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Update 4/27/2022: Federal Student Loan Pause Extended, Extra COVID-19 SNAP Benefits to Expire, and Facilitated Self-Assistance for 2021 Taxes Still Available

The Pause on federal student loan payments has been extended. 

  • The pause on federal student loan repayment, interest, and collections has been extended until August 31, 2022.  
  • Payments are expected to resume in September. You should hear from your student loan servicers about 21 days before the first payment is due.  

Fresh Start for delinquent/defaulted student loans:  

  • The Department of Education also announced a “fresh start” on repayment of federal student loans for those who were delinquent or in default on their student loans prior to the pandemic. 
  • When payments resume, delinquent and defaulted federal student loan borrowers will be put back in “good standing,” meaning your loans will be current without you needing to work out a plan with them.  
  • Make sure to get your federal student loan servicers your updated contact information so they reach you about your payment restarting or to talk to you about keeping your loan on-time once the loan is put back in “good standing.” 
  • If you don’t know which servicer your federal student loans are with, set-up, get your account information, or sign into FSA ID. This is a government website that puts all of your federal student loans and student loan balances in one place.  

Reminders for everyone with student loans:  

  • Don’t ignore your student loans! There are income driven repayment plans if you cannot afford your monthly payment. If you want to find out what you’re eligible for, reach out to your student loan servicer before payments restart.  
  • Read more from the Department of Education 
  • To find out more details, read the news article 

Update 10/27/2021: Student Loan Changes- Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Servicers

The U.S. Department of Education announced changes to their Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF).

What you need to know:

  • Do you have federal student loans and work for a government or not-for-profit agency?
  • If you answered yes, then you may be eligible to work towards Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PLSF) for your federally backed student loans, even if your application or your past payments for PSLF were turned down before.
  • If you have federal student loans, including Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL), and work and worked for an employer that qualifies, you may be eligible to receive credit towards PSLF for past payments through October 31,2022.
  • Payments will count towards PSLF regardless of loan type, the payment plan you were on, and whether the payment was made in full or on time.
  • The new rules still require you to have had qualifying employment full-time (or qualifying part-time employment that adds up to at least an average of 30 hours per week) with a government agency, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, or other not-for-profit organization that provides a qualifying service when the payments were made. This is for payments made after October 1, 2007. To see if your employer qualifies for PLSF, go to the PLSF Help Tool 
  • Direct Loans are eligible. If you have other loan types, such as FFEL loan or a Perkins loan, you will need to consolidate your loans into a Direct Consolidation loan before October 31, 2022 to count the past payments you made towards PSLF.
  • Parent PLUS loans are still ineligible for PSLF forgiveness.

What do you do next?

FedLoan, Navient, and Granite State will not be servicing federal student loans anymore.

What’s going on with all the changes in student loan servicers?

  • Three Federal student loan servicers (FedLoan, Granite State, and Navient) will no longer be servicing your federal student loans.
  • If any of your federal student loans are with these servicers, your loans will be transferred to a new servicer before the end of 2022.
  • You do not need to anything for your loan to be transferred to a new student loan servicer, and you should receive notice from Department of Education, your old servicer, and your new servicer about any next steps you need to complete.
  • The terms of your loan (interest rate, years to pay loan back) will not change.
  • Find out more about the changes in student loan servicers 

You may want to:

  • Make sure all your contact information is correct with your current student loan servicers.
  • Log into your current student loan servicer’s website and print out or write down your loan information (current balances, interest rates, monthly payment amounts, and payment history) and keep this information as a record.
  • Read more about the federal student loan transition 

Update: 9/29/21 (revised 5/10/22) - Let’s Get Clear about COVID Student Loan Debt Relief

Federal Student Loan Payment Suspension and Interest Set to 0% through May 1, 2022.

  • The CARES Act passed on March 30th has put an automatic suspension on all federally backed student loans and set the interest rate to 0% from March 13, 2020 to August 31, 2022.
  • The payment suspension was extended to August 31, 2022.
  • This means that people with those loans do not have to make payments and no interest will be accruing on the loan during that time.
  • This does not apply to all student loans. Some FFEL loans are backed by private lenders and some Perkins Loans are owned by the college attended and may not be included in these protections. If you are unsure if your Perkins or FFEL Program Loans qualify, go to your student loan account online to check.
  • Read more here.

Suspended Payments Count Toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Income-Driven Repayment Plan Forgiveness

  • Through August 31, 2022, payments suspended due to the CARES Act and the executive order that followed will count towards any student loan forgiveness program, as long as all other requirements of the loan forgiveness program are met.

Assistance for Some FFEL & Perkins Loans and Other Private Student Loans

If your FFEL Program Loans are not eligible for these concessions, we recommend you:

  • Ask your servicer if a forbearance is an option. Your interest will still accrue, but this is an easy option to sign up for by talking with your servicer and will give you time to get in a more stable financial position.
  • Ask for an unemployment deferment if your work hours have been cut to below 30 hours a week or you’ve lost your job due to COVID-19. For some loans, interest will not accrue in that program.

For other private loans, we suggest you follow up with the servicer to see what options they are giving for the COVID-19 pandemic. Several private student loan servicers are offering options. Read more here.  

Relief for Student Loans in Default

  • The Department of Education has stopped the collection of defaulted federal student loans, including garnishment of wages and the offset of tax refunds and Social Security benefits.
  • The CARES Act also suspends interest for federally owned loans that are in default, through August 31, 2022.
  • There is no additional action required from you, if collection activities on your federally owned loans have already been suspended. If collection activities on your defaulted federal loans continue, contact your loan holder to find out about your options.
  • If you are rehabilitating a defaulted student loan, any missed payments due to the coronavirus pandemic will not be considered a missed payment against your rehabilitation.
  • Visit the Department of Education’s website to learn more about rehabilitating a defaulted federal student loan.

If you have additional questions about your student loans being impacted by COVID-19, visit this FAQ page from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Update: 5/7/20 (revised 5/10/22) - Free Weekly Credit Reports

Protecting Your Credit During COVID-19

With fraud and identity theft on the rise as a result of COVID-19, now it is more important than ever to pay attention to your credit report.

Pull Your Credit Report Weekly FOR FREE through April 2022

  • Experian, Transunion, and Equifax are now offering free weekly online credit reports.
  • Your weekly reports can be pulled through the only truly free website,   
  • You might wonder why this doesn’t include a free score. Scores are used by lenders to determine your credit worthiness for getting a loan. When reviewing your credit report for any potential fraud or errors, there is no need to see your score.

Check Your Credit Report Carefully for Fraud

After pulling your reports, check them to make sure:

  • You recognize every account and your identifying information is correct.
  • Any credit inquiries were approved by you.
  • Any account in forbearance or deferment is being reported as current, as required by the CARES Act, if it was in good standing before any pandemic-related concessions were made.

Dispute Errors and Report Fraud

  • If you see errors on your credit report, you can dispute them. Here’s how
  • If an error suggests identity theft — such as addresses you don’t recognize or accounts you don’t recognize — report it here

Update: 4/24/20 - Health Insurance After Job Loss

Health Insurance After You Lose Your Job 

If you have lost your health insurance as a result of job loss, there are different options to help you stay insured.

Keep Your Employer’s Coverage Through COBRA or NC State Continuation Coverage

  • COBRA allows you to keep health insurance for up to 18 months after you lose your job.
  • You can stay with your current provider but will have to pay the full premium.
  • Talk to your employer about options for this.

Get Coverage Through the Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Marketplace

  • You may be able to apply if you qualify for a “special enrollment period” due to losing your coverage through work.
  • You have 60 days after losing employer coverage to apply.
  • Pisgah Legal Services offers free local help to understand your options with the Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Marketplace. Learn more here

Apply for Medicaid

If Married, Try to Get Coverage Through Your Spouse’s Employer

  • Contact your spouse's employer to see if you are eligible to join their plan. Make sure to check the cost of the extra coverage and compare it with other options.

If You’re 65 or Older, Sign up for Medicare (or add Part B)

  • Council on Aging offers free local help to understand your options with Medicare. Learn more here
  • Alternatively, you can sign up through the Social Security website even if you're not ready to take Social Security. 
  • To add Part B, you must apply within 8 months after you leave your job and lose employer coverage to apply.

Read More Here

Update: 4/20/20 - Crisis Times are Breeding Grounds for Scams. What to Watch Out For.

Defend Yourself Against Scams

The Best Defense Is to Not Give Any Information. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says that the best defense against scammers is to say NO if anyone contacts you and asks for personal information.

  • Don’t provide your Social Security number, bank account number, credit card information, Medicare ID number, driver’s license number or any other personally identifiable information when solicited by phone, text, social media, email, or in person.
  • If the person contacting you identifies as someone from a company where you conduct financial business, contact that business directly (by calling a phone number you know is legitimate; not the number the person contacting you provided) and ask if the request for information is legitimate.
  • Report scams with the Federal Trade Commission here, by calling -877-5-NO-SCAM, or with the NC Department of Justice here.

How Scammers are Trying to Contact You

  • Email. Do not open emails that look suspicious. And do not trust emails asking you to take an action such as to click a link, open an attachment, call a provider, or send personal information. If you think it is from a provider you trust, search for the institution online and find a contact number to call and ask for verification that the communication is valid. Before opening an attachment or clicking on a link in an email, ask yourself: Do you know who sent it? and Were you expecting it from them? If not, don’t click the link or open the document.
  • Robocalls and Phone calls. If you receive an automated robocall (a call that sounds like a computer-generated voice) or a call from a person you don’t know or weren’t expecting to hear from, hang up. Don’t say anything or engage, just hang up.
  • Text. If you receive a text from someone you don’t know or someone soliciting you for business or money, do not respond to the text. 
  • In person and via social media. If someone you don’t know contacts you to sell you something or asks for personal information, do not provide payment or any personally identifiable information as they may use it to scam you.

Common Scams to Watch Out For

Stimulus Check Scams
Stimulus check scams are happening in different ways. Know the following and steer clear of a scam:

  • The U.S. government won’t be calling, texting, or emailing people individually to ask them to verify their bank account details or other personal information.
  • There is no processing or setup fee necessary to receive this payment.
  • Do not sign over your stimulus check to anyone promising you something better.
  • It is not possible to receive a tax refund or stimulus check any faster by paying a person or service to help you. If someone says they can do that, they are a scammer.
  • If you receive a paper check, all you need to do is deposit it in your bank account. If you receive information otherwise (such as guidance to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it) that is a scam.   

Social Security Fraud
Fraudulent letters are being sent that threaten suspension of Social Security benefits due to COVID-19 or coronavirus-related office closures. The letters tell the recipient to call to get the money reinstated and then scammers steal personal information or money. 

  • The Social Security Administration (SSA) will not suspend or discontinue benefits because their offices are closed. Any communication you receive that says SSA will do this is a scam. 
  • Report Social Security scams here.

Fake COVID-19 Charity Scams

  • A charity scam is when a thief poses as a real charity or makes up the name of a charity that sounds real to get money from you.
  • Be careful about any charity calling you asking for donations. If you want to make a donation to a specific charity, reach out to them to make that donation.

Person in Need or Imposter Scams

  • Some scammers are using the circumstances of COVID-19 to pose as a grandchild, relative, or friend who claims to be ill, stranded in another state or foreign country, or otherwise in trouble and asks you to send money.
  • If you receive such a call, hang up and call your grandchild, relative or friend’s phone number to see if the story checks out.

Be Aware About Price Gouging. You are Protected.

  • North Carolina’s price gouging law is in effect, which makes it illegal to charge too much during a crisis for items.
  • If you think there is a case of price gouging, contact NC Department of Justice at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM, or by clicking here.

Stay Up-to-Date on the Latest Frauds

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network.
Sign up here for the latest information on frauds and scams to keep you and your loved ones safe.

NC Attorney General’s Office.
Sign up here for alerts about new scams. 

Want More Information

Helpful links and articles

Helping to manage someone’s money and need guidance?

  • Check in by phone or video chat. Stay in touch to know how they’re handling things and so they know you’re thinking about them.
  • Ask questions. If your loved one mentions concerns about money or has spotted unusual activity in their accounts, ask for details. Older adults and their family members can learn about common types of scams, as well as how to avoid and report them by checking out the Pass it On and Money Smart for Older Adults programs.
  • Financial caregivers: learn more about your responsibilities. The CFPB’s Managing Someone Else’s Money guides can help you understand your role as a fiduciary. Each guide explains your responsibilities, and how to spot financial exploitation and avoid scams.
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