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.

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 COVID-19 Response Project

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 COVID-19 Response 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: 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.