Essential Information You Need to Know

Posted on Mar 28, 2020

Here is some essential information you may need to know. This page is updated regularly.

Michigan’s Stay Home, Stay Safe Order

Governor Whitmer extended both the state emergency and disaster declarations, and extended the “stay-at-home” order, which remains in effect through June 12, 2020.

Individuals are directed to stay home unless they are partaking in an outdoor activity, getting essential supplies like groceries and medicine, caring for a family member, or reporting to work at an exempt business. Families should limit the number of members that leave the home for errands. When outside the home, everyone should make sure to keep at least 6 feet of physical distance between themselves and those outside their own households.

The order broadly exempts health and human services, grocery stores, certain manufacturers, gas stations, and other essential businesses. Click HERE for more information, including links to the full executive order and frequently asked questions.

Low-Cost or Free Home Internet Offers

Affordable Home Internet Options
Comcast/Xfinity
Internet Essentials program, free for 60 days (normally available to qualified low-income households for $9.95 per month). All new customers will be a free self-install kit that includes a cable modem and WiFi router. There is no term contract.

To sign up, applicants can simply visit www.internetessentials.com. The accessible website also includes the option to video chat with customer service agents in American Sign Language. There are also two dedicated phone numbers, 1-855-846-8376 for English and 1-855-765-6995 for Spanish.

AT&T
Access, AT&T’s low-cost wired home Internet service to qualifying households ($5-10/month)

Also, AT&T has pledged that, for the next 60 days (as of March 13, 2020), they will:

  • Not terminate the service of any wireless, home phone or broadband residential or small business customer because of their inability to pay their bill due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Waive any late payment fees that any wireless, home phone, broadband residential, or small business customer may incur because of economic hardship related to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Keep their public Wi-Fi hotspots open for any American who needs them.

The coronavirus pandemic is causing many hardships. If you find yourself in financial trouble and unable to pay your bill, please contact AT&T at 800-288-2020 for AT&T broadband, residential wireless or small business services and 611 from your AT&T device for wireless.

Internet & Data Plan Limits

PCWorld Article: Which Internet providers are lifting data caps during the coronavirus, and which aren’t
Updated March 25, 2020

Includes information on: AT&T/Cricket, CenturyLink, Comcast/Xfinity, Charter/Spectrum, Frontier Communications, Google Fi, Spring, T-Mobile, US Cellular, and Verizon, among others.

Utility Payment Assistance

Major utilities, including the state’s two largest, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, have stopped service disconnections, and are offering flexible payment plans for low-income customers, seniors, and those impacted by illness or job losses related to the pandemic.

Michiganders who use propane for home heating also are eligible for income-based assistance programs. Customers with heating costs that they are unable to pay should first contact their energy supplier and explain their situation before they run out of fuel.

Click HERE for more information on providers and how to request assistance.

Unemployment

Michigan Unemployment
Michigan is extending unemployment insurance benefits to workers who are home caring for sick relatives or taking care of their children during the coronavirus pandemic.  Also, anyone losing work as a result of the crisis is advised to apply.  The Governor’s executive order also covers workers who are sick, quarantined, or immuno-compromised, but do not have paid medical leave or are laid off, along with first responders who become ill or are quarantined because of the exposure to COVID-19.

The application eligibility period will be increased from 14 to 28 days, and the normal in-person registration and work search requirements will be suspended.

The governor, under the federal CARES Act, has implemented Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Compensation programs that grant benefits to workers who do not already qualify for state unemployment benefits. Workers include self-employed, 1099-independent contractors, gig, and low-wage workers who can no longer work because of the pandemic. The agreement also increases weekly benefits for all unemployed workers by $600 a week and extends benefit payments from 26 to 39 weeks. If someone has already applied for unemployment benefits, you DO NOT need to reapply at this time.

To help Michiganders receive unemployment benefits as a result of COVID-19, the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has developed a schedule for workers to file for benefits based on the first letter of their last name, beginning Sunday, March 29, 2020.

Online Filing Schedule – www.Michigan.gov/UIA
• Last names beginning with letters A-L: Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays.
• Last names beginning with letters M-Z: Sundays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays.
• Saturdays will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window.|

Call Center Filing Schedule – 866-500-0017:
• Last names beginning with letters A-L: Mondays and Wednesdays between 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
• Last names beginning with letters M-Z: Tuesdays and Thursdays between 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
• Fridays (8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.) will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window.

Coronavirus Stimulus Checks

As the coronavirus crisis ravages the U.S. economy, millions of Americans are about to receive help from Congress in the form of direct cash payments.

President Trump signed into law a $2 trillion emergency economic package on March 27 that includes direct cash payments and unemployment benefits, among other provisions, for people across the country.

But who’s eligible to get a check or direct deposit, and for how much? Click below for more information.

Coronavirus Tax Relief, IRS.gov
The IRS has established a special section focused on steps to help taxpayers, businesses and others affected by the coronavirus. This page will be updated as new information is available. 

Economic impact payments: What you need to know, IRS.gov
Frequently asked questions about the “economic impact” or “economic stimulus” checks. Updated regulary.

“Coronavirus checks, direct deposits are coming. Here’s everything you need to know” (NBC News Article, March 27, 2020)

“What the $2 trillion stimulus means for you — and how the ‘recovery rebates’ to households will be calculated” (MarketWatch, March 28, 2020)

Job Searching & Resumes

Michigan Works! Southwest
MI Works! Southwest is open by appointment only. This helps provide the highest level of customer service while maintaining the safety of both team members and participants.

To request an appointment with a Michigan Works! staff member regarding employment or Michigan Works! program status, call 1-877-256-8294 or email careerservices@miworkssw.org anytime between 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Taxes & Foreclosure

Tax Foreclosure Collections Assistance
With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the state’s workforce, the Michigan Department of Treasury is offering collections assistance to newly unemployed Michiganders currently paying on past-due state tax debts or other state debts. Effective immediately, those who have been laid off or had their place of employment closed due to COVID-19 should reach out to see what options are available. To receive assistance, individuals are encouraged to contact Treasury’s Collections Service Center at 517-636-5265.

IRS Tax Deadline
The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service are providing special payment relief to individuals and businesses in response to the COVID-19 Outbreak. The filing deadline for tax returns remains April 15, 2020. The IRS urges taxpayers who are owed a refund to file as quickly as possible. For those who can’t file by the April 15, 2020 deadline, the IRS reminds individual taxpayers that everyone is eligible to request a six-month extension to file their return.

Income tax payment deadlines for individual returns, with a due date of April 15, 2020, are being automatically extended until July 15, 2020. This payment relief applies to all individual returns, including self-employed individuals, and all entities other than C-Corporations, such as trusts or estates. IRS will automatically provide this relief to taxpayers. Taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms or call the IRS to qualify for this relief.

Michigan Tax Deadline
On March 27, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-26, which pushes all April 2020 state and city income tax filing deadlines in Michigan to July 2020 as a part of continued efforts to help Michiganders during the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 21, the Michigan Treasurer issued further guidance in accordance with the Governor’s order, click HERE to read more.

City of Albion Tax Deadline
The City of Albion extended the income tax deadline to July 31st for filing and payment 2019 returns, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. All Albion taxpayers have until July 31st to file. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations, and other non-corporate tax filers, as well as those who pay self-employment tax. This deferment does not apply to any withholding taxes.
Taxpayers don’t need to file any additional forms or call to qualify for this automatic tax filing and payment relief. Individual taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the July 31st deadline, can request a filing extension by filing our extension form.

Mortgage

Mortgage Payment Forebearance (NPR Article)
Homeowners who have lost income or their jobs because of the coronavirus outbreak are getting some relief. Depending on their situation, they should be eligible to have their mortgage payments reduced or suspended for up to 12 months.

Federal regulators, through the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are ordering lenders to offer homeowners flexibility. The move covers about half of all home loans in the U.S. — those guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie. But regulators expect that the entire mortgage industry will quickly adopt a similar policy. Under the plan, people who have suffered a loss of income can qualify to make reduced payments or be granted a complete pause in payments.

Student Loans

Student Loan Forebearance (NPR Article)
The Michigan Department of Education has announced that people with federal student loans will automatically have their interest rates set to 0% for at least the next 60 days. Borrowers will also have the option to suspend payments entirely for at least two months without accruing interest, but they must request these terms — officially called forbearance — by reaching out to their loan servicers either online or on the phone. This may become a challenge, as many servicers have been disrupted by the pandemic. The department has also authorized an automatic suspension of payments for any borrower more than 31 days delinquent as of March 13, 2020, or who becomes more than 31 days delinquent, essentially giving borrowers a safety net during the national emergency.

Eviction

Eviction
Both MI State and Federal governments have issued orders to suspend eviction, which allows residents to remain in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, even if they are unable to stay current on their rent or mortgage. The orders also allows courts to stay eviction-related proceedings until after the COVID-19 emergency has passed. Governor Whitmer’s executive order takes effect immediately and will remain in effect until April 17 at 11:59 p.m. The federal order was issued March 21 during a daily COVID-19 press update. No further detail is currently available.

ID & License Expirations

ID & Drivers License Expirations (MI Secretary of State)
Michigan Department of State has closed Secretary of State branch offices through April 13 under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “stay home” order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Some Michigan residents will see their driver licenses expire during this time. State and local law enforcement agencies have been asked to use discretion when interacting with someone with an expired credential. Fees will be waived for expirations that have occurred since the department first shifted branch operations on March 16. More information to come.

Groceries and Food Assistance

Groceries
Many stores, including SpartanNash, Dollar General, Meijer, Wal-mart, and Target have created special shopping hours for seniors, pregnant women, and immune-compromised individuals. Click the name of the store above to learn more about their specific policy and hours.

Helping Hands Hub Box Food Distribution (twice monthly)
Starting March 24, the Helping Hand Hub Box will look a little different. More details to come soon.

If you are a Senior in need of food, reach out to a Pastor of any Albion church or Mayor Dave Atchison to arrange the delivery of your box.

For those attending the Distribution, the food will arrive in ready-made boxes from the Food Bank. These boxes will be first-come, first-served and will be served in a mandatory Drive-thru method. Earliest arrival is at 4 PM!

Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Gov. Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) have announced that households eligible for Food Assistance Program benefits will receive additional benefits in March and April to bring all current SNAP cases to the maximum monthly allowance for that group size. This change only applies to those not currently receiving the maximum benefit amount.

Eligible clients will see additional food assistance benefits on their Bridge Card by Monday, March 30. You do not need to re-apply to receive the additional benefits.

Temporary Waiver of SNAP Work Requirements for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents

MDHHS, with approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), has temporarily suspended federal work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents to reduce the financial impact of COVID-19. No action is needed for eligible adults to be temporarily exempt from the requirements.

Effective Tuesday, April 1, the three-month time limit for failing to meet work requirements will be lifted for able-bodied adults ages 18 through 49, who have no minor-age children, and are able to work but are not working 80 hours a month. Suspension of the time limit will continue through the end of the month following the month in which the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration is lifted by the secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services.

People who receive food assistance can check their benefits balance on their Michigan Bridge Card by going online to www.michigan.gov/mibridges or by contacting a consumer service representative toll-free at 888-678-8914.

WIC Food Assistance (Women, Infants, & Children)
WIC is nutrition assistance program serving low and moderate-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, infants, and children up to age five. Participants use WIC food benefits to purchase items from a very specific list of approved items at grocery stores and pharmacies. However, due to shortages of those specific items during the current COVID-19 health crisis, WIC has temporarily expanded this list of eligible items. If you do not receive WIC benefits, and have a choice between purchasing a grocery item that is marked “WIC” and another, please choose the non-WIC item.

Click HERE for COVID-19 information for MI WIC families.
Click HERE for the list of expanded WIC-eligible items.

School Meals for Children

Michigan Department of Education on School Meals for Children
Unanticipated School Closure Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) Map
An online map has been developed for families to find locations where meals are being provided during this period of school closure. These meals, served under the program called Unanticipated School Closure Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and in partnership with local schools and sponsors, are available to all children at no cost. Up to two meals per day may be served to all children ages 0-18. This includes students with disabilities ages 18-26 with an active individual education program (IEP).

Homer Community Schools students, click HERE to sign up for home delivery of meals or to learn more about meal pick-up options.

Marshall Public Schools students, click images below for delivery locations and times.