If you are concerned about your financial well-being, there are steps you can take to mitigate the stress and anxiety surrounding a reduced income.
As we continue to assist those furloughed by the COVID-19 crisis, our social workers have created a checklist that we encourage you to review if you are in need of assistance.
Click the drop-downs in each section below for more information.
Health Insurance Help in COVID Relief Law – March 2021
There is something for everyone with private health insurance in the American Rescue Plan Act. The recent $1.9 trillion covid relief law will make coverage significantly more affordable for millions of people who either who have marketplace coverage, are uninsured or have lost their employer coverage. In addition, it will eliminate repayment requirements for premium tax credits. Consumers can begin may need to go to healthcare.gov and update their application for the changes to take effect then.
Enhanced Premium Subsidies for Marketplace Plans
When: 2021 and 2022
Who benefits: Just about everyone who has coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces. Premium costs for people eligible for subsidies will shrink by $50 per month on average.
Under the ACA, people with incomes between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level (from $12,760 to $51,040 for one person or $26,200 to $104,800 for a family of four) were eligible for premium tax credits to reduce their premiums for marketplace coverage.
But under the changes passed in the new law, how much people owe is reduced at every income level and capped at 8.5% overall.
Single Person & Family Example: a single person who makes $30,000 annually will pay $85 per month in premiums on average under the new law for a silver-level plan instead of $195. A family of four making $75,000 will pay $340 rather than $588 per month for similar coverage.
At the other end of the income spectrum, people with incomes up to 150% of the poverty level ($19,140) will owe nothing in premiums. Under the ACA, they had been required to pay up to 4.14% of their income as their share of the premium cost.
Older Adult Example: an older person not yet in Medicare with an income just over 400% of the federal poverty level in some states would be paying 20% to 30% of their income toward their health care premium, now will be capped at 8.5%.
Steps to take now:
People who have marketplace coverage in one of the 36 states that use the federal healthcare.gov platform should go back in and update their applications and reselect their current plan to get new details about their subsidies starting April 1.
People with marketplace coverage in states that run their own marketplaces should check the procedures there. States including California and Rhode Island, as well as the District of Columbia, have announced they will automatically adjust enrollees’ premiums.
People who are uninsured can sign up now during the covid special enrollment period that runs through Aug. 15 on the federal exchange. (Individual states have similar special enrollment periods.) People who sign up before April 1 should go back in after April 1 to update their applications.
No Payback of Excess Marketplace Subsidies
Who benefits: People who earned more money last year than they estimated when they signed up for marketplace coverage.
Under the ACA, people estimate their income for the upcoming year, and the marketplace estimates how much in premium tax credits can be advanced to them every month. At tax time, people reconcile their actual income with their projected income, and if they received too much in tax credits, they generally must pay it back to the government.
The new covid relief bill eliminates that requirement for 2020. The provision could help people who received unforeseen income last year such as hazard pay or perhaps were laid off and hired back as a contractor at higher pay but without benefits, experts said.
Unfortunately, because of the timing of the new law, income tax forms and tax filing software do not reflect these changes. Many people are going to think they owe money, but they are not going to.
Steps to take now:
If you have already filed your income taxes for 2020, sit tight. The IRS is reviewing the law and will provide details soon. People should not file an amended tax return at this time.
If you have not yet filed, you may want to wait and see if tax software is updated before filing. Last week, the IRS announced that the deadline for filing individual federal tax returns for 2020 has been extended this year from April 15 to May 17.
Subsidies to Cover 100% of COBRA Premiums
When: April through September 2021
Who benefits: People who lost their employer-sponsored coverage and want to stay on that plan.
Generally, when people get laid off and lose their employer coverage, they can opt to keep it for 18 months, but they must pay the entire premium plus a 2% administrative fee. This is done under provisions of a law known as COBRA. Under the new law, the federal government will pay the entire COBRA premium through September of this year.
Note that the newly enacted enhanced premium tax credits and free marketplace coverage for people who collect unemployment insurance make marketplace coverage much more affordable than in the past. After September, the new COBRA subsidies will end, and people will be responsible for the entire premium.
Steps to take now:
People who missed the original 60-day enrollment window for keeping their job-based coverage can go back and enroll in COBRA now. They have 60 days to enroll after they are notified of the new provisions under the covid relief plan. They will not owe premiums back to their original eligibility date, but any medical claims they incurred before their enrollment will not be covered.
Review coverage to determine whether COBRA or marketplace coverage is the best, most affordable option.
For more information on this topic go to Kaiser Health News https://khn.org/news/article/american-rescue-plan-covid-relief-health-insurance-help-consumer-guide/
2020 Income Tax Filing – Stimulus Payment Recovery Rebate Credit
The IRS typically begins accepting tax returns in late January or early February. (Tax returns for 2019, for example, were accepted starting Jan. 27, 2020.) Those who are eligible for a $600 stimulus check but didn’t receive it automatically can claim the amount as a tax credit (called the Recovery Rebate Credit) on their 2020 federal income tax return. Those who were eligible for a $1,200 stimulus check (or $500 dependent payment) but didn’t receive it will also be able to claim that money as a tax credit on their 2020 return.
Typically, taxpayers with direct deposit who file their federal returns electronically can expect their refunds in one to three weeks. Those who mail in their returns and get a refund in the form of a paper check typically have to wait as long as two months. Keep in mind that due to the pandemic the IRS has taken longer than usual to process tax returns.
If you want to see when you will get your payment, check the IRS “Get my payment” tool. It’s an extremely popular site at the moment, so be patient. It’s updated once a day, so checking repeatedly during the day will just slow the system.
The IRS is gearing up for the 2020 tax filing system, so it can’t reissue and mail checks. If your check is lost or stolen, your best bet is to file a 2020 tax return electronically and get your stimulus check that way. For more information about Economic Impact Payments and the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit, visit IRS.gov/eip
In response to COVID-19 and its economic fallout, many cities and states are creating or expanding rental assistance programs to support individuals and families impacted by the pandemic, and the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) is tracking in-depth information on these programs.
You can use the interactive map and searchable database to find state and local emergency rental assistance programs near you. You can also see the latest news on rental assistance programs through the state-by-state news tracker. Note that this is not a comprehensive list of ALL rental assistance programs, but the list is updated frequently.
There are at least three provisions in the December 2020 Stimulus Deal related to food stamps:
1. The monthly benefit for SNAP (the official name of the program) will increase by 15 percent through June 30, 2021. As ever, qualification rules remain complex.
2. People collecting unemployment benefits will have an easier time qualifying for SNAP. The bill has language that will exclude those benefits from the income eligibility calculation in many instances.
3. College students will have an easier time qualifying. This is also complicated, but people who are eligible for a federal or state work-study program or whose financial aid application yielded an expected family contribution of zero dollars should check to see whether they would be eligible.
If your income is below a certain level, you may be eligible for Food Stamps until work resumes. Visit the website below to view income minimums in your state.
Borrower, Beware: Credit-Card Fraud Attempts Rise During the Coronavirus Crisis
Wall Street Journal
May 27th, 2020
Fraudsters are increasingly using pilfered credit-card numbers and phishing attacks to prey on overwhelmed consumers and banks during the coronavirus pandemic.
There has been a big jump in attempted credit- and debit-card fraud since coronavirus shut down the U.S. economy earlier this year, according to Fidelity National Information Services Inc., known as FIS, which assists about 3,200 U.S. banks with fraud monitoring. The dollar volume of attempted fraudulent transactions rose 35% in April from a year earlier, FIS said, a trend that appears to be continuing in May.
Most of the fraudulent transactions were caught before they hit cardholders’ accounts, FIS said, but the spike in attempts presents another challenge for consumers and their lenders muddling through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Fraud is a perennial problem for banks. Fraud losses—including losses linked to credit and debit cards—cost banks, merchants and, in some cases, cardholders $16.9 billion last year, up 15% from a year prior and the highest level since 2013, according to Javelin.
Fraudsters are employing a number of tactics to dupe unsuspecting consumers and banks.
They are generating random card numbers until they stumble upon legitimate accounts and attempting more fraudulent purchases with card numbers stolen in pre-pandemic hacks, said Eric Kraus, vice president of fraud at FIS.
Phishing attacks—the use of phone calls, emails or texts to trick customers into handing over their credentials—are rising, too, so much so that executives at one community bank were certain they had been hacked before learning that many of their cardholders had instead fallen victim to scams, Mr. Kraus said.
Anton Hinton got a phone call in late April from someone claiming to represent JPMorgan Chase.
The caller, who knew Mr. Hinton’s full name, email address and the last four digits of his account, said his debit-card number had been stolen and needed to be frozen.
The caller told Mr. Hinton to set up a digital wallet to make purchases until Chase could ship a new card to his home in Cleveland. While on the call, he got an email, ostensibly from Chase, with a one-time activation code to set up the digital wallet.
After he hung up, Mr. Hinton saw more than $300 in purchases had been made in Florida.
Chase refunded the charges and sent Mr. Hinton a replacement card. “Scams typically increase during times of crisis, like pandemics and natural disasters,” a spokesman said.
TED Talk: How to Make Stress Your Friend
Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.
Credit Card Debt
If you have credit card debt and are concerned about paying your minimums, call your credit card companies and discuss with them your personal situation. Most credit card companies are encouraging their cardholders to contact them to discuss a reduced minimum payment and even lower interest rates.
If you are overwhelmed with debt, now may be a good time to gain control over your personal finances. The National Federation of Credit Counseling provides information on creating a budget, consolidating debt, and will give you a personalized report with options.
Eliminate Unnecessary Expenses
During an economic downturn, it is a great time to look at your personal budget and reduce anything that is not necessary. Remember, cable/satellite services, monthly memberships, and other automatic subscriptions can be paused and reestablished when things get back on track again.
What is important to remember during difficult times, is to remain calm choose peace over panic. Anxiety and, sometimes even depression, can be reduced by taking action steps to improve your situation. We encourage you to hop online and explore some of the ways you can stay connected during this unique time. Hang in there, we are all in this together!
If you have extenuating financial circumstance due to accident, illness, injury, death of an immediate family member or a housing emergency, we are here for you.