Updated October 23, 2020
The coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is impacting households, communities, and businesses. As of mid-July, half of American adults reported they had lost employment income because of the pandemic. About one-in-four adults reported that they either missed last month’s rent or mortgage payment, or had slight to no confidence that their household could make the next payment on time. The frequently asked questions below highlight some common financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The answer to each question has links to government websites and the types of assistance that might be available. We will keep updating this information as new policies and resources are put into place.
If you would like to talk to a financial counselor about your situation, options include:
- Free – The UW-Madison Extension has financial educators who can help you find resources and come up with a personal plan. Find contact information for Extension financial educator by clicking on this link.
- Free – The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education is currently offering free financial counseling and coaching with their certified professionals. Click here to visit the AFCPE website to set up an account and request services.
- Free or low-cost – The National Foundation for Credit Counseling is a network of nonprofit consumer credit counseling agencies that provide services online and over the phone. Click here for the NFCC website or call 833-746-7577.
You can also contact your local UW-Madison Extension office for more financial information. Click here to find your county Extension office.
- Start by creating a budget. Write down any last paychecks due to you or savings you may have, and then list your monthly bills. You can print out or save this budget worksheet in Word or fill out a basic budget worksheet online.
- Prioritize your bills by what is most important to keep you safe – housing, food, utilities, your car, and whatever else you need. Write down your minimum payment due and when it’s due.
- Check out the ‘frequently asked questions’ below to find links to resources to help you make ends meet meanwhile. Resources depend on your situation and could include help with food, healthcare, utilities, housing, student loans, and more. There are also certain debts, like federal student loans, with temporary holds put on them.
- Let your creditors know about your financial situation, as hard as it is to think about it. It’s best to contact your creditors as soon as you know you will miss a payment so they know you are keeping track and working on the situation. Check out the Extension publication on Dealing with a Drop in Income for steps to take in prioritizing bills and a script you can use to contact creditors about a payment plan. Be sure to keep track of everyone you talk with and any paperwork you share.
- Start looking ahead. Some households might expect to receive unemployment benefits or to start getting more hours at their job. Use any future income to pay those high priority bills that can’t be covered by government resources and that haven’t been put on hold by government authorities.
If you would like to get in touch with an Extension financial educator, please do contact one of our educators throughout Wisconsin by clicking on this link.
The Wisconsin DWD began distributing the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program in mid-October which will provide an additional $300 per week, before taxes, for eligible individuals. The LWA funds retroactively cover six weeks of unemployment benefits between August 1 and September 5, 2020, and will be sent automatically to all eligible individuals.
- Click here for information from the DWD on frequently asked questions about Wisconsin Unemployment Benefits and the COVID-19 Coronavirus.
- When you are ready to apply for unemployment benefits in Wisconsin, apply online through the DWD website. If you worked outside the State of Wisconsin, you can find links to other state’s workforce websites here.
- You can also check out this chart to see if you might be eligible for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Go to the DWD website for more information and to apply for the PUA program. If eligible, the PUA program provides benefits for up to 39 weeks or until December 31, 2020.
- Benefits will start from the time you became eligible for unemployment, not from the time your application is submitted or approved.
- If you or someone you know is not able to apply online, call Wisconsin DWD at (414) 435-7069 or toll-free (844) 910-3661 during business hours listed below. When you reach a claim specialist, you will tell them the week you are requesting your claim to begin.
- If your last name begins with letter A to M please call Monday – Friday between 6:15 a.m. and Noon, or Saturday 7:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
- If your last name begins with letter N to Z please call Monday – Friday between Noon and 5:30 p.m., or Saturday 7:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Appealing a rejection: If you disagree with the Unemployment Insurance determination, you need to request a hearing by filing an appeal within 14-days of the determination. Follow the instructions on the back of your determination letter for filing an appeal, as stated on this DWD appeals website. Continue to file weekly claims while the appeal is pending. If you would like to talk with a lawyer about your situation, you can find free legal advice in Southern Wisconsin on the Legal Action of Wisconsin website or in Northern Wisconsin on the Judicare website.
If your 26-weeks of unemployment benefits has ended:
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – This is a temporary program set up by the CARES Act that provides up to 13 additional weeks of payments to individuals who have exhausted their regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. After your 26-weeks of regular unemployment has run out, you will need to file a PEUC initial claim through the DWD.
- Extended Benefits – Because of the increase in unemployment in WI, unemployed individuals who exhaust their regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) may be eligible for an additional 13 weeks of benefits. Individuals will need to file an initial claim after other benefits are exhausted.
- NOTE – DWD states that enrollment for EB has been paused, and will be restarted after Lost Wage Assistance (LWA) is completed. When an individual can file for EB, they will receive all back payments for which they are eligible. The DWD website will be updated when additional information on the implementation of EB is available.
- Individuals receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) are not eligible for either PEUC or EB. The PUA program provides benefits for up to 39 weeks or until December 31, 2020.
Unemployment Fraud: Be on the lookout for any information you may receive from DWD. Fraudsters are using people’s stolen information to apply for UI benefits and have those benefits deposited into their own financial accounts. If you learn that someone is using your identity to collect unemployment benefits, report this immediately on the DWD fraud website or call the DWD Fraud Hotline at 800-909-9472 (Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM). The Federal Trade Commission provides guidelines for UI fraud victims, including links to file an identity theft report. You can also file a complaint with the WI Department of Ag, Trade, and Consumer Protection on their website.
The Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance also has answers to frequently asked health insurance questions and links to get started in finding health insurance on their website WisCovered.com. Individuals anywhere in Wisconsin can also call the OCI with healthcare questions at (877) 947-2211.
Visit this Extension website that covers food resources to help get through the pandemic. Resources include both public and private food programs, and food assistance available to families with children out of school.
NOTE: Beware of fraudulent businesses claiming they provide pandemic relief funds or that they are SBA lenders. The FTC has filed a complaint against one company that’s already misled thousands of companies. Only use the official websites for SBA, WECDA, or other links below.
Funding options through the SBA include:
- ENDED: Paycheck Protection Program – The deadline to apply for Paycheck Protection Program applications was August 8, 2020. Click here for PPP information and updates.
- ENDED: Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance – The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance which provides a forgivable loan advance of $1000 per employee (full or part-time) up to a maximum of $10,000 per business has now ended. If you have a pending application, click here for information on the EIDL Loan Advance.
- OPEN: Economic Injury Disaster Loan – SBA is continuing to accept new EIDL applications from qualified small businesses and U.S. agricultural businesses. Eligible businesses can apply for EIDL assistance here.
- Applicants who have already submitted their applications directly through the SBA will continue to be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.
- For pending or future loan applications, note that applicants need to have a credit history that’s acceptable to the SBA. If you have a freeze on your credit report, you would need to lift that freeze when applying for the EIDL loan.
- OPEN: SBA Express Bridge Loans – Enables small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly. Click here for more information on Bridge Loans.
- SBA Debt Relief – The SBA is providing a financial reprieve to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, including covering principal, interest and fees on new and existing SBA loans. Find out more on their website.
Resources specific to farmers and ranchers:
- US Department of Agriculture – This USDA website provides information on USDA Service Centers and updates to resources that support farmers and ranchers through Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and other USDA agencies.
- ENDED: The Wisconsin Farm Support Program closed the second application period on August 24, 2020. Applicants will receive an email from DOR that confirms the approval or denial of their application. If you have questions, you may request assistance by calling (608) 266-2772.
Programs specific to Wisconsin-based small businesses:
- OPEN: We’re All In Small Business Grant Phase 2 – Funded by the federal CARES Act, this program will provide grants to Wisconsin small businesses to assist with the costs of business interruption or for health and safety improvements, wages and salaries, rent, mortgages, and inventory. Businesses can find eligibility information on the WI Department of Revenue (DOR) website. Applications will be accepted online between 8:00 a.m. on Monday, October 19 and ending at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, November 2. The application will be available at revenue.wi.gov on October 19 at 8:00 a.m. If you cannot apply online, you may request assistance by calling the WI DOR at (608) 266-2772.
- OPENING October 26: The WI Department of Children and Families has announced a new round of funding for the Child Care Counts Supplementary Payment Program Round 2. The additional round will of funding will be distributed through two programs with identical criteria to Round 1. Applications and program eligibility details will be available starting October 26, 2020, with the application window closing November 6, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. Payment notifications will be issued on November 14, 2020. Funds may be used for either:
- Payment Program A – intended to support the costs of maintaining or enhancing compliance status, quality level, and increasing health and safety practices; or
- Payment Program B – intended to support the costs associated with recruiting and retaining high-quality staff.
- The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC)
- Wisconsin SB20/20 grant information – Businesses that are not currently CDFI clients are not eligible to access these funds, but WEDC will work to expand access to funding through other programs as more resources become available.
- The Wisconsin Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has staff available to help small business owners work through the process of qualifying and applying for SBA disaster loans. Click here to go to the Business Development website to find information for filing on line or through mail, as well as links to other partners, including WWBIC, Western Wisconsin Women’s Business Center, Veterans Business Outreach Center, or SCORE. The Wisconsin SBDC business answer line is (800) 940-7232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Through UW Extension:
Who will get a payment?
- Individuals who earned less than $75,000 will get a one-time payment of $1,200, with married couples getting $2,400 if they earned less than $150,000. Payment amounts will be lowered for higher-income earners.
- Families would also get $500 for each ‘qualifying child‘ – children under age 17 on Dec. 31, 2019; claimed as a dependent on the taxpayer’s federal tax return; and in most cases, living with the taxpayer at least half the year.
- To get a payment, you need to have a valid Social Security number. That means immigrants with green cards and those on H-1B and H-2A visas will get payments. Nonresident aliens, temporary workers, and immigrants in the U.S. illegally won’t get a payment. Individuals without a SS number who are married to an active member in the armed services and filed taxes jointly will be eligible for the married couple payment.
- A person who has made too much money to qualify for these stimulus payments, but then had their income drop in 2020, would receive a tax credit when they file their 2020 income taxes.
- No relief payments will be garnished for back taxes and payments will not be taxed regardless of a person’s 2020 income. Those in arrears for child support, however, will most likely have their emergency payment seized.
- According to the IRS, a payment made to someone who died before receiving the payment should be returned to the IRS by following the instructions in the Q&A about repayments.
- Updated October 19: Following a recent court order, the IRS cannot deny a payment to someone who is incarcerated if they meet the criteria described above. Information can be provided to the IRS by using the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info online tool by November 21, 2020. Or, individuals who are or were incarcerated may mail the IRS a 2019 simplified paper tax return available at File a Simplified Paper Tax Return by the court-ordered deadline of November 4, 2020. Any future government appeals to this court ruling will be posted on the IRS webpage.
- If you owe your bank money in overdraft fees or missed loan payments, for example, your financial institution may be able to take your payment money out of your checking or savings account. A creditor could also take your payment out of your account if they have a lien or levy against you for an unpaid debt. If you have questions about your legal rights, you can find free legal advice in Southern Wisconsin on the Legal Action of Wisconsin website or in Northern Wisconsin on the Judicare website.
How will the government know to send me a payment?
- If you’ve filed for taxes in 2018 or 2019 – Payment checks will be based on your 2019 tax return, if you’ve already filed, or else the government will use your 2018 tax return. Payments would be sent to the direct deposit account used for your tax filing or mailed to the address that was used last if no banking account information is on file.
- If you did not need to file taxes in 2018 or 2019 – The IRS does not have information on file for low-income taxpayers who have not filed any tax returns. You can use the IRS Non-filers Tool to enter your direct deposit information. The IRS urges every non-filer who is eligible for a payment to register by November 21 in order to receive their payment by the end of the year. Otherwise, individuals will have to file taxes for 2020 next year to get their payment.
- More than 111,000 Wisconsinites who might be eligible for the EIP will receive a letter from the IRS later in September urging them to visit the IRS Non-filers Tool before November 21, 2020, to see if they are eligible for a payment. The IRS is sending this letter to people who don’t typically file a tax return because they appear to have very low incomes based on Forms W-2 and 1099, and other third-party statements available to the IRS. Note that getting a letter does not mean that you are automatically eligible for the EIP.
- If you receive government benefits, including Social Security, Social Security Disability Insurance, or Railroad Retirement – The IRS will use the information from the Social Security Administration to send economic impact payments. Since the IRS does not have information regarding any dependents for this group, each person would receive $1,200 per person, without the additional amount for any dependents. Benefit recipients with dependent children will need to file a tax return for 2020 to claim benefits for qualifying dependents if eligible.
- Supplemental Security Income recipients – Relief payments will not be considered as income and the payments are excluded from resources for 12 months. Find more information on the Social Security Administration website.
- Veterans – The VA also has a special coronavirus website at this link.
- Medicaid recipients in a nursing home or assisted living facility: Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are not allowed to take the stimulus payment money from their residents just because they’re on Medicaid. If a facility has taken a payment, the Federal Trade Commission instructs individuals to seek assistance in getting the payment returned. Individuals can file a complaint through the WI Department of Ag, Trade, and Consumer Protection at DATCPHotline@wisconsin.gov, through their toll-free hotline at (800) 422-7128, or online at https://datcp.wi.gov.
The Federal Trade Commission cautions all households to BEWARE of SCAMS. Keep in mind:
- The government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get this money. No fees. No charges. Nothing.
- The government will not call, email, or text to ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer.
- The FTC encourages anyone who is contacted by a scammer asking for your bank account number or Social Security number to file a complaint on their website using this link.
If you have received IRS Notice 1444 in the mail stating that your payment was sent, but you did not actually receive your payment or may have accidentally thrown out your check, you can request a trace on the payment. Follow the IRS instructions for conducting a trace (FAQ #55). No one from the IRS will call or email asking for personal information or money.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition website has fact sheets and declaration forms available in 13 languages, including English and Spanish. You can also visit the WI Department of Ag,Trade and Consumer Protection website for Frequently Asked Questions about the CDC Order.
You can use this declaration form or write your own declaration that states the following:
- The individual has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;
- The individual either (i) expects to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return),6 (ii) was not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or (iii) received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) pursuant to Section 2201 of the CARES Act;
- The individual is unable to pay the full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a lay-off, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
- The individual is using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other nondiscretionary expenses; and
- Eviction would likely render the individual homeless— or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting— because the individual has no other available housing options.
This CDC order does not:
- Forgive the overdue/past due rent which would come due when the moratorium ends after December 31, 2020.
- Stop landlords from charging fees, penalties, or interest due to late or overdue rent payments.
- Prevent eviction for other reasons not due to nonpayment of rent, such as engaging in criminal activity on the premises.
- Require landlords or property owners to renew a lease that expires during the eviction moratorium.
- Cover mortgages or foreclosures.
- Address existing eviction orders that may result in individuals being removed from their home before Friday, September 4, 2020.
- Provide any funding for tenants, landlords, or property owners.
If you are unable to pay some or all of your next rent payment, the WI Department of Administration does have a program using federal CARES Act funds to provide financial assistance for owed rent and security deposits for eligible households. These WRAP (Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program) are available to adult WI residents with household income at or below 80% of the county median income in the month of or prior to the application date. Any payments received, up to $3,000, will be paid directly to landlords or rental management companies. Find a list of the agencies administering this funding for each county on this infographic, although many counties now have a waiting list for this limited funding.
If you know you will not be able to pay all or some of your rent at any point, it’s best to contact your landlord before you miss a payment so they know you are keeping track and aware of the situation. Check out the Extension publication on Dealing with a Drop In Income for steps to take in prioritizing bills and contacting your landlord about a payment plan.
- You are encouraged to contact your lender or servicer right away, before you miss your payment due date or make a partial payment. Your mortgage servicer is the company that sends you the bill for your mortgage payment.
- If you’re not sure who holds your mortgage, you can call the MERS Servicer Identification System toll-free at 888-679-6377 or visit the MERS website here.
- Write down all the steps you take, such as any phone calls you make and who you talk with, emails you send, and what types of information or documents you have shared.
- Ask your mortgage servicer what options they have to offer. Some servicers may want a balloon payment of all missed mortgage payments and fees at once, but other servicers are willing to modify your loan and add on a few more months to the end of your current mortgage.
- If you need help to figure out your options for catching up with future mortgage payments or overdue property taxes on your home, contact a HUD-approved housing counselor through the Federal Making Home Affordable website. You can also call HUD at 888-995-4673 for round-the-clock foreclosure avoidance assistance.
About half of all mortgages in the US are federal loans. Watch this video from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for more information on Federal mortgage relief programs. These federal programs include:
- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development authorized the Federal Housing Administration to put a hold on foreclosures for single-family homeowners who are unable to pay their federally or GSE-backed mortgage.
- Your lender or loan servicer may not foreclose on you until at least December 31, 2020.
- You also have the right to request forbearance for up to 180 days with the option for an extension for another 180 days if you experience financial hardship due to the pandemic. You must contact your loan servicer to request this forbearance. No additional fees, penalties or additional interest (beyond scheduled amounts) will be added to your account. Learn more about mortgage forbearance from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
- Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have laid out options for mortgage relief, with borrowers eligible for forbearance regardless of whether their property is owner-occupied, a second home, or an investment/rental property. You can also find a housing counselor and options to avoid foreclosure on the Freddie Mac website and on the Fannie Mae website.
- Many provisions have also been put in place by USDA Rural Development to assist rural residents, communities, and business. Foreclosure and eviction moratoriums are in place for 60 days for Single-Family Housing Guaranteed Loan and Direct Loan programs, and for Section 515 Multi-Family Housing. Read more about the USDA community relief measures here.
After the PSC utility disconnection moratorium ends November 1, Wisconsin then has an annual moratorium on cold weather disconnections for utility services used specifically for home heating that starts November 1, 2020 and ends April 15, 2021. Water, electric, and gas utilities that want to disconnect during the winter moratorium must file a disconnection plan with the PSC and receive approval before they can disconnect a customer who has fallen behind on payments.
The COVID-19 moratorium and annual winter moratorium disconnection dates only include PSC utilities and do not include utility co-operatives. You’ll need to contact your non-public utility provider for their disconnection policy or to set up a payment plan. For complaints regarding services not regulated by the PSC, contact the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection at 1-800-422-7128 or file a complaint online on the DATCP website.
For help catching up with utility payments:
- The Wisconsin Division of Energy, Housing and Community Resources provides services to Wisconsin qualified residential households with energy assistance and weatherization needs. For more information call 1-866-HEATWIS (432-8947) or visit their website for information on who is eligible for assistance and where to apply in your area.
- Low income individuals who have at least one child in the house and are facing an emergency can apply for Emergency Assistance to pay a utility bill. Parents can apply for Emergency Assistance through their local W-2 agency found on this Department of Children and Families website.
Some creditors, such as federally-backed mortgages, rent, or student loans, already have a forbearance in place due to the CARES Act. The CARES Act also put into place guidelines that only apply to consumers who are approved by their creditor for a forbearance, workout, or similar “accommodation.” These CARES Act guidelines are in place until 120 days after the declared state of national emergency ends, which is currently the end of October 2020 if not renewed. For these consumers, the CARES Act states that:
- If the consumer was able to get the accommodation while they were still current (less than 30 days late), their accounts still will be reported as current on their credit report.
- If the consumer was already behind on payments – or “delinquent” – when they received the accommodation, they will continue to be reported with the same delinquency status. For example, after the agreement is in place with the creditor, a 30 day late report will stay 30 days late and cannot be changed to 60 days late.
- If a delinquent consumer catches up on payments during the accommodation period, they can then be reported as current.
- CARES Act credit reporting protections do not apply to accounts that have been charged off. An account is charged off by a creditor when it is moved from profit to loss, occurring at 120 days past due for closed-end loans and 180 days past due for credit cards.
Make sure you have any new agreements in writing before you send in a payment. Keep track of all paperwork, plus who you talk with and when. It’s also important to check your credit report to make sure that creditors are reporting any agreements or accommodations as outlined by the CARES Act. The three major credit reporting bureaus – TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian – now offer free weekly online credit reports through April 2021. The weekly free reports can be ordered online at the only official website: AnnualCreditReport.com. In addition, each bureau has set up a website specific to the COVID-19 pandemic:
Beware of scams like emails or phone calls you get claiming to be from your credit card company or lender. When you reach out to creditors, call the customer number on the back of your credit card, use their app, or visit their website online. Click here to visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website for more tips and resources for working with creditors. As you plan for the potential impact of the coronavirus, there are a number of steps that you can take to help protect yourself or a loved one financially, both in the short and long term.
Through December 31, 2020, the interest rate is 0% on the following types of federal student loans owned by US Department of Education:
- Defaulted and nondefaulted Direct Loans
- Defaulted and nondefaulted FFEL Program loans – Federal only, not those owned by commercial lenders
- Federal Perkins Loans – Federal only, not those owned by educational institutions
Your federal student loan servicer is the organization you make your monthly payment to. If you’re not sure who your servicer is, visit StudentAid.gov/login or call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243). For more information, click here to go to the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website.
To preserve GI Bill benefits, the Veteran’s Administration has the authority to continue GI Bill payments uninterrupted in the event of national emergencies. This law allows VA to pay education benefits regardless of the fact that a program has changed from resident training to online training. Also, you will continue to receive the same monthly housing allowance payments that you received for resident training until 12/21/20, or until the school resumes normal operations of resident training. To learn more about options related to the GI Bill benefits, contact the VA’s Education Call Center at 1-888-442-4551 between 8 AM and 7 PM Eastern Time, Monday-Friday, or visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.
For private student loans – Keep in mind that the student loan forbearance, repayment plans, or deferment options offered through the Department of Education only apply to federal student loans. Any borrower who has experienced a change in income can contact their loan servicer to discuss lowering their monthly payment. If you have a private student loan through a commercial lender, contact your loan servicer as soon as you think you may not be able to make a payment to find out what options they have to offer. If you are a co-signer on a private student loan, check in with the primary borrower to see if they are able to keep up with their payments, or else the co-signer will be responsible for making those monthly payments. The private student loan co-signer may not be able to request an accommodation, but the primary borrower can.
Wisconsin borrowers can get more information about their loans or repayment options based on their specific circumstances by calling the free Student Loan Debt Hotline at: 833-589-0750. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also has guidelines and links to resources on their website to help people figure out their best options.
Payment Plans: Qualified taxpayers can choose to pay any taxes owed over time through an installment agreement. Payment options include:
- Short-term payment plan (paying within 120 days).
- Long-term payment plan (paying in more than 120 days).
However, a taxpayer’s specific tax situation will determine which payment options are available. The IRS has more information for taxpayers who owe taxes, but cannot afford to pay the full amount.
For income tax filers in Wisconsin, click here to go to the Department of Revenue website for links and information on filing state income taxes online or setting up a payment plan for state income taxes that are due. Wisconsin DOR encourages taxpayers with questions to submit them online or call DOR’s individual customer service line at 608-266-2486. Regular hours are from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday thru Friday.
For individuals and businesses who make estimated tax payments, the first and second estimated tax payments were both due on July 15, 2020. The Internal Revenue Service has a special section focused on steps to help taxpayers, businesses, and others affected by COVID-19. Click here to visit the IRS website.
Different than a hardship withdrawal, the CARES Act also includes an increase in 401(k) loan limits where borrowers can access up to 100% of their vested account balance, but the loans will still need to be repaid within five years — or sooner if you lose or leave your job — along with interest and fees. Additional changes in the law let individuals age 72 or older delay taking required minimum distributions from retirement accounts in 2020, and also extends the 2019 IRA contribution deadline to July 15, 2020. The IRS has set up a web page to provide new guidelines as they become available.
Taking a hardship withdrawal or a loan after the recent stock market declines would lock in any losses in the retirement accounts value. If the worst should happen and a person needs to declare bankruptcy in the future, also keep in mind that retirement accounts are protected from creditors in a bankruptcy and can be used to start over. You can find more information on pros and cons of options to increase your income in Extension’s Increasing Your Income handout.
My spouse lost their job and our family health insurance plan. What options do we have for health insurance?
If you or your spouse or partner does not have affordable health insurance benefits available through an employer, you can look for a plan on the Health Insurance Marketplace at www.Healthcare.gov. On the marketplace, most people receive financial assistance based on income. It is important to explore the costs for each option. If you’d like free, local assistance, Health Insurance Navigators can help you understand your options. Call 2-1-1 or 608-261-1455 to talk to a Navigator over the phone. This fact sheet from Covering Wisconsin helps walk through these different health insurance options.
The Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance also has answers to frequently asked health insurance questions and links to get started in finding health insurance on their website WisCovered.com. Individuals anywhere in Wisconsin can also call the OCI with healthcare questions at (877) 947-2211.
Employers are entitled to a refundable tax credit for the required leave paid, up to the limits specified through the DOL. Find more information and Frequently Asked Questions surrounding COVID-19 related tax credits for small and mid-size businesses on this IRS website.
There’s a new SCAM where strangers or acquaintances offer to do the shopping for older adults, and then take off with the older person’s money. If you know an older adult who could use help with supportive home resources, such as shopping, visit the website for Eldercare Locator by clicking here. Eldercare Locator is a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging and connects older adults and their families to services. You can also call them at 1-800-677-1116.
Complaints about prices that existed before the July 3rd end of the emergency declaration will continue to be investigated, even if those complaints are filed after the declaration ended. Questions about price gouging, scams, or other consumer issues should be directed to the Department of Ag, Trade, and Consumer Protection’s Hotline toll-free at (800) 422-7128 or by email: DATCPHotline@wisconsin.gov.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services also has a website for COVID-19 that provides up-to-date information and additional resources.
USA.GOV – For answers to other questions, find a complete list of government agency resources related to COVID-19, including Health and Human Service updates and a link to the Federal Trade Commission’s website tracking scams related to the virus.
Wisconsin.gov – Has a website with resources and updates related to COVID-19, along with links to State agencies.
Advance Directive for Health Decisions – this is also known as a Healthcare Directive and tells doctors and family about what medical treatment you want if you are so sick you cannot make decisions anymore. A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, also known as a Healthcare Proxy, appoints a person to make health care decisions for you. Unlike many states, Wisconsin is not a “next of kin” or “family consent” state for adults. That means Wisconsin law does not let family members make decisions for incapacitated adult family members. As a general rule, spouses cannot make decisions for spouses, parents cannot make decisions for adult children, adult children cannot makes decisions for parents, with some exceptions for hospice and emergency care. Notarized signatures are not required on these forms, but you do need two witnesses when signing. Both forms are easy to fill out and can be downloaded from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website.
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation – Visit the FDIC’s COVID-19 website with information for both consumers and bankers. If you have trouble reaching your bank, are looking for a bank to use, or have concerns about accessing your funds due to your bank’s reduced hours or ATM access, see the FDIC’s frequently asked question fact sheet with contact information surrounding your concerns.
The Eldercare Locator website is a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging and connects older adults and their families to services. If you know an older adult who could use help with supportive home resources, such as shopping, visit the Eldercare Locator. You can also call them at 1-800-677-1116.
Child Care Resources – Healthcare workers and essential employees are now able to submit a request for care through the department’s updated Child Care Finder. Workers can also proactively view up-to-date availability across the state using the department’s new child care map. More information for providers, essential workers and families can be found on the DCF COVID-19 Child Care webpage.
Financial Resiliency Center – The National Disability Institute offers resources and assistance to help those with disabilities and chronic health conditions cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Investing: Surviving a Volatile Stock Market – This University of Minnesota fact sheet suggests steps to consider if you have retirement or other investments in the stock market. The most important step is to not panic or make quick decisions.
Provide financial education to kids who are home from school – Click on this link to access Next Gen Personal Finance, where you’ll find lessons for all grade levels on topics like saving, budgeting, managing credit, and dealing with financial pitfalls.
Online security tips for working from home – Some US workers and many school children may be telecommuting — working from home — due to the pandemic. The Federal Trade Commission shares helpful cybersecurity tips and links for individuals and small businesses on their recent blog post.
UW-Madison Prevention Research Center – If you are currently pregnant or a new parent, you may be concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic and how it affects you and your family. Read about the current recommendations related to the virus and pregnancy, breastfeeding, and postpartum.