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Update: 3/24/21 - Make a Plan Before Spending
Stimulus Payments: Plan Out How to Use Them
Stimulus payments have started arriving for some. To take the greatest advantage of the money assistance, we recommend the following approach.
- Write down your plan (if possible before you see the stimulus payment hit your account). Writing down the plan will help you think through the different components more clearly. After you have it finalized, put it somewhere you are reminded of it regularly – like your refrigerator. This will help you hold yourself accountable to following through with it.
- Focus on your basic needs before all else. These are strange times with most people staying at home for our safety and health, causing boredom and cabin fever to set in for some. Take that and combine it with an unexpected windfall of money and it could be tempting to spend on non-essentials; however, with financial uncertainty across our country, this is the time to buckle down and resist old habits of consumer spending. Make a money plan that ensures you have the money to meet your basic needs.
Basic needs include: food, medicine, rent/mortgage and car payment. Apart from your basic needs, everything else can wait.
- Save when you wouldn’t normally save. If there is anything left over after paying for your basic needs, it may well be worth prioritizing savings ahead of paying things like credit cards, personal loans, federal student loans, or other unsecured debt. If you were making extra payments towards debt before the crisis, this may be a good time to consider paying just the minimums and saving more. While it may be tempting to use this lump sum to pay down debt or make a large one-time purchase, it is unclear how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last and whether more individuals will lose income moving forward.
Bottom line: save as much as possible to build a strong buffer for further economic uncertainty. If your income stays intact through the pandemic, then you can always use that savings to get ahead on other financial goals once this crisis has passed.
- Don’t hoard. Get enough of what you need. Getting more than what you need can exacerbate the impact of this crisis for others, while also costing you more money. Spending less, by buying only what you need for the next two weeks, will allow you to save more. That savings—not a stockpile—will be your lifeline over the next few months.
- Beware of scammers. DO NOT give out bank account information to people calling over the phone requesting it to send you Stimulus check. They are scammers.
- Have adequate income and savings and want to help others? Consider using your stimulus to support local businesses by doing things such as buying gift cards, paying your hair dresser even though you didn’t get a haircut, or continuing to pay for memberships even if you aren’t using them; get your needs met by making your purchases at local businesses instead of national corporations; or donate to a local non-profit serving the community.
Update: 3/23/21 - Stimulus Payments & Increased SNAP Benefits
Haven’t Received Your $600 Stimulus Payment?
- The December 2020 COVID Relief Bill provided an additional $600 to individuals earning less than $75,000 and each child under 17. These payments began going out in late December to eligible people.
- If you didn’t receive your $600 stimulus payment, you will need to file a 2020 tax return to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit, even if you don’t normally file.
- Read more information about the Recovery Rebate Credit.
Here’s how the December 2020 COVID Relief Bill Enhanced Nutritional Assistance (SNAP) Benefits.
- SNAP benefits will increase by 15%, which is an increase of $25 per person, through September 2021.
- SNAP eligibility was expanded to college students and now excludes unemployment benefits from being counted as income when determining SNAP benefit amount. Learn more about this program and your new benefit amount.
- The Pandemic-EBT program provides additional benefits to low-income families in lieu of the free and reduced-price meals they would have received in school. It has been expanded to include any children under age 6 who’s family receives food stamps.
- Read more SNAP benefits
Update: 3/22/21 - Stimulus Payments and Updates to Federal Unemployment and SNAP Benefits
The American Rescue Plan brings more stimulus payments to you, extends federal unemployment, and increases SNAP benefits.
What do you need to know about the new stimulus payment?
- If you earn less than $75,000 a year as an individual (or $150,000 as a married couple) you will receive a $1,400 direct stimulus payment ($2,800 for married couples) and will also receive $1,400 for each child in your household under 17 years of age. Adult dependents over the age of 17 will also receive $1,400.
- If your income is higher than these numbers, you may receive a reduced stimulus payment or no payment.
- The IRS will use your 2020 tax return to determine your eligibility if you’ve already filed for 2020. If you haven’t filed your 2020 taxes, the IRS will use your 2019 tax return.
- If the IRS has your bank information, the stimulus will be direct deposited into your bank account. If the IRS doesn’t have your bank information, you will be mailed a paper check or debit card for the stimulus payment.
- Learn more about the new stimulus bill.
- Go to the IRS “Get My Payment” Tool to see where your stimulus is.
What changed with Federal unemployment?
- The $300 weekly federal unemployment payments were extended until September 6, 2021.
- The extension applies to you if you’re unemployed and were employed, self-employed, a temporary worker, or were a gig worker.
- Read more about updates to federal unemployment.
What you need to know about changes to SNAP benefits:
- If you receive SNAP benefits, you will see a 15% increase in your benefits, which is a boost of $25.00 per person each month until September 2021.
Update: 12/8/20 - Need Financial Help with Housing Expenses and Other Urgent Financial Needs?
Apply for Rent, Utilities, Mortgage, Childcare, Medication or Transportation with Pisgah Legal Services Project Uplift
- Apply for emergency assistance to prevent eviction or foreclosure and support for utilities, childcare, transportation and medication if you were impacted by COVID-19.
- Assistance is available in Buncombe, Madison, McDowell, Henderson, Transylvania, and Polk counties.
- To be eligible, you must earn at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines, which for a family of four is $52,400 a year or $4,367 a month. View income guidelines here.
- Amount of assistance provided will depend on available funding, level of need, and number of applicants.
- Learn more and apply online.
Update: 10/21/20 - Need Personalized Support Finding and Keeping a New Job + Financial Support?
Apply for Employment & Case Management Support through Project Uplift with Community Action Opportunities
- Financial Assistance and Case Management Support is available to Buncombe county residents who have lost employment due to COVID-19 and are looking for full-time, living wage work and a new career.
- This program provides short-term case management support for six months after participant gains employment and is available to those living at 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. View income guidelines here.
- Money is available for participants to help obtain certifications, such as CDL, medical coding, etc.
- Participants will be required to complete a course online, via phone, tablet, or laptop and include a combination of independent and group work.
- See if you’re eligible and learn more about the program.