Coronavirus

What to Do If You’re Laid Off Due to Coronavirus Closures

How do I apply for unemployment? What do I do if I can't pay my rent or mortgage? What about utilities, taxes? Scroll down for advice on these topics and more.

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Many in the tri-state are facing layoffs as the states impose closures of non-essential businesses to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The New York State Department of Labor has been "deluged" with people trying to apply for unemployment, Gov. Cuomo said Tuesday Mar. 31. "It keeps crashing because you literally have hundreds of thousands of people at any time trying to get on the site."

In the five days from Mar. 23 - 28 the department got over 8.2 million calls -- a 16,000% increase from its normal numbers -- and 3.4 million visits for online unemployment filing. The governor assured New Yorkers the state was working on it, and even if your filing is delayed, you will still receive the entire benefit you are entitled to.

To help those who couldn't sign up for unemployment insurance either online or over the phone, the state's Department of Labor put out a video with new information. Based off last name, there are now days of the week those looking to enroll should try calling or logging in, and the Department of Labor said it has added more staff to assist in the process.

On March 26, the U.S. government reported weekly first-time unemployment claims of 3.28 million, almost triple what Wall Street expected -- and an all-time record nearly five times the previous peak in the early 1980s.

If you're one of those people laid off -- or you're worried you're going to be laid off, or you are a small business feeling the strain of the virus -- some basic advice from officials, legal experts and budgeting officials is below.

Millions of Americans are now eligible for "economic impact payments" as a result of the recently passed $2.2 trillion stimulus bill. For all FAQs on eligibility and when the funds will arrive, click here.

This page will be updated daily with advice from officials, experts and the New York State Department of Labor as it becomes available.

For the latest COVID-19 numbers click here. For the latest on curfews and mandatory directives, click hereFor the latest on the spread of coronavirus in the tri-state, click here.

BEFORE YOU ARE LAID OFF

Save money. If you think you might be laid off, start saving as much money as you can right now, Grant Sabatier, author of "Financial Freedom" and creator of the Millennial Money brand says. "Having even a small amount of emergency savings will help you weather some of the uncertainty." 

Check your handbooks or contracts to see if there is a severance policy. Christopher Davis, managing partner of The Law Office of Christopher Q. Davis, says many employers may have a severance plan in place that can include monetary assistance when employees are laid off, however "some employers may overlook that fact." Check your contract to be aware of your rights.

If you are sick and feel layoffs may be looming, consider applying for disability coverage while you are still working. If you’re sick, have been diagnosed with COVID-19, are symptomatic and can’t come to work, or if you're suffering severe mental health consequences because of coronavirus, employees should apply for disability coverage while they’re still employed, Davis says. There are some plans where if you’re terminated you no will longer get the same work compensation you would have while still employed.

Reduce your expenses. If your income might be at risk, you should cut back on expenses as much as possible. Sabatier suggests looking for a cheaper place to stay if your lease is almost up, or moving in with (coronavirus-free) friends or family. He says the average American spends over 70 percent of their income on housing, transportation, and food. "Cut back on all three as much as you can so you reduce the amount of money you need each money. One silver lining to the coronavirus is that because so many people are staying home it's harder to spend money."

Start looking for work that you can do online. With social distancing in place, job stability will be found in work that does not need to be done in person. You might be able to get a job quickly proofreading or writing blog posts to make up some of your income gap, Sabatier says. New Yorkers on community pages have also suggested creative ways to make money online such as teaching English to students in international countries or online tutoring for SAT/ACT examinations for kids stuck at home.

If you're going to be off work due to being in quarantine. New York announced a law guaranteeing job protection and pay for New Yorkers who have been quarantined as a result of novel coronavirus — whether its mandatory or just precautionary. Entitlements depend on the size of the business you work for. Click here for details.

IF YOU ARE LAID OFF

Don't be afraid to ask about healthcare continuation. Many employers will allow for healthcare continuation for a month or longer after work ends, especially for people with families. Often if there is a layoff, an employer will provide a severance and include, at a minimum, a 1-3 months of severance payment and a lump sum to pay for COBRA coverage for the same period, Davis says. "Even if an employer doesn't offer severance, employees should ask for it, and push particularly hard for subsidies to cover at least 1-3 months of COBRA."

Confirm with your employer in writing that they won't contest unemployment. Davis says employees should confirm that their employer believes that their unemployment application is eligible, and won't contest it.

Immediately apply for unemployment. New York has waived the 7-Day waiting period for unemployment insurance benefits for people who are out of work due to COVID-19 closures or quarantines. Click here to learn more about how to file a UI claim. Be aware the state is experiencing high demand on its labor website -- the site has been continually crashing as it experiences unprecedented traffic, with 3.2 million hits on its unemployment filing page from Mar. 23 - 28. However the state assured New Yorkers that all applicants eligible will receive benefits in a timely manner.

If you're in New Jersey, learn about your options. New Jersey has a range of sick leave benefits for those off work due to the outbreak. Click here for New Jersey details.

In New Jersey, use the new state website to find a job. On Monday March 23, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the state was launching a central website to find and apply for jobs. Murphy said at least 8,000 jobs were open statewide at essential businesses like grocery stores. Find the website here.

New Jersey has extended its tax filing deadline to July 15, the state announced April 1.

Think you won’t be able to make rent? Don’t panic. On Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a moratorium on evictions of any residential or commercial tenants in New York for 90 days. New York officials had already suspended eviction proceedings indefinitely throughout the state amid the coronavirus outbreak, the state’s chief administrative judge said in a memo. From March 16 eviction proceedings and pending orders were suspended statewide until furthe,r notice.

Think you won't be able to make utility payments? Don't panic. New York's major electric and gas utilities have agreed not to cut power or heat from customers unable to pay their bills during the pandemic, at the state's request. National Grid, Con Edison, Central Hudson, Orange and Rockland, New York State Electric and Gas, Rochester Electric and Gas, PSEG Long Island and National Fuel Gas have agreed to the policy.

Think you won't be able to make your mortgage payments? New York has announced that if you’re not working or working only part-time, financial institutions will offer a 90-day mortgage relief. This will not have a negative affect on your credit score, Gov. Cuomo said. Banks will not charge late fees, and they will postpone or suspend foreclosures.

Think you won't be able to pay your taxes on time? Don't panic. The IRS will move the national income tax filing day ahead to July 15, giving Americans an extra three months to file as they grapple with the coronavirus crisis. For details click here.

Look into accessing your Roth IRA. If you've already been laid off and you don't have any money but have a Roth IRA you can take out your contributions you've made in prior years tax free, Sabatier says. If you have 401k you might be able to take a loan. Look for low-interest products and avoid payday loans. For more specific advice on loans and accessing government assistance programs, click here.

Think you may be about to default on payments? Contact creditors right away and consider sending temporary hardship letters. For more specific advice on how to do this, click here.

Take the opportunity to build new skills. If you're going to be out of work and stuck at home, think about ways to diversify your skills to protect yourself in the long term. "Skills are future currency, especially ones that you can use to make money online and not have to be as reliant on going to an in-person job or having a boss who can lay you off," Sabatier says. Look for free or low-cost online courses, or learn skills like video editing, basic accounting or coding via YouTube. More ideas here.

Take advantage of freebies. A number of companies are offering free or discounted services amid the coronavirus outbreak. Adobe, T-Mobile, Loom and LinkedIn are some of the businesses with offers. Click here for details.

While some businesses are forced to shutter amid coronavirus fears, others are thriving. Here is a list of companies hiring right now.

To help those who have struggled to

FOR STRUGGLING BUSINESSES

Small businesses can apply for a grant to cover payroll. New York City is offering small businesses with fewer than five employees a grant to cover 40 percent of payroll costs for two months to help retain employees. Click here to see if you're eligible and complete an interest form.

Apply for a zero interest loan of up to $75,000. Businesses with fewer than 100 employees who have seen sales decreases of 25 percent or more will be eligible for zero interest loans of up to $75,000 to help mitigate losses in profit, New York City says. Click here to see if you're eligible and complete an interest form.

Try to mitigate impact on employees. Doing what you can to limit the effects of mass layoffs will be in the best financial interest of your business, Davis says. Former employees could have a negative impact on the business in the future even just reputationally. "Every employer has a moral imperative to be humane -- that means softening the blow of any transition in the instance of the pandemic."

Seek federal relief where available. The federal government announced that small and midsize employers can begin taking advantage of two new refundable payroll tax credits, designed to immediately and fully reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing coronavirus-related leave to their employees. Click here for the details.

The Restaurant Workers' Community Foundation has started a Coronavirus emergency relief fund to to provide zero-interest loans to businesses as well as helping out workers facing economic hardships or health crises.

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