The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

Everyone getting SNAP will get lower payments starting March 1, 2023. Keep reading to find out what to do to make sure you get everything you should.

How Much SNAP Will I Lose?

Most households will lose at least $95.00 per month. Your household may lose less or more than $95.00 in March.

Many elderly people on Social Security  will remember getting only $20 in SNAP before the pandemic. Most of these people will return to getting only $20, unless they can claim new expenses, mentioned below.

Most other people will get a little more than what they got in 2019 unless they have or can report changes to the agency.

What Should I Do Now?

Make sure DCFS has up to date information about your income and bills. During the COVID emergency, DCFS may have given you extra SNAP without getting all of the paperwork and information it usually needs.

Act now to give DCFS the right information about your income and expenses. This can help make sure you get the right amount of SNAP in the future. Do not wait. DCFS may be busy and hard to reach once SNAP lowers in March 2023.

The items listed below can make your SNAP amount go up or down. The list says what information DCFS may need for each item:

  • How much each person earns or gets in benefits (paperwork may be pay stubs, W-2 forms, income tax returns, employers’ statements, award letters about disability benefits).
  • Money spent on child care so you can work (paperwork could be things like bills for child care).
  • Money above $35.00 in medical costs paid to care for older or disabled household members (paperwork may include medical bills).
  • Child support you pay (paperwork may include wage withholding statements and court orders).
  • Rent or mortgage costs (paperwork includes things your lease or promissory note).

There are websites that can help you figure out how much your SNAP amount should be. Use only trustworthy sites. Here is a site you can use: http://www.nolafoodpolicy.org/snapcalculator.

Come back to this blog post later for how to check what information DCFS already has for your household.

How Do I Give DCFS My New Information?

You can send documents through DCFS’ online LA CAFÉ system. You can use this online system at this website: https://sspweb.ie.dcfs.la.gov/selfservice/selfserviceJSPController?id=0.1772418717047336&tab=1.

The site will ask you to log into your LA CAFÉ account. If you do not have an LA CAFÉ account, you will need to set one up. You will need to create an LA CAFÉ profile and link your SNAP case. Once you log into LA CAFÉ, the site will show you how to upload your paperwork for DCFS.

You can also send your paperwork to DCFS by mail, fax, or by visiting any DCFS office in person. Keep copies of any paperwork you send to DCFS!

DCFS’ mailing address is:

Department of Children and Family Services ES
Document Processing Center
P.O. Box 260031
Baton Rouge, LA 70826

DCFS’ fax number is 225-663-3164.

Be sure to include your Case ID number or Social Security Number (SSN) on every page so DCFS can match your paperwork to your case.

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

There is good news for those who did not get the 2021 stimulus payment or the Advanced Child Tax Credit.

People who do not have to file federal income tax forms can now get these 2021 payments without filing a tax return:

Who can use the website?

If you do not need to file a 2021 tax return you can use a website to claim the 2021 stimulus funds or Advanced Child Tax Credits.

Use the website only if all of the things listed below apply to your household:

  • You did not file a tax return for 2021.
  • You did not need to file a tax return for 2021. (More about this below)
  • At least one of these is true:
    • You did not receive the 2021 stimulus funds ($1,400) OR
    • You had minor children in your home and your household did not get the full amount of Advanced Child Tax Credits:
      • For each child under age 6, the tax credit is $3,600.
      • For children ages 6-17, the tax credit is $3,000.
      • You can claim for children who turned 17 in 2021.

Who cannot use the new website?

People who must file federal income tax forms for 2021 tax forms cannot use this new option.

People who cannot use the site include:

  • People who got health insurance in 2021 through the federal “marketplace” (Obamacare) with discounts based on their income.
  • People who were supposed to get other tax credits, like the Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • People who must file federal tax forms.

For example people at these income levels did not need  to file federal tax forms

Single people living alone: Income under $12,550
Married filing jointly: Income under $25,100
Unmarried head of household: Income under $18,800

If you are must file a tax return, you can still file a late federal return.

Filing your taxes can get you your Stimulus or Child Tax Credits as tax refunds.

To find out more about whether you should file a tax return, talk with a reputable tax preparer.

You can also use the Form 1040 instructions at www.irs.gov.

You can also use https://www.irs.gov/help/ita/do-i-need-to-file-a-tax-return.

How to use the website:

You can claim Stimulus funds or the Child Tax Credit by using a website set up by a nonprofit to help people get their Advanced Child Tax Credit money.

The website is not a government website.

A non-profit group called Code for America designed the website with  the IRS.

The website will be up until at least October 15, 2022

The website to use is www.getctc.org

Be careful to use the correct website.

Never give your personal information to an unknown website. 

To use the website, you will need:

  • Your Social Security number
  • The Social Security number for of every child you claim
  • Your picture ID, such as a state ID, driver’s license, or passport,
  • If you want the funds deposited directly into your bank account, you need your bank “routing number” and bank account number. (These are on checks, deposit slips, and your bank statements.)

You will be asked to prove who you are. There may be questions about credit you have gotten. These are things like a mortgage, student loan, car loan, or credit card.

You can also use a valid driver’s license number to prove who you are.

If you do not have these items, you will be asked to confirm your identity with a secure video call.

Filing for the money usually takes about 15 minutes.

You can have the funds deposited into a bank account or mailed to you.

If you find you cannot use the website, you may want to file a late 2021 Federal tax return to claim your funds.

Low-income persons can get help from a non-profit group called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) in filling out returns.

To find out what VITA programs are near you, you can call 1-800-906-9887, toll free.

If you are 60 years old or older, to find out about help near you, you can also call the AARP 1-888-227-7669, toll free.

La información proporcionada en esta publicación no representa, y no pretende, un asesoramiento legal. Toda la información disponible en este sitio es información general. Si necesita ayuda legal, debe comunicarse con un abogado. Usted puede ser elegible para nuestros servicios legales. Nuestros servicios son gratuitos. Usted puede solicitar nuestros servicios con llamar nuestra línea directa de asistencia legal por desastre al 1-844-244-7871 o por nuestra aplicación electrónica.

Estos pasos pueden ayudarlo a evitar el fraude de contratistas, ser estafado o recibir malas reparaciones en su hogar o propiedad:

  1. Verifique a cualquier persona o negocio que este considerando en contratar para reparar su hogar o propiedad:
    • Obtenga el nombre completo y dirección comercial de la persona o el negocio y pida ver la licencia de Luisiana de la persona o empresa.
    • Compruebe que el negocio se encuentre en la dirección que se le proporciono.
    • Verifique si el contratista tiene licencia o está registrado para realizar trabajos de reparación en Luisiana. Usted puede bajar la aplicación móvil gratuita llamada "La. Contractor" o usar la función de búsqueda de contratistas de la Junta de Licencias del Estado de Luisiana para Contratistas en https://lslbc.louisiana.gov. También usted puede llamar al número telefónico: (800) 256-1392.Tenga en cuenta que el sitio de web solo esta disponible en inglés.
    • El “Better Business Bureau” tiene revisiones sobre contratistas y negocios de viviendas: https://www.bbb.org/local-bbb/bbb-of-greater-new-orleans-area , https://www.bbb.org/us/la/baton-rouge , https://www.bbb.org/us/la/houma , https://www.bbb.org/us/la/hammond. Tenga en cuento de que estos sitios solo están disponibles en inglés. El programa de Google puede traducir la información en español para usted si es necesario, pero no se garantiza que toda la información este traducido exactamente.
    • Verifique cuánto tiempo ha estado el contratista en el negocio bajo el nombre que se le proporciono (los contratistas pueden cambiar el nombre de so negocio para evitar problemas)
    • Busque en el sitio web del secretario de Estado de Luisiana (“Louisiana Secretary of State” en inglés) para verificar si la empresa está al día con el estado. Visite el sitio de web: https://coraweb.sos.la.gov/CommercialSearch/CommercialSearch.aspx . Usted también puede llamar al número telefónico: (800) 256-1392. Tenga en cuenta que el sitio de web solo esta disponible en inglés.
    • Pida al menos 3 referencias de los trabajos anteriores del Contratista. Consulte con las revisiones del negocio que están disponibles por internet y en las redes sociales. Hable con los clientes anteriores del contratista, inspeccionando los trabajos realizados y pregunte por la opinión de los clientes anteriores sobre el contratista.
    • Obtenga una copia del seguro de responsabilidad civil de su contratista y llame a la compañía de seguros para verificar que la cobertura es válida.
    • Obtenga una copia de la información de compensación de trabajadores de su contratista.
  1. Obtenga al menos 3 estimaciones escritas, detalladas y firmadas. No acepte estimaciones por teléfono y tenga cuidado con las estimaciones que son muy bajas. Podrían establecer una táctica de "cebo y cambio". Asegúrese de que cada contratista haga una oferta por el mismo trabajo.
    • Cualquier estimación debe tener fechas de inicio y finalización para el trabajo.
    • Todos los trabajos enumerados deben ser detallados con los costos exactos de cada proyecto y una suma total de todo el trabajo que se va a realizar.
    • Todo lo que usted desea que se haga debe ser enumerado, o no se puede hacer nada si no está enumerado. Por ejemplo, el contratista no tiene que volver a colocar la moldura de la corona a menos que el contrato lo diga. O si usted espera instalar un cierto tipo de piso o baldosa, debe escribirse en el documento.
  1. Tenga cuidado con los contratistas que se comunican con usted primero para buscar nuevo trabajo. Resista las ventas de alta presión.  Tómese su tiempo para tomar una decisión y evalúe todas las estimaciones.
  2. Es posible que le preocupe la escasez de contratistas después del huracán. Pero debido a la escasez, muchos reparadores ofrecen servicios a pesar de que normalmente no podrían obtener un trabajo de contratación de este tamaño. Algunos solo están para robar el dinero de la gente. Otros pueden ser bien intencionados, pero carecen de la experiencia para lidiar con las reparaciones de huracanes, el trabajo puede pasar por encima de sus cabezas o ellos pueden prometer servicios a demasiadas personas.
  3. Una vez que usted está de acuerdo con un contratista, firme un contrato por escrito que incluye las firmas de usted y el contratista. Asegúrese de que especifique claramente el precio del trabajo, el trabajo exacto que se va a realizar, si el contrato cubre materiales y mano de obra, quién realizará el trabajo, la cantidad de cobertura de seguro de responsabilidad civil mantenida por el contratista y un marco de tiempo para que se complete el trabajo. Guarde una copia del contrato que este firmado y clara en un lugar seguro.
    • Es difícil hacer cumplir un plazo de tiempo en el contrato, a menos que especifique sanciones por trabajo tardío, que la mayoría de los contratistas no aceptarán. Si cuenta con las reparaciones en una fecha determinada, ponga la fecha en el contrato y el motivo de la fecha. Por ejemplo, que la fecha es porque usted tiene que pagar el alquiler en otro lugar hasta que pueda regresar a su hogar.
    • Si el contratista obtendrá permisos con la ciudad que sean necesarios, el contrato también debe incluir esta información.
  1. No debe pagar por un trabajo por adelantado. Tenga cuidado con cualquier contratista que exija el pago total o medio por adelantado. Un contratista de buena reputación no requerirá un pago inicial superior al 10 al 25 por ciento del total. Insista en que los pagos se hagan a la empresa, no a un individuo. Obtenga recibos en los documentos de la empresa de todos los pagos.
  2. Una opción de pago es pagar con tarjeta de crédito. Esto puede proporcionarle protección adicional si hay un problema. Tenga en cuento, que usted debe poder cubrir esos pagos con otros fondos para evitar acumular la deuda de su tarjeta de crédito y los cargos por intereses.
  3. NUNCA pague en efectivo.
  4. Conozca sus derechos y responsabilidades. Consulte con sus propietarios de vivienda y/o su agente de seguros contra inundaciones para asegurarse de que su seguro cubra caídas o lesiones para contratistas.
  5. Consulte con los funcionarios de su ciudad para ver qué permisos necesitan los contratistas para trabajar en su propiedad y verifique que sus permisos se hayan presentado y publicado correctamente en su propiedad ANTES del inicio del trabajo.
  6. Tome fotografías de los daños en el hogar antes de que comiencen los trabajos de reparación y a medida que avanzan. Tome fotografías de sus contratistas, sus empleados y las matrículas de sus vehículos. Guarde las fotos en un lugar seguro.
  7. Mantenga notas detalladas de las conversaciones sobre cambios en el trabajo, sobrecostos, etc. Guarde copias de todos los correos electrónicos.

Para otro buen recurso sobre estos temas, visite la página de web: https://www.consumidor.ftc.gov/ (Ester recurso está disponible en inglés).

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

Louisiana ended COVID-related unemployment benefits on July 31, 2021. It ended:

  • Aid for people who aren’t eligible for regular unemployment. These people can include:
    • “gig” workers
    • others who did not earn enough wages
    • others who do not get W2s
    • people who can’t work because of COVID, and
    • some people who were disqualified for unemployment.

This is aid was called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

  • Unemployment for people who used all 26 weeks of their regular state unemployment benefits. This was called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).
  • The extra $300 that was added onto weekly unemployment checks. This is called Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC).

How does this affect me?

If you have been receiving PUA:

You will not get paid for any weeks after July. Your claim has ended. This is true even if you have a benefit balance, or if HIRE shows that your claim would not end until September 4, 2021.

If you filed for any weeks after July 31, You will not be paid for these weeks. You won’t get paid even if the agency says your Hire Account says that your claim is “In Progress.“

If you have been receiving PEUC:

You can only get paid if you file a new “claim” for unemployment and you worked enough since the beginning of your last claim.

If you have been receiving FPUC:

If you have been getting more than $247 a week in unemployment, you will now get $300 less per week, if you still get unemployment benefits. This is for any weeks after July 31.

If you haven’t filed a claim yet:

Your benefits for August and after will be decided by state law, with no extra $300 a week. There is no longer coverage for

  • gig workers
  • those who do not have enough wages in the last 18 months
  • those unemployed because of Covid
  • people who have used their 26 weeks of state benefits for the year
  • etc.

If you lost a job before July 31, you can still file a claim to get these benefits for weeks before August. You can file for this until September 4, 2021.

What if I was denied the extra benefits?

You can appeal if you were denied these extra benefits for time before August 2021 IF your appeal deadline has not run out. LWC can pay the extra benefits for weeks that were before August.

If you got more than one denial notice, it is important to appeal each notice separately.

If you have already appealed  and you are waiting for a hearing, you will get a hearing. If you win, you will get those benefits for weeks before August, 2021.

If you have received a denial, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services may be able to give free help with your appeal. To see the ways you can ask for our help, see https://slls.org/get-help/client-services.

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

Louisiana has often denied unemployment benefits without looking at other ways people can be eligible for the benefits. In the same way, in appeals or fair hearings, the agency often does not look at all ways you can get the benefits.

If this happened to you, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services may still be able to help you get unemployment. Even if you lost your appeal. And even though people can no longer apply for PUA in Louisiana.

Our services are free. You can see if we can help by calling 1-844-244-7871, or by applying online here.

If you were disqualified for regular unemployment benefits, you may still be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA.)

PUA was created for claimants who cannot get regular unemployment benefits, like people who are self-employed, work as freelancers.  But it also covers many people who are disqualified from regular unemployment benefits.

In Louisiana, all unemployment claims are considered for regular unemployment first. The agency fails to look at PUA for some people who do not get PUA.

In other cases, the agency incorrectly starts some claims as regular unemployment. A claimant may receive several months of benefits under this way before LWC detects the error.

When the error is discovered, LWC sends notice that the claimant is not eligible, and other notices that they owe all the money back.

In many of these cases, the agency fails to check to see if the claim could be paid under PUA.

If your unemployment was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and you have been denied unemployment benefits, but your notices do not say anything about PUA then you still be able to get PAU. Attorneys at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services may be able to make sure the agency looks at whether you should get PUA.

Please note, Louisiana ended its PUA program on July 31, 2021. So only people who filed a claim for before then can get this help.

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

What help is being offered during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has extended student loan help through at least January, 2022. Depending on your loan you may be eligible for:

  • a suspension of loan payments
  • a 0% interest rate or
  • stopped collections on defaulted loans.

This help only applies to ED loans.  To see if your loan is an ED loan, go to https://studentaid.gov/help-center/answers/article/is-my-loan-federal-or-private

Monthly Payment Suspension

ED owned student loans are on a temporary payment suspension as of March 13, 2020.  This means you don’t have to make monthly payments now.  If you made a payment since March 13, 2020, you can request a refund from where you pay.

Bad credit should not be reported during the suspension period even if you choose to try and make payments.

Temporary 0% Interest Rate on Loans Owned by ED

All federal student loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education automatically had their interest rates lowered to 0% from March 13, 2020 until the COVID emergency relief period ends.

Private student loans, Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) loans that are owned by commercial lenders, and Federal Perkins Loans that are owned by schools are not eligible for the reduced interest rate. But you can consolidate these loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan, which is eligible for the 0% interest rate. If considering this, consider whether this is the best option long-term once the relief period and the 0% interest rate.

Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Recertification

If your loan payments were reduced because of your low income, you do not have to recertify your income during the COVID-19 emergency relief period. If you keep your current address, you will be notified when it is time to recertify. Make sure to keep your contact information updated where you pay your loan.

Coronavirus-Related Scams

Some people are trying to rip students off.  There is no coronavirus-related loan forgiveness for federal student loans.  There is no fee for the payment suspensions or 0% interest rate period from loan servicers or the federal government. If anyone contacts you asking for money to perform any of these services, it is a scam.

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

The CDC eviction moratorium has been extended until October 3, 2021. You can learn more about your rights as a tenant while the moratorium is in place here. The ban on evictions for nonpayment of rent only applies to communities with "substantial" and "high" levels of community spread of COVID-19. Currently, all parishes in Louisiana fall into this category and so the CDC ban applies. You can check your parish's current status here. Under "7 day totals" you will see a figure that says "XXX per 100k". If the number is higher than 50.99 your parish is covered.

To qualify for protection under the moratorium, you must fill out a declaration form and provide it to your landlord. You can download a copy of the declaration form here.

If you have questions or need legal help with an eviction contact Southeast Louisiana Legal Services at 844-244-7871. If you are in the New Orleans area you can call 504-529-1000 x.223.
The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

The federal order banning evictions for nonpayment of rent expires July 31, 2021. We do not expect another extension and there are no local protections in Louisiana. We know this is stressful for tenants. Here are some things you can do if you are worried about eviction after the moratorium ends:

  1. Apply for rental assistance if you have not already. Emergency rental assistance programs are operating for all the state and may pay up to 12 months of back rent, plus 1-3 months forward. Find your local rental assistance program here (note: Orleans, Jefferson, EBR, Lafayette, St. Tammany, Caddo, and Calcasieu have their own programs).
  2. If you get an eviction notice, you may qualify for free legal assistance.
    1. If you receive an eviction notice and you are in the New Orleans area, contact Southeast Louisiana Legal Services at (504) 529-1000 x.223 or come to our office during walk-in hours, Monday, Wednesday or Friday between 9 and 3. Our office is at 1340 Poydras St. Suite 600, and there is free 1 hour parking to the right of the building (but you need to sign in at the security desk). Masks are required and you will not be served if you are not properly wearing a mask.
    2. If you live outside the New Orleans area and have an eviction notice, you can contact the legal services office in your area. For Southeastern Louisiana find your local office here. For Western and North Louisiana find your local office here. If you live outside of Louisiana you can find your free legal aid office here.
  3. Try to negotiate a payment plan with your landlord, and put the payment plan in writing. If it is in writing, it may be enforceable in court.

What if I do not feel safe coming to court for my eviction because of COVID-19?

We know that people have concerns about increases in Covid. You have a right to attend your court hearing by computer or smartphone, or other accommodations, if you are a person for whom Covid poses a special risk, such as people with diabetes, heart conditions, etc. If you are denied the right to a remote/virtual hearing, or other requested accommodations, please contact legal services immediately.

In addition, if you have COVID-19 symptoms or exposure, you should not go to court because you will risk infecting others. You can request a continuance (postponement) or to attend your hearing by computer or smartphone. You may be able to get free legal aid to assist you with this (see above).

Please note that if you do not show up to your court hearing and do not notify the court that you need an accommodation you will receive a default judgment of eviction, and you will have only 24 hours to move. So you must contact the court (or get your lawyer to contact the court) before the hearing if you are unable to attend for health reasons. You may be able to get free legal aid to assist you with this (see above).

What about when I apply for a new apartment?

If you have rent debt or an eviction on your record due to COVID-19, there is a new law that may help you. House Bill 374 was signed into law as Louisiana Revised Statute 9:3258.1 effective August 1. Under this new law:

  • Before a landlord can charge you an application fee, they have to notify you of whether they screen for credit scores, employment history, criminal history, or eviction records.
  • They also have to notify you that you have a right to submit a financial hardship statement if you have an eviction record or debt on your credit report because of COVID-19, or another declared disaster.

You also have a right to contest inaccurate information on your credit report. Here is information about your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. You can also contact your local legal aid agency for assistance. Southeast Louisiana Legal Services’ COVID-19 hotline is at 844-244-7871.

What if I get sued for the back rent I owe?

If you get sued for back rent, you may qualify for free legal assistance. You can contact Southeast Louisiana Legal Services’ COVID-19 hotline at 844-244-7871, or find your local legal aid provider here.

Other resources

Read some background about the CDC order here, here, and here.

Check out the US Interagency Council on Homelessness’s guide for people facing eviction here.

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

Scammers will stop at nothing to attempt to get personal information from vulnerable people looking for help in a crisis. Here are some common COVID-19 related scams and how to protect yourself from them.

Funeral expense scams

If you lost a loved one to COVID-19, you may be eligible for a government program that pays for funeral expenses. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will pay up to $9,000 for funeral expenses for loved ones who died of COVID-19. Survivors can apply for benefits by contacting FEMA, toll-free, at 844-684-6333. To find out if you qualify, read FEMA’s Funeral Assistance FAQs,  also available in many other languages.

FEMA reports that scammers are contacting people and pretending to offer to register them for funeral expense benefits.

What to do: To avoid government imposter scams, here are some tips:

  • FEMA will not contact you until you call or apply for assistance.
  • The government won’t ask you to pay anything to get this benefit.
  • Don’t give your own or your deceased loved one’s personal or financial information to anyone who contacts you out of the blue.

If you think you got a scam call, hang up and report it to the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 or the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov .

COVID-19 vaccine scams

As the COVID-19 vaccine is rolled out throughout the country, it is important to be on the lookout for scams. Beware of scams offering early access to vaccines for a fee. Do not share your personal or financial information if someone calls, texts, or emails you promising to get you the vaccine for a fee. Also, keep in mind that Medicare covers the cost of the COVID-19 vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines are also free to others throughout the country, although providers may charge an administration fee.

What to do: For the latest vaccine updates, check with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) .

COVID-19 cure, air filters, and testing scams

The FTC warned about an increasing number of scams related to test kits, cures or treatments, and air filter systems designed to remove COVID-19 from the air in your home. If you receive a phone call, email, text message, or letter with claims to sell you any of these items–it’s a scam.

What to do: Testing is available  through local and state governments or through your medical providers.

Fake coronavirus-related charity scams

charity scam is when a thief poses as a real charity or makes up the name of a charity that sounds real to get money from you. Be careful about any charity calling you asking for donations. And be wary if you get a call following up on a donation pledge that you don’t remember making–it could be a scam.

What to do: If you are able to help financially, visit the website of the organization of your choice to make sure your money is going to the right place.

"Person in need" scams

Scammers could use the circumstances of the coronavirus to pose as a grandchild, relative or friend who claims to be ill, stranded in another state or foreign country, or otherwise in trouble, and ask you to send money. They may ask you to send cash by mail or buy gift cards. These scammers often beg you keep it a secret and act fast before you ask questions.

What to do: Don’t panic! Take a deep breath and get the facts. Hang up and call your grandchild or friend’s phone number to see if the story checks out. You could also call a different friend or relative. Don’t send money unless you’re sure it’s the real person who contacted you.

Scams targeting Social Security benefits

While local Social Security Administration (SSA) offices are closed to the public due to COVID-19 concerns, SSA will not suspend or decrease  Social Security benefit payments or Supplemental Security Income payments due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Scammers may mislead people into believing they need to provide personal information or pay by gift card, wire transfer, internet currency, or by mailing cash to maintain regular benefit payments during this period. Any communication that says SSA will suspend or decrease your benefits due to COVID-19 is a scam, whether you receive it by letter, text, email, or phone call.

What to do: Report Social Security scams to the SSA Inspector General online at oig.ssa.gov .

COVID-19 government imposter scams

Many of us are paying close attention to the guidance from federal, state, and local governments during this COVID-19 health emergency. Unfortunately, scammers are also paying attention. Some are even pretending to be affiliated with the government–just to scam you out of money.

What to do:

  • Know that the government will never call, text, or contact you on social media saying you owe money, or to offer help getting your Economic Impact Payment (EIP) faster. If you get a message from someone claiming to be from a government agency through social media, it’s a scam. Report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint . If you are eligible and haven’t yet gotten your Economic Impact Payment, visit irs.gov  and follow the guidance. Watch this CFPB video to learn more about your EIP. And read the FTC’s information  on spotting scams related to the EIP.
  • Visit government websites directly for trustworthy information. Don’t click on links in an email or text message. Scammers often send fake links to websites that look like they’re from the government. Instead of clicking on links in messages, open up a new window and search for the name of the government agency. And visit coronavirus.gov  for the most up-to-date information on the pandemic.
  • Say "NO" to anyone claiming to be from a government agency asking for cash, gift cards, wire transfer, cryptocurrency, or personal and financial information, whether they contact you by phone, texts email, or by showing up in person. Don’t share your Social Security, Medicare ID, driver’s license, bank account, or credit card numbers.

Student Loan Debt Relief scams

Scammers are targeting student loan borrowers and may be trying to take advantage of circumstances related to the pandemic and government relief packages. If someone contacts you and asks for personal information or a fee to suspend your student loan payment, it’s a scam. Scammers may also try to claim you are eligible for immediate loan forgiveness with fake promises of loan cancelation through “Biden Loan Forgiveness” or “CARES Act loan forgiveness.” These programs do not exist. Loan forgiveness or discharge of student debt is rare, if someone promises immediate loan forgiveness then it is a scam. Learn more about the other warning signs of a debt relief scam.

To learn more about loan forgiveness  or alternative repayment programs, contact your loan servicer.

What to do:

  • If you believe you have been contacted by a scammer or if you have been the victim of a student loan debt relief scam, report the scam  to the Federal Trade Commission, or to your state Attorney General. You should also instruct your student loan servicer that they should only provide information about your student loan directly to you.
  • Monitor your credit for any other fraud. During the pandemic, you can check your credit reports each week for free . The FTC also recommends you either request a free, one-year fraud alert or freeze your credit with the three nationwide credit bureaus.

Unemployment benefits scams

Scammers are fraudulently filing unemployment claims using stolen personal identity information. If you receive a 1099-G tax form  for unemployment benefits that you didn’t claim or receive, you may be a victim of identity theft. Someone may have used your personal information to receive unemployment benefits without your knowledge.

What to do: Follow these four steps to report unemployment benefits fraud and to protect yourself:

Suspicious transactions and deposits

Some people have reported receiving prepaid cards in the mail with unemployment benefits that they didn’t apply for. Others have reported suspicious transactions and deposits in their bank accounts involving unemployment benefits. Once you receive the funds, a scammer may contact you, pretend to be from the government, and tell you the benefits were deposited by mistake. They will then ask you to send them the money  .

What to do: If you receive an unexpected prepaid card for unemployment benefits or see an unexpected deposit from your state in your bank account, report it right away to your state unemployment insurance office  and your bank or credit union. If you believe you have been the victim of identity theft, report the incident to your local police and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) .

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

Do You Need Affordable Health Insurance?

New chance to enroll for reduced price, complete health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (sometimes called Obamacare)

ACA Health Insurance Enrollment
You can enroll in or change Marketplace health insurance plans
February 15, 2021 through August 15, 2021

Whether you are signing up for the first time or want to change your plan under the latest expansion, you must enroll by August 15, 2021.

Heard the Rates are Too High? Financial help lowers costs for 93% of people getting insurance in Louisiana. Financial help can pay for premiums, co-pays, and deductibles.

The American Rescue Plan passed by Congress in March makes health coverage more affordable for more people. You may now be eligible for additional savings and lower costs for “Marketplace” health insurance. Reductions are available even for people who were not eligible for coverage before. If you lost your job due to Covid and are receiving unemployment benefits, you may also be able to get help for your “COBRA” coverage.

How does the new law make healthcare coverage more affordable?
Based on your income, the new law covers more of your insurance premiums, copays, and deductibles.

Those who make up to 150% of the Federal Poverty Level can now get coverage through a “Silver Plan” without having to pay premiums. Those who are eligible for this premium-free coverage have household incomes that are at or below these amounts:

Number of People in Your Household Annual Household Income Monthly Average
1 $19,320 $1,610.00
2 $26,130 $2,177.50
3 $32,940 $2,745.00
4 $39,750 $3,312.50
5 $46,560 $3,880.00
6 $53,370 $4,447.50
7 $60,180 $5,015.00
8 $66,990 $5,582.50
For each additional person, add $6,810 $567.50

Help for premium costs also increases for everyone with incomes up to 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (or, an annual income of about $106,000 a year for a family of 4).

Are these changes permanent?
No. These changes are temporary and will be in effect during 2021 and 2022.

Are there any changes to help those receiving unemployment benefits?
Yes. People who receive unemployment benefits at any time during 2021 will be eligible for a zero-premium “Silver Plan.” This also includes reductions in copays and deductibles. These changes will only be in place for 2021, unless Congress votes to extend them.

Where do I enroll for healthcare benefits?
There are two options for enrolling on your own:

Visit www.healthcare.gov
or
Call 1-800-318-2596

What if I need help enrolling or finding a plan?
Find an assister to help you find a plan that’s best for you by visiting: https://localhelp.healthcare.gov

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I enroll?
Visit http://www.healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 by August 15, 2021.

If I don’t enroll now, can I enroll later if I get sick or hurt?
Probably not between August 15 and November 1 of 2021.  If you or a family member have to go to the hospital or have other expensive health needs during the year, you may not be able to get coverage after the August 15 deadline.  In November, you can start applying for coverage in 2022.

However, you might qualify for an exception (“special enrollment period”) if you get married, have a baby, adopt a child, or lose your current health insurance. And if your monthly income goes under 138% of the poverty line and you live in Louisiana, you can apply for Medicaid.

What documents will I need to sign up?
For each person in your household, you need social security numbers and information about income and taxes.

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying at the "Get Help" section of our website.

*Please note, our services are only available for residents of the following parishes: Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge Parish, East Feliciana Parish, Iberville, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, Pointe Coupee, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, Washington, West Baton Rouge, West Feliciana

TIME Magazine has just released a new documentary by filmmaker Kathleen Flynn titled "Notice of Eviction" featuring two SLLS clients, and staff attorneys Hannah Adams and Alexis Erkert. The  documentary provides an in-depth look at the COVID-19 eviction crisis and its disproportionate impact on black women and their children.

You can watch the full documentary below.

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

Jefferson Parish has announced a new Emergency Rental Assistance Program to help cover up to 15 months of rent. Funds will be issued on a first come first served, so apply early.

Funds for approved applicants will be sent directly to the landlord.

Who is eligible?

To qualify, you must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Be a resident of Jefferson Parish.
  • Have a current residential lease agreement.
  • Have current utility bill in your name.
  • Be able to show you were not behind on rent before April 1, 2020, and are otherwise in good standing with the terms of the lease.
  • Total household income is not more than the following:
    Number of People in Your HouseholdAnnual Household IncomeMonthly Average
    1$39,450$3,287.50
    2$45,050$3,754.16
    3$50,700$4,225.00
    4$56,300$4,691.66
    5$60,850 $5,070.83
    6$65,350 $5,445.83
    7$69,850 $5,820.83
    8$74,350$6,195.83
  • Have documentation to show a decrease in household income related to COVID-19. This includes:
    • Employment Termination Notice
    • Payroll Check or Pay Stubs
    • Bank Statements
    • Medical Bills
    • Signed Letter from Employer explaining your change in financial circumstances
    • Unemployment Award Letter
  • You will also need to sign an agreement that states you are not receiving rental assistance from any other programs or other help on the rent from as a sub-lease or roommates.

*Section 8 Tenants whose rent is based on their household income may be eligible to participate in the Program, and receive up to their share of the rent.

*Tenants living in a subsidized property may be eligible for the TENANT Portion only.

 

How do I apply?

To apply, you must create an account and fill out the application here. To create an account, you will need to have an email address. It is important that you provide a working email address and phone number.

If you need assistance with the application, you can call (504) 226-2324 or email help@jpera.org.

Once your application is reviewed, you will receive a call from a representative if you are eligible. If you are not eligible for the program, you will receive a notification in the mail.

 

 

 

 

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only.

If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.