Resources for consumers impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak

Our staff is keeping this resource guide up to date with information about COVID-19 resources, including the federal CARES Act relief package. Bookmark this page and check back regularly.

In light of the recent coronavirus outbreak, public and private resources are becoming available to help deal with lost wages, illness and school closures.

We will continue to update this list as we learn more.


The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (Stimulus #2)

The second coronavirus pandemic stimulus package was passed by the U.S. Congress in late December 2020. The bill contains relief policies that provide financial help to families, additional unemployment funds, rental relief funds and extended small business loans.

Stimulus payments (round two)

- Individuals making up to $75,000 a year (adjusted gross income) received a $600 payment. Heads of household making up to $112,500 and couples (including spouses whose partner died in 2020) earning up to $150,000 a year received $1,200. (Stimulus payments were based on 2019 tax returns.)

- Adults with dependent children received $600 for each child aged 16 and younger.

- Couples that filed taxes jointly and have at least one partner with a Social Security number were eligible for a single $600 payment. Each of their children (aged 16 and younger) with Social Security were eligible for the $600 payment. This is a change from the first stimulus package, and the update was retroactive.

- Those who filed their 2019 tax returns online received their money automatically, as did Social Security recipients and those who uploaded their bank account information using the IRS's online portal to receive their first payments.

- If you didn't get a first and/or second Economic Impact Payment or got less than the full amounts, you may be eligible to claim the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit. The IRS has more information here.

Unemployment benefits

- Everyone who qualified for unemployment benefits received an extra $300 in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation weekly benefits, on top of the existing state benefit, for 11 weeks.

- The unemployment benefits extension applied to those receiving state benefits as well as to gig workers, those who are self-employed and part-time workers receiving checks through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Everyone who qualified for unemployment checks received the additional weekly payment of $300.

- Use the U.S. Department of Labor’s Unemployment Benefits Finder to locate your state’s unemployment office and start, or update, your claim.

Housing assistance

- The second bill includes $25 billion in emergency rental assistance and an extension of the CDC’s rental eviction moratorium through July 31. The rental assistance is expected to be distributed through state and local governments. For more information on rental assistance, visit the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

- A moratorium on rental evictions on properties secured with a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) mortgage (in other words, financed with loans purchased by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac) has been extended through July 31.

- The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) extended moratoriums on single-family foreclosures and real estate owned (REO) evictions until July 31.

(See the housing section below for more information and resources for renters and mortgage borrowers).

Small Business

- The second stimulus bill reopened the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses that saw a drop of at least 25% in their revenue during the first, second or third quarter of 2020. Eligibility was limited to companies with fewer than 300 employees. It also reduced the maximum benefit from $10 million to $2 million. The bill allocated $12 billion for minority-owned businesses.

- Live venues, theaters and museums that have lost at least 25% of their revenues in 2020 were eligible for PPP loans. During the first 14 days of the program's implementation, grants were awarded to those who have faced 90% revenue losses. Check for updates on the U.S. Small Business Administration website.

Internet credit for low-income households

The Emergency Broadband Benefit is a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program that offers an internet service discount of up to $50 per month for eligible households, and up to $75 for residents of Tribal Lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price. A household is eligible if at least one member meets at least one of these criteria: qualifies for the Lifeline program; receives free or reduced-price school breakfast or lunch; is on Medicaid or receives SNAP food benefits; received a federal Pell Grant for the current year; experienced a substantial loss of income since Feb. 29, 2020, and had a total 2020 household income below $99,000 (single filers) or $198,000 (joint filers); or meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program. The Emergency Broadband Benefit is not automatic; even if you already receive Lifeline benefits, you must opt in with your existing provider or enroll with another participating broadband provider. You can receive both Lifeline benefits and the Emergency Broadband Benefit at the same time—for example, a mobile phone with a Lifeline discount and home internet with the Emergency Broadband Benefit. Program enrollment began May 12, 2021. Visit the Get Emergency Broadband site for more information, an application, and a list of participating broadband providers. The FCC also offers a directory of participating providers by state. The program will end when the funding runs out or six months after the government declares an end to the COVID-19 crisis, whichever comes first.

CARES Act (Stimulus #1)

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act went into effect on April 1, 2020. The bill contained relief policies that provided financial help to families during the coronavirus outbreak, including stimulus payments of up to $1,200 per adult individual, additional unemployment funds, and a moratorium on federal student loan payments.

Stimulus checks

Many Americans (over 80% of adults) received a one-time direct payment of up to $1,200 per adult individual ($2,400 for couples) and $500 for each child age 16 and younger as part of the government's stimulus package to provide relief during the coronavirus outbreak. This payment was intended to help most Americans and was not dependent on your employment status. The maximum a family received was a one-time payment of $7,500.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) determined your stimulus eligibility based on your 2019 or 2018 tax return. If you didn't file taxes in those years, the income was based on your Social Security statement. The IRS said that Americans who were not required to file taxes in 2018 and 2019 (including low-income taxpayers, some veterans, and individuals with disabilities—but not Social Security recipients) were required to file a "simple tax return," with basic information like filing status, number of dependents and bank information so the government can send the stimulus money. The IRS has stated that those filing the simple form will not owe tax.

Stimulus checks hit direct deposit accounts the week after Easter (April 12, 2020). Those who did not set up direct deposit with the IRS received a paper check. The IRS continues to post updates on economic impact payments on its website here.

For more information on a simple tax return, or how to update your address with the IRS, visit the IRS website.

Employment/workers

Sick leave / Family and medical leave

For more information on the federal sick leave law, visit the Department of Labor website and read its FAQs page.

If you are not eligible to receive sick leave under the federal law, but you live in a state that requires private companies to provide sick leave to employees, you may still be eligible for some sick-leave compensation during the coronavirus outbreak. You can check to see if your state has a mandatory sick-leave law at the National Conference of State Legislatures website.

Several states, including California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Washington, offer paid family leave. If you live in one of these states and have to care for someone who has contracted COVID-19 or is quarantined, you can apply for the state’s Paid Family Leave benefit. Benefits are similar to those from disability insurance—a percentage of your wages, depending on income.

Unemployment

Unemployment insurance is a joint federal-state program that provides temporary benefit payments to employees who are out of work through no fault of their own, until they can find another job. If you were laid off or lose hours due to the coronavirus, you can file for unemployment benefits to partially replace your wages. Be persistent: Many states are overwhelmed by the number of people filing for unemployment, but don’t give up on trying to apply. Consider applying during off-peak hours, like early in the morning, or late in the evening when the system is not as busy.

Gig workers and freelancers, who previously were not able to claim unemployment benefits, are now covered under the new law. Click here to see a list of FAQs regarding unemployment eligibility.

Small business

The CARES Act allocated $350 billion to help small businesses keep workers employed amid the coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn. Known as the Paycheck Protection Program, the initiative provided 100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Loans were up to 2.5 times the borrower’s average monthly payroll costs (not to exceed $10 million).

The loans were forgiven if borrowers maintained their payrolls during the crisis or restore their payrolls afterward.

State and local governments have also started to step up to help small businesses, including:

  • New York City is offering interest-free loans of up to $75,000.
  • Washington State is allowing eligible small businesses to defer business and occupation taxes.
  • Florida small businesses can apply for interest-free loans of up to $50,000.

Workest, a website geared toward the small business community, is keeping an updated list of financial assistance programs by state and county, including tax penalty waivers, government-backed lines of credit and bridge loans.

Hospitality and service industry workers

One Fair Wage is providing temporary cash assistance through its emergency fund to help restaurant workers, car service and rideshare drivers (like Uber and Lyft), delivery workers and more. A Spanish-language site is also available here.

Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation is also offering short-term relief for restaurant employees and owners, and has links to other emergency funds available to those in the restaurant industry.

The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation has a relief fund that provides $500 grants to restaurant industry employees who have been impacted by COVID-19.

Food and meals

Food banks

Find your local food bank for help with groceries at Feeding America.

School breakfasts and lunches

Many local school districts are still providing two (to-go) meals a day while public schools are closed and during school holidays. In fact, many districts expanded the free- and reduced-lunch program to include free meals for all children under age 18. You may also be able to pick up meals from the school you live closest to, instead of picking up meals from the school you attend. Visit your local school district’s website for updates, or enter your ZIP code here to find your local school district. You can also use the USDA’s tool to find meals while schools are closed.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) can help low-income families pay for food. Eligibility is based on your household’s size, income and expenses.To find out more about SNAP, or to apply for the benefit, contact your state office. Find your state's office online, or call 800-221-5689 to hear the toll-free number for your state’s program. SNAP has expanded the benefit to cover online grocery orders from participating retailers, including Amazon and Walmart, in 15 states and the District of Columbia.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
WIC provides nutritious foods and nutrition education to low-income pregnant women, women who have recently given birth, and infants and children up to age five. Learn more online at the USDA’s WIC website.

Delivery

Meals on Wheels delivers food to seniors at home who are unable to purchase or prepare their own meals.

Aging in Place reviewed the best grocery delivery plans for seniors, including Instacart, Amazon Fresh and Walmart.

Regardless of your age, check with your local grocery store to see if it offers delivery or curbside pick-up services. (Please note that many grocery delivery services have been delayed due to demand during the coronavirus outbreak.)

Local restaurants are also offering to-go orders, zero-contact curbside meal pickup, and/or delivery service through third-party companies like GrubHub, Uber Eats, Caviar and Seamless as a way to stay open during this time. Call your favorite local restaurant and see if they are still offering to-go meal options.

Vulnerable community shopping hours

Grocery stores around the country have started offering designated shopping hours for seniors, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems. Local shops and national chains like Target, Dollar General and Whole Foods have announced these special shopping hours, typically held an hour before the store opens to the general public, as a way to help vulnerable communities avoid the spread of the coronavirus. Call your local stores or have a neighbor inquire about special shopping hours in your neighborhood.

Farmers markets

Find a list of your local farmers markets that feature local farm vendors that sell produce and products directly to customers (usually in open-air venues).

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

CSAs provide local, seasonal food, including produce, meats, dairy and bread, directly from farmers. Food is usually delivered or available at a local pick-up spot. Click here to find a local CSA, or search online for “fresh produce delivery” to find the options in your area.

Housing

Eviction suspension

The Biden Administration extended the rental eviction moratorium on properties secured with a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) mortgage (in other words, financed with loans purchased by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac), through July 31, 2021. Find out if you live in a property that is prohibited from evicting tenants for failing to pay their rent because they are affected by COVID-19.

Fannie Mae lookup tool here.

Freddie Mac lookup tool here.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued an order in early September 2020 banning landlords from evicting tenants from properties they can no longer afford to rent due to income lost as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The order would make it illegal to evict any qualifying tenant (see criteria, below) through July 31, 2021. Tenants would still be required to pay rent owed per the terms of the lease, along with any fees, penalties or interest charged by the landlord, in August. Information on emergency rental assistance can be found here.

In order to qualify for the eviction protection, your 2020 income must fall below $99,000 (single) or $198,000 (couple filing a joint tax return); you’ve sought all potential sources of federal housing aid; and you cannot afford to pay the rent due to a pandemic-related job loss or reduced work hours. You must declare your inability to pay by filling out and signing the CDC’s form and giving it to your landlord. The form can be found here in English, here in Spanish, and here in Vietnamese.

Make sure you complete the form, sign it, make a photocopy or take a picture of the completed form, and hand the document directly to your landlord. If you are unable to give it to your landlord in person, send the document by certified mail and keep the receipt showing the document was delivered.

If you are facing the threat of eviction and are unable to pay your rent due to hardships brought on by COVID-19, you should speak to a housing counselor or tenant attorney for guidance.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition has an FAQ page on the CDC’s new eviction moratorium here and the National Housing Law Project provides an overview of the order and links to the tenant declaration forms in Arabic, Spanish and Vietnamese.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Find a Housing Counselor tool provides a list of HUD-approved counseling agencies in your area. Its Help for homeowners and renters during the coronavirus national emergency website is a good place for struggling renters to look for updated information and resources.

Just Shelter provides a list of local tenant associations by state, and you can also speak with your local Legal Aid office for help avoiding eviction.

Numerous states, cities and counties have implemented their own temporary eviction moratoriums in response to the COVID-19 crisis. If states or localities provide eviction protections that are equal to or greater than those in the CDC order, tenants can still rely on those protections. This does not relieve a tenant from the obligation to pay rent, or restrict the landlord’s ability to recover rent that is due.

The National Housing Law Project has published a state-by-state list of eviction moratoriums. It includes 24 categories of information concerning eviction for each state.

NOLO is also tracking eviction bans and other tenant protections, capturing the latest information on coronavirus-related measures by state (and by county and/or city, if applicable).

Communities all around the country have created over 500 emergency rental assistance programs during the pandemic. NLIHC has tracked them all here.  

Mortgage assistance

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac all announced an immediate freeze on foreclosures and evictions until July 31, 2021, as well as a six-month forbearance for homeowners who can’t afford their mortgage payments (and an additional six-month period if needed). FHFA announced an extension to qualifying multifamily property owners through Sept. 30, 2021. In addition, HUD, Veterans Affairs and the USDA will also continue to allow homeowners who have not taken advantage of forbearance to date to enter into COVID-related forbearance through Sept. 30, 2021.

You can check whether your loans are backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac by visiting their websites:

The Federal Housing Finance Agency is offering interest rate reductions for COVID-19 impacted borrowers with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Flex Modification terms will be adjusted for COVID-19 hardships making interest rate reduction possible for eligible borrowers, regardless of the borrower's loan-to-value ratio. Click here for more information.

Local sheriffs throughout the country are ceasing eviction enforcement, and courts are refraining from taking foreclosure cases. Experts advise that if you’re having a difficult time paying your mortgage, call your lender and ask them for options.

Almost every state is helping mortgage borrowers weather this national crisis. Forbes is tracking state mortgage relief programs here.

Private mortgage lenders Ally Bank, Bank of America and Wells Fargo are just a few of the companies offering assistance to borrowers negatively impacted by the coronavirus.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Guide to coronavirus mortgage relief options is a good place for struggling mortgage borrowers to start. Its Find a Housing Counselor tool provides a list of HUD-approved counseling agencies in your area if you need free or low-cost advice on how to handle your mortgage at this time.

The National Housing Law Project is updating a list of resources for those who need housing assistance, including homeowner protection resources, a map of state eviction moratoriums, and tools for tenant advocates.

The Biden administration put out a fact sheet on foreclosure and eviction prevention, available here.

Healthcare

COVID-19 testing and vaccination

COVID-19 tests are available for free at health centers and select pharmacies. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act ensures that COVID-19 testing is free to anyone in the U.S., including the uninsured. To find a local test center in your area, start here.

COVID-19 vaccines are available for free to all people over the age of 12 living in the United States, regardless of their immigration status or which state they live in. You do not need health insurance to receive a free vaccine. To find a local vaccination provider visit Vaccines.gov. You can also text your ZIP code to 438829 or call 800-232-0233 to find vaccination locations near you in.

Health insurance plans will cover treatment for COVID-19, but they won’t necessarily waive copays or cost sharing for treatment, should you need it. This means you may still be on the hook to pay your plan’s deductible if you get ill. However, many states are requiring or recommending that insurers expand their coverage of key services beyond the minimum federal standard. The Commonwealth Fund is keeping track of states and their efforts to guide private health insurers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

COBRA
If you lose your job and it provided your health insurance, you can keep your coverage for up to 18 months if you pay for it yourself (which typically makes the cost significantly higher). Your former employer must send you a COBRA letter within the 14 days after you stop working. You have 60 days to say yes or no (and you can change your mind if you originally decided no, as long it’s within the 60-day window). For more information, talk to your employer or human resources office, visit the Department of Labor online or call 866-444-3272.

Medicaid
Medicaid is free or low-cost healthcare coverage for low-income individuals and families. It’s a state program and each state has its own guidelines. To learn more, visit the Medicaid website.

The Affordable Care Act Marketplace
If your employer doesn’t provide health insurance, or if you’ve lost your job, you may be able to purchase a plan through the ACA Marketplace. While open enrollment is typically in the fall, and President Trump has decided to not open enrollment at this time, many states have reopened their health insurance exchanges, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, Washington and Washington, D.C. 

Federally-funded health clinics
To find free or low-cost clinics, search online at the Health Resources & Services Administration’s Find a Health Center website, call 877-464-4772 or email [email protected].

Funeral assistance

FEMA launched a funeral assistance program on April 12, 2021. Under the program, families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 can apply for assistance with funeral expenses incurred after Jan. 20, 2020. To be eligible, the death certificate must indicate that the death was caused by, “may have been caused by” or “was likely a result of” COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms (or similar language that indicates a high likelihood of COVID-19). The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or a qualified alien, but the person who died does not have to meet that requirement.

COVID-19 Funeral Assistance will reimburse up to $9,000 per deceased individual (but you can apply for assistance for more than one lost family member) for funeral services and interment or cremation. (Prepaid funeral expenses—costs paid before the individual died—are not eligible for reimbursement.) Find a list of eligible expenses, as well as documentation requirements (identification, death certificate, receipts, funeral home contracts, etc.), on the Funeral Assistance FAQ webpage.

To apply, call 844-684-6333 (TTY: 800-462-7585) Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern Time. During the call, you will complete a COVID-19 Funeral Assistance application with the help of a FEMA representative (there is no online application). Multilingual services are available. Learn more at the program webpage.

Telecommunications/utilities

Internet

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) is a program to help households afford internet service during the pandemic. The EBB will provide a discount of up to $50 a month for eligible households ($75 for qualifying residents of Tribal Lands). Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop or tablet.

Several internet service providers, including Altice USA, Charter and Cox, are offering free internet for households with students in grades K-12 or college in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Comcast is offering free service to low-income households, free Wi-Fi hotspots for all, and eliminating data caps nationwide.

Every internet provider that has signed the Federal Communications Commission’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge has also opened up their Wi-Fi hotspots for free public use.

Utilities

Utility companies around the country are suspending service disconnections and waiving late fees for customers struggling to pay their electricity bills, including Consolidated Edison, Georgia Power, Green Mountain Power, NV Energy, Pacific Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison. Almost half the states in the country have imposed a moratorium on utility terminations. Call your local utility company and ask for a flexible payment plan if you’re struggling to pay—they may grant your request during the next few weeks.

Municipal water companies across the country, including in Detroit, New Orleans, Phoenix, Salinas, Seattle, St. Louis, and the state of Connecticut, have suspended service shut-offs—some will even reinstate your service if it was previously shut off, though service restoration may take a few days. Many states prohibit utilities from shutting off the water during a state of emergency.

Call the number on your utility bill to discuss options if you are having difficulty paying, or you need service restored.

Phone companies

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon have signed on to the Federal Communications Commission’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge. Under this agreement, carriers have committed to take the following actions:

  • Not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;
  • Waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and
  • Open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.

Financial services

Bank of America, Chase, Citibank and others are responding to the needs of their customers struggling to make payments due to the coronavirus by waiving late fees, providing payment relief and offering other assistance.

Goldman Sachs, the financial institution backing the Apple credit card, announced it will allow cardholders who ask for help to skip a payment, interest-free. American Express (credit cards) and Capital One (credit cards and auto loans) will also allow customers to skip their monthly payments, interest-free.

If you have a problem paying your credit card bill or loan payment, call your loan servicer and see if they will waive your monthly payment temporarily, without a late fee, and interest-free, in light of the current national crisis.

Automatic bill payments
If your bank processes your bill payments automatically, you may want to stop autopayments from your account for the foreseeable future. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides instructions on how to stop autopayments here.

Student loans

Federal student loan borrowers will not have to make any payments on their loans through Sept. 30, 2021 (though that money will still need to be paid later). Interest during the forbearance period will also be waived entirely. These months of suspended payments will be applied toward a borrower’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness and/or Income-Driven Repayment Plan record and will count as qualifying payments.

If your federal student loans are eligible, you do not need to do anything to pause your payments—the payment and interest pause will be automatic. However, we recommend you log in to your student loan account to confirm that interest has stopped accruing on your student loans and that no payment is due. If you see that you owe a payment on your student loan, call your servicer (the company that sends you the monthly bill) and ask them about the CARES Act payment halt. (Updates to this forbearance process are being posted to the Education Department’s StudentAid.gov website.)

Perkins loans, commercially-held Federal Family Education Loans (FFELs) held by a bank or financial institution, and private student loans (student loans held by a lender that is not the federal government) are not covered by the CARES Act, and borrowers will still need to make their monthly payments at this time or call their loan servicer and ask about placing their loans in temporary forbearance. (Interest will likely still accrue while loans are in forbearance.)

The Department of Education has halted collection efforts on defaulted student loans, including wage garnishment and seizure of tax refunds. (If you filed your 2019 tax return after March 13 and your refund was seized, you will get a refund.) You may need to work with your employer to halt wage garnishments, so ask your HR representative or manager for help stopping future garnishments related to student loans.

If you are already enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan, but you've lost your job or your income has decreased, ask your loan servicer to immediately recertify your loans based on your new, lower income. Your monthly payment could be significantly decreased after the government’s payment halt ends in September. If you are not currently enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan, now is a great time to enroll. You can learn more here. Student Debt Crisis has created a free tool that helps you enroll in the best plan for your financial situation, or you can call your servicer directly to enroll in a plan for free.

If you are currently rehabilitating your defaulted federal loans, suspended payments will count towards your rehabilitation progress, as stated on Federal Student Aid's government website.

Ten states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, and the District of Columbia have negotiated private student loan relief with major loan servicers, including Sallie Mae, Nelnet and Navient. A 90-day forbearance is available to private-loan borrowers and borrowers with non-federally held FFELs, and late fees, debt collection lawsuits and negative credit reporting are also suspended under the agreement. You must opt in to the forbearance by contacting your servicer, but you do not need to show evidence of coronavirus-related hardship to get relief.

You can find more information about the CARES Act and student loans at the Student Loan Borrower Assistance website.

Beware of student loan scams! There is nothing a debt relief company can do for you that you can’t do on your own, for free, by contacting your loan servicer. Any company that tries to tell you they can lower your monthly payments, or cancel them altogether, is charging you hundreds of dollars to follow the same process. Here are some other common student loan scams to be aware of.

Taxes

The Biden administration announced that taxpayers and businesses will be given an extra 90 days to file and pay their 2020 federal tax returns, interest- and penalty-free, making the new deadline May 17, 2021.

If you didn't get a first and/or second Economic Impact Payment or got less than the full amounts, you may be eligible to claim the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit. Information on the Recovery Rebate Credit can be found on the IRS website.

If you need help with your taxes, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who generally make $56,000 or less, persons with disabilities and limited-English-speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. Find a tax preparer in your area on the IRS website.

Scams

Lowlifes will always attempt to prosper during a crisis; the coronavirus outbreak is no different. For a list of the latest coronavirus-themed scams, read our SCAM GRAM newsletter and check out this article in Forbes on COVID-19 scams. The FTC has also put out a list of coronavirus-related scams and tips on how to avoid them.

Here are a few scams we’ve been hearing about:

  • Fake emails from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization providing virus updates and information on vaccines
  • Fake stimulus checks that bounce when you cash them (similar to this scam)
  • Scam calls asking for your bank details for a government stimulus direct deposit
  • Scams relating to the $1,200 stimulus payments in general
  • Stores selling fake cleaning products, like sanitizing wipes, masks and hand sanitizer
  • Phishing emails related to restocking of items, like cleaning products and toilet paper, from big-name online retailers
  • Fraudulent coronavirus antibody testing

Travel

Millions of travel plans have been disrupted, cancelled or rescheduled as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. It’s confusing to know when you’re due a full refund, or if a credit (for future use) will have to suffice. Here are a few helpful articles on the matter:

  • Elliot Advocacy explains travelers’ rights and helps you decide if you should cancel your plans or wait for the hotel, cruise or airline to do it for you.
  • The New York Times explains how airlines have been managing the massive travel disruptions.
  • Consumer advocate David Lazarus wrote about cruise ship policies during the outbreak.
  • The Washington Post provides some tips on how to secure travel refunds.
  • Information on hotel cancellation and rebooking policies (including Airbnb) can be found on Business Insider.
  • The Points Guy is updating a list of cancellation policies for domestic and international airlines.
  • The New York Times looks at why it’s been so difficult to get refunds from online travel agencies (Expedia, Priceline, etc.).

If you have had an unresolved problem with an airline during this time, it is very important to submit a complaint to the Department of Transportation (DOT). Formally documenting your experience is the only way the government will get involved with a policy change (short-term or long-term). If the DOT does not receive complaints (or enough complaints) on an issue, it has no reason to step in and regulate. 

If you have an unresolved complaint about a cruise, you can contact the Federal Maritime Commission for help mediating, though there is currently no federal oversight of the industry, since many cruise lines operate out of other countries.

Those with unresolved complaints about flights, cruises, hotels and timeshares should contact their state attorney general’s office, the Better Business Bureau, and also consider taking complaints to Twitter—private companies hate for complaints to be made public, and might contact you to show they are serious about resolving the issue.

Additional/miscellaneous resources

  • Consumer Action’s COVID-19 Educational Project provides free, helpful consumer resources for tough times on an array of issues, including housing, estate planning and job training.
  • Veterans Education Success has published a coronavirus guide for veterans that covers mental health resources, emergency financial help, student loan information, and ways to keep your kids occupied at home.
  • The Nation has compiled a list of grants that are supporting various communities all over the country.
  • Wide Open School is a collaboration of publishers, non-profits, and education and technology companies that provides a collection of free lesson plans and activities for kids, organized by grade and subject.
  • Consumer Reports’ coronavirus resource hub has information and articles on an array of topics, including health, home and home maintenance, tech and privacy.
  • America Saves’ COVID-19 Resources page offers tips for budget grocery shopping, how to spend your stimulus check wisely, and more.
  • SwiftStudent is a free tool that helps guide students through the financial aid appeal process (in other words, requesting more funding and financial aid from their college). The site provides templates and lets users plug in their information to generate a letter for submission to their school’s financial aid office.
  • Google has curated a selection of teacher-approved apps, providing enrichment and entertainment for kids.

Published / Reviewed Date

Reviewed: July 02, 2021

Download PDF

No Download Available

Sponsors

Major funding for our COVID-19 Education Project was provided by Wells Fargo. Additional support courtesy of AT&T, Bank of America, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Square.

Notes

(Original publication: March 18, 2020)

Filed Under

Banking   ♦   COVID-19 Pandemic   ♦   Fraud/Scams   ♦   Insurance   ♦   Medical/Healthcare   ♦   Mortgages   ♦   Student Loans   ♦   Taxes   ♦   Telecom   ♦   Tenant Rights   ♦  

Copyright

© 2020 –2021 Consumer Action. Rights Reserved.

 

Tags/Keywords

 
 

Quick Menu

Facebook FTwitter T