My telephone Town Hall on March 24 focused on financial relief actions that our state, federal, and local governments have taken to help those who’ve lost jobs or had hours reduced, small businesses that have had to close, and others that have been impacted by coronavirus/COVID-19.
Here’s a recap of the information relayed during the Town Hall, along with additional information about vital services that are available. Also, you can listen to the Town Hall here:
Tax deadlines: Both the state of California and the IRS have extended tax filing deadlines until July 15. However, if you are eligible for the federal EITC or Cal EITC and California’s child tax credit, filing your taxes before July 15 will help you get the benefit right away.
Property taxes: Contra Costa County and Alameda County tax collectors are working to waive late fees and penalties for those taxpayers facing economic hardship. Property tax revenue is very important to our counties to deliver services, so if you’re able, please pay by April 10. If facing a hardship, go to your county tax collector's website for info on late fees/penalty waivers.
Federal stimulus package: The federal stimulus package, which is expected to be signed into law on March 27, includes a one-time payment of $1,200 to individuals who file a 2018 or 2019 return and earn an income of up to $75,000, or $2,400 payment for couples filing jointly with joint income of up to $150,000. In addition, those qualifying individuals or couples will also receive $500 per child. If your income as an individual is above $75,000 but below $99,000, or as a couple filing jointly above $150,000 but below $198,000, the amount of your check will be lower. Check federal websites for specifics.
Unemployment insurance: If you’ve lost your job or had your hours cut as a result of the crisis, apply online for unemployment insurance at EDD.ca.gov. Check here for eligibility.
The federal bill provides an extra $600 per week for up to four months for those receiving unemployment benefits. Under California law, many individuals, like Uber and Lyft drivers, who were treated by their employer as a 1099 or contract worker, are eligible for unemployment insurance, including the additional $600 federal payment because California law has reclassified many of these workers, even if the company that pays the worker has not done so yet. Legal Aid at Work provides details on this and more.
Disability insurance benefits (SDI): If you receive a W-2 from your employer, in most cases you have paid into the State Disability Insurance program (SDI). This program will provide disability insurance payments for those unable to work for more than eight days due to illness (such as COVID) or injury unrelated to your job. Check the Legal Aid at Work website for more information.
Paid family leave: Paid Family Leave provides benefits to Californians who need to take time off work to care for a seriously ill child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner. Click here for more information.
Mortgages and foreclosures: Gov. Newsom announced that most major banks have agreed to allow residential property owners impacted by the crisis to miss mortgage payments for 90 days. In addition, the federal government suspended foreclosures and evictions to homeowners whose mortgage is guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or is backed by the FHA or HUD. See HUD PDF for info on federal program: foreclosure and eviction moratorium. Updates will be posted here.
Tenant evictions: Both Alameda County and Contra Costa County sheriffs’ offices have halted eviction proceedings during the crisis. In addition, some local cities, including Albany, Berkeley, and Emeryville, have enacted ordinances temporarily barring evictions and in some cases rent increases for renters and small businesses impacted by the crisis. Check each city’s website to see what measures they’ve put in place
Small business help: The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering low-interest, long-term federal disaster loans to California small businesses, rental property owners, and private nonprofit organizations with no payments required for the first 12 months. Applicants may apply online.
Energy and Communications: PG&E and our local Community Choice energy providers have suspended shutoffs during the crisis. Also, most cellphone carriers and internet providers have signed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) pledge to provide certain benefits during the COVID-19 emergency. The pledge requires companies to keep providing service to people unable to pay their bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic, waiving certain fees, and easing data restrictions to allow consumers to freely use data during the emergency. Find out here if your company signed.
Student Loans: As of March 20, 2020, the federal government has temporarily suspended the interest it collects on student loans, and federal lenders are letting borrowers suspend their student loans and loan payments without penalty for the next 60 days.
Parking enforcement: Many cities in our area have suspended parking enforcement. Go to your city’s website to see what your city has done on parking enforcement, extending business license deadlines, and more.
Relief Funds: Oakland and Berkeley have established relief funds for those impacted by the crisis. To find out what the funds support, and how you can contribute, go to https://www.oaklandfund.org/ and https://berkeleyrelieffund.org/
Medi-Cal/CalWORKs recipients: Gov. Newsom waived the 90-day annual redetermination reviews for Californians enrolled in Medi-Cal and CalWORKs. So, if you are currently enrolled in Medi-Cal or CalWORKs, rest assured your benefits will continue through June 16. If your Medi-Cal benefits were already terminated, you have to reapply.
New Medi-Cal applicants: The state has expedited Medi-Cal for new applicants, waiving certain paperwork requirements including citizenship docs. Homeless individuals just need to state on application that they are homeless and will be expedited. All applications can be done through the Covered California website.
CalFresh: If you qualify for and need CalFresh food assistance benefits (the state’s food stamp program), applications can be done online, at GetCalFresh.org. If you are already receiving CalFresh, you will keep your coverage through May and won’t need to be recertified.
Immigration rights: If you’re impacted by the crisis due to your immigration status, please see the Legal Aid at Work website for more information on how to get help.
More detailed information on, for example, unemployment insurance and disability insurance and who qualifies as well as the assistance available to small businesses from the US Small Business Administration, was provided during my March 24 Town Hall. Again, you can listen to the Town Hall here:
Please stay safe and practice the good direction from our public health experts to maintain 6-feet of distance when you are out for shopping or other legitimate needs, and wash your hands — soap and water is most effective!
Nancy Skinner, state Senator, District 9