Financial help during coronavirus
Well, friends, we are certainly all living in uncertain times as each of us has had massive changes in our daily life while we hunker down at home during this coronavirus pandemic.
Today we have some information we’d like to draw your attention to. But, before that, we just want to join the chorus saying, please stay at home, wash your hands and treat others with added thoughtfulness and grace as everyone does their best to cope. (Please also give us a little grace as we strive to provide you the latest information we have during a time when government decisions and decrees—at every level—are in a constant state of change.)
While our health and the health of our loved ones and others should be our first priority and concern right now, our financial health as individuals, families and communities is also a concern. That is what we are addressing today.
Tax return deadline extended
You’ve probably already heard the news that the typical April 15 deadline for personal tax returns has been extended until July 15 with no penalties. That’s great news if the idea of doing your taxes right now sends you over the edge, or if you suspect you will owe money.
However, if you are pretty sure you will be receiving a tax refund, you may want to get going on your tax return – at least to determine if you might be getting a refund. (You can always wait to file it later, if you are the one owing money.) Besides, most of us have a little more time at home these days to work on such projects.
Many Harborites – like millions of people across the nation – have lost their jobs, been laid off temporarily or had their hours reduced because of the virus. This includes many people who have never been unemployed before – and therefore have never applied for unemployment benefits before.
Emergency rules have been adopted for workers and employers affected by COVID-19. Go online at esd.wa.gov/unemployment to find out if you are eligible for unemployment benefits.
The fastest way to apply for benefits is online. However, you can also file by phone, though be prepared to wait a long time. (And the website clearly directs people to apply online if at all possible.)
Call Grays Harbor PUD
In response to the financial effects of COVID-19, the Grays Harbor PUD has announced it will not apply late charges for accounts that become delinquent in March or April. And, the PUD has also decided to postpone the 2 percent rate increase that was to take effect.
Also, the PUD staff urges customers who are struggling to pay their PUD power bill to call for help at (360) 532-4220. The customer service staff can look at various possibilities for helping customers in this situation.
On the other hand, the PUD is reminding its customers of an opportunity to help those struggling to pay their monthly power bill.
“For several years, the PUD’s customers have made donations to the Project Help program to help their neighbors and community members during difficult financial times,” said Customer Service Director Katy Moore. It is times like these that this assistance can really make a difference in our customer’s lives.”
If you wish to donate to Project Help, fill out the donation section found on the left side of your monthly return invoice, offering a donation of $1, $5, or “other” where customers may write in the amount they wish to donate. Donations may also be made by contacting PUD Customer Service at (360) 532-4220.
Pause on foreclosures for FHA loans
For homeowners with mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), President Trump ordered on March 18 to suspend evictions and foreclosures for the next 60 days.
This moratorium just covers FHA mortgages for single family homes. Also, it not only prevents new foreclosure actions, but also suspends all foreclosures currently in process.
In addition, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan banks, is providing payment forbearance to borrowers impacted by the coronavirus for up to 12 months due to hardship.
Good news on student loans
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the federal Department of Education has put relief efforts to help student loan borrowers.
What this means is that effective March 13, the interest rate will go to 0 percent on all federally held student loans for at least 60 days. In addition, each borrower will have the option to suspend their payments for at least two months to allow greater flexibility during the national crisis.
“These are anxious times, particularly for students and families whose educations, careers, and lives have been disrupted,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in a news release. “Right now, everyone should be focused on staying safe and healthy, not worrying about their student loan balance growing,” she said.
However, borrowers who have federal student loans and want to take advantage of this must contact their loan servicer online or by phone. If borrowers want to continue making payments the full amount of their payment will be applied to the principal amount of their loan once all interest accrued prior to the March 13 announcement is paid.
Be a helping hand – from six feet away
Grays Harborites are notoriously ingenious in adversity and generously community minded. This is an hour for us to shine again. Perhaps you can pick up groceries, bring over supper or mow the lawn of an older neighbor. Just remember to do so using all health protocols.