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State benefits that can help you weather financial hardships

By KATE MOSTACCIO

July 13, 2021 — The pandemic hit everyone hard in a variety of ways. For some, loss of employment or reduction in employment left them unable to meet rental payments and while the government instituted eviction moratoriums, that protection is set to expire August 31, 2021. Some people were unable to make utility payments or mortgage payments, or faced unexpected funeral expenses.

There are a few programs available that might help.

New York State Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP)

The ERAP program provides economic relief to low and moderate-income households at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability by providing rental arrears, temporary rental assistance and utility arrears assistance, according to the ERAP website.

New Yorkers are eligible who meet the following criteria:

• Household gross income at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income, which differs by county and household size. Click here for limits.

• On or after March 13, 2020, a member of the household received unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in income, incurred significant costs or experienced financial hardship directly or indirectly due to COVID-19.

• The applicant is obligated to pay rent at their primary residence and has rental arrears at their current residence for rent owed on or after March 13, 2020.

•The household must be at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability, demonstrated by rental arrears on or after March 13, 2020.

Benefits for approved households include:

• Up to 12 months of rental arrears payments accrued on or after March 13, 2020.

• Up to three months of additional rental assistance if the household is expected to spend 30 percent or more of their gross monthly income on

• Up to 12 months of electric or gas utility arrears payments for arrears on or after March 13, 2020.

Apply here.

COVID-19 mortgage relief under the CARES Act

Homeowners with federally backed mortgages may be eligible for a COVID hardship forbearance.

Since March 2020, millions of homeowners have received forbearance under the CARES Act, allowing them to temporarily pause or reduce their mortgage payments, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

To be eligible, homeowners must experience hardship directly or indirectly due to the COVID pandemic and have a loan backed by HUD/FHA, VA, USDA, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loans. For loans which aren’t backed by the federal government, individual lenders are generally required to discuss payment relief options with borrowers.

The deadline for HUD/FHA, USDA or VA loans requesting an initial forbearance is June 30, 2021. For Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, there is no current deadline.

An initial forbearance typically lasts three to six months. Homeowners can request extensions.

To get the ball rolling, visit the CFPB website and find out who services your mortgage.

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP)

With hybrid schooling and working from home, access to reliable internet during the pandemic has been vital.

The Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Broadband Benefit Program provides a temporary discount on monthly broadband internet bills for qualifying households with low income.

Households with income at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines and households that experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, due to job loss and furlough and have a total household income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers qualify. Check if you qualify here.

Eligible households receive a discount of up to $50 per month; a discount of up to $75 per month for households on qualifying tribal lands; or a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers.

Find out if you are eligible here.

COVID-19 Funeral Assistance

For funeral expenses related to COVID-19, the FEMA Funeral Assistance Program is providing reimbursements up to $9,000 for deaths after January 20, 2020.

To be eligible, the death certificate must indicate the death was attributed to COVID-19 and the applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after January 20, 2020.

Documentation required  includes an official death certificate, funeral expense documents and proof of funds received from other sources, if applicable.

Learn more here.