COVID-19 & Finances
The City of Lansing recognizes the important role that households play in neighborhoods and economic development. As such, the Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) is here to support Lansing residents as they navigate the unique financial obstacles before them.
In response to COVID-19, the City of Lansing is not charging late fees on any City fine or fee during this time. Additionally, the 54-A District Court is not charging late fees, entering orders of default, suspending licenses, or issuing warrants for nonpayment for the time being.
Below, the OFE has compiled financial tips, resources, and information on basic needs like food, shelter, transportation, and utilities, to expenses like student loans and income taxes, as well as answers to commonly asked questions about the recently passed stimulus bill.
Please note that the information below is meant for informational purposes only.
If you have a child in the Lansing School District (LSD), you may be eligible to receive food through the Lansing School Closure Food Service Program for Children. The Michigan Department of Education has developed an online tool for families to help ensure children who rely on food provided by schools still maintain access to the meals and resources they need. To find schools serving meals in your area, you can use the tool by clicking here.
If you are not a parent or guardian of a child attending the Lansing School District, please do not use this program. Instead, please utilize the nearest emergency food resources nearest you. This can be found by dialing 211. This will connect you to a United Way 2-1-1 call center location. The operator will ask you a few basic questions (family size, location, etc.) and provide you with the nearest food distribution location. Information is also available at centralmichigan211.org.
If you are a senior citizen, call the Tri-County Office on Aging at (517) 887-1460 for the Meals on Wheels home delivered meals program.
The City of Lansing’s Human Relations & Community Services Department will continue to offer a Mobile Food Pantry on the third Saturday of the month.
Effective immediately, there is no limit on the use of Double Up Food Bucks.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) is a recent stimulus bill that includes mortgage forbearance. Please contact your mortgage lender if you have questions about applying for forbearance. As this situation develops, continue to communicate with your mortgage lender to learn about additional services they may be offering.
For renters and homeowners alike, if you anticipate not having the the full payment on time, it’s recommended that you communicate early and honestly with your mortgage company or landlord.
Governor Whitmer, through an Executive Order, has temporarily suspended evictions in the State of Michigan until April 17, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. However, after the suspension on evictions is lifted, you could be evicted for non-payment. Be sure you’re planning ahead and paying as much as you can.
Your local court, 54-A District Court, in compliance with Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order, is not issuing writs of eviction for the time being. If you feel you are in danger of being evicted or foreclosed upon, contact Joe McDonald, City of Lansing Housing Ombudsman at (517) 275-2376 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) has suspended regular routes. Customers in need of a free curb-to-curb ride should call (517) 999-2549 during the hours listed below. Please be patient when calling as call volume is extremely high.
Call hours: 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Service hours: 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Call hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Service hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Call hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Service hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Lansing Board of Water & Light (BWL) has adopted a no shut-off policy until further notice. This means that your electricity and water, if provided through BWL, will not be shut off. However, it is recommended that you contact customer service to setup a bill payment plan to avoid falling behind when the moratorium is lifted by emailing email@example.com.
Consumers Energy has suspended shutoffs as a result of non-payment for low-income and senior-aged customers through April 20, 2020. Their COVID-19 Response Plan can be found here. For more information, please contact Consumers Energy at 1-800-477-5050. Business customers are encouraged to call 1-800-805-0490.
AT&T’s “Access by AT&T” offers home internet to limited income households that have at least one SNAP participant. In response to COVID-19, AT&T has committed to waive all home internet data overage fees.
Comcast has announced that it’s even easier for low-income families who live in a Comcast service area to sign-up for Internet Essentials. New customers will receive 60 days of complimentary Internet Essentials service, which is normally available to all qualified low-income households for $9.95/month.
Stimulus Bill FAQ
Who is eligible and how much can I expect?
The IRS has listed eligibility prerequisites on their website.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) would provide a one-time $1,200 payment to most individuals that earned less than $75,000 last year. For married couples, each person would receive a check and families would get $500 per child.
If you filed a Head of Household return in 2018 or 2019 and your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) was less than $112,500, you will receive the full amount.
If you filed a Married Filing Joint tax return and your AGI was less than $150,000, you will receive the full amount.
The amount of your stimulus payment will be $5 less for every $100 in income you have over these limits.
You will receive the stimulus even if you did not file a tax return because you had no taxable income, or not enough taxable income to be required to pay (such as those whose only income is Social Security or Disability).
Where is my Stimulus Check?
If you believe you are eligible to receive a stimulus check, whether it be through direct deposit or check, the IRS has created the ’Get My Payment’ (available in mid-April) application to check the status of your stimulus payment.
Who is ineligible?
Nonresidents, individuals whose deductions can go to another taxpayer, those without a valid social security number, estates or trusts, and those who are:
- Single and make more than $99,000 in AGI
- Head of household and make more than $146,500 in AGI (with one child)
- Married filing joint couples who make more than $198,000 (with no children).
How Will I Receive the Stimulus?
If you filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019 the federal government will use that information to figure out how much money to send you and how to get it to you.
If you received your refund via direct deposit, they will use the same bank account to pay your stimulus. If you did not use direct deposit, they will mail a check to the address on your 2018 or 2019 return.
If you did not file a tax return because your only income is from Social Security, you will still receive the stimulus. The federal government will use the address on your Social Security Benefit Statement (Form SSA-1099).
What if I moved?
If you moved since your last tax return or received your last Social Security Benefit Statement, you should immediately fill out Form 8822 change of address form and mail it in. It takes 4-6 weeks to process this change so you’ll want to do this as soon as possible.
What if I did not file tax returns in 2018 or 2019?
If you had any taxable income at all – even a few dollars in interest – file a return electronically or by mail. The printable forms can be found here. If you’re filing electronically, we suggest using the IRS free-file program or the My Free Taxes program.
If you had no taxable income, do not file electronically. Entering $0 in AGI will make the return kick-back as the system will not understand why you are filing if you had no taxable income. Use the printable forms and mail them.
Don’t forget to sign the 1040 form before mailing it.
The Capital Area United Way’s free tax prep assistance program, VITA, has had to shut down for safety reasons. When the stay-at-home order is lifted, you can call 211 to schedule a VITA free tax prep appointment. For more information, visit their website.
How can I cash my stimulus check? I do not have a bank account.
The City of Lansing has partnered with Michigan State University Federal Credit Union, CASE Credit Union, Dart Bank, Flagstar Bank, and Lake Trust Credit Union to ensure you do not have to pay high fees in order to cash this check. These institutions will work with you to open a bank account. The Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund also offers guidance for safe and affordable banking on their website.
Note: Most people -- including everyone who filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return, as well as all Social Security beneficiaries -- should be paid automatically by the IRS. If the IRS does not have your direct deposit information, watch for instructions from the U.S. Department of Treasury in the coming weeks about how to provide your banking information to the IRS online. Additional information will be posted on www.irs.gov/coronavirus as soon as it becomes available.
The Program: Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) is giving more provisional licenses and expanding capacity for child care services. Now, hospitals, public and non-public schools, and licensed in-home child care provider facilities can be used to provide disaster relief child care for members of the essential workforce.
Eligibility requirements: The expanded child care services are available for children ages 0-12 whose parents are part of the essential workforce. A list of the industries considered essential workforce is available here.
Email inquiries about eligibility and other questions to BrownT56@michigan.gov
How to Access: Fill out the form on this website, and a local child care provider will contact you with the next steps. Child care fees apply.
Program End Date: The establishment of disaster relief child care centers will continue through 11:59 p.m. April 15.
More Information: Gov. Whitmer’s executive order provides more details on the guidelines for opening child care centers during the public health emergency.
Through July 31, 2020, the federal government will provide a temporary Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) of $600 a week for any worker eligible for state or federal unemployment compensation (UC) benefits. The FPUC will be paid in addition to and at the same time as regular state or federal UC benefits. To learn more about how to apply, view the Filing For Unemployment FAQ (PDF).
The CARES Act also allowed states to expand unemployment compensation eligibility to workers who are not normally eligible for these benefits, so long as their unemployment was connected to the COVD-19 pandemic. This includes self-employed individuals, independent contractors, “gig economy” workers, and individuals who were unable to start a new job or contract due to the pandemic.
The CARES act also enables states to provide an additional 13 weeks of unemployment compensation to workers who need these benefits.
Finally, the CARES Act includes an expansion of “work sharing” programs to provide partial benefits to individuals with reduced hours. Under this bill, the federal government will temporarily provide full funding for states -- including Michigan -- who have Short-Time Compensation or “work sharing” programs in law. Under these programs, employers voluntarily make an agreement with the state unemployment office to prevent layoffs by reducing employee hours, and workers with reduced hours are eligible for partial state UC benefits. To apply for unemployment, visit www.michigan.gov/UIA. Given the flood of calls, we recommend people apply during off-peak hours (before 8AM / after 8PM)
Use of Retirement Funds
The bill waives the 10% early withdrawal penalty for distributions up to $100,000 for coronavirus-related purposes, retroactive to Jan. 1. Please do not take this decision lightly. Consult with a financial counselor first – at no charge – by calling the Financial Empowerment Center at (517) 449-5842.
The CARES Act automatically suspends payments on all federally-owned student loans until September 30, 2020. No interest will accrue on these loans during this suspension. Additional information is available on the U.S. Department of Education website at www.ed.gov/coronavirus.
Federally-Owned Student Loan Servicer
The IRS has pushed back the federal tax return filing deadline to July 15.
Governor Whitmer has also pushed back the State of Michigan tax return filing deadline to July 15.
The City of Lansing Department of Treasury and Income Tax has pushed back the filing deadline for City of Lansing tax returns to July 31.
Financial Assistance for Service Workers
The United States Bartenders Guild (USBG) has established a Bartender Emergency Assistance Program for bartenders and their families. Click here for more information on eligibility requirements and how to apply.
One Fair Wage has created a Emergency Coronavirus Tipped and Service Worker Support Fund. They’re providing cash assistance to restaurant workers, car service drivers, delivery workers, personal service workers and more who need the money amidst the current crisis. Click here to learn more about who is eligible and how to apply.
State Emergency Relief (SER)
As a result of COVID-19, the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS) has instituted the following changes to the State Emergency Relief policy:
- A phone interview is no longer required.
- In instances where changes are reported or there are discrepancies that must be resolved, the worker may choose to complete an interview.
- Suspension of one-time energy assists
- SER energy services will no longer be limited to one payment for the remainder of the fiscal year, however, the service caps will remain the same:
- $1,200 for propane and fuel oil
- $850 for all other energy types
- The non-cash asset limit will be increased to $15,000.
- The non-cash asset limit will be changed to align with the cash asset limit of $15,000 for all SER services (except burial when the deceased is the only group member).
- SER groups who are composed of Family Independence Program (FIP), State Disability Assistance (SDA), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medical Assistance (MA) and Food Assistance Program (FAP) recipients continue to have automatic eligibility on the basis of non-cash assets.
- Elimination of the shortfall determination
- MDHHS will not be making a shortfall determination for any month for energy or utility services until further notice. The required payment amount for electricity, heat, water and sewer services is $0.