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Dealing With the Financial Impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19): A Resource Guide for New York City Residents

by CBJC Staff March 18, 2020

Disclaimer: Please note the contents of this article are current as of March 30, 2020.

With the spread of the coronavirus or COVID-19, communities are being financially impacted as many suffer loss of income as a result of becoming ill or due to the temporary closure of businesses. In these uncertain times, it is important to be proactive when faced with financial distress. Below are some tips and resources New Yorkers will find helpful. These programs are changing quickly and additional relief may become available.

How to use this guide: Most of the tips and resources provided in this guide apply to individuals, consumers, small business owners, renters and homeowners of New York. There are topics relevant to each group. Click on the topic, for which you are seeking information on, to be brought to the particular section of the guide.

Table of Contents:

Individuals Seeking Benefits

Tips and Resources for Consumers

Resources and Aid for Small Businesses

Tips and Resources for Homeowners And Renters

A COVID-19 Financial Resource Guide for NYC Residents

Individuals Seeking Benefits

Loss of income

  1. Do not exhaust your life savings, cash out 401ks, or take on new debt.
  2. Contact the Department of Labor. Currently, NYS is waiving the 7-day waiting period for Unemployment Insurance Benefits for people who are out of work as a result of the coronavirus.
  3. For rental, cash assistance, and food assistance, contact the NYC Human Resources Administration at https://www1.nyc.gov/site/hra/index.page.
  4. According to Forbes, many banks are waiving the monthly service fees as well as penalties for early CD withdrawals.

Sick leave

  1. On March 18, 2020, NYS passed the Guaranteed Sick Leave and Expedited Unemployment Insurance. This new law will allow employees, who are subject to mandatory or precautionary quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic, to obtain emergency paid leave, the ability to qualify for paid family leave and temporary disability benefits. Employees will be entitled to full job protection during the entirety of their absence.  Furthermore, employees will not have to use their accrued leave before receiving these benefits.
    • Employees working for small employers, with 1-10 employees, will receive unpaid sick days.
    • For employees working for medium sized employers (11-99 employees) and small employers (1-10 employees) with a net income of $1 million a year, employees will receive five paid sick days.
    • Employees working for large employers, with 100 or more employees, will receive paid sick days for the entirety of the quarantine, up to 14 days.
    • The bill does not cover those who have been quarantined as a result of having returned from a country for which the CDC has imposed a travel health notice on, unless the travel was part of the employee’s employment.

 Health Benefits and Insurance

  1. In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Medicare has temporarily expanded its coverage of telehealth services to allow Medicare recipients to visit with their doctors via a 2-way telecommunications system, like audio or video, instead of having to go to the doctor’s office.
  2. NY State of Health has implemented a special enrollment period from March 16th through April 15th for New Yorkers to enroll in health insurance through the marketplace and directly through insurers. Individuals who enroll in a Qualified Health Plan during the special enrollment period will have coverage effective April 1st.

Tips and Resources for Consumers

Federal Student loan payments

Defaulting on federal student loans can cause the Department of Education to offset tax refunds, garnish wages, or freeze bank accounts.  It is important to stay current on student loans by entering into an affordable repayment plan, requesting deferment, or obtaining forbearance.

  1. Student repayment options
    • Enter into an affordable student loan repayment plan:
      • If you have not already done so, enter into an affordable student loan repayment option offered by the Department of Education for those with federal student loans.
    • Lower student loan payments
      • If you are already in an income contingent repayment plan, have the student loan servicer recalculate your monthly payments with your new financial situation.
  2. Student loan interest waivers
    • President Trump announced a waiver of student loan interest for borrowers with federal student loans. This temporary option will not reduce the monthly payments but instead apply them to principal only, lowering the amount of the student loan over time.
    • If you are disabled, consider the student loan disability forgiveness option.

Credit card and other loan payments

  1. If possible, pay the minimum to stay current on your credit card debts.
  2. Avoid incurring new debt.
  3. If you’re worried that you’ll be late with a payment, call your creditor right away. Many creditors are waiving late fees, extending payment and offering other ways to help consumers affected by the coronavirus situation.

Debts owed to New York State

  1. NYS will temporarily stop collection of medical debt owed to New York’s five state hospitals and five state veteran’s home.
  2. NYS will also halt collection on student debt owed to SUNY campuses.
  3. For other types of debts owed to NYS that has been referred to the Office of Attorney General, consumers can apply for a temporary suspension of debt collection.

Federal Income Taxes

  1. On March 18, 2020, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, announced that the U.S. government will give taxpayers an additional 90 days, beyond the April 15 tax deadline, to pay their 2019 tax bills. For more details, visit their page.

Resources and Aid for Small Businesses

Loans and grants

  1. The United States’ Small Business Administration will be providing disaster relief funding in the form of low-interest loans provided for small businesses and non-profits.The SBA has also released a more general guide for businesses and employers responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, which can be found here.
    • These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses. The interest rate for non-profits is 2.75%. For additional information, contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center at 1-800-659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov
    • The SBA has also released a more general guide for businesses and employers responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, which can be found here.
    • The NYC Small Business Continuity Fund is offering zero-interest loans up to $75,000 to businesses with fewer than 100 employees that have seen sales decrease 25% or more to help mitigate losses in profit. The application for this loan program is now available.
    • The NYC Employee Retention Grant Program is offering small businesses with 1 to 4 employees a grant to cover 40% of their payroll costs for two months to help retain employees. Businesses, including non-profits must demonstrate at least a 25% decrease in revenue as a result of COVID-19. Eligible businesses could receive a grant covering up to 40% of their payroll for two months, up to $27,000.New York City’s Department of Small Business Services is offering grants and interest-free loans for small businesses across NYC impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak
  2. As part of the above applications, you will be required to demonstrate a revenue decrease by providing documentation such as: point-of-sales reports, bank statements, quarterly sales tax filings, 2019 tax returns, or CPA-certified profit & loss statements. You can begin to gather these documents in preparation.
  3. For Restaurant Workers: The Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation (RWCF) announced its COVID-19 Crisis Relief Fund, offering zero interest loans to restaurant businesses as well as relief funding for individual workers facing economic hardships or health crises as a direct result of COVID-19.
  4. Facebook Small Business Grants Program: Facebook will be offering $100M in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses in over 30 countries where they currently operate. You can sign up here to be notified of updates and when the grant application will go live.
  5. USBG National Charity Foundation: Bartender Emergency Assistance Program is providing emergency assistance grants to Bartenders, their spouses or children, who have experienced a catastrophic event or emergency. Go to their website to learn more about their eligibility guidelines and application process.
  6. Verizon in partnership with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation “LISC” has created the Verizon Small Business Recovery Fund to provide grants of up to $10,000 to small businesses under immediate financial pressure due to COVID-19, with particular emphasis on assisting entrepreneurs of color, and women owned businesses and those businesses that may not have access to flexible, affordable sources of capital.  Click here to learn more about the grant and to sign up for updates and notifications of when the application process will be open.

Federal Income Taxes

  1. The IRS and the Treasury Department will give individuals and small business owners a 90 day extension to pay their 2019 tax bills, without interest and penalties. For more info, go to IRS.gov.

Guides for Employers/Employees and Additional Resources

  1. The U.S. Chamber shared informative graphics based on the CDC’s latest guidance for business and workers across the country. These can be shared on a business’ website, social media, or among colleagues and employees.
  2. The CDC published an Interim Guidance Report for Business and Employers which provides information on workplace recommendations, strategies for employers and employees, as well as important considerations during this period:
  3. Facebook released a Resource Hub with toolkits and guides aiming to protect small businesses from current interruptions in both supply and demand.

COVID-19 Paid Leave

Guidance for Employers: On March 18, 2020, NYS passed the Guaranteed Sick Leave and Expedited Unemployment Insurance bill. See the following link for Employer Guidance on the new bill and how it will affect small businesses.

The bill provides protections for employees of private and public employers who are subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine related to COVID-19, providing coverage for sick leave and the ability to immediately qualify for paid family leave and disability benefits, in addition to full job protection. This law does not apply to employees who have been quarantined or isolated as a result of returning from travel to a country the CDC has imposed a travel health notice on, unless such travel was undertaken as part of the employee’s job.

  1. Under the new law, Employers with small businesses with 10 or fewer employees as of January 1, 2020, and a net income under $1 million last fiscal year, must provide:
    • Guaranteed job protection for the duration of the quarantine order
    • Compensation for the quarantine through their existing Paid Family Leave and Disability benefits policy up to $2884.62 per week.
  2. For businesses with 10 or fewer employees as of January 1, 2020, and a net income greater than $1 million last fiscal year, the Employer must provide:
    • Guaranteed job protection for the duration of the quarantine period
    • At least 5 days of paid sick leave.
    • Compensation for the remaining quarantine period through their existing Paid Family Leave and Disability benefits policy up to $2884.62 per week.
  3. For businesses with 11-99 employees as of January 1, 2020, and a net income greater than $1 million last fiscal year, Employers must provide:
    • Guaranteed job protection for the duration of the quarantine period
    • At least 5 days of paid sick leave.
    • Compensation for the remaining quarantine period through their existing Paid Family Leave and Disability benefits policy up to $2884.62 per week.
  4. Businesses who have 100 or more employees, and all government institutions, will be required to provide at least 14 days of paid leave.
  5. Further if your employees are quarantined but able to work from home they do not qualify for these benefits.
  6. If your business is closed due to COVID-19, your employees may immediately apply for Unemployment Insurance.

For more information go to: ny.gov/COVIDpaidsickleave or call the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Paid Sick Leave Hotline: 844-337-6303

Commercial Evictions & Foreclosures

  1. The New York State Unified Court System has implemented a freeze on evictions for the time being.
  2. Under Executive Order, for a period of 90 days starting on March 20th there will be no enforcement of evictions or foreclosures on commercial property.

Tips and Resources for Homeowners and Renters

Mortgage Payments

  1. If you have suffered a loss of income as a result of falling ill, being laid-off, or because your place of employment shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak, contact your mortgage lender right away.
  2. The Department of Financial Services ordered NYS mortgage servicers to provide a 90-day mortgage relief to mortgage borrowers impacted by the coronavirus.
  3. Many mortgage lenders will waive late fees if you cannot pay your mortgage on time, consider a hardship application or possible modification if there has been a loss of income.
  4. Governor Cuomo has issued guidance to urge banks to offer mortgage relief to homeowners who may have difficulty paying their mortgage as a result of COVID-19. This includes:
    • Forbearing mortgage payments for 90 days from their due dates.
    • Refraining from reporting late payments to credit rating agencies for 90 days.
    • Offering borrowers an additional 90-day grace period to complete trial loan modifications, and ensuring that late payments during the COVID-19 pandemic does not affect their ability to obtain permanent loan modifications.
    • Waiving late payment fees and any online payment fees for a period of 90 days.
    • Postponing foreclosures and evictions for 90 days.

Real Estate Taxes

  1. If you are a senior, veteran or person living with a disability and with limited income, apply for a property tax exemption to lower the real estate taxes on your home. The deadline for the next tax year was March 16, but you can ask for an exception.
  2. As of March 23rd, the city’s tax lien sale is still scheduled for May 15th. If your property in on the lien sale list, you must either apply for and get approved for a property tax exemption or enter into a repayment plan before May 14th .

FHA Mortgage Loans

  1. Properties secured by FHA-insured Single Family mortgages are subject to a 60 day moratorium on foreclosure. This applies to the initiation of foreclosures and to the completion of foreclosures in process.
  2. Evictions of persons from properties secured by FHA-insured Single Family mortgages are also suspended for 60 days.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Mortgages

  1. All Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac owned mortgages have a 60-day foreclosure and eviction moratorium.
  2. Fannie and Freddie will provide payment forbearance to borrowers impacted by the coronavirus. This allows for a mortgage payment to be suspended for up to 12 months.
  3. You can check whether your loan is backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac by using the agencies’ loan look up tools and can confirm whether your loan is FHA-insured by reviewing your loan documents and mortgage statements.

Foreclosure and Evictions

  1. The New York State Unified Court System has implemented a freeze on evictions for the time being.
  2. NYS Courts have temporarily suspended residential foreclosures and court-ordered auctions.
  3. S. Department of Housing & Urban Development will also suspend eviction and foreclosure proceedings until the end of April 2020.
  4. All upcoming settlement conferences have been administratively adjourned. Consult eCourts regularly to see if your conference has been rescheduled.

Utilities

  1. If you have arrears on your gas, electric and water, contact your utility company. They are currently suspending shut-offs related to collections.
  2. Forms of emergency assistance may be available from the NYC Human Resources Administration. Applications for such assistance can be done online.

There will many programs and assistance developing in the coming days and weeks to assist New Yorkers affected by the coronavirus outbreak.  Be sure to check back for updates because the resources in this article will change from time to time.

The resource guide was produced by:

Ramona Morel, Director, Consumer Bankruptcy Project

Akira Arroyo, Director, Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project

Scott Kohanowski, Director, Homeowner Stability Project

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