Unemployed or working fewer hours during COVID-19? 5 things to consider

Many people are trying to figure out what their options are after losing their jobs or having work hours reduced during COVID-19. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is here to help. Contact us if you need assistance figuring out your options. Here are 5 ways we can help you and your family remain stable: 

1.  Unemployment Benefits:

  • You should apply for unemployment benefits right away. You can apply online at des.nc.gov or by calling 1-888-737-0259. If you cannot get through, keep trying and document your attempts.
  • Remember to fill out the weekly certifications online at des.nc.gov or by calling 1-888-372-3453 every week, even if your application has not been approved yet or you have been disqualified for benefits and have filed an appeal.
  • If you are self-employed, haven’t worked recently, or you are applying for or receiving disability benefits you may be eligible for unemployment benefits if you are out of work or unable to work due to COVID-19. This includes parents who must stay home because their children are out of school.
  • During this emergency, the amount of unemployment benefits has been increased by $600 per week through July 31, 2020. You can also receive the benefits for more weeks.
  • Immigrants with work authorization may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Unfortunately, undocumented immigrants are not eligible.
  • Call Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Unemployment Insurance COVID-19 Response Project at 980-256-3979 if you have questions about unemployment benefits, are having trouble applying, or have been denied benefits.

2.  Stimulus Payments:

  • Most people should get a stimulus payment from the IRS of $1,200 for each adult and $500 for each child under age 17. You can get this payment even if you are not required to file a tax return.
     
  • You must be authorized to work in the U.S. to be eligible for these payments, typically this means you have a SSN that’s valid for employment. Unfortunately, this means many immigrants may not be eligible for a stimulus payment.
     
  • If you have not received your payment, call Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Taxpayer Clinic hotline at 980-202-7329

3. Evictions, Foreclosures, Utility Cut-Offs and Student Loan payments

  • You cannot be evicted by your landlord or have your house foreclosed until after a court hearing. Those court hearings are on hold at least until June 2020.
  • If you have a federally backed mortgage loan such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, VA, USDA, FHA or Home Equity Conversion mortgage (“Reverse mortgage”), you may be entitled to two 180-day forbearances on your mortgage payments without late fees being added.
  • Utilities, including electric, gas, and water services are prohibited from disconnection for customers unable to pay during the COVID-19 pandemic and from collecting fees, penalties, or interest for late payments until June. Residential customers have at least six months to pay outstanding bills.
  • Certain student loans may be entitled to have their payments suspended through September 2020.
  • Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy or Legal Aid may be able to help you prevent eviction, foreclosure, or utility cut-off. Call us at 704-376-1600.

4. Health Care Coverage:

  • You and your children may now be eligible for Medicaid. 
  • If you cannot get Medicaid, you may be able to enroll in Obamacare/Marketplace coverage with financial assistance if you recently lost your health coverage or had a change in circumstances. You have 60 days after losing your coverage or the change to enroll.
  • If you are already enrolled in Obamacare/Marketplace and cannot pay your premiums, you may qualify for lower premiums.
  • Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Health Insurance Navigator Project can help you find the best and most affordable coverage options for you and your family. We can help you complete an application, update your Obamacare/Marketplace coverage, or answer general health insurance questions. We can also help if you get denied for coverage or services. Call 980-256-3782 to schedule a free, over the phone appointment today!

5. Food Assistance:

  • You may be eligible for food stamps. The amount of food stamp benefits has been increased and time limits/work requirements for some people have been waived during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy can help you apply for food stamps over the phone. We can also help if you get denied. Our help is free. Call us at 980-256-3782.
  • Even families not eligible for food stamps will receive an EBT card in the mail to use to buy food if their children qualify for free and reduced lunch at school. Your immigration status does not matter. If you do not get this card, call us at 704-376-1600.
  • Families with no income can also get cash assistance for their children from Social Services under the Work First program. The amount of Work First benefits have been increased and work requirements waived during the pandemic. 

    Apply by phone by calling Social Services at 704-336-3000. If you get denied or cannot apply, call us at 704 376-1600.

COVID-19 Unemployment Insurance and Immigration

Eligibility for Unemployment Insurance Benefits based on Immigration Status

Undocumented workers are not eligible for North Carolina unemployment insurance benefits.

In general, workers must have valid work authorization during the base period used to determine the benefit amount, at the time they apply, and through the entire period they are receiving benefits.

Unemployment Benefits and Public Charge

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security does not list unemployment insurance benefits as public benefits in public charge determinations.

Self-Employed and Independent Contract Workers

Self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers and others who would not traditionally qualify for North Carolina unemployment insurance may qualify under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program. Individuals with valid work authorization can file a claim for this program on the DES website as of April 24, 2020.

Please note there is a special hotline for PUA applicants, 866-847-72091. 
PUA applicants can also call during additional special hours on Sundays from 12 – 5 p.m.

Where can I receive additional information?

Visit the DES COVID-19 help page for more information or call Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy at 980-256-3979

Unemployment Insurance: FAQs

Where can I apply for benefits?

Apply online at des.nc.gov or by phone 1-888-737-0259. The quickest way to apply is online.

Why can’t I get through to the NC Division of Employment Security (“DES”) by phone?

DES has a high volume of callers requiring assistance due to COVID-19. Document any attempts to contact DES by phone. DES is working to improve this issue.

I am a self-employed worker or independent contractor – can I apply for unemployment insurance?

Self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers and others who would not traditionally qualify for North Carolina unemployment insurance may qualify under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program. Individuals can file a claim for this program on the DES website as of April 24, 2020.

When should I submit weekly certifications?

Weekly certifications must be submitted on the DES website for every week you have filed for unemployment, including any weeks you are awaiting eligibility from DES. Failing to submit weekly certifications will delay benefit payment.

What does a “pending claim status” mean?

If your DES claim shows your claim is “pending” this means that DES is still assessing your eligibility for unemployment insurance. Continue to submit weekly certifications during this time.

Where can I receive additional information?

Visit the DES COVID-19 help website or calling Charlotte Center for Legal
Advocacy’s Unemployment Insurance COVID-19 Response Project at 980-256-3979.

Protect Yourself From Coronavirus Scams

Scammers are always looking to take advantage of unsuspecting victims, especially in times of uncertainty. The more you and loved ones know about scams, the easier it is to spot and avoid them.

Download these tips for protecting yourself from coronavirus scams.

Beware of Price Gouging 

North Carolina is under a State of Emergency and price gouging laws are in effect:

  • It is illegal to charge excessive prices during an emergency.  A price may be unreasonable if it exceeds the average price for the product or service during the preceding 60 days.
  • Contact NC Attorney General’s Office 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or file an online complaint

Tips to Avoid Scammers and Fraudsters

  • Currently there are no cures or vaccines for COVID-19. ​Avoid offers for fake vaccines, cures, testing, air filters​, Medicare COVID-19 “kit” scams.
  • Don’t answer or hang up on Robo-calls.  Scammers are using robo-calls to pitch fake products, work-from-home schemes and insurance scams.  Try to avoid answering the call at all – if it is someone you know they will leave you a voicemail. 
  • Avoid false utility company representatives: Scammers are calling to dupe people out of their cash and personal information by convincing them their utilities will be shut off if they don’t pay. If you get a call from someone claiming to be your utility company, firmly tell them you will contact the utility company directly using the number on your bill or on the company’s website. Even if the caller insists you have a past due bill or your services will be shut off, never give banking information over the phone unless you place the call to a number you know is legitimate. Utility companies neither demand banking information by email or phone nor demand payment by gift cards (like iTunes or Amazon), cash reload cards (like MoneyPak, Vanilla, or Reloadit), or cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin), these are scams.
  • Avoid foreclosure rescue and “we buy homes” scams.  Scammers search public records for homeowners in danger of property tax, mortgage, and HOA foreclosure.   Never sign paperwork on the spot.  Scammers often try to trick homeowners into signing away ownership by signing a deed or other legal documents without disclosing the true nature of the transaction.
  • Be on the alert for Debt-Relief Scams. Avoid companies or out-of-state lawyers that offer to help. Under North Carolina law, it is illegal to collect upfront fees for debt settlement services.  Often these companies do nothing but put you further in debt and damage your credit.
  • Don’t pay someone in advance to help you access benefits.  The government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get the stimulus money. No fees. No charges. No nothing.  See our April 19 post about stimulus payments.
  • Avoid Social Security scams. The government will not call to ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer.  Don’t “verify” your number or be scared into thinking your benefits are about to be suspended.
  • Watch out for phishing emails and texts about the coronavirus that appear to be from health officials, experts, or anyone else. Don’t open messages, click on links, or download attachments from senders you don’t recognize.
  • Be cautious of offers to help get groceries, do errands ​– there are a number of good Samaritans, but unfortunately there have also been reports of scams, money given, nothing delivered.
  • Beware of “person in need” and grandparent scams. Scammers pose as a grandchild, friend or relative stranded or otherwise in trouble and need money quickly and quietly.  They may ask for money by mail or gift card.  Don’t be pressured, hang up and call another relative or friend if you are still concerned to help you investigate.
  • Be careful before you donate to a COVID-related charity​.  Check legitimacy through the North Carolina Secretary of StateCharity Watch, or Charity Navigator.
  • Be cautious of any unsolicited door-to-door sales pitch or offers.  Don’t sign or agree to anything on the spot – if an offer seems too good to be true it probably is. 

Still have questions or need help? Contact Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Consumer Protection Program for more information, 704-376-1600.  Stay safe everyone!

Additional Resources

Read more information and report scams through the links below and pass it on: 

Federal Trade Commission scam page  
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau   
N.C. Department of Justice Consumer Complaints   
National Center for Disaster Fraud

Information about the CARES Act Economic Impact Payments (Stimulus Checks)

Updated April 27. Originally posted April 6, 2020

IMPORTANT Notice: 

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has recently received calls from people asking about a second round of economic impact payments (better known as stimulus payments).

We want to make sure everyone knows that as of today, the federal government has not issued a second round of these payments. Discussions between Congress and President Trump are ongoing, but nothing has been decided yet.

If you have questions about your stimulus payments, contact Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy by calling 980-202-7329.

Many people anticipate receiving the CARES Act’s Economic Impact Payments (Stimulus Checks). Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy wants to make sure you have the information you need to know what to expect and how to get your payment.

Need help?
Book An Initial Consultation
Request a Callback
Call Us at 980-202-7329

Anyone in need of other assistance from Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy can contact us by calling 704-376-1600 (Mecklenburg County), 800-438-1254 (Outside Mecklenburg County) or 800-247-1931 (Linea de Español).

Who is eligible for the payment?

Tax filers with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 for individuals and up to $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns will receive the full payment.

For filers with income above those amounts, the payment amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000/$150,000 thresholds. Single filers with income exceeding $99,000 and $198,000 for joint filers with no children are not eligible. 

Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 will automatically receive an economic impact payment of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples. Parents also receive $500 for each qualifying child. 

Will the IRS take my payment if I have outstanding IRS debts, federal student loans or other government debts?

No, but the IRS will take your payment to the extent necessary to pay any outstanding child support obligations. 

How will the IRS calculate my payment?

For people who have already filed their 2019 tax returns, the IRS will use this information to calculate the payment amount. For those who have not yet filed their tax return for 2019, the IRS will use information from their 2018 tax filing to calculate the payment.

Most people do not need to take any action. The IRS will calculate and automatically send the payment to those eligible. 

How will the IRS know where to send my payment?

The economic impact payment will be deposited directly into the same banking account reflected on your tax return filed. 

The IRS does not have my direct deposit information. What can I do?

The IRS has an online portal, Get My Payment, for individuals to:

  • Check their payment status
  • Confirm their payment type: direct deposit or check
  • Enter their bank account information for direct deposit if the IRS doesn’t have their direct deposit information and the IRS hasn’t sent their payment yet

How to use Get My Payment

Taxpayers only need a few pieces of information to quickly obtain the status of their payment and, where needed, provide their bank account information. Having a copy of their most recent tax return can help speed the process.

For taxpayers to track the status of their payment, this feature will show taxpayers the payment amount, scheduled delivery date by direct deposit or paper check and if a payment hasn’t been scheduled. They will need to enter basic information including:

  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth, and
  • Mailing address used on their tax return.

Taxpayers needing to add their bank account information to speed receipt of their payment will also need to provide the following additional information:

  • Their Adjusted Gross Income from their most recent tax return submitted, either 2019 or 2018
  • The refund or amount owed from their latest filed tax return
  • Bank account type, account and routing numbers

Get My Payment cannot update bank account information after an Economic Impact Payment has been scheduled for delivery. To help protect against potential fraud, the tool also does not allow people to change bank account information already on file with the IRS. 

Is providing bank account information to the IRS when paying your tax filing liability good enough?

No, people who paid electronically are going to have to input deposit account information. Go to Get My Payment.

When will payments begin?

Taxpayers with direct deposit information on file with the IRS should see their payment in their bank accounts beginning the week of April 13, while others might have to wait up to five months to receive paper checks. 

The first checks should go to the 60 million taxpayers with direct deposit information from their 2018 or 2019 tax returns on file with the IRS. After that, the IRS will issue about 5 million paper checks per week to as many as 100 million individuals who don’t have direct deposit information on file in a process that could take up to 20 weeks to complete. 

What about taxpayers who don’t have bank accounts?

The U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS are working with digital companies and prepaid debit card providers to ensure there are other avenues for those taxpayers get their money quickly. 

I receive SS/VA benefits and/or I am not typically required to file a tax return. Can I still receive my payment?

Yes. Individuals who receive Social Security benefits (Social Security retirement, disability income (SSDI), supplemental income (SSI) or Survivors Benefits) or Veterans Affairs benefits (disability compensation, pension or survivors benefits) who didn’t file tax returns in 2018 or 2019 won’t need to file tax returns to receive their payments. 

They should receive the additional money just as they would their Social Security or VA benefits. The IRS will use the information provided by the Social Security Administration/VA to generate the $1,200 Economic Impact Payments. Recipients will get their payment as a direct deposit or by paper check, just as they normally would.

SPECIAL NOTES: Unless they filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return, recipients of Social Security or VA benefits who began receiving their benefits in 2020 will need to use the IRS’ Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Info option to claim their $1,200 payment. If you have not filled out this form, you must do so by November 21st to receive your $1,200 payment.

And, those recipients of Social Security or VA benefits who have qualifying children under age 17 should use the IRS’ Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Info option to claim the $500 per child payment. The IRS has reopened registration for recipients of Social Security or VA benefits to claim the $500 per child payment. If you have a child under age 17 and did not previously file the IRS’ Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Info to claim the payment, do so now between August 15th and September 30th to receive it. Payments will be issued beginning mid-October.

I am not typically required to file a tax return because I am low-income. Can I still receive my payment?

Yes. Unless they filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return, low-income individuals who are otherwise not required to file a tax return will need to use the IRS’ Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Info option to claim their payment.

I have not filed my tax return for 2018 or 2019. Can I still receive a payment?

Yes. The IRS urges anyone with a tax filing obligation who has not yet filed a tax return for 2018 or 2019 to file as soon as they can to receive a payment. Taxpayers should include direct deposit banking information on the return. Visit IRS Free File

If I receive SSI or a VA pension will my payment be considered income?

Please note that the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs will not consider the payments as income, and the payments are excluded from resources for 12 months.

What about taxpayers with Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITINs)?

Immigrants with ITINs are not eligible for the $1,200 payments. 

What about mixed-status families (SSN valid for employment and ITIN on the same tax return)?

If a husband, wife or any claimed dependent has an ITIN rather than a Social Security Number (SSN), it appears that no member of the family will get the payment (Exception for those serving in the Armed Services). 

Of course, the couple could leave dependents with ITINs off their tax return. And filing separately may be an option, however, the couple may miss out on some other refundable credits, such as the Additional Child Tax Credit and education credits, if they do so.

I need to file a tax return. How long are payments available?

For those concerned about visiting a tax professional or local community organization in person to get help with a tax return, these economic impact payments will be available throughout the rest of 2020.

Does someone who has died qualify for the payment?

No. A payment made to someone who died before receipt of the payment should be returned to the IRS by following the instructions for repayments. Return the entire payment unless the payment was made to joint filers and one spouse had not died before receipt of the payment, in which case, you only need to return the portion of the payment made on account of the decedent. This amount will be $1,200 unless adjusted gross income exceeded $150,000.

Does someone who is incarcerated qualify for the payment?

No. A payment made to someone who is incarcerated should be returned to the IRS by following the instructions for repayments. For a payment made with respect to a joint return where only one spouse is incarcerated, you only need to return the portion of the payment made on account of the incarcerated spouse. This amount will be $1,200 unless adjusted gross income exceeded $150,000.

What should I do to return a payment?

You should return the payment as described below.

If the payment was a paper check:

  • Write “Void” in the endorsement section on the back of the check.
  • Mail the voided Treasury check immediately to the appropriate IRS location listed below.
  • Don’t staple, bend, or paper clip the check.
  • Include a note stating the reason for returning the check.

If the payment was a paper check and you have cashed it, or if the payment was a direct deposit:

  • Submit a personal check, money order, etc., immediately to the appropriate IRS location listed below.
  • Write on the check/money order made payable to “U.S. Treasury” and write 2020EIP, and the taxpayer identification number (social security number,  or individual taxpayer identification number) of the recipient of the check.
  • Include a brief explanation of the reason for returning the payment

Where can I get more information?

The IRS will post all key information on IRS.gov/coronavirus as soon as it becomes available.

The IRS has a reduced staff in many of its offices but remains committed to helping eligible individuals receive their payments expeditiously. Check for updated information on IRS.gov/coronavirus rather than calling IRS assisters who are helping process 2019 returns.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy launches new projects to support COVID-19 relief

The need is everywhere. That’s why we’re here.

Now more than ever, our community needs a champion to ensure equal access to justice for ALL during these challenging times. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is here to help anyone facing issues of safety, financial security and family stability during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The Advocacy Center is still providing services in the areas of consumer protection, domestic violence, ex-offender re-entry, healthcare access, home preservation, immigration, income security and tax disputes, while working to ensure vulnerable populations, such as children, immigrants, people living with disabilities, seniors and veterans have the assistance they need during this critical time.

As needs continue to evolve, the Advocacy Center has been adapting its services to effectively serve the community, launching three new COVID-19 specific initiatives to help those in need:

Unemployment Insurance Assistance

Thousands of North Carolinians have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and are seeking financial assistance through the state’s Unemployment Insurance Program.

The overwhelming volume of applications paired with implementing new assistance programs under the federal CARES Act has caused significant delays, making the process more confusing for applicants trying to apply.

The Unemployment Insurance Project helps people who have lost work due to COVID-19 understand their eligibility and navigate the application process to receive unemployment benefits.

While Advocacy Center staff cannot help applicants fill out the necessary paperwork, they can answer questions about the process.

How to apply for unemployment benefits:

Anyone needing assistance can call the Unemployment Insurance COVID-19 Response Project hotline, 980-256-3979 and leave a message to receive assistance in English or Spanish.

Learn more about the project.

Help Understanding the Economic Impact Payments (Stimulus Checks) from the CARES Act

Many people anticipate receiving the CARES Act’s Economic Impact Payments (Stimulus Checks) as additional financial support. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy wants to make sure they have the necessary information to know what to expect and how to get a payment.

Anyone with questions about how to get their payment or any other tax issues can contact our N.C. Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic by calling 980-202-7329 or filling out an online assistance request.

Check out our list of FAQs regarding the payments.

Watch our latest Facebook Live discussion on what people can expect as the government issues payments.

CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program Support for Local Non-Profits

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy recognizes the important role that our community nonprofits are playing in Coronavirus response while at the same time being heavily impacted by the pandemic. That’s why the Advocacy Center, along with its pro bono partners, is providing free assistance to help Charlotte-area 501(c)(3) organizations understand the process and apply to get federal aid.

The Paycheck Protection Program of the CARES Act made $350 billion available in small business loans. While most of this money has already been distributed, Congress will likely pass additional funding for small business loans as soon as this week.

Many 501(c)(3) organizations are eligible for these loans, and a significant portion of the loans to nonprofits can be forgiven if certain criteria are met. If you think your nonprofit organization may qualify for a loan and want help understanding the rules governing eligibility, repayment and forgiveness for the loan, we may be able to provide free legal advice for you.

Call Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy at 980-256-3791 for assistance.

Action Alert: Tell Berger and Moore No Excuses. Expand Medicaid.

Health insurance and access to health care are more important now than ever before. No one should have to make the hard choice between getting critical care and making ends meet. 

But half a million people in N.C. do not have health insurance and thousands more are losing coverage with their jobs as our economy takes a massive hit during the COVID-19 crisis.

Our state is more vulnerable to this pandemic than it should be, but it’s not too late for our legislature to do the right thing.

Expanding Medicaid now would ensure access to health care for ALL North Carolinians, while bringing billions to our economy, creating thousands of jobs and supporting struggling rural hospitals that need to stay open, at a time when all of this support is critical to our state’s viability.

NOW is the time. Call or write to Senator Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore TODAY!

Our legislature cannot ignore this need any longer, and its leaders need a clear reminder from us.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is proud to join the North Carolina Justice Center, N.C. Moms Rising and advocates across the state in calling for our legislative leaders to expand Medicaid.

Call 1-855-408-2357 to contact Senator Berger and Speaker Moore’s offices

Sample Phone Message:
Dear Senator Berger/Speaker Moore: Our state is more vulnerable to COVID-19 than it should be, but you can do the right thing. You can expand Medicaid to make sure everyone can get the health care they need during this crisis. As our neighbors continue to go uninsured and without care during this pandemic, we all are at risk for infection, complications and even death. Don’t continue to put our state at risk. Please expand Medicaid. We are depending on you. 

Email Senator Berger: Phil.Berger@ncleg.net
Email Seaker Moore:
Tim.Moore@ncleg.net

Sample Email Message:
Dear Senator Berger/Speaker Moore,

We need our leadership to come together and figure out a solution that protects North Carolinians from COVID-19 and financial ruin. To do that, you must act now to expand Medicaid for more than 500,000 people.
The COVID-19 crisis is weakening our economy, workers and employers in ways that no other recession has before. We have seen unprecedented numbers of people lose their jobs and health insurance benefits in the middle of a public health crisis — when people need access to coverage the most.

The health of the person next to us affects our health and the person next to them too. We all need one another to be healthy and thriving to contribute to our economy and our community.

Those who continue to work in “essential” businesses to ensure we can meet our needs are the faces of North Carolina’s uninsured. They work in our grocery stores, delivery services and gas stations. They risk their health and their family’s health by going to work each day so that the rest of us can survive.

In risking so much, our state owes it to these workers to ensure access to critical care when they need it most through health coverage.

We need our leaders to rise above partisan norms in times of crisis to demonstrate they are willing to work for the health and welfare of our state. I urge you to expand health insurance coverage during this crisis.

Sincerely,

Update from last week:

THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to submit comments to for a stronger N.C. Last week, we called on you to advocate from home  by submitting comments to the House Select Committee on COVID-19 response. There are various policies the state can consider to stabilize families and our economy, but here were three points we emphasized in our comments:

  1. Expand Medicaid
  2. Reform Our State’s Unemployment Insurance Program
  3. Restore funding for civil legal aid.

Read the full Action Alert here.
In case you haven’t gotten around to submitting something, there’s still time! Here’s some more inspiration on how our state can reform its unemployment insurance program from our friends at the North Carolina Justice Center via NC Policy Watch: Veteran attorney explains specific upgrades NC should make to its unemployment insurance system.

Submit your comment

Share this message 

Encourage others to contact our legislative leaders and tell them now is the time to expand Medicaid.

Sign up to have our Action Alerts delivered straight to your inbox!

Student Borrower Advocates Call for Canceling Student Debt to Tackle Economic Fallout

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has joined advocates from across the country in calling on Congressional leaders to address student loan debt issues being exacerbated by COVID-19.

Here is the letter addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer:

Download a PDF version of this letter

April 13, 2020

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader McCarthy, and Minority Leader Schumer:

The 66 undersigned community, civil rights, consumer, and student advocacy organizations thank you for taking swift action to pass the CARES Act to begin to grapple with the ongoing economic fallout caused by the coronavirus. However, much more must be done to ensure that student loan borrowers and the economy recover when this crisis ends. We urge you to include student debt cancellation in the next coronavirus package, and for those who will still have federal student debt, to extend suspension of those payments through March 2021.

We are concerned about the increasingly grim predictions we hear about the state of our economy. Without a comprehensive long-term solution, the CARES Act suspension of federal student loans for eighty percent of borrowers merely kicks the problem down the road to this fall, when jobless claims are predicted to exceed Great Depression-era levels, and the financial crisis will have severely deepened. The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, James Bullard, predicted the U.S. unemployment rate may hit 30% in the second quarter, a level five percent greater than was reached during the Great Depression. Goldman Sachs is projecting a record-breaking 24 percent drop in GDP for the second quarter of 2020, and that the world economy is expected to contract by 1 percent this year—which would be a greater worldwide contraction than the one following the 2008 financial crisis. And the downturn is expected to last well beyond this year: Morgan Stanley predicts that GDP in developed markets won’t return to pre-virus levels until the third quarter of 2021.

The student debt relief in the CARES Act fails to address this looming economic crisis. First, the six-month suspension on federally-held federal student loans leaves out an estimated one in five borrowers who owe on commercially-held FFEL loans or Perkins loans. Second, even for the eighty percent of borrowers who benefit from a six-month suspension, many will face the daunting prospect starting in October of choosing between paying for necessities including food, medical care, and rent, or making their student loan payment.

The next stimulus package must take the necessary steps to ensure economic recovery down the line: this means federal student debt cancellation, so the hardest hit don’t struggle, and an extended federal student loan payment suspension that is expanded to all borrowers to at least March 2021, so those who will continue to have payments will have more breathing room to get back on their feet. Without taking these additional steps, the CARES Act sets up millions of federal student loan borrowers to face the daunting prospect of trying to find the means to pay their student loans in the middle of economic devastation.

Cancelling federal student debt would bring impactful relief to 43 million Americans and their families. Loan cancellation would provide the greatest benefit to many struggling low-income borrowers who would likely see their debt extinguished. For those who would still have a balance, suspending payments until the end of the year would prevent them from facing yet another financial shock when the CARES Act federal student loan suspension expires in October. An extended payment suspension would enable many economically distressed borrowers to focus on recovering from a once-in-a-lifetime national emergency and free up extra dollars to inject into the economy. It would also strengthen the finances of student loan borrowers and their families over the long term by ensuring that tens of millions of borrowers come out of this crisis with lighter debt burdens.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating economic impact, it is crucially important to include student loan debt cancellation as a part of any economic stimulus. We support the proposals that Senate and House Democrats have put forward to cancel student debt by establishing a program to make principal and interest payments on outstanding federal student loans throughout the duration of this crisis. Such a program would ensure that loan balances go down throughout the duration of the crisis, putting millions of households in a better position to deal with the long-term economic fallout this crisis will create. We also support the Student Debt Emergency Relief Act by Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar to cancel a minimum of $30,000 in federal student loans.

Cancelling student debt would ensure that, come fall, borrowers are able to shoulder the ongoing costs of food, supplies, and medications if they, like many workers, face layoffs or smaller paychecks (due to reduced hours or slower business) because of the pandemic. And at a time when student loan servicers are shuttering call centers or reducing capacity, student loan cancellation would ensure there is less need for borrowers to take time out of their days to chase down their servicers and try and secure changes to, or help on, their student loans.

Reports show that cancelling student debt would also boost the economy for everyone in the medium-to-long term. It would boost GDP by up to $108 billion a year, and add up to 1.5 million jobs per year. Research by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that federal student debt cancellation increases borrowers’ incomes by about $3,000 over a three-year period.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States was facing a student debt crisis: outstanding student debt surpassed $1.6 trillion, over 9 million borrowers were in default on their federal student loans, and another borrower goes into default every 26 seconds. The burden of default falls particularly hard on communities of color. Black students must borrow at higher rates and in larger amounts due to racial inequities in incomes and wealth. Additionally, women hold two-thirds of the country’s student debt and on average borrow $3,000 more than men to attend college—yet because of the wealth and wage gap, women find it harder to repay their loans. Three million Americans over the age of 60 still have student debt. More than 40,000 people over 65 have their Social Security payments, tax refunds, or other government payments offset or garnished because they have fallen behind on their student loan payments. According to a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) Snapshot report, older borrowers are more likely than those without outstanding student loans to report that they have skipped necessary health care needs such as prescription medicines, doctors’ visits, and dental care because they could not afford it.

Now more than ever, we must ensure that all people prioritize the health and economic wellbeing and that of their families and neighbors. Federal student debt cancellation is an essential factor in making that possible, and we strongly urge you to include this relief in the next COVID-19 package.

Sincerely,

National organizations:
Allied Progress
American Federation of Teachers
Americans for Financial Reform
Association of Young Americans (AYA)
Center for Digital Democracy
Center for Economic Integrity
Center for Justice & Democracy
Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)
Center for Responsible Lending
Center for Survivor Agency and Justice
Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety
Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF)
Economic Opportunity Institute
The Education Trust
EMPath
Hildreth Institute
NAACP
National Association of Consumer Advocates
National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA)
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients) National Women’s Law Center
The Midas Collaborative
OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates
Public Citizen
Public Justice Center
Public Law Center
Student Action
Student Borrower Protection Center
Student Debt Crisis
Young Invincibles

State and local groups:
ACTION – Allied Communities of Tulsa Inspiring Our Neighborhoods
Alaska PIRG
Arkansans Against Abusive Payday Lending
Arkansas Community Organizations
Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition
Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy
Convencion Bautista Hispana de Texas
Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council, Inc.
East LA Community Corporation
Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition
Faith Action Network – Washington State
Georgians Against Predatory Lending
Habitat for Humanity of Anderson County, TN
Just-A-Start Corporation
Lawrence CommunityWorks
Maine Center for Economic Policy
Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition
Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance
Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance
Michigan League for Public Policy
Michigan Poverty Law Program
Montana Organizing Project
New Jersey Citizen Action
New Jersey Tenants Organization
PathWays PA
Pennsylvania Council of Churches
PHENOM (Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts)
Project LIFT
SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center
Tennessee Citizen Action
Tzedek DC
Virginia Citizens Consumer Council
VOICE OKC
Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice
WV Citizen Action Group

Release from Americans for Financial Reform

Información sobre Pagos de Impacto Económico de la Ley CARES

Read in English
Muchas personas anticipan recibir los Pagos de Impacto Económico de la Ley CARES (por sus siglas en ingles). El Centro de Apoyo Legal de Charlotte quiere asegurarse de que las personas tenga la información que necesita para saber qué esperar y cómo obtener su pago.

Cualquier persona con preguntas adicionales sobre cómo obtener su pago puede comunicarse con nuestra Clínica de Impuestos para contribuyentes de bajos ingresos de Carolina del Norte llamando al 980-202-7329 o completando una solicitud de asistencia en línea.

Cualquier persona que necesite otra ayuda del El Centro de Apoyo Legal de Charlotte puede contactarnos llamando al 704-376-1600 (Condado de Mecklenburg), 800-438-1254 (Fuera del Condado de Mecklenburg) o al 800-247-1931 (Línea de Español).

¿Quién es elegible para el pago?

Los contribuyentes con ingresos brutos ajustados de hasta $ 75,000 para individuos y hasta $ 150,000 para parejas casadas que presenten declaraciones conjuntas recibirán el pago completo.

Para los declarantes con ingresos superiores a esos montos, el monto del pago se reduce en $ 5 por cada $ 100 por encima de los umbrales de $ 75,000 / $ 150,000. Los declarantes solteros con ingresos superiores a $ 99,000 y $ 198,000 para declarantes conjuntos sin hijos no son elegibles.

Los contribuyentes elegibles que presentaron declaraciones de impuestos para 2019 o 2018 recibirán automáticamente un pago de impacto económico de hasta $ 1,200 para individuos o $ 2,400 para parejas casadas. Los padres también reciben $ 500 por cada niño calificado.

¿El IRS tomará mi pago si tengo deudas pendientes del IRS, préstamos estudiantiles federales u otras deudas del gobierno?

No, pero el IRS tomará su pago en la medida necesaria para pagar las obligaciones de manutención infantil pendientes.

¿Cómo calculará el IRS mi pago?

Para las personas que ya presentaron sus declaraciones de impuestos de 2019, el IRS utilizará esta información para calcular el monto del pago. Para aquellos que aún no han presentado su declaración de impuestos para 2019, el IRS utilizará la información de su declaración de impuestos de 2018 para calcular el pago.

La mayoría de las personas no necesitan tomar ninguna medida. El IRS calculará y enviará automáticamente el pago a los elegibles.

¿Cómo sabrá el IRS dónde enviar mi pago?

El pago de impacto económico se depositará directamente en la misma cuenta bancaria reflejada en su declaración de impuestos presentada.

El IRS no tiene mi información de depósito directo. ¿Que puedo hacer?

En las próximas semanas, el Departamento del Tesoro de los EE. UU. Planea desarrollar un portal en línea para que las personas proporcionen su información bancaria al IRS en línea para que las personas puedan recibir pagos de inmediato en lugar de cheques por correo.

Esos contribuyentes podrían obtener sus pagos más rápidamente al proporcionar su información de depósito directo al IRS en una nueva aplicación que está en proceso. Esta aplicación será como la popular aplicación de la temporada de presentación “¿Dónde está mi reembolso?” Le permitirá a los contribuyentes ver dónde están sus fondos bajo esta nueva ley. El nuevo portal estará disponible pronto.

¿Cuándo comenzarán los pagos?

Los contribuyentes con información de depósito directo en el archivo del IRS deben ver su pago en sus cuentas bancarias a partir de la semana del 13 de abril, mientras que otros tendrán que esperar hasta cinco meses para recibir cheques en papel.

Los primeros cheques deben ir a los 60 millones de contribuyentes con información de depósito directo de sus declaraciones de impuestos de 2018 o 2019 en el archivo del IRS. Después de eso, a partir de la primera semana de mayo, el IRS emitirá aproximadamente 5 millones de cheques en papel por semana a hasta 100 millones de personas que no tienen información de depósito directo en el archivo, en un proceso que podría tomar hasta 20 semanas para completar.

¿Qué pasa con los contribuyentes que no tienen cuentas bancarias?

El Departamento del Tesoro de los EE. UU. Y el IRS están trabajando con compañías digitales y proveedores de tarjetas de débito prepagas para garantizar que haya otras vías para que los contribuyentes obtengan su dinero rápidamente.

Normalmente no estoy obligado a presentar una declaración de impuestos. ¿Todavía puedo recibir mi pago?

Si. Las personas que reciben beneficios de jubilación, discapacidad o sobrevivientes del Seguro Social que no presentan declaraciones de impuestos no necesitarán presentar declaraciones para recibir sus cheques.

Deberían recibir el dinero adicional tal como lo harían con sus beneficios del Seguro Social. El IRS utilizará la información en el Formulario SSA-1099 y el Formulario RRB-1099 para generar $ 1,200 Pagos de Impacto Económico a los destinatarios del Seguro Social que no presentaron declaraciones de impuestos en 2018 o 2019. Los destinatarios recibirán estos pagos como depósito directo o en papel verificar, tal como normalmente recibirían sus beneficios.

SIN EMBARGO: Algunos contribuyentes de bajos ingresos, personas mayores y personas con discapacidades que reciben Ingresos de Seguridad Suplementarios (SSI) y veteranos que reciben compensación y / o pensiones por discapacidad del VA que de otra manera no están obligados a presentar una declaración de impuestos deberán presentar una declaración simple para obteer su pago. IRS.gov/coronavirus pronto proporcionará información para instruir a las personas de estos grupos sobre cómo presentar una declaración de impuestos de 2019 con información simple, pero necesaria, que incluye su estado civil, el número de dependientes y la información de la cuenta bancaria de depósito directo.

El 4 de abril, TurboTax presentó un portal en línea donde los estadounidenses de bajos ingresos que no presentan una declaración de impuestos pueden enviar su información al IRS para recibir su pago de estímulo lo antes posible. Los no declarantes pueden proporcionar sus datos de depósito directo o dirección de correo y elegir cómo desean recibir su cheque de estímulo.

No he presentado mi declaración de impuestos para 2018 o 2019. ¿Todavía puedo recibir un pago?

Si. El IRS insta a cualquier persona con una obligación de presentar una declaración de impuestos que aún no haya presentado una declaración de impuestos para 2018 o 2019 a presentarla tan pronto como les sea posible para recibir un pago. Los contribuyentes deben incluir información bancaria de depósito directo en la declaración.

Si recibo SSI, ¿mi pago se considerará ingreso?

Tenga en cuenta que la Administración del Seguro Social no considerará los pagos como ingresos para los beneficiarios de SSI, y los pagos están excluidos de los recursos durante 12 meses.

¿Qué pasa con los contribuyentes con números de identificación fiscal individual (ITIN)?

Los inmigrantes con ITIN no son elegibles para los pagos de $ 1,200.

¿Qué pasa con las familias de estatus mixto (SSN válido para empleo e ITIN en la misma declaración de impuestos)?

Si un esposo, esposa o cualquier dependiente reclamado tiene un ITIN en lugar de un Número de Seguro Social, ningún miembro de la familia recibirá el pago (Excepción para aquellos que prestan servicios en los Servicios Armados).

Por supuesto, la pareja podría dejar a sus dependientes con ITIN fuera de su declaración de impuestos. Y presentar una declaración por separado puede ser una opción, sin embargo, la pareja puede perder otros créditos reembolsables, como el Crédito Tributario Adicional por Hijo y los créditos educativos, si lo hacen.

Necesito presentar una declaración de impuestos. ¿Durante cuánto tiempo están disponibles los pagos?

Para aquellos preocupados por visitar en persona a un profesional de impuestos u organización comunitaria local para obtener ayuda con una declaración de impuestos, estos pagos de impacto económico estarán disponibles durante el resto de 2020.

¿Dónde puedo obtener más información?

El IRS publicará toda la información clave en IRS.gov/coronavirus tan pronto como esté disponible.

El IRS tiene un personal reducido en muchas de sus oficinas, pero sigue comprometido a ayudar a las personas elegibles a recibir sus pagos rápidamente. Busque información actualizada en IRS.gov/coronavirus en lugar de llamar a los asistentes del IRS que están ayudando a procesar las devoluciones de 2019.

Action Alert: Advocate at home for a stronger N.C.

A lot of us may be stuck at home, but we can still advocate for a stronger N.C.

Our state is more vulnerable to COVID-19 than it should be, but our legislature can do the right thing by quickly enacting policies that preserve safety, financial security and family stability for ALL North Carolinians.

House speaker Tim Moore has convened a bipartisan House Select Committee to discuss policy options in response to COVID-19. The committee is soliciting public comments through an online portal to inform their priorities.

Our representatives need to hear from you!

Take a few minutes to submit comments on how the state should respond to COVID-19 in ways that ensure N.C. is better equipped to weather crisis down the road.

There are various ways the legislature could stabilize families and save our economy during these uncertain times, but here are three options we’re emphasizing:

  1. We must expand Medicaid.

    Health insurance and access to health care are more important now than ever before.

    No one should have to make the hard choice between getting critical care and making ends meet. But half a million people in N.C. do not have health insurance and thousands more are losing coverage with their jobs as our economy takes a massive hit. 

    Workers in many “essential businesses” are most likely to be uninsured and in our state’s coverage gap.

    Expansion is available, but our legislature has refused to do it.

    All of North Carolina is at risk when our neighbors are uninsured and unable to get the care they need.

    Medicaid expansion requires no increase in state taxes and can be done quickly to increase access to care and treatment. Federal taxes that we currently pay to fund expansion in most other states would cover 90% of expansion here. The remaining 10% could be paid by insurers and hospitals. 

    Expansion would bring billions to our economy, thousands of jobs and support struggling rural hospitals that need to stay open, at a time when this support is crucial.
     
  2. We must improve our Unemployment Insurance program.

    Our state has the cruelest unemployment insurance program in the country. 

    In 2013, the legislature cut benefits by almost half while making them more difficult to get. 

    The unemployment insurance trust fund has almost $4 billion today, but the program still operates based on those cuts. Before this crisis began, fewer than one in 10 unemployed workers qualified to receive benefits.

    Gov. Roy Cooper’s recent executive order as well as congressional action expanding benefits to workers impacted by COVID-19 are a start, but our state’s program does not go far enough to support people who are out of work.

    Thousands now depend on unemployment benefits for significant financial support. We need to make these benefits accessible to help families and our economy weather this crisis.
     
  3. We must restore state funding for civil legal aid to help people meet basic needs. 

    Life altering decisions are made every day in our legal and administrative systems that directly impact a person’s chance at stability. These systems are not easy to navigate without legal help, but no one has the constitutional right to an attorney in civil legal cases.

    Only those who can afford legal help get what they need.

    Before the recession, state funding for civil legal services was $7 million per year. Now that funding totals about $1 million.

    People who never expected to need our help are now trying to figure out how to manage debt, access health care, avoid homelessness, stop domestic abuse, and file for small business loans to help the economy recover.

    This work stabilizes families in crisis. It reduces the need for emergency services and improves families’ income, health and well-being.

    Legal aid attorneys help families prevent bad situations from spiraling out of control. Restoring this funding would enable N.C.’s legal services organizations to answer more calls for help during this crisis and beyond, ensuring equal opportunity for low-income people.

    We cannot wait another day to provide civil legal assistance to help families preserve their stability and succeed.

Now is the time

Now is the time for our representatives to step up and serve the people of this state, who are the victims of this viral pandemic.

These investments in our community would ensure all residents can reach their fullest potential regardless of socioeconomic background or whatever crisis life throws their way.

Submit your comment

Need more inspiration? 

Check out our 2020 Advocacy Agenda for more ways we can support
safety, security and stability for ALL North Carolinians.

Share this message 

Encourage others to submit comments this week.

Sign up to have our Action Alerts delivered straight to your inbox!