Updates on COVID-19 Financial Relief
We’ve compiled some information and resources to make it easy for you to find out about important changes that are impacting your budget.
NOTE: The information related to coronavirus is changing frequently. We’re updating this page as often as possible.
Novel coronavirus, aka COVID-19, has impacted the health and well-being of people all over the globe. To slow the spread of the disease, billions of people are social distancing and self-quarantining, and many countries as well as U.S. states have closed all but essential businesses.
The deep economic toll of coronavirus is having now is more obvious than its long-term financial impact. But for now, millions of Americans—including many public-school educators—are grappling with loss of income, bills coming due, needing to buy essentials, and other money matters.
As the world changes rapidly every day, new measures are being taken to relieve the financial burden many are now facing. As always, NEA Member Benefits is committed to helping members with their personal finances—to help you have what you need to make smart financial decisions.
Below, we’ve compiled some information and resources to make it easy for you to find out about important changes that are impacting your budget now. Check this page regularly for updates.
You can click these links to go directly to the sections you’re interested in:
Relief measures from the federal government
The federal government passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides temporarily expanded family and medical leave to Americans who work for certain types of employers. Check with the Department of Labor (DOL) to see whether any leave you take related to coronavirus (for yourself or if you’re caring for a family member) would be covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
On March 27, President Trump signed the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act, a stimulus plan to help boost the economy. One major component of the package is that money will be sent directly to many Americans through what’s being called “recovery rebates.” These rebates won’t be counted as taxable income because they’re technically a tax credit advance.
A one-time payment will be sent to qualifying U.S. taxpayers, based on your adjusted gross income (from either 2018 or 2019, depending on whether or not you already filed this year):
- $1,200 for single filers with incomes under $75,000. The payment reduces $50 for every $1,000, up to $99,000.
- $1,200 for heads of household with incomes under $112,500, reducing $50 for every $1,000, up to $136,500.
- $2,400 for filers who are married and file jointly with incomes under $150,000, reducing $50 for every $1,000, up to $198,000.
- $500 per child age 16 and younger
If the Internal Revenue Service has your bank account information on file already, you should expect to receive a direct deposit within a few weeks if you qualify for a rebate, or a check in the mail if your deposit details aren’t in their files. If you didn’t file taxes in either 2018 or 2019, then you can enter your information via their website.
The Washington Post has a free coronavirus stimulus calculator that can help you estimate how much you’re likely to receive.
The IRS expects to send out the economic impact payments starting the week of April 13. The agency plans to launch a new tool soon to help you track when you can expect to receive your payment.
Be aware that scammers are preying on people who are anxious to receive their stimulus payments, to commit tax-related fraud, identity theft and more. The Treasury Department advises not to give any personal information or processing fees to anyone claiming to be able to send your coronavirus stimulus payment faster.
The IRS isn’t calling, emailing or texting taxpayers, either: If you’ve filed taxes in the past two years, they already have either your direct deposit account information or your mailing address. Otherwise, as noted above, you can enter your information directly on irs.gov.
And unemployment benefits have been extended, providing an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits and an additional $600 per week, on top of your state benefits, for up to 4 months.
The NEA is urging members to push Congress to do more to ensure that all educators, students and working families will helped. You can send a message to your representatives and senators via this form to call for cancellation of federal student loan payments, injection of more money into state budgets to help avoid laying off educators, and closing the “homework gap” by providing resources for students who lack internet access at home.
Tax filing and payment deadline extensions
The tax filing deadline has been extended to July 15—an extra three months. According to the IRS, you also can defer your federal income tax payments without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed, until then. If you’re due a refund, you can go ahead and file. The fastest way to get your refund is through direct deposit.
Each state is devising its own plan for tax deadlines. Although many are following the IRS’ lead, others have set different due dates. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants is maintaining a list of the latest information.
Help for some homeowners
If your single-family home mortgage is backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), as of March 18, a 60-day moratorium on evictions, foreclosures and late fees was put into place by the federal government. You can check to see if your mortgage is owned by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
If so, mortgage payments can be suspended or reduced for up to 12 months without incurring late fees or negatively affecting credit reporting, according to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
It’s best to contact your mortgage service provider directly to see what help you may be able to get if you’ve been affected physically or financially by coronavirus. If you currently have a mortgage through our First National Bank of Omaha Home Mortgage Program and you have been impacted by COVID-19, your service provider, DMI, has a range of hardship programs to help you with your payments. To request assistance, visit loansolutioncenter.com or call 1-855-290-9359 (Mon-Fri, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m CT).
If you rent, this new forbearance program might benefit you if your landlord has a federally backed mortgage. The federal government announced that owners of multifamily properties under qualifying mortgages can get relief on the condition that they don’t evict their renters who are experiencing coronavirus-related financial hardship. Your local or state housing website may have details if eviction moratoriums have been instituted.
On April 1, rent was due for millions of Americans for the first time since the global pandemic was declared and lockdowns were instituted, resulting in reduction or total loss of income for many people. Currently, there isn’t a coordinated effort on either the federal or state levels to ensure relief for renters affected by coronavirus. In some states, governors and state supreme courts have provided guidelines on rent waivers, deferrals and evictions, while other jurisdictions are leaving decisions up to landlords.
Internet and phone providers maintain service
The FCC announced that it had created the Keep Americans Connected Initiative, in conjunction with more than 550 communications providers, to ensure that Americans won’t lose their broadband or telephone connectivity.
The participating companies have pledged to keep service on, waive late fees and open up WiFi hotspots. This is especially important now as teachers and students strive to continue learning online while schools are closed.
If you’re experiencing financial issues, check with your phone or internet provider to see if you qualify for this waiver. While you’re at it, contact your other utilities such as electric and water to determine if they’re offering leniency for customers who are in financial distress.
Leniency from financial services companies
Many banks are offering refunds on overdraft fees and monthly maintenance fees. Credit card companies may offer refunds on late fees. Reach out to your current banking institutions to learn more or if you’re having problems managing your checking and credit card accounts.
Bankrate.com is tracking banks that have offered to provide assistance to customers experiencing financial hardship now. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has compiled some FAQs about overdrafts, bank branch closures and access to your money.
If you currently use financial services benefits through NEA Member Benefits, check our Member Assistance Program page for details and contact information for our partners.
Unemployment benefits might apply
Even you haven’t been laid off, you still might qualify for unemployment if you haven’t been able to work full-time due to quarantines, shutdowns or furloughs. Check with your state to see what benefits are being offered now and what you might be able to qualify for.
The CARES Act provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits and an additional $600 per week, on top of your state benefits, for up to 4 months.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Unemployment Benefits Finder provides information on filing for help, as well as COVID-19 updates related to unemployment qualifications and benefits.
Subsidizing health care after job loss
Some states, especially those hit hard by coronavirus, have temporarily opened enrollment under the Affordable Care Act so people who have been laid off can sign up for health insurance. Start here to check whether your state is accepting applications now.
Temporary student loan debt relief options
Borrowers with federal student loans can have their interest rates dropped to 0% and their payments suspended through Sept. 30, 2020. Check your online federal student loan accounts for billing updates. You can find more information on the Federal Student Aid website.
The changes don’t apply to private student loans. You can check with your loan servicer to see if you can qualify for leniency. If you have a loan through our partner, College Ave Student Loans, and have been impacted by COVID-19, you can get a temporary repayment forbearance on their loan for up to 90 days in accordance with their Natural Disaster Policy.
Additionally, if your income has gone down suddenly due to a layoff or reduction of hours, you may be eligible to have your student loan payment reduced through a federal income-driven repayment program. Please visit the new automatic sign-up tool that our partners at Savi created to help NEA members dealing with the economic impacts of the novel coronavirus.
Even if you’re not eligible, you can run your numbers through the NEA Student Debt Navigator Tool to see if you might be able to reduce your monthly payments.
Interest rate changes could be a benefit now
The Federal Reserve Board recently lowered interest rates to near zero, which may encourage lenders to lower interest rates on savings vehicles such as savings accounts and CDs. The upside to that move could be potential savings for borrowers in the form of lower interest rates on new and refinanced mortgages, car loans, credit cards balances and student loans in the upcoming academic year.
Retirement savings borrowing rules relaxed
The CARES Act includes provisions for coronavirus-related distributions. Starting this year, the Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) rules already had changed to raise the age for mandatory withdrawals to 72, up from 70½. However, distributions that had been required to be taken in 2020 have been waived.
You also can withdraw funds—more than usual, earlier than usual and without penalty—if you’ve been impacted by coronavirus. There’s no 10% early withdrawal penalty for those 59½ and under; there’s no mandatory federal withholding on early distributions; you’ll have up to 3 years to return the funds to your retirement accounts or to pay income taxes on early distributions; and the maximum loan amount has increased to $100,000.
NEA Member Benefits and our partners are here to help
If you currently participate in some of our member benefits programs, you may be able to get assistance with your bills now. Check our Member Assistance Program page to find details and contact information.
If you need additional assistance from us directly, please contact our Member Advocacy Center. You can call (800) 637-4636 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about our products or services. We’re available Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST, and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST.