COVID-19 Updates: Community Stability

Updated March 12th, 2021, 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. However, this work requirement was reinstated for those who initially apply for unemployment after March 14th, 2021
  • 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 March 11, 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.

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Biden administration has announced a new 3-month Special Open Enrollment Period ending May 15, 2021. First-time consumers or individuals who have lost their health coverage can enroll in a plan during this time, and existing consumers can switch plans if they want to. Read more and seek assistance here.

Individuals interested in applying for Medicaid can do so all year.

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 September 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 September 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 American Rescue Plan signed by President Biden allows states to continue the Pandemic-EBT (PEBT) program through summer for families with children who qualify for free and reduced meals in school. The program gives families financial assistance to replace the meals the kids would have received if schools had not been closed due to COVID-19. 

The COVID-19 relief bill passed Dec. 22nd by congress improved 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

COVID-19 Updates: Tax Assistance

Updated March 11, 2021

Tax Assistance

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

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan that included additional $1400 stimulus payments. Read about the American Rescue Plan here

Need assistance with paying your property tax? The Charlotte-Mecklenburg HOMES program reduces the total amount of taxes due for a qualifying recipient’s primary residence. The amount granted will be equal to up to 25% of the Mecklenburg County tax amount on the last available tax bill, rounded to the nearest dollar, not to exceed $440. To learn more about eligibility and how to apply, click here.

IRS closes e-service help lines: (March 27, 2020) The IRS is closing its e-service help phone lines as well as help desks for filing returns electronically and Affordable Care Act information returns until further notice. The IRS is also unable to answer questions about stimulus payments currently. Taxpayers with questions can still call 1-800-829-1040 to get tax questions answered between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. local time.

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

IRS announces People First Initiative: (March 25, 2020) The IRS announced it will be adjusting procedures to “ease the burden on people facing tax issues” during the COVID-19 outbreak. These new changes include issues ranging from postponing certain payments related to Installment Agreements and Offers in Compromise to collection and limiting certain enforcement actions. The IRS will be temporarily modifying procedures as soon as possible; the projected start date will be April 1, and the effort will initially run through July 15. During this period, to the maximum extent possible, the IRS will avoid in-person contacts. However, the IRS will continue to take steps where necessary to protect all applicable statutes of limitations. Read more.

Free Filing for Taxes is still available: (March 20, 2020) Taxpayers whose adjusted gross income is $69,000 or less with access to a computer, cell phone, and internet can go to the IRS Free File site, choose a third-party preparer and file their taxes for free: apps.irs.gov/app/freeFile/

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COVID-19 Updates: Consumer Protection

Consumer Protection

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

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

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

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

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

Student Loan Payments Deferred:  (January 21) The Biden administration announced that student loan payments can be paused until September 30th, 2021 with no accrued interest if the borrower will call and make a request from their loan servicer. Those who still want to make their payments can do so. These payments would apply directly to the principal balance, which may allow some borrowers to pay off their loan more quickly. Read more.

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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.

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 did not traditionally qualify for North Carolina unemployment insurance and were receiving unemployment benefits through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) will no longer be eligible for unemployment after September 4, 2021. Find updates on the program here.

Please note there is a special hotline for PUA applicants, 866-847-7209. 
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.

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

  • Be aware of COVID-19 vaccine scams. Everyone who wants a vaccine can have one and the vaccine will be free for most people. Learn more about COVID scams here.
  • 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 March 11, 2021. Originally posted April 6, 2020

IMPORTANT Notice: 

On March 11th, 2021 President Biden signed a the American Rescue Plan that included additional $1400 stimulus checks per eligible individual.

Learn more about the third payments and the American Rescue Plan here.

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 $80,000 and $160,000 for joint filers with no children are not eligible. 

Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2020 or 2019 will automatically receive an economic impact payment of up to $1,400 for individuals or $2,800 for married couples. Households also receive $1400 for each qualifying dependent. 

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

No. As with second-round checks, third stimulus checks will not be reduced to pay child support arrears either. 

How will the IRS calculate my payment?

The American Rescue Plan provides that if your 2020 tax return is not filed and processed by the time the IRS starts processing your third stimulus payment, the tax agency will use information from your 2019 tax return. If your 2020 return is already filed and processed when the IRS is ready to send your payment, then your stimulus check eligibility and amount will be based on information from your 2020 return.  

If your 2020 return is filed and/or processed after the IRS sends you a stimulus check, but before July 15, 2021 (or September 1 if the April 15 filing deadline is pushed back), the IRS will send you a second payment for the difference between what your payment should have been if based on your 2020 return and the payment sent based on your 2019 return. 

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 2020 or 2019
  • 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 March 15, 2021, while others might have to wait up to five months to receive paper checks or pre-payed debit cards. 

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 2020 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 OR the information you provided with the IRS’ Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Info to generate the $1,400 Economic Impact Payments. Recipients will get their payment as a direct deposit or by paper check, just as they normally would.

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

Yes. The IRS will use information you provided in the IRS’ Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Info to send you your stimulus payment.

I have not filed my tax return for 2019 or 2020. 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 2019 or 2020 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)?

You are eligible for a second stimulus payment for yourself and any dependents you claimed who also have Social Security numbers valid for employment, but not for your spouse. (Mixed-status families who did not receive the first stimulus payment due to the previous restrictions on spouses of people filing with ITINs will now be eligible to get that payment retroactively when they file their 2020 tax return. Read more here.)

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 2021.

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 $1,400 unless adjusted gross income exceeded $150,000.

Does someone who is incarcerated qualify for the payment?

Yes. They can claim the payment by filing a simple 2020 tax return. Read more here.

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

What if my spouse or ex-spouse took my payment in 2020?

If so, you may be able to claim your economic impact payment (EIP) as a credit or refund on your 2020 federal tax return.

In many abusive relationships the abuser controls the household’s money and finances. Although the survivor may have agreed to the filing of the tax return that the COVID relief payment was based upon, the abuser may have later refused to pay over the survivor’s share of the payment or the survivor cannot get the payment from the abuser without risking harm or abuse. In other situations, survivors may not have seen or signed the tax return that the COVID relief payment was based upon, or they were forced to sign the return under threats or duress.

IRS procedures outline a path for relief for survivors who believe their COVID relief payments were issued based on a tax return that was fraudulent, forged, or signed by the survivor under duress.

Unfortunately, the IRS has not created procedures for allowing a survivor to receive the Recovery Rebate Credit when both spouses agreed to file a married-filing-joint return, but the abusive spouse refused to pay over the survivor’s share of the COVID relief payment. Advocates for survivors of domestic violence have been working on this issue and continue to do so in an effort to find relief for survivors in this situation.

Follow these steps to receive your payment and get help

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 2020 returns.