The news these days is all about Coronavirus: from television news to social media, the number one topic of the day is COVID-19. Our screens and feeds are flooded with news about how Coronavirus has devastated the American economy. Just this morning, NBC News had the “breaking” news that U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 4.8% in the first quarter of the year–the biggest decline since the Great Recession. This is probably is not much of a surprise to most of us. Economists predict that the worst is yet to come. Nearly Americans know that the economy has slowed down since millions of us have been laid off, furloughed, or had our incomes slashed. People without jobs and people worried about losing their jobs don’t have money to spend or are hesitant to spend it . Because of this uncertainty, consumer confidence plunged in April.
Many Floridians are worried about how they will pay for necessities like housing, food and transportation. By now, most Americans who are eligible to receive the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Stimulus payments have received their money. In Jacksonville, there will soon be an additional $1,000 available to each Jacksonville household that earns under $75,000 and can show they’ve taken a 25% income loss due to coronavirus. This program will be run by the city of Jacksonville, but funded by the Federal Government. The city will be issuing payments cards to 40,000 households. One household member must apply for the assistance online or by phone and then go downtown in person (the Main Library on N. Laura Street or the Ed Ball Building on N. Hogan Street) to an appointment to receive the payment. You will go to an auditorium, while practicing social distancing.
In order to get an appointment, residents must show that they had employment as of February 29, and that the Coronavirus epidemic caused them to lose at least 25% of their income. This test should be easy to meet for “non-essential” workers, who lost jobs or income because of the governor’s or mayor’s mandated shutdown. City Council President Scott Wilson said he expects the website to be up and running soon, and that “the goal is to start cutting checks — and what we’re going to do is give debit cards or credit cards, gift card type things — within the next seven days.”
People who have lost some or all of their income probably will not be able to pay their rent since a large majority of Americans at most income levels live paycheck-to-paycheck and have hardly any savings. Duval County has stayed, or stopped, all evictions until May 29, 2020. This means that any writ of eviction or writ of possession issued after March 19, 2020 is delayed until May 29, 2020. So people in Jacksonville who have not paid rent can stay in their homes until at least May 29 without fear of being evicted. This moratorium also applies to evictions based on reasons other than failure to pay rent (such as where the tenant breached her lease or was in a lease that expired this month). Furthermore, if you rent housing that is “covered” under the CARES Act, you cannot be evicted until July 25 at the earliest. “Covered” housing includes properties on which there is a federally backed mortgage loan and can include individual houses and apartment complexes. The Urban Institute estimates that 25% of rental units in the country are covered by this eviction moratorium.
There are also programs in place to help Americans who cannot pay their mortgage because of COVID-19. Duval County has suspended all foreclosure sales until May 29, 2020. Homeowners may stay in their homes for at least another month, even if their home has been previously scheduled for foreclosure sale. In addition to county and state orders stopping foreclosures for another month, there are several federal programs to help homeowners avoid losing their homes because of the impact that Coronavirus has had on their income. The CARES Act stays judicial sales of homes and stops lenders from brining new foreclosure lawsuits for 60 days after March 18, 2020. In addition, the Act allows homeowners to request a forbearance from their lenders, under which they would not have to pay another mortgage payment for 180 days. A forbearance gives you up to a six-month period in which mortgage payments are not required, but these payments are not forgiven either. After the forbearance period ends, you will have to pay the missed mortgage payments over time or in a lump sum. You must contact your lender or servicer to request a forbearance, since it is not automatic. The main thing to remember is that if you are having trouble paying your mortgage, or think you soon will, contact your lender or servicer right away to see what help is available to you.
Finally, remember that during times of crisis like this, there are scammers who claim that they want to help you. However, their actual goal is to take your home or money and not help you. Florida’s Attorney General has launched a website which alerts consumers to scams during this pandemic.
If you have questions about whether you qualify for these programs please contact our firm. Our lawyers have been helping Floridians protect their assets and income for many years. You may contact the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC today for a free initial consultation. A Jacksonville Bankruptcy Lawyer can help you see for which programs you qualify, as well as what other legal options are available to you.