Here are various ways you can seek assistance regarding lost income, unemployment, food, utilities, and healthcare.
Coronavirus Stimulus Checks
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act can provide some much-needed cash in two main ways.
The first is via $1,200 stimulus checks for individuals or $2,400 for couples that qualify based on income.
Here are the basic requirements:
- Individual – Gets $1,200 if they have an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $75,000 or less.
- Married couple filing a joint return – Gets $2,400 if their combined income is $150,000 or less.
- Head of household who’s a single parent with at least one child living at home for over half the year – Gets $1,200 check if their AGI is less than $112,500.
- Children under 16 in the household – Extra $500.
Single people making more than $75,000 can earn up to $99,000 and still qualify for a smaller check. The same holds for couples with a combined income of up to $198,000. Heads of households can earn up to $136,500 to qualify for a smaller check too.
Tax returns from 2018 or 2019 will be used to determine eligibility. Not filing taxes for either of those years may affect your eligibility. Those who do not have a Social Security number, nonresident aliens, or dependents will not be eligible.
Unemployment Compensation From the Cares Act
Beyond $1,200 stimulus checks, the CARES Act also addresses issues with unemployment benefits. Although states offer their own unemployment compensation, the CARES Act will provide $600 extra per week for those who qualify. These benefits are expected to last for a maximum of 13 weeks.
Regarding eligibility, here is how the CARES Act defines an unemployed person:
A worker who was furloughed, laid off, or has proof of missed income or employment due to the coronavirus. Part-time workers, gig workers, and freelancers are included in this definition if they’ve been affected by work changes as a result of COVID-19.
State Unemployment Assistance
States have unemployment programs that can boost your income even more. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the average weekly unemployment benefit is $385.
You can apply to your state’s unemployment program by using the Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop tool.
There are various programs available for families who need help purchasing food. They include:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- SNAP for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
On a local level, food pantries and charities like the Salvation Army and United Way may be able to help.
Some utility companies have relaxed billing during the COVID-19 outbreak to reduce the negative economic impact families are currently experiencing. You can contact your local companies to see if they’ve made any changes to their billing procedures. If not, you can ask them for options regarding payment plans by explaining your situation.
Another option is to consult the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which offers assistance with heating and cooling costs for families in need.
If you’ve become unemployed or have a lapse of employment during the COVID-19 outbreak, COBRA Continuation Coverage may help. You can also consult Medicaid or Medicare to see if they can give you the coverage you need during these uncertain times.