Coronavirus Relief Checks, Job-related Coverage and other Government Assistance Info | LRRC

The LRRC is open and available to answer any questions you may have during this difficult time.

If you find yourself struggling to afford necessities such as healthcare and food, please do not hesitate to reach out to us so we can connect you with all available government and private assistance. Even if you have a temporary reduction in income, the government has expanded some programs and created others specifically to help people during this time, including people who otherwise do not participate in programs. To schedule a phone appointment with a caseworker to discuss your personal situation, please call us any time at (732) 942-9292. You can also e-mail us at [email protected] As always, our current program literature, recent announcements, and helpful links are posted on our website at www.info.lrrcenter.org.

General Assistance

  1. Coronavirus Relief Checks to Individuals

The federal government will be sending relief payments to individuals and families. Individuals who earned an income below $75,000 will receive $1,200, and couples who earned an income below $150,000 and filed a joint return will receive $2,400. Parents will receive an additional $500 for each child under age 17. For those making higher than these amounts, payments will be phased out. Individuals who made more than $99,000, and couples who made more than $198,00 would not be eligible at all. The plan is to send the payments via direct deposit within the next three weeks, but processing may be delayed. For those that do not receive the direct deposit, there will likely be a web-based application available in several weeks.

To learn how much you can expect to receive, input your information into the calculator here: https://www.kiplinger.com/tool/taxes/T023-S001-stimulus-check-calculator-2020/index.php

The government plans to use your most recent tax return to determine payment amounts. If you did not yet file your 2019 return, it might be prudent to wait to file, or rush filing. To find out which is better, use the Stimulus Check Calculator above to run your income numbers using your 2018 federal income and projected 2019 income. If you receive a higher estimate using your 2018 return, wait to file. If the estimate is higher using 2019 numbers, then file as soon as you can.

Of note, the stimulus payments are actually advanced payments of a new tax credit for the 2020 tax year. So, if you don’t get the full amount you’re owed now, you will likely be able to claim the difference as a tax credit next year when you file your 2020 tax return. It will either result in an additional refund or reduce the amount of tax you owe. We don’t yet have details about exactly how that will work, but more will become available in the coming days. The stimulus payments will not be taxable. Beware of scammers – do not provide your bank account information or other personal identifying information to anyone. The government will not be calling for this information.

  1. SNAP Benefit Increases
  • Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Governor has temporarily waived the work requirement for the SNAP program. Anyone who applies for benefits will not have to participate in a work activity at this time. Additionally, anyone who is currently receiving SNAP benefits and has a family member who is not being counted because he/she is not fulling the work requirement can reapply to receive additional benefits. For the link to apply and additional information, visit info.lrrcenter.org.
  • If you currently receive SNAP benefits, you may receive an extra benefit payment in March. Additionally, your April benefit will likely be higher. These additional benefits will automatically be added to your EBT card.
  1. Program Extensions

Most programs will not be terminating benefits during this time. If you receive a recertification request, do your best to complete it and submit by the deadline. Call the LRRC if you are terminated from a program that you need during this time.

  1. Tax Filing Deadline Extended

The federal tax filing deadline has been extended until July 15th. The State will likely be extending its tax filing deadline as well.

  1. Housing Assistance

The State has announced a 90-day grace period for mortgage payments for borrowers who have been economically impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. This includes a grace period for all mortgage payments, relief from fees and charges, and no credit score changes for accessing relief. Contact and work directly with your mortgage servicer to learn about and apply for available relief.

The Governor has also announced a moratorium on removals of individuals due to evictions or foreclosures.

Job-Related Coverage for COVID-19

There are several government assistance programs available to you if you are experiencing a change in your ability to work due to COVID-19.

  1. Tax-Related Provisions from the Federal Government

The federal government created an emergency assistance program to help employers continue to pay their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are two broad types of assistance available starting April 2nd – (1) paid sick leave for employees who are sick or seeking a diagnosis and (2) paid family leave for those unable to work due to childcare or other medical reasons. Each program has its own requirements and qualifying conditions. In both cases, employers must lay out the wages and will be reimbursed fully through payroll taxes. There is also a refundable income tax credit for self-employed individuals. The details are still being finalized, and there are many rules and exemptions.

If you are an employee, we encourage you to talk to your employer to find out if you are covered by this leave.

If you are an employer, we encourage you to speak to your tax and business consultant to learn about these rules and to take advantage of these programs to help your employees get through this difficult time.

If you are self-employed, there is a refundable income tax credit that may help you.

The paid sick leave will provide 100% of wages up to $511/day for 10 days for someone who is sick themselves, and 67% of wages up to $200/day for 10 days for someone caring for another individual who is ill.

The paid family leave will provide 67% of wages up to $200/day for 12 weeks for someone who is home caring for a child whose school is closed. The first 10 days are unpaid, but the employee can overlap with 10 days of paid sick leave.

For more information and FAQs, click here: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic

  1. Earned Sick Leave and Worker’s Compensation

Earned Sick Leave: This is not new. Effective October 2018, all NJ employers must provide Earned Sick Leave to their employees. An employee can accrue 1 hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours worked up to 40 hours per year. Earned sick leave accrued may be used for many situations associated with the current pandemic. These situations include someone who has symptoms of COVID-19, an employee who was exposed and quarantined, an employee that does not want to work because he is afraid of getting the virus, and a worker who is unable to work because of school or daycare closure.

Worker’s Compensation: A healthcare worker that was exposed to the virus at work and is now self-quarantined should apply for worker’s compensation. This applies to healthcare workers only.

  1. Temporary Disability/Family Leave Insurance

People in the following situations are eligible for temporary disability and/or family leave insurance:

  • A person who has COVID-19, or symptoms of COVID-19
  • Workers who were exposed and quarantined and their companies remain open
  • Workers who are immune-compromised and advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine
  • A health care worker exposed at work and self-quarantined
  • A worker who is caring for a sick family member

If you work for an employer that participates in NJ State Disability/Family Leave Insurance, you can apply online here: https://myleavebenefits.nj.gov/

Family Leave Insurance is different than the new Family Leave benefit being worked out by the federal government. Family Leave Insurance is processed through the NJ State disability system and is only for employees whose employers participate in the NJ State Disability System.

By contrast, the new Federal Family Leave paid benefit is paid directly by employers and reimbursed by the Federal Government (see item #1 above). It has nothing to do with participation in the NJ State disability system.

To qualify, you must have either earned $10,000 or worked at least 20 weeks, earning a minimum of $200 per week during your base year. Your weekly benefit amount will be two-thirds of your average weekly earnings during your base year period. The maximum weekly benefit amount for Jan 1 – June 30, 2020, is $667. For claims dated after July 1, 2020, the benefit rate increases to 85% up to a maximum weekly benefit of $881.

You can receive Temporary Disability Insurance for up to 6 months (26 weeks) for every 12 month period. If you expect your disability to last longer than 12 months, you may qualify for SSI. There is an option of applying for disability during unemployment.

You can receive up to 6 weeks (42 days) of Family Leave Insurance for every12 month period. The 12-month period begins on the first day that family leave is taken. For claims dated after July 1, 2020, you can receive up to 12 consecutive weeks of Family Leave Insurance or 56 intermittent days. You can also take Family Leave Insurance to bond with a child up until the child’s first birthday.

For both of these programs, you may need a letter from a doctor as proof of disability. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, we recommend calling your doctor to discuss your symptoms to help establish a chain of evidence testifying to your inability to work.

Click here for more information and FAQs from the Department of Labor: https://www.nj.gov/labor/worker-protections/earnedsick/covid.shtml

  1. Unemployment Insurance

People in the following situations are eligible for unemployment insurance:

  • A person who is out of work because their employer voluntarily closed, including an employee who was put on furlough.
  • Workers who were exposed and quarantined and their companies remain open.
  • A person who is out of work because their employer was ordered closed.
  • A worker who has fewer work hours available due to business slow down or lack of demand.

On Friday, March 27th, a law expanding unemployment assistance was passed. The law expands eligibility to include:

  • Many that are usually not eligible for unemployment benefits – self-employed, independent contractors, those with limited work history, and others.
  • Those who self-certify that they are able and available to work but are unemployed or partially unemployed due to: having been diagnosed with COVID-19 or experiencing symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis, a member of the individual’s household has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the individual is providing care for a family member or household member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the individual is the primary caregiver for a child or other person in the household who is unable to attend school or another facility as a direct result of COVID-19, the individual is unable to reach the place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of COVID-19, the individual is unable to work because a health care provider has advised the individual to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns, the individual was scheduled to commence employment and does not have a job or is unable to reach the job as a direct result of COVID-19, the individual has become the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of household has died as a direct result of COVID-19, the individual has to quit their job as a direct result of COVID-19, or the individual’s place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19.

If you work for an employer that participates in NJ State Unemployment and you fall into the above-listed categories, you can apply online here: https://myunemployment.nj.gov/

We are awaiting guidance from the State regarding how a self-employed individual can apply for Unemployment benefits. We will send an update as soon as we have one.

Although benefits are supposed to be retroactive, we recommend that you apply for unemployment right away. Since the website is limited and volume is high, we also recommend taking screenshots and saving proof of your application to ensure that you receive retroactive benefits.

Do not apply for unemployment until you are sure your employer has laid you off. Speak to your employer – they may be able to get assistance to stay open, and you may be able to stay on payroll and collect the new Federal Family Leave (see item #1 above).

Your weekly benefit rate is 60% of your average weekly earnings during your base year period. The maximum weekly benefit amount for 2020 is $713. New for this crisis, you will receive an additional $600 per week above your calculated benefit amount. This will be automatic – there is no need to submit additional applications. Benefits will also be extended for four months, and the one-week waiting period will be waived.

Your weekly benefit amount could increase by up to 15% because of dependency benefits. Dependency benefits are only available if your spouse is not employed during the week you establish your claim. It offers an extra 7% for the first dependent and an additional 4% for each of the next two dependents. A dependent can be an unemployed spouse or an unmarried child under the age of 19. An unmarried child who is a full-time student is considered a dependent as long as he/she is younger than 22. Even if you are eligible for dependency benefits, the standard weekly benefit amount would typically not exceed $713. To receive dependency benefits, you will need to mail in proof of dependents within 6 weeks of filing your claim. You can submit a copy of your most recent federal or state tax return as proof of dependents. Dependency benefit forms are available here: https://www.lrrcenter.org/public/user/pages/files/applications/Paid%20Leaves/Unemployment.Dependency%20Benefits.Application.pdf

You may have a part-time job while on unemployment. Unemployment will deduct the amount of money you earn from your partial benefit rate. The partial benefit rate is 20% more than your weekly benefit rate and is listed on your award letter. When you claim your weekly benefits, you must report any money that you have earned in the past week. If you are doing self-employment work or are in school for job training, you will need to speak to a claims examiner. Depending on your availability to work, you may not be eligible to receive benefits.

If you receive health insurance from your employer, and are planning to file for unemployment, clarify with your employer if COBRA is an option and how much it will cost you. You may want to explore enrolling in NJFamilyCare or The Marketplace, depending on your income and situation. You can view our healthcare program literature for more information at info.lrrcenter.org.

The Lakewood Resource and Referral Center provides comprehensive social service information, referrals, counseling, community education, and assistance in navigating both government and private-sector programs. We can be reached at 732-942-9292, and we are located at 212 2nd Street, Suite 204. For more information, to donate, or to be added to our mailing list to receive valuable tips and special program announcements, visit www.lrrcenter.org.

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