For the most up-to-date information about resources to help you and your family through this challenging time, please register for our enews.
Update: 4/2/20 - Money Assistance for Essential Life Needs and Restaurant Workers + Local Small Business Loans
Buncombe County Starts One Buncombe Fund:
Supporting Buncombe County Residents & Businesses Affected by COVID-19
- Local government, civic and business partners, and individual donors in Buncombe County have joined forces to start the One Buncombe Fund to provide direct assistance to individuals and small businesses affected by COVID-19 while they wait for federal and state resources.
- As of March 29, the fund has a running total of $500,000 and is actively seeking donations. Learn more here.
Direct Financial Assistance for Individuals with Essential Life Needs
- Provides direct financial assistance (as a grant, meaning it will not have to be paid back) to individuals who have lost employment due to COVID-19.
- Funds can be used for essential life needs and are paid directly to the service provider, not individuals. Essential life needs include things such as food, certain utilities, housing, and overnight lodging.
- Need financial assistance for an essential life need? Start your application now by completing the form on this website.
$10,000 Loans for Small Businesses
- Provides for-profit, small businesses with loans up to $10,000 intended to provide low-cost bridge funding to help businesses stay open until they qualify for longer term disaster funding.
- Loan details: Six months of no payments while interest accrues at 4%, followed by 36 months of principal and interest payments at 5.5% interest.
- Money can be used for accounts payable, fixed debts, or other bills the business is unable to pay.
- For more eligibility details and to apply, visit this website. For questions not answered by the website, contact Mountain BizWorks at (828)-253-2834 ext. 14.
Money Assistance for Restaurant Employees
$500 Grants from the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund
- One-time $500 grants paid directly to individuals who have had a reduction in income as a result of COVID-19.
- Money is available for restaurant workers who have worked part- or full-time basis for at least 90 days in the last year & who have had a primary source of income in the industry for the last year.
- Apply now while funds last. Application period opens on 4/2/20.
$350 Grants from New Belgium
- One-time $350 grants for food or beverage employees who have been furloughed or laid off in Asheville due to COVID 19.
- Applicants must have worked in a restaurant, bar, nightclub, music hall, or stadium for at least 20 hours per week in the past month.
- Apply now while funds last. Applications will only be accepted through midnight on April 5.
Update: 3/31/20 - Tax Filing & Prep + Utility Assistance
Free and Safe Online Tax Prep – OnTrack WNC Program Temporarily Closed
- Due to the risk of COVID-19, we are temporarily closing our tax program.
- You can use this link to find a free or low-cost option to file your taxes online. Be sure to use the link, as you’ll likely be directed to a site that charges a fee if you do an online search.
- The good news: The IRS and North Carolina Department of Revenue (NCDOR) have extended their tax filing deadlines until July 15. More details on their announcements can be found here (IRS) here (NCDOR).
- IRS taxpayers have the option of suspending all payments on existing installment agreements and offers in compromise until July 15, 2020, though interest will continue to accrue.
- The IRS is suspending most new collection activities and garnishments during this period.
- Get updates on the IRS response to COVID-19, here.
Utility Assistance and Help During COVID-19
Find Local Resources through 2-1-1
- United Way hosts a free information and referral service through their 2-1-1 program. If you need financial assistance to pay utilities, they can direct you to the best local agency to help. If you have an (828) area code, simply dial 211 on your phone to be connected to a representative that can assist you or visit the 211 website here.
Governor Cooper Signs Executive Order Mandating Rules for Utility Companies
- Effective, March 31, 2020 electric, gas, water, and wastewater services are prohibited from disconnecting utilities for non-payment for the next 60 days.
- This order directs utility companies to give residential customers 6 months to pay outstanding bills and prohibits the companies from charging collection fees, penalties, or interest for late payments.
- Read more about it here
Duke and PSNC/Dominion Energy
- Duke is suspending disconnections and waiving late fees for their customers.
- PSNC/Dominion Energy will not be shutting off your power or gas for nonpayment and they are currently reconnecting residential customers whose services were shut off.
- Even though utilities are not being disconnected, this does not mean providers are forgiving the bill. Pay what you are able, when you are able, to avoid building up a large bill that is difficult to pay off after the crisis passes.
City of Asheville Water and Trash
- City of Asheville is suspending all water account disconnections. This is not a cancellation of bills; so pay what you are able when you are able or call 828-251-1122 to set up a payment plan.
- If you buy water from your landlord and your landlord disconnects your water, contact Pisgah Legal Services or call 1-800-489-6144 for help.
Cell Phone and Internet Providers
- Many phone and internet providers are waiving late fees and suspending disconnections during COVID-19. To find out what your provider is offering, Google: The name of your provider and COVID (such as Verizon and COVID).
Find Internet in Your Area
The North Carolina Department of Information Technology has compiled a list of new and existing free or affordable service offerings statewide here. To find out what service providers are available in your area and a list of their services, use their Interactive Map:
- Enter your home street address in the address field and click the magnifying glass.
- After clicking search, directly under the search box, a list of providers in your area will appear. You can contact these companies to get internet set up if you don’t have it.
- To see what free or low-cost services are provided by those companies, scroll through the list of company names at the bottom of the page until you find the company that services your area.
Update: 3/26/20 - New Rules for Unemployment + Student Loan & Mortgage Help
NC Unemployment Rules Have Changed to Respond to COVID-19
- No one week waiting time;
- Workers won’t have to demonstrate they’re actively looking for a job;
- Assistance is also available for those who have lost hours;
- Employers are not required to pay for benefits for those seeking unemployment;
- Want to Apply? All applications during the COVID-19 crisis must be filed online here or by phone at 1-888-737-0259 and;
- Learn more here.
Having Difficulty Applying?
- The NC online system is very slow right now; be persistent and patient to get your application submitted. We recommend keeping a log of any attempts to apply and all interactions with NC Unemployment Insurance.
- Pisgah Legal Services recommends that if you apply and are denied, appeal the decision online regardless.
Pisgah Legal Services Can Help
- Facing difficulty applying or with other employment matters related to COVID 19?
Pisgah Legal has attorneys available to provide advice by phone to anyone who needs this help. Connect with them online or call 800-489-6144.
- Review their all-you-need-to-know resource page about unemployment during COVID-19.
More Benefits Expansion on the Horizon
- The Federal stimulus package contains additional support for gig workers and the self-employed as well as more robust benefits for all. The package still has to be approved by the House of Representatives. More information will follow in the Digest once the bill is finalized.
Your Student Loans and COVID-19
Here are important changes from the Department of Education that affect federal student loans as a result of COVID-19:
- All borrowers with federally held student loans will automatically have their interest rates set to 0% for at least 60 days.
- Each borrower has the option to suspend their payments (this is called administrative forbearance) for at least 60 days.
- Want to request an administrative forbearance? Contact your servicer online or by phone.
- Learn more here.
- The Department of Education has stopped all wage garnishment and withholdings from federal income tax refunds, Social Security payments, or other federal payments for default borrowers as of March 13th and for a period of at least 60 days.
- Next Step: If you are having your wages garnished for federal student loan default, it is the responsibility of your employer to stop the garnishment. Follow-up with them directly.
- Read the full March 25th press release here.
If you have had a reduction in income, you may want to consider an income-driven repayment plan.
- Need a more affordable payment? Contact your servicer to see if there is a payment plan with an affordable payment plan with your new income.
Mortgage Support During COVID-19
- Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and HUD (which backs the majority of mortgages in our country and includes reverse mortgages) have announced that all foreclosures are on a moratorium for 60 days. Additionally, they are providing forbearances to borrowers impacted by the coronavirus. Forbearance could allow for a mortgage payment to be suspended for up to 12 months. Here’s more info.
- In Buncombe County, foreclosure hearings are being automatically continued for 30 days and another continuance will likely take place.
- Worried about your mortgage payment? First, go to your mortgage servicer’s website to see what programs are currently available and their response to COVID-19. If you don’t see what you need, call your servicer’s phone number located on your monthly loan statement.