Financial First Aid: Your COVID-19 resource guide for Northeast Ohio

Financial First Aid: Your COVID-19 resource guide for Northeast Ohio

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - We know these are difficult times.

Many families are feeling new financial pressures and a lot of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Financial First Aid: A guide to surviving financially as the bills come due

Each day on 19 News at 5p.m., we will be bringing you important information and advice from financial experts and answering your questions our new segment, “Financial First Aid.”

You can submit your questions on the 19 News Facebook page or send an email to gettinganswers@cleveland19.com.

In addition, we have compiled a list of resources available to Ohioans who need assistance applying for unemployment benefits, getting food, or even paying bills. Please check back daily for updates.


UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

An executive order issued by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine expands flexibility for Ohioans to receive unemployment benefits during Ohio’s emergency declaration period.

  • You can file online at unemployment.ohio.gov 24 hours/day, 7 days a week. Note: The state is experiencing slow processing times due to high claims activity.
  • Call toll-free 1-877-644-6562 or TTY 1-614-387-8408. Call center hours have been extended to Monday through Friday 7 a.m. - 7 p.m., and Saturdays 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

STIMULUS PAYMENTS

The federal government will soon be sending money directly to many Americans to help alleviate the financial toll of the coronavirus. Some details are still being worked out, but know that the government WILL NOT:

  • Ask you to pay any fees to get the money.
  • Call you to get your Social Security, bank account or credit card number, or your PayPal information, in order to issue your check or directly deposit your money.
  • Direct how you use the money.

In most cases, the assistance will be sent directly to you if you qualify, based on the income you already reported to the federal government on this year’s or last year’s tax returns. (For more details, visit the IRS webpage here.) Anyone who tells you they can get you your money faster is a scammer.

If you receive a stimulus check and it is for an odd amount of money (for example, $1499.50) or if it states you need to verify the check online or over the phone, it’s a scam.

You should get a paper notice in the mail a couple weeks after your payment is sent, letting you know where it was sent and when. If you can’t locate the payment at that point, call the IRS at a legitimate phone number.


FOOD ASSISTANCE

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) administers several programs to fight hunger in Ohio. You may be eligible for more than one of the following:

SNAP: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides benefits to eligible low-income individuals and families via an Electronic Benefits Transfer card. EBT cards can be used like a debit card to purchase eligible food in authorized retail food stores and farmers markets.

  • To apply online, go to the Ohio Benefits website: https://benefits.ohio.gov/. If you can apply online this will likely be faster than calling the hotline and will leave the hotline available for seniors and others who cannot apply online.
  • To apply by phone, call the Ohio Benefits Hotline at 1-844-640-6446. The hotline will be extremely busy at this time and the wait times may be long. Try calling at a different time of the day if you cannot get through.

TEFAP: The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) is a federal program that helps low-income people, including elderly people, by providing them with emergency food assistance at no cost. CLICK HERE to find the distribution location nearest you.

CSFP: The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) is a federal nutrition assistance program that provides low-income, elderly individuals with a monthly box of food. The box does not contain a complete diet, but provides nutrients typically lacking in the diets of the elderly population. CLICK HERE to contact your nearest food bank. Staff there will direct you to the nearest location to apply.


FOOD BANKS

GREATER CLEVELAND FOOD BANK

The Greater Cleveland Food Bank serves clients from Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga, Ashtabula, Richland and Ashland Counties. They can connect those in need to partner agencies, hot meals and mobile pantries that are nearby and help you apply for SNAP benefits. The Food Bank can also link you directly to employment, housing, and healthcare resources.

  • For assistance by phone, call 216-738-2067 or toll-free at 855-738-2067. Calls are free and confidential.
  • For assistance in person, visit the Greater Cleveland Food Bank Help Center at 15000 S. Waterloo Rd. in Cleveland Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. No appointment is necessary. Note: The Food Bank does not distribute food to walk-in clients. Walk-in hours are for assistance signing up for benefits.

SECOND HARVEST FOOD BANK - North Central Ohio

The Second Harvest Food Bank of North Centeral Ohio works with 112 partner charities to assist residents of Lorain, Huron, Erie, and Crawford Counties. Member programs include food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and supplemental programs. CLICK HERE for a list of the Food Bank’s partner agencies

The Food Bank be distributing free boxes of assorted shelf-stable food at mobile food distribution sites during the COVID-19 crisis. They have incorporated social distancing and “NO TOUCH” practices to keep your families and our communities safe. Any residents in need of assistance are welcome to attend any of the drive-thru distributions:

NOTE: These are drive-thru distributions. The Food Bank asks that you please stay in your vehicle and have your trunk empty, clean and ready to load.

AKRON-CANTON REGIONAL FOOD BANK

The Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank provides food and other essential items to member agencies in Carroll, Holmes, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, Tuscarawas and Wayne Counties. These member agencies operate 500 food pantries, hot meal sites, shelters and other hunger-relief programs in the neighborhoods and communities where people need food.

  • For questions or assistance, please call the Food Bank at 855-560-0850.
  • CLICK HERE for a complete list of the Food Bank’s member agencies
  • CLICK HERE for an interactive map of meal/grocery distribution location

NOTE: Due to current health concerns, please make sure to call pantries/hot meal sites to confirm hours have not changed.

SECOND HARVEST FOOD BANK - Mahoning Valley

The Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley serves residents of Columbiana, Mahoning, and Trumbull Counties. They distribute food to 160 hunger-relief organizations and programs including church pantries, shelters and soup kitchens. CLICK HERE to find the food pantry nearest you.

  • For assistance by phone, call 330-747-2696 or 330-424-7767 for Columbiana County, 330-747-2696 for Mahoning County, and 330-393-1565 for Trumbull County.

The Food Bank also operates mobile pantries, bringing truckloads of food directly to people living in rural areas. Here are the location and distribution times in each county:

  • Trumbull County Mobile Pantry - Mecca Community Church - 5920 Phillips-Rice Road in Cortland. Second Tuesday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon. Please bring photo ID.
  • Mahoning County Mobile Pantry - Bunker Hill United Methodist Church - 15096 W. Middletown Road in Beloit. Second Friday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon. Please bring photo ID.
  • Columbiana County Mobile Pantry - Hanoverton Fellowship of the Beloved - 13696 Bethesda Road in Hanoverton. Second Thursday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon. Please bring photo ID.

UTILITIES

WINTER RECONNECT ORDER

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has extended its winter reconnect order through May 1, 2020.

The Winter Reconnect Order allows residential customers who are disconnected or are threatened with disconnection to pay a maximum amount of $175 to have their electric and natural gas service restored or maintained.

Any residential customer who is served by a regulated utility company, regardless of income, may use the Winter Reconnect Order, to establish, maintain or restore service. All regulated natural gas and electric companies must comply with the Winter Reconnect Order.

  • There is no sign up required. Simply contact your utility company and mention the Winter Reconnect Order.
  • Customers who have questions or concerns regarding their utility service are encouraged to contact the PUCO online at PUCO.ohio.gov/contact-us.

CITY OF CLEVELAND

On March 13th, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson announced the Cleveland Water Department and Cleveland Public Power will suspend disconnections of residential service for non-payment until further notice.

  • Cleveland Water customers who have recently experienced disconnection should contact Cleveland Water at 216-664-3130 to discuss options for the restoration of service.
  • Cleveland Public Power customers who have recently experienced disconnection should call 216-664-4600 to discuss options for the restoration of service.

INTERNET SERVICE

If you need internet service for work or school but don’t have access at home or can’t afford to pay your bill, there are options available.

  • Access from AT&T is temporarily offering two months of free service to new customers who order Access by April 30, 2020. The service will cost $5/month or $10/month thereafter, depending on your speed. AT&T is also expanding eligibility based on income and to households participating in National School Lunch Program/Head Star. All data overage fees on home internet will also be waived.
  • Internet Essentials from Comcast is offering two free months of internet service to new customers that qualify as low-income households for $9.95/month plus tax. Apply by April 30, 2020. Additionally, for all new and existing Internet Essentials customers, the speed of the program’s Internet service has increased to 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream.

HOUSING

MORTGAGES

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks are taking steps to help people who have been impacted by COVID-19. If your ability to pay your mortgage is impacted, and your loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you may be eligible to delay making your monthly mortgage payments for a temporary period, during which:

  • You won’t incur late fees.
  • You won’t have delinquencies reported to the credit bureaus.
  • Foreclosure and other legal proceedings will be suspended

If you have trouble catching up at the end of this temporary relief period, additional assistance may be available. You can work with your servicer to resume making a mortgage payment. Or if you need additional assistance, you can work with your servicer on other foreclosure prevention options to keep your home.

Contact your mortgage servicer (the company where you send your monthly payments) as soon as possible to let them know about your current circumstances. The telephone number and mailing address of your mortgage servicer should be listed on your monthly mortgage statement.


GIG WORKERS

AIRBNB

Airbnb is helping travel hosts impacted by COVID-19 by offering four areas of financial relief:

Airbnb is also partnering with hosts to connect 100,000 healthcare providers, relief workers, and first responders with clean, convenient places to stay that allow them to be close to their patients and safely distanced from their own families. CLICK HERE for information on how you can sign up to host these workers or donate to the cause.

UBER

Uber will provide up to 14 days of financial assistance for drivers and delivery people who get diagnosed with COVID-19 or are personally placed in quarantine by a public health authority due to their risk of spreading COVID-19. CLICK HERE to apply for financial assistance or see if you qualify.

If you rent a vehicle, Uber says it is working with U.S. rental partners to allow no‑penalty returns for any driver who wishes to return their rental car.

In addition, Uber is waiving food delivery fees for thousands of independent restaurants on Uber Eats and providing 300,000 free meals for first responders and healthcare workers.

LYFT

Lyft will provide funds to qualifying drivers — based on their previous activity on the Lyft platform — if they are diagnosed with COVID-19 or put under individual quarantine by a public health agency. CLICK HERE for more information.


TRANSPORTATION ASSISTANCE

TANF: If you are struggling to afford transportation, you may qualify for assistance with public transit passes through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. CLICK HERE to apply or check if you qualify.

BP is offering gasoline discounts to first responders, doctors, nurses and hospital workers. They are providing 50 cents off per gallon discounts for fills up at BP and Amoco stations. Simply verify your community status via ID.me to obtain the discount. CLICK HERE to check if you qualify.

Gas Buddy can help you save money on fuel costs. Use the Gas Buddy website or mobile app to find which gas stations in your area have the cheapest gasoline prices.

Uber is offering 10 million free rides to health care workers and seniors during the coronavirus pandemic. They are working directly with cities, food banks and hospitals to get people what they need. Organizations looking for support with rides or food deliveries should send an email to impact2020@uber.com.

Lyft is donating tens of thousands of rides to those with essential transportation needs during the coronavirus pandemic – especially for families and children, low-income seniors, doctors and nurses. To distribute these rides, they are activating LyftUp and partnering with public health entities, local governments, nonprofits and community organizations on the frontlines serving our communities at this time of crisis, including:

  • United Way*: As an expansion of our existing partnership with United Way Worldwide, we are working with the 211 network to provide resources for specific use cases most in need.
  • National Council on Aging (NCOA): providing free Lyft rides to caregivers within NCOA’s network to deliver food and supplies to their homebound loved ones.
  • Jobs Access & Grocery Access: The LyftUp Jobs Access Program provides rides to and from job interviews and trainings while the LyftUp Grocery Access Program provides rides to and from grocery stores in food insecure areas

Lyft has many available resources for partners of all kinds seeking to use transportation to provide help for their communities – including the following:

  • For governments and healthcare entities who want to move around essential goods, please CLICK HERE.
  • For nonprofits who need transportation support, please CLICK HERE to apply for a LyftUp COVID-19 Community Grant.

CONSUMER PROTECTION

Ohio has come together to take aggressive action to help protect you, your family and all other residents from the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you are a consumer trying to avoid scams and price gouging, a member of a public body seeking to continue conducting meetings transparently or a business owner looking to survive these trying times, the office of Attorney General Dave Yost can help.

To file a complaint about a business acting badly, visit www.OhioProtects.org.


MEDICATION

If you need help paying for your insulin, Eli Lilly and Company is allowing anyone with commercial insurance and those without insurance cam fill their monthly prescription of Lilly insulin for just $35. The program covers most Lilly insulins including all Humalog® (insulin lispro injection 100 units/mL) formulations.

The savings can be obtained by calling the Lilly Diabetes Solution Center at (833) 808-1234. The Solution Center is open 8 am to 8 pm (EDT) Monday through Friday.

Due to federal requirements, seniors in Medicare Part D plans are not eligible for the Lilly Insulin Value Program but can call the Solution Center to see if they’re eligible for other options, such as donated insulin for lower-income Americans or an unbranded version of Lilly insulin, with a 50% lower list price.

Anyone can call the Lilly Diabetes Solution Center to see if there is an option, including a lower-priced insulin, that reduces their out-of-pocket costs.


HOTELS

Hilton and American Express have partnered to donate up to 1 million rooms to medical professionals in the US and supporting the many communities impacted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) around the world.

Through May 9th, rooms will be available free of charge to doctors, nurses, EMTs and other frontline medical staff who are a part of Hilton’s partner associations who need a place to sleep, recharge or isolate from their families.

Hilton is currently working with the following 10 associations:

  • American Association of Critical Care Nurses
  • American College of Emergency Physicians
  • American Hospital Association
  • American Nurses Association
  • Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association
  • Emergency Nurses Association
  • National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians
  • Society of Critical Care Medicine
  • Society of Emergency Medicine Physician Assistants
  • Society of Hospital Medicine

To book, first log into your medical professional association site. You’ll then be directed to Hilton’s dedicated booking page for the program.

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