As Howard County residents continue to face the growing COVID-19 public health crisis, Making Change, a provider of financial wellness programs, understands the personal financial challenges facing individuals with limited and/or reduced income. We also understand the need for reliable and current information. We can help.

Free Financial Counseling for Howard County Renters.  Making Change is providing free financial counseling to Howard County renters who have suffered a loss of income related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  We will review where you are and prepare a spending plan for your needs.  For more information complete the request form here or e-mail us at info@makingchangecenter.org.  Please note, those receiving rental assistance are ineligible for this program. 

Questions? Browse our list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Anxious? Uncertain what to do next? Looking to speak with someone regarding your personal financial situation? If you would like to speak with someone, one-on-one, about your specific personal financial situation, e-mail us at info@makingchangecenter.org and be sure to include your name, telephone number, best time to speak, and topics you’d like to discuss. Counseling sessions will be conducted by telephone.

Thinking about Money? So are WeCheck out our Blog.

More Information

Information regarding COVID-19 is rapidly changing, as is the information regarding programs offering financial assistance and relief to individuals. This section provides answer to commonly asked questions.

The economic consequences of this pandemic have rippled across the globe, as countries attempt to contain and mitigate the outbreak through shuttering businesses and social distancing. As a result, financial institutions are well aware of the personal financial struggles facing those of us with little (or no) savings and monthly bills to pay. To help, various programs and protections have been—and continue to be—rolled-out by federal and local governments. Private businesses, including banks, lenders, and creditors, also have been notifying the public that help may be available, often on a case-by-case basis, and are encouraging customers to call if they are unable to pay.

Organizations and businesses may offer payment or loan forbearance, allowing a person to stop payments for a set period of time. While such a payment option may be one’s best option, it is essential to understand the terms of such an agreement before agreeing to it. Questions to be answered include, What is the forbearance period (e.g., when are payments to resume)? How will missed payments be repaid? Will interest continue to accrue on the loan? What happens if I’m unable to repay the full amount?

As a best practice, when speaking with entities to whom money is owed, such as landlords, banks, credit unions, student loan servicers, and other creditors or lenders, take notes on the conversation. Record the date(s) of conversation, name, contact information and title of the organization representative, and information discussed, etc. It is also highly recommended that a follow-up e-mail, restating and confirming the main points of the conversation, including any agreed to repayment plan(s), be sent shortly after the conversation. And, remember, it’s always better to call before—rather than after—a missed payment.

Lastly, some relief programs have yet to provide specific details as to how they will work. Continue checking the appropriate website for new information.

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

I lost my job. Am I entitled to Maryland Unemployment Benefits?

The Unemployment Insurance (UI) program pays benefits to workers who have lost their job through no fault of their own and meet the program’s eligibility requirements. For more information and/or to file for benefits go to: 

https://www.dllr.state.md.us/employment/unemployment.shtml

Because of reduced income, I’m unable to pay my rent—what can I do?

If you are unable to pay your rent, contact your landlord to let them know you are currently unable to pay and the reason why. Ask what payment options may be available given the circumstances. On March 16, 2020, the Governor of Maryland issued an administrative order prohibiting the eviction of tenants able to demonstrate their failure to pay rent was the result of COVID-19, for example, because of lost or reduced employment or the need to care for a school aged child. This order remains in effect until Maryland’s state of emergency is terminated and the catastrophic health emergency is rescinded.

https://governor.maryland.gov/2020/03/16/governor-hogan-orders-closure-of-bars-and-restaurants- announces-unprecedented-public-health-surge-to-combat-covid-19-crisis/

https://governor.maryland.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Executive-Order-Temp-Evictions-Prohibiting.pdf

I can’t pay my mortgage, what should I do?

Start by talking to your mortgage lender. Explain the reason why you are unable to meet your payment obligation and ask for options. Lenders are aware of the current financial issues affecting the United States. At this time, FHA-insured Single Family mortgages and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac- backed mortgages have announced foreclosure and eviction moratoriums. Payment forbearance may also be available as a result of financial hardship due to COVID-19.

https://www.hud.gov/press/press_releases_media_advisories/HUD_No_20_042

https://www.fhfa.gov/Media/PublicAffairs/Pages/FHFA-Suspends-Foreclosures-and-Evictions-for- Enterprise-Backed-Mortgages.aspx

I can’t pay my utility bills; will they be turned off?

On March 16, 2020, the Governor of Maryland issued an administrative order prohibiting electric, gas, water, sewage, phone, cable TV, and internet service provider companies from shutting off any residential customer’s service, or charging any residential late fees. This order has been extended and, currently, is in effect through September 1, 2020. Read the order here.

I’m unable to pay my student loans—what should I do?

The CARES Act, in part, provides broad relief for federal student loan borrowers. Federal student loan borrowers are automatically being placed in an administrative forbearance, allowing borrowers to temporarily stop making monthly loan payments. This suspension of payments will last until September 30, 2020, and payments may continue to be made if desired. Contact your student loan servicer to confirm eligibility.

If you are unable to pay student loan debt not covered by the automatic administrative forbearance referred to above, contact your student loan servicer and let them know you are unable to pay and the reason why. Ask for your payment options, which could include income-based payment plans, forbearance, or deferment.

For U.S. federal student loans, general information may be found here.

Isn’t the government waiving interest on federal student loans? Where do I find out more information about this?

From March 13, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2020, the interest rate is 0% on the following types of federal student loans, but only if they are loans owned by U.S. Department of Education, which may include:

  • Defaulted and nondefaulted Direct Loans
  • Defaulted and nondefaulted FFEL Program loans
  • Defaulted and nondefaulted Federal Perkins Loans
  • Defaulted HEAL loans

It is important that borrowers contact their specific loan servicer for detailed information regarding available relief. To find your federal student loan servicer look here.

Are my taxes due to be filed on April 15, 2020?

No. On March 20, 2020, the federal government announced that this year’s income tax filing deadline would be July 15, 2020. This extended deadline, in part, provides individuals who owe money to the federal government an additional 90 days in which to make payments without interest or penalties. If you expect to receive a tax refund, the sooner you file, the sooner you should receive your refund. For up-to- date information, as well as additional details, go to https://www.irs.gov.

The deadline for filing 2019 individual Maryland tax returns also was extended to July 15, 2020. For more information visit https://www.marylandtaxes.gov/index.php 

I missed the July 15, 2020 tax filing deadline and haven’t requested an extension of time. What should I do?

With regard to federal tax returns, there is no penalty for late filing if you are owed a refund. If you owe the government money, filing as soon as possible may reduce the penalties, fees and interest that will be owed. For detailed information from IRS.gov click here.

Is Making Change currently offering tax preparation services?

No. As of July 2020, MakingChange’s volunteer income tax assistance (VITA) preparation site is closed for the reminder of the 2020 calendar year. We expect to reopen our VITA site in January 2021 to assist eligible individuals prepare 2020 and 2019 tax returns.

I’ve heard the federal government will be sending checks to individuals—when will I get mine?

On Friday, March 27, 2020, an economic stimulus package was passed by Congress. In addition to providing economic relief to businesses and states, the package provides for direct payments and jobless benefits. The legislation, in part, provides one-time direct payments to Americans (referred to as “Economic Impact Payments” or “EIP”) of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child.

EIP are being distributed by the U.S. government by way of direct deposit and regular first class mail (via paper check or prepaid Visa card). Detailed information regarding EIP can be found on the IRS website. If you have not yet received your EIP, check your status using the IRS “Get My Payment” tool.

I’m seeking cash financial assistance due to extraordinary circumstances, can Making Change help?

No, Making Change does not provide cash financial assistance to individuals. To find resources and referrals for programs and services across Maryland, contact 2-1-1. Call specialists are trained to assist people dealing with all kinds of challenges including housing, utility shutoffs, family crisis, financial, legal, employment, and other problems. 2-1-1 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in over 180 languages. 2-1-1 is also accessible for the deaf and hard of hearing through Maryland Relay (dial 7-1-1). You may search the 2-1-1 database as well at https://211md.org/211provider-md-help

I can’t make my monthly credit card payment, what should I do?

Contact your credit card company and inform them of your inability to pay and the reason why. Ask for your options. Continuing to make on-time minimum payments will avoid credit card fees, as well as derogatory (negative) information on your credit report.

I can’t make my vehicle loan payment, what should I do?

You should contact your lender and inform them of your inability to pay and the reason why. Ask for your options, including whether payment forbearance is available. It is true, however, that some lenders may electronically disable or repossess your vehicle if you are one day late with your payment.

Scams & Shams:  Times of crises and uncertainty oftentimes are used by those seeking to scam others; this time is no different.   

FTC Information

Maryland Information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):  Information and the latest updates regarding COVID-19.

MD Department of Health:  Information regarding Maryland’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including background, prevention, preparedness, and guidance. 

Howard County, Maryland:  Information regarding Howard County resources and its response to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Coronavirus Blog

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