Household & Financial Resources

 

Navigate this page:​

  1. A Note for Asylum Seekers

  2. Utilities: Power, Heat, Water, Phone Bills, and Internet

  3. Public Benefits: Public Charge, Unemployment Insurance, Stimulus Check, etc.

  4. Filing 2019 Income Taxes

  5. Housing and Rent

  6. Debt Relief

  7. Employment Resources

 

A Note for Asylum Seekers

Information for Asylum Seekers

  • This guide was made with asylum seekers in mind, but includes information for other immigrants and New Yorkers in general. As always, we suggest consulting your lawyer for questions regarding your asylum case and immigration status. If you do not have a lawyer, see information here on how to find one.

  • Help is available for all New Yorkers, even those without social security numbers or work permits. Assistance below that requires a social security number or work permit has been clearly marked.

  • You may be asked to provide your A-Number, or Alien Number. Your A-Number is very important and will not change through your immigration proceedings. Your A-Number can be found on all communications regarding your asylum or immigration case, and is located in the top right of the page. You may sometimes be asked to provide receipt notice dates, found on the top left of related communications, which is another reason to save every communication you receive regarding your immigration case. 

Utilities - Power, Heat, Water, Phone Bills, and Internet

 

Utility Updates

  • Power, heat and water

    • As of Friday, March 13, power, heat, and water companies in New York and New Jersey voluntarily announced that they will not shut-off utilities due to non-payment for at least 30 days. Many walk-in centers are closed, so the best way to find more information on your utility company’s policy is to visit their website or call them.

    • ​​​If you know you cannot pay for some or all of your utilities, tell the company directly, even if it feels uncomfortable. There may be options available to you that you didn’t know about, and puts you in a better position for when you inevitably have to start paying back anything you missed.

 

  • ​Paying my phone bill
    • Check your phone service provider’s website for accurate information on options available to you.

    • Many carriers have added less expensive plans during this time.

    • Many offices are still open, but you should check before leaving your house as their hours may have changed. Some carriers, like T-Mobile, have even added a curbside appointment option, meaning they send someone to meet you outside your home.

    • Your phone company may have a payment plan option or deals available if you are unable to pay the full amount of your bill when it is due.

    • Metro PCS, T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T and Comcast are making sure more people have access to unlimited data over the next 60 days. Contact your provider for more information. ​

 

  • Free Internet is available to you!

    • Comcast offers internet service to low-income families free for 60 days for new qualifying customers. See the details here. Call 1-855-8-INTERNET for set-up.

    • ​​Spectrum is offering households with K-12 students free Wifi for 60 days (including free installation for new customers). Call 1-844-488-8395 for set-up or visit their website for more information.

Public Benefits: Public Charge, Unemployment Insurance, Stimulus Check, etc.

 

Public Benefits

These services are overtaxed and you may experience website crashes and long wait times, but this is the reality. Do not give up, and if you need help, it is available. 

 

Public Charge

  • You may have heard about the recent final ruling on the DHS’s Public Charge policy that went into effect on February 24, 2020 and is still in effect. To summarize, the original ruling prevents some immigrants from changing or extending their visa status, or applying for a green card if they have used certain public benefits after the effective date. This does not impact green card holders or LPRs naturalizing as US citizens.

  • Asylum seekers, asylees, refugees, other trauma relief categories, and those who already have permanent resident status (green card) were not affected by the public charge test and will continue not to be affected. For other categories, check with your Legal Representative.

  • USCIS’s official response can be found here. An applicant for a green card has the opportunity to submit a written statement regarding why it was necessary to receive public benefits due to COVID-19, but it will still be considered as one aspect under the totality of the circumstances. You should consult with your Legal Representative regarding applying for public benefits to find out if you are impacted.

  • Find more information on the breakdown of federal relief options by immigrant categories, public charge and impacts of COVID-19, in this article from the National Immigration Law Center.

  • Refer to the previous section for information on how to find an attorney if you don’t have one.

  • The following types of assistance are NOT subject to the public charge test: Unemployment Insurance, WIC, state Medicaid, Essential Plans, Child Health Plus (CHIP), Emergency Medicaid, and NYC H+H Options.


 

Applying for Benefits

  • The following information focuses on services available in New York City unless otherwise specified. If you are not an asylum seeker, asylee, or permanent resident, you should check with your Legal Representative before applying for public assistance. For more information on resources and benefits available to New Jersey residents, see our growing list here.

  • Use the nationwide benefits questionnaire tool to check eligibility for multiple public benefits at one time, and find out about resources in your area.

  • Enrollment in public aid in New York City is done through the HRA (Human Resources Administration), for example to apply for cash assistance or food stamps. Many HRA offices are completely closed due to COVID-19, and all previously scheduled in-person appointments have been cancelled. No one will be penalized for not going to an appointment during this time. 

  • Please use their online portal ACCESS HRA to apply for benefits, manage your case, and more. Use your ACCESS HRA account to download documents and securely submit them for applications. They also have an ACCESS HRA app, where you can complete full applications for benefits on your phone.

  • The Met Council provides crisis case management, answering questions on Housing Rights, Unemployment Insurance, Stimulus Checks, and food resources. Visit their website to schedule a call with a crisis case manager. Services are available in Spanish.

  • For more information and assistance to apply for public assistance programs in New York City, call 311.

 

Unemployment Insurance (UI)

  • Unemployment Insurance is actually not qualified as public assistance. It is an earned benefit and is considered income, therefore it is not subject to the public charge test. You will have to claim it as income the next time you file taxes. It is available to people who have lost their employment or hours and apply to receive financial assistance while looking for work. 

  • If you were working with authorization for at least 6 months when you lost your job or hours, and you are still authorized to work, you could be eligible. This includes asylum seekers.

  • You will not be eligible if you are receiving Paid Leave benefits from your workplace.

  • If you were previously not eligible for unemployment benefits, you may be eligible now. The CARES Act, signed on March 27, 2020, significantly expanded unemployment benefits for those impacted in multiple ways by COVID-19.

    • This includes Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) that provides unemployment benefits to those who would normally not qualify, including those whose hours were decreased due to COVID-19 and even those who quit their jobs as a direct result of COVID-19. See the full list of qualifying scenarios here.

    • Many people are eligible to receive $600 extra in addition to their weekly Unemployment Insurance from 4/5/2020 to 7/31/2020. Regular Unemployment Insurance is calculated using your previous salary, and can be up to $500 per week.

    • Benefits can be awarded for up to 39 weeks. If you have exhausted your benefits by 7/1/20, you may be eligible for an additional 13 weeks of coverage by re-applying for Unemployment Insurance.

  • If you already receive Unemployment Insurance, you do not need to do anything. If your benefits end by 7/1/20, re-apply.

  • There is no longer a waiting period to apply for UI. Apply as soon as you lose your job or hours.

  • It is very possible you will experience long wait times, time outs, and interruptions while applying. Keep trying; help is available.

  • How to Apply for Unemployment Insurance (UI)

    • Find your state’s application information and apply online here. The following instructions are primarily for New York State residents:

    • There is one application process for Unemployment Insurance and expanded benefits under the CARES Act and PUA. Everyone will follow this process:

    • Apply on the correct day. If your last name starts with an A-F apply on Mondays, G-N apply on Tuesdays, and O-Z on Wednesdays. If you missed your day, file on Thursdays, Fridays, or Saturdays.

    • Prepare the necessary information beforehand whether you are applying with help or by yourself. See the list here under “How To.”

    • We recommend applying online directly as phone lines are very busy at this time. First, create an account here and follow steps to apply.

    • See New York State’s step-by-step guide in PDF form here on how to make an account and read instructions on filling in the application here

    • You may also call the Telephone Claim Center toll-free during business hours to file a claim: 1-888-209-8124 for New York State residents. For TTY call a relay operator first at 1-800-662-1220, and ask them to call the Telephone Claims Center at 1-888-783-1370.

Cash Assistance

  • If you were not working before the COVID-19 pandemic and are thus not eligible for Unemployment Insurance, you may qualify for another public benefit called Cash Assistance. 

  • You can apply online through ACCESS HRA or call 718-557-1399. It is better to apply online. ACCESS HRA also has a mobile app available to complete and submit applications and documentation.

SNAP, WIC and Food Resources

  • SNAP: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

    • SNAP is a nutritional assistance program, previously known as food stamps, for families, older people, and people with disabilities to help them access sufficient healthy food.

    • SNAP is a non-cash public benefit, and is subject to the public charge test. Again, asylum seekers and refugees are not screened for public charge. Speak with your Legal Representative to find if this impacts your immigration case.

    • Asylees may apply with USCIS documentation. There is an immigration requirement for SNAP benefits.

    • You can now use SNAP benefits to purchase things online with select retailers Amazon, ShopRite, and Walmart.

    • Apply online on the ACCESS HRA website or by downloading the ACCESS HRA mobile app and completing the application on your phone.

    • You may also call their Infoline at 718-557-1399 to have an application mailed to you.

    • The application and directions are available in multiple languages on the SNAP website here.

​​

WIC: Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children

  • WIC provides assistance for women who are pregnant and infants and children up to 5-years old who need assistance with food, healthy eating, breastfeeding, and links to healthcare. Read more about their services and eligibility requirements here.

  • Asylum seekers and other immigrants who meet all other eligibility requirements are eligible.

  • WIC is not a public benefit, and therefore is not part of the public charge test.

  • To apply, visit this page to find the toll free phone number of your state’s WIC Program.

  • Call the Growing Up Healthy Hotline at 1-800-522-5006 for assistance finding your local WIC office and more information.

  • To check your WIC balance, call their Customer Service at 844-540-3031 or visit their website

  • See the Food Resources section below for more information on free food available in your area.

Federal Government Aid: The Stimulus Check

The federal government has signed a $2 trillion emergency economic relief plan meant to help individuals, families, businesses, and the economy in general. Part of that package you may have heard about is a stimulus check, called the Economic Impact Payment, that will be sent to qualifying individuals and families. See the basics below. 

 

  • For more detailed information, please see the IRS’ website discussing COVID-19 and the stimulus check. They have detailed information on eligibility requirements and logistics of the check.

  • If someone calls you and asks for your information in order to send you the stimulus check, it is a scam. Never give out your personal information over the phone. See here for more information on protecting yourself against scams.

  • The Economic Impact Payment is a tax break, and is therefore not considered a public benefit nor subject to the public charge test.

  • ​​Eligible taxpayers with social security numbers will receive stimulus checks of up to $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for joint taxpayers and an additional $500 for each qualifying child, based on your 2018 or 2019 filings. Individuals who made less than $75,000 or couples who made less than $150,000 are eligible. There are adjusted options for individuals who made up to $99,000 or couples who made up to $198,000 jointly. See their website for a full list of eligibility requirements.
  • ​​​Individuals and families filing with ITINs, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, will not receive their stimulus check, no matter how many members in the household are US citizens with Social Security numbers. There is one exception made for military families. The state of California has responded by creating a separate fund where impacted individuals can apply for financial assistance, and there is ongoing legislation fighting for anyone who pays taxes to be eligible for the stimulus check.
    • If you have a social security number but are married to someone who has an ITIN or no SSN, consider filing separately, so at least the eligible individual can receive the money. You can actually make an adjustment to your taxes even if you already filed and want to change to married, filing separately. You should contact the person who helped you file taxes. You will have to file an amendment to your taxes using Form 1040X.

  • ​​If you filed taxes in 2018 or 2019 and meet the requirements mentioned above, the government will use your information to send your stimulus check. If you included the direct deposit option on your tax return, you should receive the money more quickly. Otherwise, they have promised to send checks by mail.
  • ​​If you have not filed taxes for 2018 or 2019, you should file your 2019 taxes as soon as possible. 
    • If you made under the minimum amount ($12,200) and are not required to file taxes, you have two options. 

    • We recommend that you still file your taxes as it can be advantageous for many reasons. See the next section below, “Filing My Taxes,” for more information.

    • To register your information if you do not plan to file taxes but are otherwise eligible for the economic impact payment, you may use the US Treasury and IRS’s economic impact payment registration tool.

    • TurboTax has also launched a Stimulus Registration tool for those who otherwise meet the financial requirements for the stimulus check but are not obligated to file taxes. You may record your information in this way so that the check can be sent to you, without filing taxes. Find more information in this article.

  • ​​How to get my check?
    • If you filed your 2018 or 2019 income taxes and chose direct deposit, you don’t have to do anything.

    • In conjunction with the IRS, the US Treasury has launched an economic impact payment tool to manage your information and how you get your check. This is especially important for those who did not file but are eligible, and who can register their information this way.

    • If you filed taxes in 2018 and/or 2019: 

    • If you did not file taxes in neither 2018 nor 2019: use the US Treasury and IRS’s economic impact payment registration tool.

    • The money could be available by mid-April. Those who chose the direct deposit option on their taxes will receive the money more quickly.

Filing 2019 Income Taxes

Filing My 2019 Income Taxes

  • For more information, please consult the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) COVID-19 information page.

  • It is important to file income taxes every year. It is required for most people under 65 who earned more than $12,200 in 2019. 

  • Even if you made less than the minimum or did not work at all, it is still advantageous to file taxes for many reasons. 

  • At this point we know that the stimulus check, or federal emergency financial assistance (see the section above), will use information from your 2018 and 2019 taxes to determine your eligibility and send you the check.

  • For USCIS applicants, filing taxes may also help you when it is time to apply for fee waivers to certain USCIS Forms, like a work permit renewal that normally costs $410.

Deadlines

  • The deadline for filing AND paying federal taxes has been pushed to July 15, 2020.

  • You also must file state tax returns, and most states have extended their deadline to July 15, 2020 as well. Find your state’s filing deadline here. The deadline for New York and New Jersey is July 15th. 

Who can help me file my taxes?

  • You can file taxes by downloading the free application Turbotax, and inputting your information.

  • There is also a Free File application on the IRS’ website where you can submit your taxes online.

  • VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program provides excellent free tax preparation services for individuals who made less than $56,000 in 2019. Most offices have been closed for in-person appointments, but some are still open. See their website or call 800-906-9887 to learn how to get in contact with them for tax assistance and their COVID-19 update.

  • You have free options available to you, but you may also choose to pay an individual or company to prepare your taxes. Be sure that the Preparer is certified by the IRS, and try to read reviews if they exist on their services and pricing.

Housing and Rent​​

Shelter

  • Please reach out to us at info@survivorsoftorture.org if you are a client and street homeless and want to enter the shelter system. If you are not a client of PSOT and want to know more about public shelter options, call 311.

Paying Rent

  • Though you may have heard about a rent freeze, there is no official policy to freeze the rent in New York City or State as of yet. This is an ongoing debate in New York City government and every city across the United States.

  • There is a moratorium (a temporary hold) on mortgages and evictions until at least June 20th. If you pay mortgages on a property, non-payment will not be penalized. If you do not already have an open judgement of eviction or housing court case against you, the moratorium extends to August 20th for those cases only.

  • If you are renting a room or apartment and cannot pay your rent, you cannot be evicted for non-payment. Though your landlord can threaten to evict you in the future, Housing Court is currently closed for non-essential functions, including eviction.

  • Make sure you have your landlord’s contact information, make arrangements for a payment plan, and stay in touch.

  • After the moratorium has been lifted, you will eventually be required to pay back any missed payments. But the reality is that people will not be able to pay such an amount at once. There are opportunities for assistance if you are concerned about rent or your housing situation.

  • If you have a housing court case or eviction notice served after June 20th, you may argue for a stay of eviction, and if successful the moratorium can be extended to August 20th. If you can prove that non-payment of rent after March 7, 2020

  • If you are being threatened by your landlord or in a housing crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, contact a housing rights organization. You cannot be evicted without a formal housing case opened against you. 

    • Contact the Catholic Charities Helpline at 1-888-744-7900, from 9AM to 5PM Monday through Friday for eviction prevention services.

    • Contact the Met Council’s Tenants’ Rights Hotline at 212-979-0611. The Met Council also provides crisis case management, answering questions on Unemployment Insurance, Stimulus Checks, and food resources. Visit their website to schedule a call with a crisis case manager. Their services are offered in English and Spanish, if you need another language, you may call with a family member or friend who can help interpret. They also provide career counseling.

    • Contact CAMBA Homebase for assistance to individuals or families living in Brooklyn or Staten Island at risk of entering the shelter system. Their website includes contact information for their offices.

    • Housing Court Answers is a hotline providing referrals and information for individuals with housing issues, including private funds that offer money to help people pay for rent, regardless of immigration status. Call 212-962-4795 Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9am-5pm.

    • There is a 90-day stay on evictions, the Housing Court will not process warrants of eviction. If you know about City Marshalls executing eviction warrants, report them to the Bureau of City Marshals within the city’s Department of Investigation at (212) 825-5953.

    • Contact NYLAG and the NYIC to schedule a phone call with an attorney for advice on your housing court case. Use this form to request an appointment: 

    • If you have been locked out or evicted since March 7, 2020, it is very possible it was an illegal eviction. To file a report of an illegal lock out case, either go to the housing court in the borough where you live, or call NYLAG (929-356-9582 10am-1pm) for assistance starting an illegal lock out case. Find a housing court office by borough here, where you can also find information about finding legal representation.

Apply for Financial Assistance

  • “One Shot Deal”- The One Shot Deal program is emergency assistance for people who have experienced an unexpected significant event and cannot pay for their housing. Apply online through ACCESS HRA here. ACCESS HRA also has an app available for download to your cell phone. Or you may call 718-557-1399 Monday-Friday 8am-5pm, assistance is available in multiple languages. 

  • Emergency Rental As
  • For more information about Cash Assistance, see the “Public Benefits” section above.

Debt Relief

COVID-19 Various Debt Relief Policies

  • Credit cards

    • Many credit card companies have new policies relating to the current COVID-19 crisis including waived fees and deferred, or postponed, payments. By communicating with your credit card issuer directly, you may be able to save some money and learn about policies set up to help you.

    • Credit Karma provides a comprehensive list of large credit card issuers and links to their specific policies.

  • Student loan payments have been delayed, interest-free for at least two months.

  • Talk to banks and financial institutions you have accounts with about existing debt or upcoming payments. Many are working with individuals to make payment plans and reduce strain on you. If a bank or financial institution refuses to negotiate with you, you can complain to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

 

Employment Resources

Employment Resources

  • See the above section for information on applying for Unemployment Insurance.

  • WorkForce1 is a program funded by the city to provide employment assistance, training opportunities, and access to job fairs to New Yorkers with work permits. They are operating remotely. Visit their website to register for services. If you are already a registered client, see their remote opportunities here.

  • A note on health insurance: If you have left your job or have been fired, see the previous section on your options for health insurance.
  • If you are deemed an essential employee you may be eligible for Paid Family Leave. Contact your Human Resources Department to see what your options are to take some time off and still keep your job. Recently, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act targeted at companies with between 50-500 employees has expanded to include those caring for loved ones in quarantine, or children at home from school. You will not be eligible for Unemployment Insurance if you are on Paid Family Leave.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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