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 Relief for N.C. Homeowners

From Nicholas Holt, paralegal-advocate, and Leah Kane, senior attorney, of the Consumer Protection Program:

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In general, North Carolina homeowners are still required to make their contractual monthly mortgage payments during the COVID-19 crisis and their regular property tax and homeowner association (HOA) assessments.  However, there are a variety of ways a homeowner may be entitled to relief or assistance:

All North Carolina Mortgage, Property Tax and HOA foreclosure court hearings postponed:

  • All N.C. foreclosure court hearings (Special Proceedings or Superior Court) are continued for 30 days, until April 17, or later pursuant to a N.C. Supreme Court Order. If you have a pending foreclosure, you should receive a notice in the mail about the new court date. Open all mail and be sure to attend the next hearing.
  • FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, USDA, and HECM reverse mortgages have suspended foreclosures for 60 days, generally through May 17, 2020.  VA-backed mortgages may also comply with this moratorium.  Contact your mortgage servicer about specifics and to learn whether your loan is federally backed.
  • Based on the current N.C. Supreme Court directives in place, if a foreclosure hearing is held after April 15 but before May 17, the clerk will need some evidence at the foreclosure hearing that the loan is not subject to the 60-day federal moratorium before authorizing any sale.
  • N.C. court filing and case action deadlines extended in many situations. The N.C. Supreme Court Ordered that documents and papers due to be filed, or actions required to be done, in a case on or after March 16, 2020 shall be timely filed if done by close of business on April 17, 2020. 
  • Because of the Order extending case deadlines, any foreclosure sale that had not finalized before March 16 will be held open for upset bids through April 17, 2020.  It also appears that a homeowner may be able to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to stop the foreclosure during this time period. 
  • Foreclosure sales based upon a prior order are not prohibited by the N.C. Supreme Court Order but may be affected by the federal moratorium if the loan is a qualified federal loan (see below).
  • Although most Mecklenburg County civil court hearings on foreclosures will be postponed, the clerk’s office is currently open for filing between 9 a.m. and noon on weekdays.  Please exercise caution and do not enter the courthouse if you are experiencing symptoms of illness.

Determine whether your mortgage is federally backed or a private loan to learn about specific relief:

  • Most federally backed mortgages, which include FHA (HUD), HECM reverse mortgages, VA loans, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHFA, and USDA have suspended foreclosures and evictions of borrowers after foreclosure until May 17, 2020.
  • If you are going to face hardship because of a job loss or otherwise during the COVID-19 crisis, contact your mortgage servicer about specific relief available, even if not federally backed. 

    Many private mortgage lenders will likely be offering assistance during this time.  For both federal and private loans this may include:
    • Forbearance and payment relief programs (application and supporting documentation typically required);
    • Suspension of negative reporting to credit bureaus;
    • Waivers of penalties and late fees;  
    • Mortgage modifications to reduce interest rates and monthly payments;
    • Needs assessment and personal recovery plan;
  • Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, along with statewide and national consumer organizations, continues to monitor changes in this area and will share updates as they come in.