THE coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on household finances for the past year – but there is help available if you’re in trouble.
Ranging from rent and mortgage help to help with other utility bills, the money offered is worth thousands of dollars.
It comes as the latest report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found total household debt increased by $ 85 billion (0.6%) to $ 14.64 billion in the first quarter of 2021.
Mortgage balances increased by $ 117 billion, while auto and student loan balances increased by $ 8 billion and $ 29 billion, respectively.
Meanwhile, credit card balances fell $ 49 billion – the second-largest quarterly decline in the series’ history, which dates back to 1999.
If your finances have been affected by the Covid, we explain how to get help with your bills.
Prohibition of expulsion
A nationwide eviction ban is set to end on June 30, meaning millions of Americans can be evicted if they don’t pay rent after that date.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first banned residential evictions on September 4 last year due to Covid.
Americans who have fallen behind on rent should use the declaration form protect yourself until June 30.
Emergency rental assistance
the Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance Program has made $ 46.55 billion available to help tenants struggling to pay rent or utility bills due to Covid.
To qualify for assistance, at least one member of your household must be in receipt of unemployment benefit.
Americans can also get a boost if they can explain that the Covid directly caused a loss of income, making it difficult to pay rent.
Households will need to provide proof that they are at risk of homelessness, but the aid will cover both missed and future rents.
Funds are sent from the Treasury Department to states based on their size.
Illinois residents can apply for a one-time grant of up to $ 25,000 to cover up to 15 months of missed rent.
In Texas, a program covers unpaid rents dating back to last March when New Yorker can apply to the state’s $ 2.7 billion program.
If you are unsure of what is available in your area, contact your state directly.
Most homeowners were able to suspend or reduce mortgage payments during the pandemic by enrolling in a forbearance program.
You are protected if your mortgage is guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are two government sponsored mortgage companies.
Homeowners are also covered if their loan is guaranteed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Federal Housing Administration, Veterans Affairs, or the Department of Agriculture.
For other loans, you can still have mortgage relief options through your mortgage provider or your state.
If you’re having trouble, be sure to contact your mortgage lender for help.
Remember, you’re still required to pay off debt down the line, which means your mortgage payments may be higher each month.
At the end of May, about 2.1 million homeowners were still on forbearance plans, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) is another federally funded program administered by each state.
It helps families get back on their feet after experiencing temporary difficulties.
Applicants may be eligible for assistance with food, shelter, energy costs, childcare, and vocational training.
Each state manages its own TANF program, so you will need to contact your local TANF office directly on how to apply.
You must be a resident of the state you are applying to, but other eligibility criteria vary.
Telephone and internet bills
Lifeline is a program of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which gives low-income households up to $ 9.25 per month for their phone and Internet bills.
Some people are also entitled to a free telephone.
You may be eligible if you have an income of 135% or less than the federal poverty guidelines.
These depend on household size and state, but the cap for a family of four is currently $ 35,775 in the vast majority of states.
Alternatively, you may be able to ask if you are participating in a government program, including:
- Good start (if you meet the income eligibility criteria)
- Federal public housing assistance (Article 8)
- Supplementary Security Income (SSI)
- Additional nutritional assistance (food vouchers or SNAP)
- Live on tribal lands and qualify for certain tribal programs
- Receive a federal veteran’s pension
To claim you must find a business in your area who offers Lifeline and apply.
You will need to provide a number of details to support your application, including proof of income or a letter proving that you participate in one of the government programs.
Remember, you can only use Lifeline for the phone or the Internet, but not both.
Emergency broadband service
Emergency broadband service (EBB) is another FCC program that offers a temporary discount on broadband to low-income households.
Again, your household is eligible if it has an income equal to or less than 135% of the federal poverty guidelines.
Alternatively, you are eligible if any of the cases below apply to a member of the household:
- Qualifies for Lifeline benefits by participating in any of the above government programs
- Participate in one of the many tribal specific programs
- Has experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020 due to job loss or leave AND has a total household income in 2020 equal to or less than $ 99,000 for single filers and $ 198,000 for joint filers;
- Received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year;
- Approved for the Free and Discounted School Canteen Program or School Breakfast Program, for the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year;
- Meets the eligibility criteria of a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program
If you are currently on Lifeline benefits, you will also automatically receive Emergency Broadband Allowance.
If you are eligible, you can get up to $ 50 off per month on your broadband service or up to $ 75 off per month if your household is on qualifying tribal lands.
You can also get a one-time discount of up to $ 100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop.
Remember that only one monthly service discount and only one device discount is allowed per household.
For more information on how to enroll in the program, check with your broadband provider.
You can consult the list of participating providers here.
the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps low-income households with heating and cooling costs.
Grants range from $ 200 to $ 1,000 and are issued by states, which receive funds from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Each state sets its own eligibility requirements, including income levels.
Contact your state directly to find out more and to apply.
Be aware that even if you qualify for the program, you are not guaranteed to get help.
This is because it depends on how much funding is available for the year.
On average, around 20% of households eligible for assistance receive benefits.
When funds are exhausted for the year, no further benefit can be granted until Congress has made more money available.
Many states and water companies offer support to struggling households.
American water, for example, created the H20 Help to Other program for customers who need help with water billing the most.
Households eligible for this program can receive a free cash grant of up to $ 500 to help pay their monthly water bill.
The funds will be applied to any overdue balance on your account.
To be eligible for the Assistance to Other H2O program, the total monthly household income must not exceed certain thresholds.
Levels are set based on the state and region you live in.
To find out what your state or provider offers to support, contact them directly.
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