

4. Opting Out

A few years ago, not buying health insurance meant facing a potentially costly penalty. While that penalty no longer exists, forgoing coverage is a big mistake. A single illness or injury could total thousands of dollars out of pocket.

Still looking for the answer to your question or need additional guidance to get signed up on the Health Insurance Marketplace? Make an appointment with a navigator and sign up for additional information today.

NAVIGATING OPEN ENROLLMENT: Healthcare.gov Income Questions

The Open Enrollment Period is often the only opportunity for individuals and families to sign up for a health insurance plan for the following year. Until December 15, 2020, you can sign up for a 2021 plan.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s health insurance navigators help families and individuals choose plans that are best for them within the Health Insurance Marketplace implemented under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). During this Open Enrollment Period, navigators have received calls and questions from Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Union County residents about the household income section of the Healthcare.gov application. With this year’s pandemic and economic uncertainty, many have lost or changed employment and are struggling to estimate their income.

Listed below are some helpful tips and general guidelines. More of what to (and not to) include is available at charlottelegaladvocacy.org/getcovered.

Important points:

  • You must estimate your projected income for 2021.
    • If you are unemployed, it may be difficult to do this. Estimate how much you would make if you returned to your previous job.
    • If you don’t have a set salary or wages (for example, if you are a freelance worker, seasonal worker, or run your own business), it will be easier to estimate your income if you have a copy of your tax return from last year on hand.
    • If you are self-employed, you should input your net income. Click here for more help estimating your self-employment income.
    • If your income is very low or if you are unemployed, and you or a family member falls into one of the following groups, you may qualify to receive Medicaid: children under 21, pregnant women, women with breast or cervical cancer, individuals age 65 or older, blind or disabled individuals, people in need of long-term care, or people receiving Medicare.
  • You must report changes in income.
    • During the year, you must go back into your application to report if your income goes up or down. This will keep your monthly premium at a manageable price and help to reduce the amount of financial assistance you may have to pay back, if any at all.
  • You can receive financial assistance.
    • Estimating your income as accurately as possible allows the Marketplace to determine your eligibility for financial assistance.

Be sure to include:

  • Anticipated changes in income
    • Consider these questions: How might your income change in the coming year? Are you expecting business to improve or worsen? Will you be getting a raise? Work more hours? Get a seasonal job? Will another household member get a job? Will you gain or lose a dependent?
  • The anticipated income of all household members
    • If another person in your tax household has health coverage through a different plan or program, you still need to include their income on your application. Marketplace financial assistance is based on the income of all tax household members. You will be able to clarify on the application which household members do not need health coverage. Tax household members not applying for coverage are not required to provide any other information except income information (e.g. They do not have to provide a Social Security Number).
  • Some disability-related income
    • Only include Social Security disability payments when estimating your income for next year. Do not include Supplemental Security Income, only Social Security retirement or disability payments.
  • Income from investments
    • Things like stocks and bonds.
  • Alimony
    • Include only if your divorce or separation was finalized before January 1, 2019.

Do NOT include:

  • Self-employment expenses
    • Subtract any self-employment expenses from your estimated income.
  • Some disability-related income
    • Do not include Veterans’ disability income payments, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, and workers’ compensation payments when estimating your income for next year.
  • Social Security payments for applications that have not yet be approved
    • You can update your Marketplace application later next year if your application is approved.
  • Alimony
    • Do not include if your divorce or separation was finalized on or after January 1, 2019.
  • Child support

Free appointments with a local navigator can be made using the statewide appointment hotline at 1-855-733-3711, or online at www.ncnavigator.net. Appointments are filling quickly! Open Enrollment to sign up for a health insurance policy for 2021 will end Dec. 15, 2020!

More Resources:

More information on how to report your income: https://www.healthcare.gov/income-and-household-information/how-to-report/

And on what to include: https://www.healthcare.gov/income-and-household-information/income/

Voting in 2020

Have you made your plan to vote yet?

In a historic election year, your voice deserves to be heard. Vote for #accesstojustice this fall.  Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy encourages everyone who can to vote and let their voice be heard. 

Below you can find information on how to register to vote in North Carolina, ways that you can vote in North Carolina, resources for this information, and non-partisan election volunteer opportunities.  

How to Register to Vote: 

Regular voter registration ends on October 9th, 2020. Eligible voters can register to vote three ways: 

  • BMail: Fill out the voter registration form (English) (Spanish) and mail it to your local Board of Elections office or Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. Click here to find your local Board of Elections office.  
  • Online: North Carolina residents who have a valid driver’s license can register to vote online on the DMV website. There is no fee associated with this service.   
  • In Person: You can register to vote in person at your local Board of Elections office, DMV, or during early voting.  

If you miss the regular voter registration deadline, you can register at your early voting polling precinct between October 15th and October 31st AND vote on the same day. You must have a document with your legal name and proof of address such as a valid NC driver’s license or other government issued identification, a recent utility bill, or a current college/university identification with proof of campus residency. Learn more about early voting registration here. Check your early voting site here.   

How to Vote: 

Registered voters in North Carolina can cast their ballot by mail (also known as absentee voting) or in-person:  

  • By Mail: You can request your absentee ballot online via the North Carolina absentee ballot request portal. You should request your ballot as soon as possible and at least two weeks prior to election day due to mail delays. After receipt of your ballot, cast your vote in the presence of a witness and return it to any of the following locations by 5pm on November 3rd: 
  • Mail it to or drop it off at your local Board of Elections office. Click here to find your local Board of Elections office. 
  • Drop it off at your early voting site between October 15th and October 31st. Find your early voting site here.   
  • In person: You can vote early in-person between October 15th and October 31st or on election day on November 3rd. Please note that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the locations of polling precincts and that in-person voters will be required to follow all COVID-19 state safety guidelines. Curbside voting is available for individuals who are unable to enter the polling precinct. Find your early voting site here. Find your election day voting site here.  

Get Involved 

There are several options to for interested volunteers to get involved in the 2020 election: 

  • Election officials and student assistant election officials direct voters during in-person voting days. Learn more and sign up on the NC Board of Elections website.  
  • Train and sign up to be a poll monitor with Election Protection, the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection coalition.  
  • Register your friends and family to vote with the information provided in this email! (Or forward this email to them!) 

CDC Eviction Moratorium: What you Need to Know

*Updated January 22nd, 2021. Original post September 10th, 2020*

The federal government, through the Center for Disease Control, has announced a temporary halt on evictions through March 31, 2021 to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Under the order, landlords and property owners are prohibited from evicting certain tenants impacted by COVID-19. If you are an immigrant, you may have concerns about claiming protection under the eviction moratorium. While we think the risk is minimal, we provide the information below to help you decide what is best for you and your family.

CDC Evictions Moratorium Flyer (English)
CDC Evictions Moratorium Flyer (Spanish)

How do I Qualify?

You qualify for the temporary protection against eviction if one of the following applies in your situation:

  • You cannot pay your full rent payment because of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, lay-offs, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses.
  • Your income is below $99,000 annually for an individual/ $198,000 annually for a couple.
  • You are using your best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as your circumstances permit.
  • You have used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance available for rent or housing.
  • If evicted, you will become homeless or will have to move in with others in close quarters.

How do I claim protection under the Temporary Eviction Moratorium?

To claim the protection against eviction, every adult tenant must sign an affidavit that includes an agreement to pay any accumulated rent arrears after March 31, 2020.

Why might I worry about signing the affidavit as an immigrant?

An immigrant may be denied a visa, lawful permanent resident status, or reentry into the US (as a lawful permanent resident) if she or he is likely to become a public charge. Public charge is defined as someone who is primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.

Why I SHOULD NOT worry about signing the affidavit even though I am an immigrant:

  • Getting help under the Temporary Eviction Moratorium is not considered cash or other financial assistance that could count against you as a federal benefit for the public charge test.
  • The income limit for the federal moratorium is substantially higher than the income threshold for the public charge test. When you state that your income is not above $99,000/$198,000 annually, you do not admit that your income is below 125% federal poverty guideline ($32,750 annual income for family of 4) and, therefore, you do not jeopardize your immigration application.

Is it conceivable that my immigration application could be denied because I signed the affidavit stating that I cannot afford my rent?

It is conceivable but very unlikely and, certainly, there should be a legal challenge to a finding of public charge on this basis.

Remember that public charge DOES NOT APPLY to:

  • Asylum or Refugee status
  • Green Card renewal
  • TPS, U or T Visa status
  • DACA status or renewal
  • Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
  • Immigrants who already have LPR/ a green card

CONTACT CHARLOTTE CENTER FOR LEGAL ADVOCACY TO SPEAK TO SOMEONE ABOUT YOUR OPTIONS.

  • 704-376-1600
  • Línea en español 800-247-1931

Obtenga La Ayuda Que Necesita Bajo La Moratoria Temporal De Desalojo

El gobierno federal, a través del Centro para el Control de Enfermedades, ha anunciado una suspensión temporal de TODOS los desalojos hasta el 31 de marzo de 2021 para evitar una mayor propagación de COVID-19. Según la orden, los propietarios tienen prohibido desalojar a ciertos inquilinos afectados por COVID-19. Si usted es un inmigrante, es posible que le preocupe reclamar protección bajo la moratoria de desalojo. Mientras creemos que el riesgo es mínimo, la siguiente información puede ayudarle a decidir qué es lo mejor para usted y su familia.

¿Cómo califico para la moratoria?

Usted califica para la protección temporal contra el desalojo si alguna de las siguientes situaciones le aplica:

  • No puede pagar el pago total del alquiler debido a los ingresos del hogar, la pérdida de horas de trabajo o salarios compensables, despidos o gastos médicos extraordinarios de su bolsillo.
  • Sus ingresos son menos de $99,000 anuales por persona o $198,000 por pareja.
  • Está haciendo todo lo posible para realizar pagos parciales puntuales que se acerquen tanto al pago total como lo permitan sus circunstancias.
  • Ha hecho todo lo posible para obtener toda la asistencia gubernamental disponible para alquiler o vivienda.
  • Si lo desalojan, se quedará sin hogar o tendrá que mudarse con otras personas cercanas.

¿Cómo reclamo protección bajo la Moratoria Temporal de Desalojo?

Para reclamar la protección contra el desalojo, todos los inquilinos adultos deben firmar una declaración que incluye su acuerdo de pagar los atrasos de alquiler acumulados después del 31 de marzo de 2020.

¿Por qué podría preocuparme firmar una declaración como inmigrante?

A un inmigrante se le puede negar una visa, el estatus de residente permanente legal o el reingreso a los EE. UU. (como un residente permanente) si es probable que se convierta en una carga pública. La carga pública se define como alguien que depende principalmente del gobierno para su subsistencia.

Porque no DEBO preocuparme por firmar la declaración a pesar de que soy un inmigrante?

  • Obtener ayuda bajo la Moratoria de Desalojo Temporal no es considerado dinero en efectivo u otra asistencia financiera que pueda contarse en su contra como un beneficio federal para la prueba de carga pública.
  • El límite de ingresos para la moratoria federal es sustancialmente más alto que el límite de ingresos para la prueba de carga pública. Cuando declara que sus ingresos no superan los $ 99,000 / $ 198,000 anuales, no admite que sus ingresos estén por debajo del 125% de la línea de pobreza federal (Ingresos anuales de $ 32,750 para una familia de 4) y, por lo tanto, no pone en peligro su solicitud de inmigración

¿Es concebible que mi solicitud de inmigración pueda ser negada por firmar una declaración declarando que no puedo pagar el alquiler?

Es concebible pero muy improbable y definitivamentedebería haber una impugnación i legal contra una determinación de carga pública basado en esto.

Recuerde que la carga pública NO APLICA a:

  • Asilados o refugiados
  • Renovación de su permiso de residencia
  • TPS, Visa U o Visa T
  • Estado de DACA o renovación de DACA
  • Estado Especial de Inmigrante Juvenil
  • Ley de Violencia Contra la Mujer (VAWA)
  • Inmigrantes que ya tienen Residencia Permanente

Comuníquese con Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy para hablar con alguien sobre sus opciones.

  • Línea en español 800-247-1931
  • charlottelegaladvocacy.org

¿Ha Perdido Su Trabajo O Esta Trabajando Menos Horas Por COVID-19?

¡El Centro de Apoyo Legal de Charlotte y Asistencia Legal de Carolina del Norte estan aquí para ayudarle!

Hay 5 formas en que le podemos ayudar a usted y a su familia a mantenerse estable:

1. Beneficios de Desempleo:

  • Debe aplicar para recibir beneficios de desempleo lo más pronto posible. Puede aplicar por internet en la página web, des.nc.gov o puede llamar a 1-888-737-0259. Si no puede hablar con alguien enseguida, siga intentándolo y documente todos sus intentos.
  • Recuerde completar las certificaciones semanales en la página web des.nc.gov o llamando todas las semanas al 1-888-737-0259, incluso si su aplicación no ha sido aprobada todavía o si ha sido descalificado para beneficios y ha sometido una apelación.
  • Si trabaja por su cuenta propia, no ha trabajado recientemente o está aplicando para recibir o ya recibe beneficios por incapacidad, usted puede ser elegible para recibir beneficios de desempleo si no tiene trabajo o esta impedido para trabajar debido al COVID-19. Esto incluye a padres que tienen que quedarse en casa porque los niños no están en la escuela.
  • Durante esta emergencia, la cantidad de beneficios de desempleo ha aumentado a $600 semanales hasta el 31 de julio del 2020. También puede recibir los beneficios por más semanas.
  • Inmigrantes con autorización de empleo pueden ser elegibles para recibir beneficios de desempleo. Desafortunadamente, inmigrantes indocumentados no son elegibles.
  • Llame al Proyecto de Seguro de Desempleo en Respuesta a COVID-19 del Centro de Apoyo Legal de Charlotte al 980-256-3979 si tiene preguntas sobre beneficios de desempleo, ha tenido dificultades aplicando o le ha sido negado los beneficios.

2. Pagos de Estímulo

  • La mayoría de la gente debe recibir un pago de estímulo del IRS (Servicios de Ingreso Interno) de $1,200 por cada adulto y $500 por cada niño menor de 17 años. Puede recibir este pago incluso si no tiene la obligación de presentar una declaración de sus impuestos.
  • Tiene que ser autorizado para trabajar en los Estados Unidos para ser elegible para recibir estos pagos. Típicamente, esto significa que usted tiene un número de seguro social que es válido para empleo. Desafortunadamente, esto significa que muchos inmigrantes pueden no ser elegibles para recibir un pago de estímulo.
  • Si no ha recibido su pago, llame a la línea de impuestos del Centro de Apoyo Legal de Charlotte al 980-202-7329

3. Desalojo, Juicios Hipotecarios, Servicios Cortados y Pagos de
Préstamos Estudiantiles

  • Usted no puede ser desalojado por su propietario o tener su casa embargada hasta que tenga una audiencia en la corte. Estas audiencias están aplazadas por lo menos hasta junio del 2020.
  • Si usted tiene un préstamo de hipoteca con una entidad del gobierno como Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, VA, USDA, FHA o Home Equity Conversion mortgage (“Hipoteca Inversa”), puede tener derecho a dos periodos de 180 días de gracia para sus pagos hipotecarios sin tarifas por pagos atrasados.
  • Se prohíbe la desconexión de servicios, incluyendo electricidad, gas y agua para las personas que no pueden pagar durante la pandemia de COVID-19. También está prohibido cobrar tarifas, multas o interés por pagos atrasados hasta junio. Clientes residenciales tienen por lo menos seis meses para pagar facturas pendientes.
  • Algunos préstamos estudiantiles pueden ser suspendidos hasta septiembre del 2020.
  • Es posible que el Centro de Apoyo Legal de Charlotte y Asistencia Legal de NC puede ayudarle a prevenir su desalojo, juicios hipotecarios o desconexión de servicios. Llámenos al 704-376-1600.

4. Seguro Médico

  • Usted y sus hijos pueden ser elegibles para Medicaid.
  • Si no puede conseguir Medicaid, es posible que pueda inscribirse para cobertura en el Mercado de seguros/Obamacare con ayuda financiera si ha perdido su seguro médico o si ha tenido cambios en circunstancias recientemente. Tiene 60 días después de la pérdida del seguro o cambio en circunstancias para inscribirse.
  • Si ya está inscrito en el Mercado de seguros/Obamacare y no puede hacer sus pagos mensuales es posible que pueda calificar para primas más bajas.
  • El proyecto de navegadores de seguro médico del Centrol de Apoyo Legal de Charlotte puede ayudarle encontrar las mejores y más asequibles opciones de cobertura/seguro médico para usted y su familia. Podemos ayudarle a llenar una aplicación, actualizar su cobertura del Mercado de seguros/Obamacare o contestar preguntas que tenga usted o su familia. También podemos ayudarle si le han negado seguro o servicios. ¡Llame al 980-256-3782 para programar una cita gratis por teléfono hoy!

5. Asistencia con Comida

  • Puede ser elegible para estampillas de comida. La cantidad de beneficios de estampillas de comida ha aumentado y los límites de tiempo/requisitos de empleo han sido eliminados para algunas personas durante la pandemia del coronavirus.
  • Centrol de Apoyo Legal de Charlotte le puede ayudar a aplicar para estampillas de comida por teléfono. También podemos ayudar si le niegan la aplicación. Nuestra ayuda es gratis. Llámenos al 980-256-3782.
  • Hasta familias que no son elegibles para estampillas de comida recibirán una tarjeta de EBT por correo que puede ser usada para comprar comida si sus hijos califican para comida gratis o a bajo precio en la escuela. Su estatus inmigratorio no afecta su elegibilidad para recibir este beneficio. Si no recibe esta tarjeta, llámenos a 704-376-1600.
  • Familias sin ingreso también pueden recibir asistencia en efectivo para sus hijos de Servicios Sociales bajo el programa de Work First. La cantidad de beneficios de Work First han sido aumentados y los requisitos de empleo han sido eliminados durante la pandemia. Puede aplicar por teléfono si llama a Servicios Sociales al 704-336-3000. Si le niegan la aplicación o no puede aplicar, llámenos al 704-376-1600.

COVID-19 Updates: Home Preservation

Updated February 12th, 2021, originally posted May 27th, 2020

Home Preservation

Rent and Utility Assistance: Charlotte City Council recently approved an additional $8 million dollars of CARE’s Act funding to allow the expansion of the current Rent and Mortgage Assistance Program (RAMP Charlotte). This program includes rent and utility relief for tenants, long-term hotel guests, homeowners with mortgages, and hotel and property managers. Applications for this assistance will reopen on March1st, 2021 at 9am. Going forward, applications will be open on the 1st through the 15th of every month

Through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), some families may be eligible for utility assistance based upon income. You may also automatically qualify if you or a family member participates in certain other benefit programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or certain needs-tested Veterans benefits. Learn more and apply here.

Duke Energy Electric Service Moratorium: Duke Energy announced a Winter moratorium from November 1st through March 31st on electric utility shut-offs. To qualify annually under the moratorium provision, a customer must establish ALL of the following:

  • Someone in the customer’s household must be either handicapped, elderly (65 or older), or both.
  • Customer cannot pay his/her account in full, nor installments to bring the account into balance within six months.
  • The county Department of Social Services that administers the ENERGY CRISIS ASSISTANCE PROGRAM has certified that the household is eligible to receive such assistance, regardless of availability of funds. (DSS will present the customer with a “Certification Utilities Moratorium” to be mailed to Duke Energy, 9700 David Taylor Drive, Charlotte, NC 28262-2363, if eligibility is met.)

Learn more here.

General Evictions: (January 21st) Evictions proceedings can and are taking place in Mecklenburg county. However, the federal government, through the Center for Disease Control, has announced a temporary halt on evictions through March 31, 2021 to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Under the order, landlords and property owners are prohibited from evicting certain tenants impacted by COVID-19. Learn more about the order and qualifications here.

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 by not allowing self-help remedies such as changing the locks in order to evict a tenant. 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

Foreclosure in N.C. Courts:

Things you should if you have an upcoming foreclosure hearing:

  • If you have a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac home loan, you should contact the attorney handling the foreclosure and tell them about the foreclosure protection through June 30th, 2021Plan to attend the hearing unless you are told it is being continued.
  • If you have a FHA , HUD, or USDA home loan, you should contact the attorney handling the foreclosure and tell them about the foreclosure protection through June 30th, 2021. Plan to attend the hearing unless you are told it is being continued.
  • If you have requested a forbearance and get a hearing notice, contact the foreclosure attorney and let them know and tell the Court hearing officer that you have a forbearance.
  • If you have health issues, contact the Court and the attorney handling the foreclosure right away about continuing the hearing.  You cannot enter the Courthouse with any COVID-related symptoms. 
  • Wear a mask and check requirements of entering courthouse here:  Mecklenburg Courthouse Modified Operations
  • Contact CCLA Consumer Protection Program with questions or concerns at 704-376-1600.

What to Know about Mortgages and Mortgage Relief: (July 15th)

Pay Your Mortgage if You Can Afford It

  • Payments skipped will still become due.  Depending upon your mortgage, you may not be happy with the repayment options offered; in some cases you may have to pay a large lump sum.  Also, mortgage companies will make a mistake when processing repayment plans – these errors can be very difficult to fix.

If you Cannot Pay your Mortgage, there may be relief available 

  • Not all mortgages qualify for the same payment relief.  See below.
  • Requesting a Forbearance is better than letting your loan go into default.  Once in default, other fees begin to accumulate on the account.
  • Under federal law, the foreclosure process cannot start until you are more than 120 days past due.  COVID forbearances/moratoriums may extend that time for certain mortgages. 

“Federally-backed” mortgages have certain rights under the federal CARES Act

What Loans Are Federally Backed?

  • FHA/HUD mortgages and HECM Reverse Mortgages
    • For FHA loans, that  may be indicated on your mortgage statement. Or, check the first page of your closing documents from when you bought the house (HUD-1 statement).
  • VA (Veteran’s Administration) mortgages
  • Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac backed mortgages
  • USDA (Department of Agriculture)
  • A list of federal loan agencies, their policies, and contact information is here

What rights do homeowners with “federally-backed” mortgages have?

  • First, your lender or loan servicer may not foreclose on you until at least June 30th, 2021 if you have a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgage and June 30th, 2021 if you have a USDA, FHA or HUD Mortgage. The CARES Act and guidance from Fannie/Freddie and FHA prohibit mortgage companies from beginning a foreclosure, or from finalizing a foreclosure judgment or sale. This protection began on March 18, 2020. CFPB link
  • Federally-backed mortgage companies must provide a Forbearance, if requested, due to financial hardship experienced during the COVID-19 emergency period.  You should not have to provide additional documents other than the request affirming your hardship.
  • 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 COVID-19 hardships..
  • You are eligible even if your loan was delinquent before the COVID emergency. If you have experienced a hardship during the COVID emergency, the forbearance should be granted once requested.
  • All forbearance payments will have to be paid back.  Do not ask for one if you do not need one.
  • A forbearance must be granted up to 180 days.  Then a borrower can request another 180 days.

Additional assistance available to homeowners with “federally backed” mortgages:

  • Through its Disaster Response Network, Fannie Mae also offers additional help to homeowners with a Fannie Mae-owned mortgage,, 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.

What if I don’t have a federally-backed mortgage but still have a financial hardship?

  • Contact your mortgage company as soon as possible.  Many private mortgage companies are also granting forbearances.  Try by phone, or on the online website if you cannot get through.
  • Make sure you ask about and understand the repayment options at the end of the forbearance.  Ask that it be sent to you in writing.
  • Ask for assistance in writing about the repayment and loss mitigation options available to you if you do not have a federally-backed mortgage.
  • Contact a free HUD-housing Counselor.  Never pay up front for mortgage assistance.  Make sure any housing counselor is HUD-certified here:  HUD free counselors and info

What about property taxes and homeowner’s insurance?

  • If your account is escrowed (meaning the taxes and insurance are paid through your mortgage payment, the mortgage company should continue to pay them during the forbearance.
  • Borrowers who do not have an escrow account should continue to pay their property taxes, insurance, HOA fees, and other home-related items directly, if possible.

Problems with COVID Forbearances or other mortgage company issues

  • Borrowers who believe they have been improperly denied a forbearance or have other problems with their servicer should submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau using its complaint portal.
  • Borrower’s whose mortgage companies are regulated by the North Carolina Commissioner of Banks can file a complaint here NCCOB complaint

Other Resources:

NCLC Coronavirus:  What Borrowers Need to Know

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:  CFPB Covid Mortgage Info

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COVID-19 Updates: Community Stability

Updated Dec. 16th, 2020, originally posted May 27th, 2020

Community Stability

Updates from the City of Charlotte

The Mecklenburg County courthouse is open at a limited capacity and undertaking COVID-19 restriction.

Superior and District Court In-Person Proceedings Postponed: (December 14th) Chief Justice Cheri Beasley announced that beginning Monday, December 14th, all non-essential, in-person superior court and district court proceedings will be postponed for 30 days and will be rescheduled no sooner than January 14th, 2021, (e.g. foreclosures) unless:

  • the proceeding will be conducted remotely;
  • the proceeding is necessary to preserve the right to due process of law (e.g., a first appearance or bond hearing, the appointment of counsel for an indigent defendant, a probation hearing, a probable cause hearing, etc.); 
  • the proceeding is for the purpose of obtaining emergency relief (e.g., a domestic violence protection order, temporary restraining order, juvenile custody order, judicial consent to juvenile medical treatment order, civil commitment order, etc.)
  • the senior resident superior court judge, chief business court judge, or chief district court judge determines that the proceeding can be conducted under conditions that protect the health and safety of all participants.

Learn more about the order here. Individuals should also look at their local court orders for further clarity. Counties are handling reopening and dockets differently; for example, some counties are deciding on a week-to-week basis whether to hear eviction proceedings.

Jury trials in Mecklenburg County will resume the week of November 16th. You should have received updated court dates or jury summons if applicable to your situation.

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. 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.

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

Updated Feb. 12, 2021 original post May 27th, 2020

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.

The open enrollment period for health insurance through the Marketplace has ended but 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 to help them address with any barriers they may be experiencing regarding access to healthcare or food stamps.

SEPs are generally life changes that affect your access to health coverage and enrollment must be done within 60 days of the change. However, due to COVID-19, the enrollment period has been expanded to include anyone who has experienced any of the above life changing events since January 1st, 2020. If you lost your employment and healthcare coverage from any time beginning January 1st, 2020, you are eligible to enroll in Marketplace health coverage even if the initial 60 day SEP has passed. Read more.

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: (last updated December 2020)

During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, states must NOT terminate Medicaid eligibility except for:

  • if the beneficiary is no longer a resident of the state (including those who are deceased).
  • 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: (last updated December 2020) In March, N.C. Medicaid temporarily modified 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 included 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. These changes will remain in effect until the North Carolina State of Emergency is declared to be over or when the policy is rescinded.

Read more about the policies here, and find helpful information for Medicaid beneficiaries, including an introduction to telehealth, a checklist for telehealth appointments, and information on internet access and telehealth, and information on telehealth for specific health needs or conditions, here.

N.C. requests waivers for Medicaid program: (Last Updated December 2020)

In March 2020, 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.

These 1135 waivers will remain in effect until the end of the federal Public Health Emergency. Read more about the waivers here and here.

In March, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services requested other 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, and
  • waive restrictions to expand alternatives to institutionalized care, such as in-home care services

Read more.

Medicaid for patients with breast and cervical cancer: Effective October 1, 2020 access to Medicaid coverage for women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer has been greatly expanded! (See Medicaid bulletin here.) Note that women diagnosed since July 1, 2020 are eligible under this new policy.  If you have any questions about the changes, are interested in a brief presentation for staff/patients/clients on the updated coverage, or experience any problems accessing Medicaid for these women, please contact our office at (980) 202-7361.

Access to healthcare for immigrants and their families: (Updated Dec. 2020)

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.
  • The CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act provided additional funding to support testing and treatment for the uninsured through a program administered by the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA).
  • 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 stamps in NC: (Updated Jan. 2021)

From January 1st, 2021 through June 30th, 2021, the maximum monthly food stamp benefit will be increased by 15% for all household sizes. Additionally, throughout the pandemic, North Carolina has been providing a monthly supplement of food stamps to families who are not receiving the maximum monthly allotment for a household of their size so that all families receive this maximum (for January through June of 2021, families will receive a supplement up to the increased household maximum). We hope NC will continue to request this monthly supplement from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as families’ access to food is still dramatically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

North Carolina has made other changes to the food stamps program in response to COVID-19. For example, households receiving food stamps with 6-month certification periods that end between November 30, 2020 and June 30, 2021 will be automatically extended for 6 months. Households with application or recertification dates through January 31, 2021 to sign their food stamps application over the phone. North Carolina also received approval to extend waivers that suspend collection of all food stamps and Work First overpayments, that provide alternative procedures for conducting Administrative Disqualification Hearings by phone and extend the timeframe for the full ADH process, and that extend the timeframe of the fair hearing process. These waivers expire on January 31, 2021, however the option to conduct ADH hearings by phone has been accepted as a permanent change and will not expire.

Families also can now use EBT benefits to purchase groceries online at five retailers: Aldi’s, Food Lion (via Instacart), Carli C’s, Walmart, and Amazon. EBT cannot be used for service or delivery fees and a second payment method must be used.

Pandemic EBT

In the Spring, North Carolina was approved to provide Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) benefits to children who would have had access to free or reduced-price meals at school, but their schools were closed due to COVID-19. P-EBT was provided to children in August and September of the 2020-21 school year as well, with slightly different eligibility factors.

The new COVID-19 relief bill passed Dec. 22nd by congress improves P-EBT benefits for school age children and extends these benefits to children younger than age six. We are awaiting North Carolina’s state plan to better understand how eligibility will be determined for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.

Mecklenburg County DSS offices closed to the public: (Last updated Dec. 2020)

As of March 18, Mecklenburg County closed its Department of Social Services (DSS) offices to the public and has been conducting all business via telephone and mail. You can contact Customer Connection, the DSS Call Center, at 704-336-3000 for assistance including: to request applications for DSS services, check the status of your case, obtain information or referrals to DSS or community programs, notify DSS of a change in your situation, or request a replacement Medicaid card.

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 at 704-376-1600.

Social Security office remains closed to the public (last updated December 2020)

Since March 17, 2020, all local Social Security Administration offices have been closed to the public. To reach Social Security, you can call toll free to 800-772-1213.

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COVID-19 Updates: Immigration

Updated Jan. 28th, 2021, originally posted May 27th, 2020

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:

100 Day Removal (Deportation Ban): The Pekoske Memo prohibits removal (deportation), for 100 days beginning January 22, 2021, of any immigrant who was present in the US before November 1, 2020. There are only two categories of persons to whom this moratorium does not apply. The first category includes persons who are terrorists, suspected terrorists or individuals who pose a national security threat. The second category is comprised of individuals who have stipulated to removal as part of a criminal disposition. Read more here.

Charlotte’s immigration court open in a limited capacity (Phase One): Unless otherwise specified, Master Calendar Hearings are postponed through, and including, December 4th, 2020. Non-detainee hearings resumed on September 14, 2020 in Charlotte’s immigration court.

Phases of Immigration court opening: We are in phase 1.  

Phase 1 – individual hearings only in some of the courtrooms- (September 14, 2020 )

Phase 2 – individual hearings only in all courtrooms 

Phase 3 – masters and individual hearings 

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 Field Offices: (July 30) USCIS since June 4, 2020, resumed non-emergency face-to-face services to the public USCIS has enacted precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in reopened facilities. Appointment notices will include further instructions for visiting USCIS facilities. USCIS locations are not accepting walk-in visits at this time. 

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:

El Memo de Pekoske prohíbe la deportación por 100 días, comenzando el 22 de enero del 2021, de cualquier inmigrante presente en los EE. UU. antes del 1 de noviembre de 2020. Solo hay dos categorías de personas a las que no se aplica esta moratoria. La primera categoría consiste de personas que son terroristas, presuntos terroristas o personas que representan una amenaza para la seguridad nacional. La segunda categoría está compuesta por personas que han estipulado la deportación como parte de una disposición criminal. Lee mas.

La corte de inmigración de Charlotte está abierta a una capacidad limitada (Fase uno): A menos que se especifique lo contrario, Master Calender (MCH) se pospuestas hasta el 4 de diciembre de 2020. Las audiencias de no detenidos se reanudarán el 14 de septiembre de 2020 en la corte de inmigración de Charlotte.

Fases de la apertura de la corte de inmigraciónEstamos en la fase 1.

Fase 1: audiencias individuales solo en algunas de las salas de audiencias (a partir del 14 de septiembre de 2020)

Fase 2: audiencias individuales en todas las salas de audiencias

Fase 3 – master calender y audiencias individuales

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”) USCIS desde el 4 de junio de 2020 reanudó los servicios cara a cara que no son de emergencia para el público. USCIS ha tomado precauciones para evitar la propagación de COVID-19 en las instalaciones reabiertas. Los avisos de citas incluirán más instrucciones para visitar las instalaciones de USCIS. Las ubicaciones de USCIS no aceptan visitas sin cita en este momento.

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