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The Latest Help for Consumers During COVID-19

This blog post includes the latest news on businesses forgiving late payments, housing protections, protections from creditors, and some state-specific updates.


Businesses Forgiving Late Payments in Response to COVID-19

The following businesses have elected to forgive late payments or delay shutoffs in order to protect individuals financially hit by the COVID-19 outbreak.


Utility Providers

If you cannot pay your water bill, or any other utility bills, contact your local provider or municipality to defer your payment. The following providers already have certain protections in place:

  • ComEd Services has chosen to implement a moratorium on service disconnections for non-payment for both residential and commercial customers. For more information, click here and here.
  • Ameren (serving Illinois and Missouri) will continue normal billing for power usage, but they are forgiving late payment fees (for both residential and business customers) and temporarily suspending all disconnections. For more information, click here.
  • American Water has suspended billing related service shut offs. They are also turning water service back on for customers who were previously shut-off for non-payment. For more info click here.
  • People’s Gas (serving Florida residents) is not disconnecting customer’s service for non-payment, for neither homes nor businesses. They are also working to connect customers with organizations that can help provide payment assistance.
  • Nicor Gas (serving Illinois residents) is suspending service disconnections and waiving late payment charges until at least May 1. Visit nicorgas.com to learn more about financial assistance or payment programs available and Nicor’s billingpage for more information.

 

Cell Phone Carriers

AT&TSprintT-Mobile, and Verizon have committed to continuing service for customers who cannot pay phone bills, and are waiving late fees. If you use one of these providers, contact them to have your payment deferred:


Internet Providers

The following internet providers are offering free access to WiFi hot spots for everyone, including non-subscribers, for 60 days. They are also providing free, extra data and are continuing to serve customers who cannot pay bills. Contact your provider if you need more assistance:

Home Mortgage Forbearance

Due to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, homeowners can request a forbearance period of six months, and they have the option to extend that period for another six months. Borrowers of Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae mortgages or borrowers whose loans are backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) qualify for this forbearance, but other mortgagers are considering the program as well. This program is not automatic, and homeowners should contact their lender for information specific to their situation.

Renters can also benefit from this program, as mortgage companies are offering flexibility to landlords as well as homeowners. Contact your landlord to request a temporary relief from rental payments, and make sure they are aware of this mortgage relief program.

For more information about the types of benefits offered, go here.

For more about Local Housing and Urban Development departments assistance in preventing eviction and foreclosure, click here.

More information on State and Local Eviction/Foreclosure Suspensions can be found here.

Federal Student Loans

Federal student loan payments will be suspended from March 13th to September 30th. Borrowers are automatically placed in an administrative forbearance, temporarily halting monthly loan payments. Loans will not accrue interest during this time.


State-By-State Summary of Protections From Judgment Creditors

The NCLC Digital Library has published a comprehensive state-by-state summary of protections from judgement creditors available here. Information includes exemptions for each state’s:

  • Wages
  • Bank accounts
  • Homesteads
  • Motor vehicles
  • Other personal property
  • Benefits
  • Retirement plans
  • Insurance
  • Extraterritoriality
  • Opt-out from bankruptcy

Comprehensive List of Newly Implemented Consumer Protections

This article provides a list of legislative actions consumer protections put in place in response to the covid-19 epidemic. It includes actions by Congress, governors, federal and state agencies, and businesses to protect consumers responding to the COVID-19 epidemic.


State-Specific Updates

If you need assistance, it is important to look at your options at the state, county, and city level, as well. You can also contact your local elected officials, who are gathering resources for their communities. For example:

Los Angeles County, CA:

If you live in LA and need assistance with food expenses or accessing food and necessities, you may qualify for the following programs:

  • Let’s Feed LA Program: The County and City of LA are providing meals to individuals in need. You can sign up for this program here.
  • Critical Delivery Service: LA County Workforce Development, Aging, and Community Services (WDACS) is delivering essential items, like groceries or toiletries, to individuals unable to leave their homes. These deliveries can be made 24/7. To request these services, call 1-888-863-7411.

Illinois Utility and Propane Bill Relief:

The IL Commerce Commission (ICC) has ordered every Illinois gas, electric distribution, water, and sewer utility to design and implement temporarily flexible credit and collections procedures. These procedures will be filed for consideration and approval to ensure that customers remain connected to essential utility services.

Illinois has extended the LIHEAP application period until June 30, 2020, or until funding is exhausted in order to combat excessive propane bills. If you are unable to pay your current bill, contact your local propane tank provider to work out a potential payment plan.

Illinois Student Loan Relief:

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has secured loan relief for individuals borrowing from twenty student loan servicers. This agreement includes borrowers from Illinois, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia and Washington State. Options include:

  • Allowing borrowers to request a 90-day forbearance
  • Waived late fees
  • No negative credit reporting
  • 90-day pause on debt collection lawsuits
  • Enrollment in other assistance programs

If this agreement impacts you, contact your loan provider immediately to get relief with these new options. Lenders are still getting up to speed on this new agreement. If you experience issues securing the agreed-upon relief from your provider, reach out to the IDFPR Division of Banking, Office of the Attorney General, State of Illinois or Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).


Visit
www.CancerFinances.org for more information about consumer protections, financial assistance, health insurance options, and more.

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Grace Drake
gd@triagecancer.org