The coronavirus is causing massive layoffs and widespread furloughs around Houston, and it feels like there may be more to come. Fortunately, a number of local, state, and national agencies are offering some financial relief. And remember in Houston, 2-1-1 is a tool available for community resources and information regarding food, housing, healthcare, and more.
Here are some options to get through these tough times.
Houston Food Bank has pantries all over the city and nearby areas, including Burleson, Trinity, and Chambers County, with many still operating to serve the communities. If you're in need of food, call 832-369-9390.
Houston Arts Alliance has a list of grants and relief available to a wide variety of artists, including writers, musicians, and actors. Some have application deadlines, but many are ongoing and you can apply at any time.
Southern Smoke Foundation funds out-of-work employees from the food and beverage industry through an application process. The money can go toward medical bills, family support, healthcare, or any other pressing needs.
State car fees have been put on hold. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is allowing extensions on registration, renewals, and vehicle titling. There's no end date on this temporary waiver; the DMV says it'll be in effect for at least 60 days.
Auto insurance companies are pausing payments or extending payment deadlines including Geico, which is offering flexible payment plans, and Allstate, which is allowing deferred payment plans that let you go two billing cycles of nonpayment with no penalty.
Gulf Coast Community Services Association has help for Harris County renters who have a vacate notice. The site also has food, utilities, and transportation assistance.
West Houston Assistance Ministries is available to help with the cost of rent, mortgage, or utilities for residents in these zip codes: 77042, 77057, 77063, 77077, 77082. For an interview, call 713-780-2727 ext 200, Monday-Thursday. The nonprofit also offers job and food assistance.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency has suspended evictions and foreclosures on any mortgages through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Some private lenders are also offering grace periods, including Chase Bank which has a payment assistance program here or call 1-800-848-9136; and Wells Fargo, which is offering a three-month payment suspension with an option to extend for an additional three months, with no late fees.
Harris County Public Health has a COVID-19 self assessment tool to help you learn whether you need testing and should see a doctor. If you don't have healthcare access, the Harris Health Ask My Nurse line can help with any inquiries related to COVID-19. It's open seven days a week from 9 am-7 pm. The number is 713-634-1110.
HOPE Clinic offers a range of healthcare services for the uninsured and under-insured across the Houston area. The clinic can accommodate services in 30 different languages including Mandarin, Korean, Arabic, and Spanish. Please note that it does not offer COVID-19 testing. Call 713-773-0803.
The newly enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has a variety of programs for small businesses including the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, which has grants of up to $10,000. Lenders are anticipating delays since they're still awaiting guidelines.
The Small Business Administration has a page dedicated to coronavirus relief options that include low-interest loans and disaster relief.
The IRS has extended tax day, which means you don't have to file until July 15, free of interest and penalties.
Some workers qualify for state unemployment benefits through the Texas Workforce Commission. The site has been slow due to a surge in applications, but the organization is waiving the normal waiting period; once you apply, you get your first check in about a month.
As you probably know, taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 are due to receive a check of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples, and up to $500 for each qualifying child. The payments decrease if you make more than $75,000, or more than $150,000 as a household, so check the site to see how much you qualify for.
Federal student loan payments have been placed on hold until September 30. U.S. Department of Education Select loans will carry zero percent interest rate.