Health and Public Benefits

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The situation regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing rapidly. Learn how COVID-19 is affecting legal and government organizations and the new benefits and protections available. 

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This page was last updated at 4:15 p.m. on 5.19.21

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Ohio's COVID-19 response

 

On March 9, 2020, Governor DeWine declared a state of emergency in Ohio. The state of emergency allows state agencies and departments to coordinate a response to protect Ohioans. This has led to some service changes and opportunities for relief that you should be aware of. As the situation is changing rapidly, it is generally good to call ahead before arriving to any in-person appointments, hearings or services. 

The COVID-19 situation and response is changing every day. To be sure that you're getting the most accurate and up-to-date information on safety measures in Ohio, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov. You can find information on Responsible RestartOhio and the state's Stay Safe Ohio Order and how you can help through Together Ohio. For up-to-date medical information, visit the CDC's website. 

Rental, mortgage and utility assistance

Ohio has allocated funding to Community Action Agencies to provide rent, mortgage and water and/or sewer assistance to Ohioans in need in all 88 counties. This assistance can help Ohioans pay outstanding balances back to April 1, 2020. Ohio households behind on their bills with an annual income at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines are eligible for assistance. You can apply for rental assistance now through your local community action agency.

Ohio's Mental Health CareLine

The pandemic has caused many of us to feel great stress, whether due to financial, health or social concerns. To help address this crisis, the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (MHAS) announced the launch of a new mental health COVID CareLine for Ohioans.

Trained staff will be available to provide emotional assistance to anyone struggling with mental health concerns due to the ongoing stress of the pandemic.

To reach the CareLine, call 1-800-720-9616. All calls will be confidential.

New Presidential and Federal Agency Orders

The President and several federal agencies have taken action and the following protections have been extended:

  • Federal student loan payments have been suspended through September 30, 2021.
  • foreclosure moratorium through at least June 30, 2021 for homeowners with mortgages backed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. You can see if your mortgage is backed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae by going to their websites.
  • foreclosure moratorium through at least June 30, 2021 for homeowners with mortgages backed by the FHA, USDA and VA. In addition, the FHA, USDA and VA have extended the right to ask for an initial forbearance of your mortgage payments through June 30, 2021. 

March 2021 Stimulus

On Thursday, March 11, 2021, a bill was signed into law that extended some of the protections and programs for pandemic relief from the CARES Act. This bill:

  • Extended unemployment benefits. PUA and PEUC unemployment benefits will continue through September 4, 2021. Ohio has decided to end the extra $300 per week for all unemployment recipients on June 26, 2021;
  • Provides a third round of stimulus checks. These checks will be up to $1400 per family member for qualifying families. Use our Stimulus Calculator to estimate the amount of your check;
  • Increased SNAP food stamp benefits by 15% for January 2021 – September 2021.

Ohio's legal system

 

Legal aid

Ohio's legal aids are continuing to provide services to help low-income individuals with their legal needs. However, to reduce spread of COVID-19, all of Ohio's legal aids are suspending or discouraging in-person intake at this time. If you need legal aid services, please apply online or over the phone. If you have a pre-existing appointment with a legal aid office, call that office to find out next steps. 

Courts

Currently, there is not a single policy for court operations in Ohio. A number of courts are delaying hearings, except for certain matters, like protection orders. If you have a hearing scheduled or have other business with a court, check their website or call to see if their hours or schedules have changed. You can find contact and website information for your local courts on this page, under "Local Government and Community Resources."

Your job and money

 

Taxes

This year's federal and Ohio state tax deadlines have been extended to May 17, 2021. 

The American Rescue Plan Act temporarily increases the Child Tax Credit for 2021. Half of this credit will be paid in advance, through monthly payments starting in July 2021. To receive the advance payments, you must file your 2020 taxes, even if you did not have earned income in 2019 or 2020. 

Learn more about the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Stimulus checks

To help families impacted by COVID-19, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) provides direct cash payments to Ohioans. The amount of the payment depends on your income and will be distributed based on the information from your 2019 and 2020 taxes. Most people don't have to do anything to get their payment, but there are some exceptions. On March 11, 2021, a law was signed to provide a third round of stimulus checks. Read more to learn how much you might receive and if you need to take action to get your full stimulus checks.

Most individuals and families should receive a stimulus payment, even if you owe back taxes or other debts to the government. If you owe back child support, the CARES Act allowed a reduction or offset to your first stimulus payment for back child support. However, your second and third round stimulus payment can't be garnished for back child support. Stimulus checks are also protected under Ohio law from being garnished. Learn more about how to fight bank garnishment or attachment.

Unemployment benefits

On March 11, 2021, a new stimulus bill was signed that extended the unemployment benefits in the CARES Act to September 4, 2021. These benefits were set to end on March 14, 2021.

Major benefits include: 

  • Expanded eligibility for self-employed workers, freelancers, and workers without enough work history to qualify for normal state unemployment benefits. This emergency expansion is called "Pandemic Unemployment Assistance" or PUA. PUA does not apply to workers that can work from home with pay or are receiving paid sick leave. 
  • Additional benefits for people who qualify for the state's regular, non-PUA unemployment program. This extension is called "Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation" or PEUC. If the PEUC program is in effect when your regular benefits are about to expire, ODJFS will send you a written notice with instructions to file for PEUC benefits. 
  • Every person receiving unemployment benefits will continue to receive an additional $300 per week through June 26, 2021. This additional benefit is called "Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation" or (FPUC). 

Please be patient with ODJFS as they process these changes and wait for guidance from the federal government. The new law requires ODJFS to make several changes so there will be a gap in payments. Your benefits will be retroactive to March 14, 2021.

Due to the pandemic, Ohioans who earned less than $150,000 do no have to pay state or federal income tax on the first $10,200 in unemployment income they received in 2020. 

Read more to understand how the expanded unemployment benefits might help you, learn how to apply, what to do if you don't feel safe going back to work, and how to take advantage of the 2020 tax filing changes for unemployment income.   

SNAP

Federal law signed on March 11, 2021 increased SNAP benefits by 15% for January 2021 - September 2021.  

Paid leave

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires most employers with fewer than 500 employees to give paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave to employees impacted by COVID-19. The requirement that paid leave be offered through FFCRA will end on December 31, 2020, but employers may still offer paid leave. Check with your employer to see if they will continue to offer paid leave in 2021. 

Read more to understand if paid sick leave might be available in your situation. 

Student loans

The CARES Act provides the following automatic relief for student loan borrowers with certain Federal Direct Loans and Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL): 

  • Suspends loan payments from March 13, 2020 through September 30, 2021; 
  • Stops interest from accruing through March 13, 2020 through September 30, 2021;
  • Counts the months in suspension toward loan forgiveness. For example, for borrowers in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) will treat each month as if you had made the payment;
  • Stops all involuntary collection of defaulted loans, including wage garnishment; and,
  • Counts the months in suspension as on-time payments for credit reporting.     

This relief only applies to Direct Loans and FFEL loans currently held by the Department of Education. The relief does not apply to commercially-held FFEL loans, Perkins loans, and private student loans. The CARES Act relief was to end on September 30, 2020, but was extended to September 30, 2021 by the Department of Education. 

The relief is automatic so you do not need to apply for the relief. In addition, the relief from payment and interest is retroactive to March 13, 2020. If you made a loan payment after March 13, 2020 and would like it refunded, you should contact your loan servicer. To learn more about COVID-19 relief, see the National Consumer Law Center's Student Loan Project and StudentAid.gov. 

If you have a loan that is not covered by the CARES Act, like a private student loan and can't make your payment, you should contact your student loan servicer to see what options may be available to you. Many servicers are working with borrowers during the COVID-19 emergency.   

Learn more about repaying student loans here.

Emergency Broadband Benefit

The Emergency Broadband Benefit is a new program to help struggling families afford internet during the COVID-19 pandemic. The benefit provides a direct discount of up to $50/month through participating internet providers. Read more to learn who qualifies and how to get discounted internet service.

Other public benefits

Find information here on additional food and cash benefits that are available in Ohio. Resources include SNAP, food banks and other food programs, Ohio Works First and WIC.

Small business help

On April 7, 2020, the State of Ohio announced the creation of the Office of Small Business Relief to provide support to Ohio's small business community during COVID-19. You can find resources for your small business at businesshelp.ohio.gov.   

Your housing

 

Rental, mortgage and utility assistance

Ohio has allocated funding to Community Action Agencies to provide rent, mortgage and water and/or sewer assistance to Ohioans in need in all 88 counties. This assistance can help Ohioans pay outstanding balances back to April 1, 2020. Ohio households behind on their bills with an annual income at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines are eligible for assistance. You can apply for rental assistance now through your local community action agency.

Evictions

In fall 2020, the CDC announced an order to temporarily halt evictions for nonpayment of rent in the United States. The CDC has extended this order through June 30, 2021. But, because of certain recent actions in federal court, the CDC moratorium might not protect you in your local eviction court. 

But, it can still be a powerful tool if you are behind in rent because of COVID-19 and need to start a conversation with your landlord. You can use the CDC declaration form to inform your landlord that you are behind on rent due to losing income during the pandemic. Make sure to tell your landlord that you are seeking rental assistance. If you have good communication with your landlord, you may be able to negotiate a payment plan or another compromise to help you stay in your home until you can find a new place to live. 

Read more about how to avoid eviction in Ohio. 

Foreclosures

To help homeowners who are at risk of losing their homes, Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have taken action to extend the following CARES Act protections:

  • foreclosure moratorium through at least June 30, 2021 for homeowners with mortgages backed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. You can see if your mortgage is backed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae by going to their websites.
  • foreclosure moratorium through at least June 30, 2021 for homeowners with mortgages backed by the FHA, USDA and VA. In addition, the FHA, USDA and VA have extended the right to ask for an initial forbearance of your mortgage payments through June 30, 2021.    

If you can't pay your mortgage, you should contact your loan servicer immediately to request help. Be prepared to wait on the line for assistance as a lot of homeowners are seeking help right now.   

Read more about how to avoid foreclosure in Ohio and your rights under the CARES Act. 

Lock outs

A landlord is not allowed to change your locks or shut off your utilities to force you out. It doesn’t matter how far behind you are in your rent. It doesn't matter what kind of fight you’re having with your landlord. In Ohio, it is illegal for a landlord to change your locks or shut off your utilities as a way of forcing you to leave. It’s against the law for them to even threaten to do these things. Instead, if your landlord wants you out, they must follow the eviction timeline and process of the court.

Read more about what to do if your landlord locks you out of your home.     

Utilities

Most utility shut-off moratoriums in Ohio have ended, but you may be able to avoid having your utilities shut off if you communicate with your provider. If you can't pay your utility bill, reach out to your provider to ask for a payment plan.

If you need help paying to heat your home, you may be eligible for HEAP benefits. Contact your local Community Action Agency for help applying for HEAP.

Your consumer rights

 

Scams

Scammers take advantage of emergencies to prey on people's fears. With COVID-19, scammers will try to take advantage of people to trick them out of money and personal information. Stay vigilant and report any suspected scams to the Ohio Attorney General's Office and the Federal Trade Commission. COVID-19 scams include:

  • "Miracle cures." There are no vaccines, cures or treatments for COVID-19 at this time. If you see an advertisement or offer for products claiming to cure COVID-19 it is a scam. 
  • Links from sources you don't know. Scammers will use links in emails about COVID-19 to "phish" for information or download viruses onto your computer. 
  • Fake charities. If you receive donation or crowdfunding requests, do your research. Check with the Attorney General's Office to see if organizations are real charities. If someone wants donations in cash, gift cards or by wiring money, don't do it. 
  • Fake stimulus checks. Scammers are using calls, texts and social media asking for personal and/or banking information to receive or speed up the stimulus payment, don't fall for it.  
  • Check with the FTC for updates on scams related to COVID-19.

Thank you

 

Thank you to all the health care professionals, first responders, farmers, farm workers, mail carriers, grocery store employees, pharmacists, factory workers, delivery drivers, transit workers and civil service employees who are working to keep us safe, healthy and informed during COVID-19. 

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