Coronavirus Update: Financial Assistance and Resources for Marylanders

April 30, 2020

Dear Friend,

I know that many Marylanders are struggling to make ends meet amid the financial uncertainty and economic hardship created by COVID-19.

As we approach the first of the month – when rent payments, mortgages and other bills come due – I wanted to share some information about the financial assistance that’s available to Marylanders.

  • Economic Impact Payments: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided $1,200 in direct payments to American taxpayers earning less than $75,000 and $2,400 for joint filers earning less than $150,000, along with an additional $500 per child for parents.
     
    • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) created a helpful FAQ to answer your questions about the economic impact payments.
       
    • The IRS also launched a “Get My Payment” web application that allows taxpayers who filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019 to submit direct deposit information in order to have their economic impact payments deposited directly in their bank accounts, instead of waiting for a check to arrive in the mail. The web application also allows taxpayers to track the status of their payment and is updated once every 24 hours.
       
  • Renter Protections: Under the CARES Act, landlords with federally backed mortgages or federally subsidized housing are not allowed evict tenants for 120 days beginning on March 18, 2020. Landlords are also prevented from issuing an eviction notice until the expiration of the 120-day moratorium period.
     
  • Mortgage Relief: Maryland has prohibited foreclosures during the pandemic. And under the CARES Act, homeowners with federally backed mortgages are eligible to postpone their monthly mortgage payments. Individuals with single-family mortgages may write to their mortgage servicer requesting forbearance for 180 days due to coronavirus-related difficulties. In such a case, no additional fees, penalties or interest outside of normally scheduled terms may be levied on the borrower. However, interest will be capitalized and owed by the borrower, which will increase the amount of future payments. Homeowners should contact their mortgage servicers to learn more about how to qualify for a mortgage relief program. For more information about COVID-19 mortgage relief, see here.
     
  • Utility Services: Utility companies in Maryland – including electricity, gas, water, sewage, phone, cable and internet providers – are prohibited from disconnecting your service or charging you late fees during this crisis. Several utility companies are also working with their customers, on a case-by-case basis, to create flexible payment plans.
     
  • Unemployment Insurance: The Maryland Department of Labor has launched a new portal for Marylanders to apply for Unemployment Insurance. The CARES Act expanded Unemployment Insurance benefits by $600 per week and allowed individuals who are self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, sole proprietors or those with insufficient work history to qualify for benefits. The new portal understandably has a few bugs, but the Maryland Department of Labor will continue to work with its web development vendor to improve the portal over the next several weeks.
     
  • Food Assistance: The Maryland Food Bank has set up many pantries and food distribution sites across the state. In addition, county governments offer food assistance resources and helpful lists of food distribution locations for Maryland residents:
     
  • Meals for Students: While schools remain closed, daily meals are available for Maryland students. See here to find a student meal distribution site near you.
     
  • Student Loans: Under the CARES Act, principal and interest payments for all federally held student loans are automatically suspended through September 30, 2020. For more information about student loan relief, see here.
     
  • Relief for Veterans: The U.S. Department of the Treasury has frozen collection, fees, interest, withholding and collections referrals on VA-related debts. For debts managed by the VA proper, veterans have the option to freeze collection or to continue payment. To discuss freezing collection of a debt related to monetary benefits, please contact the Debt Management Center at (800) 827-0648. To discuss freezing collection of health care-related debt, contact the Health Resource Center at (888) 827-4817.
     
  • Additional Financial Resources: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has assembled a helpful guide with tips about how to protect yourself from the financial impacts of COVID-19.
     

As always, if you need help accessing federal benefits, or if have any questions about COVID-19 resources, please call my office at (410) 832-8890 or send me an email.

For a full list of coronavirus-related resources, please visit my website.
 

Sincerely,

00_JPSS_Signature
Congressman John Sarbanes
Maryland’s Third Congressional District