The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to impact almost every corner of the globe. Here at home, we’re facing unprecedented times: stay-at-home orders have been issued in most states and many people are facing furloughs or lay-offs.
Despite it all, there is more good news every day. People are stepping in to help, offer their services (even if just to help you relax), and government initiatives have been designed to help impacted workers. If you’ve been laid off, unemployment assistance is available to help you get through this trying time.
Here are the programs you can lean on to help:
Because we’re all going through the COVID-19 crisis together, there is unprecedented demand for many types of assistance, so expect delays in the process. Apply for help as soon as possible to minimize wait times.
Federal and State-Level Unemployed Resources
Several new and existing government programs can help you cover your expenses, buy food, and pay for essentials. Many programs have been expanded in response to COVID-19.
The CARES Act
The $2 trillion Congressional aid package includes a direct stimulus payment. Wondering if you will get a stimulus check? The actual amount is based on your 2019 tax return or, if you didn’t file in 2019, your 2018 return. Adults who made less than $75,000 in 2019 will receive a payment of $1,200, and an additional $500 per child.
If you didn’t file taxes in 2019 or 2018, you’re likely still eligible for a stimulus check. The Internal Revenue Service is working on a web-based platform to collect stimulus claims for non-filers. In partnership with the IRS, TurboTax has already launched a “stimulus registration” page.
However, the FTC has warned that scams regarding stimulus checks are already popping up online. Remember that the IRS will never call you to ask for personal information to send you a stimulus check.
Under the stimulus package, unemployment benefits increased by $600 per week, through July 31 2020. Unemployed people receiving benefits are not required to look for work as they would under the normal rules. Another change from the norm: part-time, self-employed and gig economy workers can apply for benefits. So can people who are at home caring for a sick family member, workers who stopped work to avoid exposure or people who are quarantined.
How much you receive depends on what you were earning before the layoff. For example, in Texas payouts range from $69 to $521 per week (plus $600). Find the links to details on your state’s unemployment benefits here.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the assistance program formerly known as food stamps. SNAP benefits can be used to buy most foods (some exclusions on hot or prepared food apply). Some of the usual rules have also been relaxed. Recipients in several states—like Alabama, Iowa and Oregon—can use their benefits for online grocery shopping, which is normally prohibited.
The Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is a program for low-income pregnant and breastfeeding women and children five-years-old and under, offering nutritional assistance options.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), sometimes called welfare, provides financial assistance to low-income families with children to cover basic living needs including household cleaning products, paper products and most things you need to keep your home running smoothly.
Medicaid and CHIP
Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides free or low-cost health insurance for qualified people. According to HealthCare.gov, “even if you don’t qualify for Medicaid based on income, you should apply. You may qualify for your state's program, especially if you have children, are pregnant or have a disability.”
Local grants and financial aid
The Department of Labor has set up a treasure trove of unemployed resources, Career One Stop, with stats on industries, job listings searchable by the type of worker you are (older, veteran, career changer, etc.), and a finder for employment and training programs. For those who need training or education assistance, it has a directory of grants, scholarships, fellowships and other financial aid opportunities.
Emergency food programs
No matter where you live, there will probably be a church or organization running a food bank or food pantry. In addition to food, the charity likely partners with other area resources you can contact for assistance during this turbulent period.
While this is a trying time for everyone, we’re all in this together. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of as many of these programs as you need during this time.