In coronavirus crisis, National Guard, Reserves, veterans are struggling, need financial help

Financial help for servicemembers affected by the coronavirus | Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

In coronavirus crisis, National Guard, Reserves, veterans are struggling, need financial help

As the public health crisis posed by COVID-19 worsens, many Americans across the country are experiencing significant financial shock. Servicemembers, veterans, and military families are no exception.

Although veterans will continue to receive their benefits and active-duty servicemembers will continue to receive their pay, some military personnel and their families are facing financial strain due to lost employment or changes in military orders. If you need financial assistance as a result of the pandemic, there is help.

Financial assistance is available to servicemembers and military families

A financial shock or loss of income can feel overwhelming. You may have a number of decisions to make, but remember that you’re still in control of your money. Take stock of your finances and then make a short-term plan for the way forward. Learn three steps to take when money is tight.

While you can take steps to help protect yourself or loved ones from the financial impact of the coronavirus, members of the military also have access to special programs for financial relief.

Military aid societies can help

Emergency grants and zero-interest loans may be available to help cover lost pay, childcare costs, rent/mortgage assistance, quarantine expenses, or other financial emergencies.

Servicemembers and military families experiencing coronavirus-related hardship can apply for help through their respective military aid society: Army Emergency Relief , Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society , Air Force Aid Society , or Coast Guard Mutual Assistance .

The aid societies will also consider applications for assistance from activated (Title 10) National Guard and Reserve members on a case-by-case basis.

Activated National Guard and Reserve members may qualify if they are experiencing financial hardship due to a cancelled deployment, the Department of Defense (DoD) travel ban, or other relief society stipulations.

Army Emergency Relief will also consider applications from non-Title 10 Guard and Reserve soldiers with the same stipulations.

All military aid societies, except the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, have an online application. All members of the Armed Services can also apply by phone for financial assistance – routed to their service branch relief society – through the American Red Cross .

Pay and allowances

The DoD has authorized specific pay and allowances for servicemembers in a variety of situations. Those include people who have been ordered to self-isolate or monitor for COVID-19 but are unable to do so at home or at government facilities.

Military families affected by the Stop Movement Order , which halts Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves and other military travel until May 11, 2020, may also be provided specific travel allowances.

Check with your command to see if you’re eligible for Hardship Duty Pay or other additional allowances such as Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS), Family Separation Allowance (FSA-Restricted or FSA-Temporary), or per diem travel allowances that can provide you with additional financial support.

Contact your command and service branch shipping office immediately if you’re experiencing financial hardship because you’re separated from your personal and household belongings due to the Stop Movement Order.

Mortgages

Some servicemembers may have trouble managing their mortgage payments because of financial hardships associated with COVID-19.

A new federal law, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economy Security (CARES) Act, establishes protection for homeowners with federally backed mortgages —which includes loans guaranteed by Fannie Mae , Freddie Mac , the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or U. S. Department of Agriculture .

If you have a mortgage that isn’t backed by the federal government and can’t make your payments, your mortgage servicer or your state may be offering additional options.

Learn more about your mortgage options and steps to take.

If you rent, you may have protection under the CARES Act, especially if you’re renting from a property owner with a federally backed mortgage. Some states have also acted to prohibit landlords from evicting residents if they can’t pay rent. Check the websites of your state government, state court , or branch’s legal assistance office for details and updates.

Tax refunds

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has pushed back the federal tax filing deadline to July 15 . If you can file now, however, tax refunds are being processed as returns are received and it can offer timely financial relief.

Learn more about free tax preparation services for servicemembers.

Student loans

If you’re a servicemember with federally-held student loans, the CARES Act also automatically suspends principal and interest payments on federally-held loans through September 30, 2020.

However, if you have private student loans or a federally-backed loan owned by a commercial lender or the institution or school you attended, contact your servicer if you can’t make your loan payments. They may have some options to help.

If your federal student loan is in default, please be aware that involuntary collection activities wage and benefits garnishments have been suspended during this period. No one should be contacting you to collect or taking collection action. However, you can continue to make payments to bring your loan up-to-date if you have the means.

Financial counseling

If you’re a servicemember or military family in need of financial advice, whether it’s navigating COVID-19-related financial hardships or handling other money matters, you can also get one-on-one financial counseling remotely, by phone and video, from Military OneSource financial counselors .

Military consumer protections

There are two important consumer protection laws specific to servicemembers. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and the Military Lending Act (MLA) provide legal and financial protections for active-duty servicemembers, military spouses and National Guard personnel and reservists on active duty for more than 30 consecutive days. Some protections apply to some dependents as well.

The SCRA gives you the ability to terminate contracts vehicle leases, cell phone plans, and residential leases under certain conditions without having to pay early termination charges.

It provides protections against default legal judgments and in some circumstances prohibits repossession, foreclosure, and eviction without a court order. The MLA provides servicemembers and certain dependents with legal protections for many types of consumer credit and loans.

It also prohibits lenders from requiring servicemembers to create military allotments to get a loan.

And, both the SCRA and MLA provide interest rate benefits: the SCRA entitles you to reduce the interest rate to 6% on certain pre-service loans, and the MLA means that you can’t be charged more than 36% for many loans you take out during your service. The MLA also prohibits lenders from requiring servicemembers to waive certain consumer rights.

If you believe your rights are being violated, contact your branch’s legal assistance office or your state attorney general’s office .

Scams

Be aware of an increase in coronavirus-related scams that target consumers who are afraid, confused, or financially impacted by the pandemic.

As a servicemember, if you’re concerned about scams, you can take the proactive step of placing an Active Duty Alert on your credit report.

This alert lets a business know that you're probably the country, and the business is then required to take reasonable steps to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name.

Changes to veteran and servicemember benefits

Even though the VA has adjusted its operations during the COVID-19 outbreak, benefits and services for servicemembers, veterans, their families, and survivors will continue to be provided. However, there are some changes being made to existing programs in light of the challenges presented by COVID-19.

VA benefits

For the safety and security of veterans, especially those with underlying health conditions, the VA is changing how it administers and processes veteran benefits. Regional offices continue to operate but will be closed to the public for in-person services. However, the agency is expanding its online services for veterans to get information or file a claim for benefits .

GI Bill benefits

A recently signed law enables the VA to continue providing students with full GI Bill benefits, even as their academic programs move online.

It permits the GI Bill program to continue paying benefits, including monthly housing allowances and living stipends, at existing rates for full-time students rather than reverting to lower rates for distance learning.

The benefits for students already taking online classes remains unchanged.

Other Benefits

Veterans may be entitled to other benefits that can help with COVID-19 related issues. You can search for benefits online or contact your local state veterans affairs office .

During these challenging times, servicemembers and military families are continuing to make important financial decisions buying homes and cars, using credit, and paying for college and everyday purchases. It can be easy – even tempting – to spend money more freely when you have extra time on your hands, but consider using this time instead to strengthen your financial skills and well-being.

These online educational resources can help you improve your money management skills, navigate purchases, and make more informed decisions about your everyday money choices:

Staying informed, engaged and proactive is the best way for you and your finances to weather this crisis and maintain your financial health during the pandemic. If you have a problem with a financial product or service, try reaching out to the company first. Companies can usually answer questions unique to your situation and more specific to the products and services they offer.

We can also help you connect with the company if you have a complaint. Submitting a complaint and tracking your status is simple and secure. Curious how the complaint process works? Follow the steps your complaint goes through to help you get a response about your issue.

Источник: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/financial-help-servicemembers-coronavirus/

Bills Late Due to COVID-19? Here are 5 Ways to Get Financial Help

In coronavirus crisis, National Guard, Reserves, veterans are struggling, need financial help

COVID-19 has impacted the finances of millions of people, including the military community. If you’re looking for financial help, you’re not alone.

Travel bans, quarantines, stop-loss orders, and closures have made it challenging to keep personal finances — and business — as usual. Luckily, there is COVID-19 financial help is available for military families.

Branch-specific nonprofits and local organizations have long given back to military members and their families. Now, in dire times, they continue to do so by offering special grants and loans just for military service members.

Need a little extra financial help this month? Read on to learn more about your options.

Financial Help is Available to Service Members

If you’re struggling to pay your bills or your spouse has been laid off, it may be time to consider looking into some financial relief.

Most organizations look at eligibility on a case-by-case basis, so keep this in mind when you apply. Here we rounded up several different ways you can apply for financial help, including grants and loans specific to military members.

Below, you’ll also find details on other unique resources the stimulus check and financial counseling opportunities.

Here are five options that can help you a financial crunch this month:

1. Army Emergency Relief

The Army Emergency Relief program is here for Army families during their time of need. As of April 16, more than $171,000 has been dispersed to Army families for COVID-19 financial relief. 

A few of the ways the Army Emergency Relief can help: 

  • Emergency Travel
  • Natural Disaster (preparation & evacuation)
  • Mortgage, Rent, Initial Deposit
  • Temporary Lodging
  • Food
  • Vehicle Costs
  • Utilities
  • Funeral Expenses
  • Healthcare (not covered by Tricare)

Aside from the above categories, specific COVID-19-related assistance is also available. If you need financial help due to the DoD travel ban/PCS stop movement, AER closure, quarantine restrictions, or have non-title 10 Army Reserve or National Guard orders, you may qualify for special assistance. Learn more here. 

2. Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society

The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society provides financial assistance to members of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. This includes widows, family members, and survivors.

During the COVID-19 crisis, you can get help with: 

  • Quick Assist Loans – Active-duty Navy and Marine Corps members may receive an interest-free loan for any amount up to $500.
  • Repayment Deferrals Available  – Current clients impacted by the crisis can discuss and adjust their current repayment plan. Contact casework@nmcrs.org.
  • Traditional Financial Assistance – Need more than $500? You might be eligible for traditional financial assistance. This includes free budget counseling and a customized repayment plan. 

With confidential services, you can secure an interest-free loan or grant to help with your urgent household needs —  food, utility, and mortgage payments. A caseworker will review your paperwork and offer guidance and resources to help. Learn where you can get assistance here. 

3. Air Force Aid Society

The Air Force Aid Society has been around since 1942. The society provides aid relief in a variety of ways and provided nearly $14.4 million last year alone. Currently, for every $1 donated, the Air Force Aid Society donates $3 to an Airman in need.

The society offers help with: 

  • Educational support 
  • Community programs
  • Emergency financial assistance 

For COVID-19 financial relief, Airmen may want to request standard assistance which comes in the form of a grant or no-interest loan. You’ll have to maintain a budget and show a receipt for services paid with the money a check to your landlord or a paid water bill, for example. 

Reach out to the Air Force Aid Society here if you need help with your finances. 

4. Incoming Stimulus Check 

This week, stimulus checks started hitting bank accounts. This is a part of the Congress-approved bill known as Coronavirus Tax Relief. It’s intended to help Americans who have been laid off or are financially struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus stimulus payments include:

  • $1,200 maximum cap per adult
  • Up to $2,400 for couples (who made up to $75k last year)
  • An additional $500 per each child (16 or younger)

You can find updated information on the IRS webpage here. If you still haven’t received your stimulus check, don’t call the IRS office. Check the website for more details on timelines and FAQs.

5. Check Out Local Military Family Relief Funds 

As happens in most disaster cases, local communities are stepping up to assist military families in their times of need. 

Check with local organizations for financial relief programs you may be eligible for, if needed. Nonprofits Rotary and Lions Clubs often provide unique programming and financial relief during times of crisis for community members. 

Be sure to call your local Department of Veterans Affairs office, too. Some grants and financial assistance are specific to vets, but some are open to current service members as well. 

Other COVID-19 Financial Relief Resources to Consider 

(U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Kirby Turbak)

While it’s an uncertain time for the military community, it’s important to know you aren’t alone. There are available resources for financial help for military families to get the support they need. Reach out if you need assistance now. It will be much easier to catch up on bills if you tackle it early on.

A few other resources to consider during this time: 

  • Free financial counseling – Not sure which bills to pay first or how to ask for a payment to be put on hold? Reach out for in-person, phone, or video financial counseling by calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647. Even if you’re overseas, you can still receive financial counseling.
  • Talk to your lenders – If you aren’t able to make a car payment, mortgage payment, or even a credit card payment, call up your lenders to see what relief they can offer. Some lenders are delaying payments. Find out what they can do to ease your financial burden at the moment.
  • Remember the SCRA – Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), you and your family have a lot of protection. For any financial obligations you made prior to entering active duty (loans, credit cards, etc.), your interest rate is capped at 6% during your military contract. You may also have protections that prevent eviction and allow you to break a lease, if necessary. Learn more here about your rights under SCRA.  

When in doubt, talk to your command and other service members about COVID-19 financial relief offerings. There’s no need to struggle alone when so many resources are made for military members to get help. 

For important Coronavirus updates for the military community, stayed tuned here for official government news. 


Now is a prime time for scammers to be out. Check out this article on how to protect yourself during the COVID-19 crisis from would-be scammers.

Источник: https://www.sandboxx.us/blog/bills-late-due-to-covid-19-here-are-5-ways-to-get-financial-help/

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