Your Money: A Hub for Help During the Coronavirus Crisis

Credit…Robert Neubecker

If your income has fallen or been cut off completely, we’re here to help. This guide will connect you to the basic information you’ll need to get through this, including on government benefits, free services and financial strategies. This guide has been updated with the details of the $2 trillion relief plan that has been enacted by Washington.

If you have a question that we have not answered about various forms of relief — or something you can offer that large numbers of people can access — please write to Ron and Tara will read every message.

Stimulus Checks

The giant economic stimulus package will enable the federal government to begin making the payments, though the amount you receive will depend on your income.

Single adults who have an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less will get the full $1,200, while married couples with no children and earning $150,000 or less will receive a total of $2,400. For every qualifying child age 16 or under, you get another $500.

People who earn more will see their payments decrease until they phase out completely. That happens for single people earning $99,000 or married people who have no children and earn $198,000. There are other situations that make certain people ineligible — college-age children who were claimed as dependents on their parents’ returns won’t receive a check, for example. And you generally need a valid Social Security number to collect as well.

Many people don’t have to do anything to receive the payment. If the Internal Revenue Service already has your bank account information from your 2018 or 2019 tax returns, it will transfer the money to you via direct deposit based on the recent income-tax figures it already has.

Payments started landing in mid-April, but it could take a few months more for some people to get them.

Unemployment Insurance

The new relief package made significant, albeit temporary, changes to the way the unemployment insurance system works and increases benefit amounts until July 31.

Under the plan, these state programs now cover far more people than are usually eligible, including self-employed people and part-time workers.

The plan also makes exceptions for people who cannot work for a variety of coronavirus-related reasons — and you don’t necessarily need to lose your job to qualify. If you’re quarantined or have been furloughed — if you’re not being paid but expect to return to your job eventually — you may be able to get unemployment insurance.

States set many of their own rules, including for benefit amounts, which are generally calculated as a percentage of your income over the past year, up to a certain maximum. Some states are more generous than others, but unemployment typically replaces roughly 45 percent of your lost income.

Most states pay benefits for 26 weeks, though some states have trimmed that back. (This primer provides more information about how the program usually works when the country isn’t struggling to contain a pandemic; eligibility rules have changed since this was last posted.)

The new law temporarily increases the amount of benefits by $600 weekly. It also extends by up to 13 weeks the time period for which state-level benefits are available for many workers. Here’s a helpful illustration that breaks down how the program works in New York state.

Paid Sick Leave and Family Leave

The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the outbreak, but there are lots of exceptions.

Most workers at small and midsize companies, as well as government employees, can get two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill or seeking care, as long as they’ve been employed at least 30 days. They can receive their full pay, up to $511 a day.

Some workers can also get 12 weeks of paid leave to care for children whose schools are closed, or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the outbreak, but fewer workers qualify for this type of leave. They can receive two-thirds of their usual pay, up to $200 a day.

Part-time workers will be paid the amount they typically earn in a two-week period, up to the daily limits. People who are self-employed — including gig workers like Uber drivers and Instacart shoppers — can also receive paid leave, but they must calculate their average daily income and claim it as a tax credit.

There are gaps, though. Employers with fewer than 50 workers can deny workers the child-care leave (but not the sick leave) if it would be hard on their businesses, and companies with more than 500 employees are excluded from the rules entirely. Many workers at big businesses already have paid sick leave, but their low-wage workers are the least likely to be covered. The New America Foundation has published a detailed list of large employers (mostly consumer-facing companies like retailers, restaurant chains and hotels) and their policies.

And these changes aren’t permanent — the leave law expires Dec. 31.

You can find out more from the Department of Labor, which has posted a fact sheet for workers and a Q&A.

Federal Student Loans

If you have a federal student loan, you should automatically receive some relief without lifting a finger: Borrowers will be placed in so-called administrative forbearance, which allows you to temporarily stop making payments from March 13 until Sept. 30.

No interest will accrue during the administrative forbearance period. (Usually interest continues to pile up when borrowers pause their payments because of a hardship.) Interest you accrued before the period began will also not be rolled into your loan principal, according to a Department of Education spokeswoman.

Borrowers who want to continue making loan payments can do so — and you may end up paying the balance down faster if the full amount of your payment can be applied to your loan’s principal.

The Education Department says loan payments that are skipped under the administrative forbearance will still count toward loan forgiveness for borrowers in income-driven repayment and public service loan forgiveness programs, as long as the other usual requirements are fulfilled. Your loan servicer will have more details.

But keep in mind that for now, this relief applies only to federal student loans owned by the Education Department, such as direct loans (including those in default). Loans issued through state agencies and others, including big private lenders like Sallie Mae, are not covered. Other loans not covered include the majority of Federal Family Education Loans, which are mostly held by commercial lenders, and school-held Perkins loans.

Some private lenders are offering relief programs. Sallie Mae said it was offering suspension of payment for up to three months, with no damage to a borrower’s credit. Another, Navient, made an identical offer for “qualified” borrowers; a spokesman said you just need to contact the company and explain how your financial situation had changed. A third big private lender, Wells Fargo, says it will offer help, but a spokesman said the bank would not commit to a set number of months or any other specifics.

If you have more questions, check out the Education Department’s Q&A here. It addresses what to do if you have auto-debit payments (they’re suspended during this period), are trying to rehabilitate a defaulted loan, and more.

To see if your loans are eligible for this temporary pause, try contacting your loan servicer — the company where you send monthly payments — online or by phone. If you do not know who your servicer is or how to contact it, go to or call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243; T.T.Y. for the deaf or hearing-impaired 1-800-730-8913) for more help.

Mortgages and Rent

There’s a good chance you can delay your mortgage payment if the outbreak has left you short of money.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency has instructed mortgage servicers to allow borrowers whose mortgages are owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to delay payments. This forbearance program allows for a mortgage payment to be suspended for up to 12 months due to hardship caused by the coronavirus.

Federal housing officials have also announced a nationwide eviction and foreclosure moratorium for borrowers of Fannie or Freddie mortgages, or borrowers whose loans are backed by the Federal Housing Administration — so-called F.H.A. loans. This includes foreclosures that are already in progress. These mortgages make up about 70 percent of all outstanding home loans, according to the House Financial Services committee.

To find out if Fannie or Freddie own your mortgage, you can search your address on this federal government site.

A coalition of mortgage industry groups representing banks, finance companies and others has said it will also grant payment suspensions of at least three months — and up to 12 months — to homeowners whose loans are not owned by Fannie or Freddie, but they have said their effort requires a federal backstop.

If you rent, the best national resource we’ve found so far is the search-by-state function on This offers information on local organizations that can provide advice to renters in distress. Just Shelter’s founders are Matthew Desmond, the author of the book “Evicted,” and Tessa Lowinske Desmond. Mr. Desmond is also the founder of Eviction Lab; it is publishing a list of local and regional actions to pause evictions of renters.

The emergency stimulus bill put a temporary, nationwide eviction moratorium in place for any renters whose landlords have mortgages backed or owned by Fannie, Freddie or the F.H.A. This will last through the end of July, and landlords can’t charge any fees or penalties for nonpayment of rent either. The moratorium applies only to eviction for nonpayment; tenants can still be evicted for other reasons.

Regulators have also told landlords whose own mortgages are owned by Fannie or Freddie that they too can use forbearance, just as long as they do not evict tenants after they pause their mortgage payments. The challenge for renters is figuring out whether their landlord has such a mortgage. This information sometimes appears if you look up the address in the National Housing Preservation Database.

If the landlord’s mortgage is not in forbearance, renters who skip payments could be risking eviction if there has not been a local prohibition. (New York, for example, has suspended eviction actions until further notice.)

Utility Bills

Some utility providers are offering to stop cutting people off for nonpayment.

A number of large internet companies have agreed not to terminate residential or small business customers who can’t pay their bills: AT&T, Comcast, Cox, RCN, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. A full list of companies is available on the Federal Communications Commission site.

It is not yet clear whether companies want customers to call to invoke this relief and provide proof or whether they will offer it automatically to everyone. People who need help should call and ask.

A number of water service providers have either suspended shut-offs for nonpayment or don’t shut service off for late payments generally, according to a ProPublica roundup. They include Atlanta; Birmingham, Ala.; Long Beach, Calif.; Los Angeles; Newark; New York City and St. Louis.

In Washington state, the main Seattle area utilities are suspending cutoffs as well. In addition, the provider of electric and water service in Seattle is allowing people to self-certify their recent income reductions in order to qualify for at least half off their bills.

In California, Pacific Gas and Electric has, until further notice, stopped shutting off its services to consumers and businesses who have not paid.

In New York, Con Edison also has temporarily suspended any electric and gas service shut-offs.

If utilities in other areas follow suit, they are likely to publish alerts somewhere on the top of their websites or in the news release section of their pages.

More Helpful Advice

  • You have three extra months to file your federal income taxes. The federal government has moved the tax filing deadline to July 15. You don’t have to file your return or make payments until then. If you are owed a refund, you’ll still receive it as normal when you file your tax return, no matter when you submit it. Don’t forget about your state income taxes: The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants is tracking state changes on its website. And there may not be any extension on your property taxes, according to an article by our colleague Ann Carrns; local governments are simply too hard up for money.

  • How to help. We’ll be adding more resources soon both for people who want to donate and those who may be in need of assistance from a nonprofit. Our colleagues have already written about ways to give away a stimulus check and online direct giving. The New York Times’s Neediest Cases Fund has started its own relief campaign. Meanwhile, demand at food banks is overwhelming. You can find a local food pantry via Ample Harvest’s website, whether you are looking to give or seeking help for yourself.

  • Many people who have lost jobs can get subsidized health insurance. Eleven states, including some hit hard by the coronavirus — like California, New York and Washington — have opened enrollment under the Affordable Care Act to allow laid-off workers to get subsidized health insurance. And here is a more general guide to getting or keeping insurance, with updates on very recent rule changes.

  • Should you stop 401(k) contributions if you still have a job? Maybe not. Yes, market crashes are nauseating, especially if you have not experienced one. No one can say for sure when the market will stabilize, but time is in your favor: You have years — decades, even — to reap returns when the market rises again. Need another pep talk? Let Ann Carrns help here.

  • Consumer lenders have offered to help. But some have been more generous than others. Here’s a long list from the banking trade association, and here’s Ron’s column on which lenders stepped up early to let people skip payments, with and without interest accruing. Since he wrote it, both Ally Bank and Bank of America have offered to allow borrowers to defer loan payments. Many credit unions, meanwhile, are offering assistance with loans, debt consolidation and other services.

  • Building an emergency fund in an emergency. It’s not easy, but even a cushion of $250 can help stave off disaster. Ann has some advice for how you can build up a little extra cash on hand.

  • Financial planners offer free advice to distressed individuals. Dozens of members of the XY Planning Network have offered to help people through phone consultations. The Financial Planning Association has its own list of volunteer certified financial planners, as does the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

  • Where to get Social Security help. The Social Security Administration is mostly closing its 1,200 offices for routine requests like help with benefit claims. Those requests should go through the agency’s toll-free phone line, 1-800-772-1213, and its website. In-person assistance is still available for crucial services, like reinstatement of benefits and assistant for those with severe disabilities. Those seeking in-person help must call in advance. Mark Miller has details here.

  • How to prep for refinancing your mortgage. Mortgage rates are low right now, and refinancing is a good way to free up cash. But that means everyone else is trying to do it, too. Here’s Ron’s guide to making sure you don’t get kicked to the end of the line.

  • What a shady sales pitch looks like. Sometimes you can tell by the exclamation marks. But one financial planner says to beware if you can’t explain the math of how an investment or debt relief pitch works on the back of a cocktail napkin. More here from Tara. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission have also posted warnings about coronavirus scams.

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