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How to Get COVID-19 Utility Relief: Three Examples

How to Get COVID-19 Utility Relief: Three Examples

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in massive levels of unemployment, in turn dramatically shrinking the budgets of many apartment dwellers. To save money, some people may change their heating or air conditioning use habits, but if your financial situation requires you to scale back on utility spending more urgently, you may have other options. Many utility companies and state governments have enacted COVID-19 utility relief measures that may make your life significantly less stressful. To give you an idea of the potential options in your area, here are three prominent examples of COVID-19 utility relief.

covid-19 utility relief

1. San Diego Gas & Electric unveils assistance programs

In Southern California, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has rolled out assistance programs that can drastically lower utility bills for people whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19. SDG&E is offering many of its newly jobless customers utility bill reductions of 30 percent or more through its CARE program, to which even people receiving unemployment benefits can apply. SDG&E also directs all non-qualifying CARE applicants to its FERA initiative, through which families of at least three people can receive a monthly utility bill discount of at least 18 percent. No formal documentation is required – applying is as simple as going here.

2. Additional California utility companies pledge not to shut off

If your local utility company isn’t taking steps to lower the amounts it charges you given your lessened income, you might still be safe from having your power or gas cut. In California, SDG&E, Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, Liberty Utilities, and Sacramento Municipal Utility District have promised not to cut any customers’ utility access during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to gas and electricity providers, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has also pledged not to disconnect water access to any customers who fail to pay during the pandemic. Utility companies in your state may be taking similar measures to keep you fully powered during the pandemic.

3. New York state government bans utility shut-offs

In general, utility companies have proven to be understanding when it comes to the dire financial circumstances that the COVID-19 pandemic poses for many people. However, companies are not necessarily required by law to lessen customers’ financial burdens. The New York state government has acknowledged this gap and passed legislation banning utility companies from cutting their services to any customers during the pandemic.

According to the New York City Comptroller website, the New York Department of Public Service has barred the region’s gas and electricity providers (National Grid and Con Edison, respectively) from suspending service to customers unable to pay their bills. Additionally, Con Edison has suspended any new late payment fees, a move that National Grid has not taken. This policy difference demonstrates a key tenet of COVID-19 relief: State legislation does not necessarily outline how a utility company must work to relieve customers of their monthly bills. Be sure to research your state’s utility legislation and read the fine print of whatever you find.

What are some COVID-19 utility relief programs and laws you know of in your area? Share links and other relevant information in the comments!

Published at Thu, 14 May 2020 13:14:14 +0000

How Can You Get COVID-19 Rent or Mortgage Relief?

During the two months of the COVID-19 pandemic, stay-at-home orders necessary for public health and safety have resulted in massive unemployment, in turn affecting apartment renters’ and owners’ budgets. Rent and mortgage payments become considerably tougher to pay without income, and though there were some federal interventions to delay evictions and foreclosures at the start of the crisis, some temporary laws have since expired. Here’s the latest on how you can get COVID-19 rent or mortgage relief.

covid-19 rent mortgage relief

Federal COVID-19 rent relief regulation

Through the federal CARES Act passed in late March, evictions are banned for 120 days in many forms of housing. Under the CARES Act, tenants in federally-backed housing cannot be given an eviction notice before July 25. Thereafter, these tenants cannot be evicted until August 24.

The CARES Act covers many, but not all, rental situations. If your apartment is covered according to section 41411 of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 or the rural housing voucher program outlined in section 542 of the Housing Act of 1949, the CARES Act applies to you. Likewise, if your landlord has a federally backed or multifamily mortgage on your apartment, the CARES Act protects you from eviction. 

If the CARES Act applies to your apartment, your safety net expands past a ban on evictions. Your landlord is also banned from adding late fees or other penalties for missing rent. Despite these renter protections, the CARES Act does not free tenants of their obligations to pay their rent, meaning that even though this law may provide you with housing stability in the short-term, it might not do so in the long-term.

Federal COVID-19 mortgage relief regulation

The CARES Act also applies to apartment owners unable to pay their mortgages. Under the CARES Act, lenders and loan servicers may not foreclose on apartments and homes for 60 days following March 18. During this 60-day period, lenders and services are banned from starting foreclosure proceedings or finalizing any foreclosures that were pending before the pandemic.

Additionally, you can request a forbearance on your mortgage payments for as long as 180 days, and you can ask for an additional 180-day extension at the end of your first forbearance period. To explore this option, you must directly contact your lender or servicer, who will be banned from implementing penalties or any other extra fees, though all scheduled interest will remain part of your mortgage. 

Under the CARES Act, you technically do not need to provide documentation of any financial hardship you face due to COVID-19. If you remain able to pay your mortgage, do not exploit this documentation gap to receive unnecessary mortgage relief. Loan servicers and providers are currently inundated with unprecedented volumes of phone calls from apartment owners in desperate need of mortgage relief.

State COVID-19 rent and mortgage relief regulation

In addition to federal COVID-19 rent and mortgage relief regulation, individual states (as well as Washington, D.C.) have implemented their own guidelines regarding evictions, foreclosures, and other housing concerns. For a state-by-state list of eviction and foreclosure bans and other relevant regulations, click here.

Published at Tue, 12 May 2020 13:12:32 +0000