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Financial Help for COVID-19

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While many of the programs put in place by Congress to provide financial help to Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic have expired, those who need help with bills and other financial challenges may find some options still available.

Loans and Credit Card Relief for COVID-19

In 2023, three years after the COVID-19 pandemic began, many federal COVID-19 relief efforts have gone away. While there are still a few options for Americans having trouble paying their bills because of the pandemic, many federal programs specific to COVID have been phased out.

Interestingly, as pandemic aid faded and inflation lingered, credit card debt soared.

In 2022, consumers had $180 billion in new credit card debt, the largest amount ever in a single year. Of that, $86 billion was charged in the fourth quarter, the largest quarterly increase in credit card debt. The average household credit card balance was $9,990 at the end of 2022, a 9% increase from the previous year.

The increased use of plastic is no doubt a reflection of the rising prices that hurt the country in ’22. Credit card use plummeted when the pandemic first hit. That trend started to change and in 2022, credit card use soared.

The federal foreclosure moratorium that protected homeowners and the eviction moratorium that protected renters ended in 2021. However, homeowners have until the end of the COVID-19 National Emergency to request mortgage forbearance, and student loan payments remain on pause.

Those who have lost their housing because of COVID-19 related issues may still be eligible for emergency housing assistance, temporary rental assistance and more through their state or local governments. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a webpage that lists resources for preventing evictions and foreclosure defense.

Many state, local and tribal governments are using the $350 billion allocated by federal relief plans to expand housing, education, health care and other programs, though much of the money is still in limbo as states decide how to use it.

Federal Government Relief for COVID-19

Congress passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021, following up on COVID-19 relief actions taken in late December 2020 ($900 billion) and March 2020 (the $3 trillion CARES Act). By 2023, much of life had returned to normal and President Joe Biden had targeted May as the time to end the National Emergency.

Some of the highlights of COVID relief help, and the status of those plans, are:

A Third Stimulus Check

Eligible individuals and dependents received a third stimulus check of $1,400; married couples got $2,800. Congress has made it clear there will be no more stimulus checks.

Child Tax Credit

Debate continues on whether the increased child tax credit portion of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) should be permanent. In what should be a surprise to nobody, Congress cannot agree, though Biden is pushing the idea as part of his budget.

Biden’s request means the top annual credit for eligible families for children under 6 would increase from $2,000 to $3,600. The credit for children 6 and older would rise to $3,000. Biden had pushed for the credit in the Build Back Better legislation, but could not find enough support in the Senate to make it part of the Inflation Reduction Act.

In the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the credit came as $300 monthly payments ($250 for the lower amount) from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2021. Previously the CTC was claimed when filing taxes. The up-front payments put new cash in the budgets of more than 61 million low-to-middle income families, who used it for food and living expenses; 10% of those who got it used it for child care, allowing them to go to work.

The expanded CTC temporarily lifted an estimated 3.7 million children out of poverty, reducing the child poverty rate by 30%. When it expired in January of ‘22, 65 million children and their families were affected. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that almost 9.9 million children fell below the poverty line.

Unemployment Benefits

The federal expanded unemployment benefit expired in fall 2021. As the pandemic’s major impacts have waned, jobs have returned. The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the unemployment rate in February 2023 to be 3.6%, right about where it was in February ’20 when COVID started to hit.

» More about: Covid-19 Unemployment Benefits

Health and Human Services Funding

A record 16.3 million people signed up for health care coverage for 2023, buying plans set up by the Affordable Care Act. Sign-ups on have increased by almost 50% since Biden became president. The increases are due in large part to the benefits offered as part of the ARP. Those benefits made plans more affordable, and ensured nobody would have pay more than 8.5% of their income for health care plans. The Inflation Reduction Act passed in 2022 extended those benefits through 2025. The extra help led to a record-low rate of uninsured, a key reason Biden wants those subsidies to become permanent.

State and Local Recovery Fund

The $350 billion allocated to state, local, territorial and tribal governments by the ARP must be obligated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of calendar year 2026. All states had started spending their money by Dec. 1, 2022. States have flexibility in how they use the money. Among the ways the money has been allocated include offsetting state revenue loss; addressing the health, economic, and fiscal impacts of the pandemic, and starting new long-term investments to address racial and economic inequities.

Replacing lost revenue has been important. Unlike the federal government, states have to balance their budgets annually, and this funding is helping make up for money lost. Some states even provided stimulus checks to residents. Maine, for example, in its 2022 supplemental budget, included $850 stimulus checks to anyone who made $100,000 or less a year.

Most states have a COVID-19 section on their website. Check there to see what benefits your state may have or contact your local representative or local government website.

Homeowner Assistance

While federal homeowner relief has ended, each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico received a minimum of $50 million to help homeowners. Check your state’s COVID-19 webpage or your local housing authority (or agency) to find out what benefits or support there may be.

Homeowners may request mortgage forbearance – when a lender allows you to pause or reduce your payments for a limited time — for loans backed by HUD/FHAUSDA, and VA until the end of the national emergency. For loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, there is no deadline (as of today).

Emergency Rental Assistance

The Supreme Court ended the COVID-19 moratorium on evictions in August of 2021. However, each state and the District of Columbia received a minimum of $152 million to boost state and local government efforts on behalf of Americans who can’t pay the rent. Check your state’s COVID-19 webpage to find out what rental assistance there may be and how to apply. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also has a page that allows you to find rental assistance programs available in your area.

Child Care Help

Congress extended support for the child care industry, adding more than $50 billion for providers through state agencies. Check your state’s COVID-19 webpage to see if your state is providing assistance that you can use.

Waived 401(k) Penalties Modified

As part of the March 2020 CARES Act, the federal government waived the 10% early-withdrawal penalty for people under 59½ who took a 401(k) loan from their employer sponsored retirement fund, up to $100,000, if their finances were affected by COVID-19. That has expired and the only waiver for those under 59½ is for those who are affected by a disaster, as declared by the federal government.

Paycheck Protection Program for Small Businesses

The ARP added $7.5 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program, which provided payroll and other support for small businesses. The period to apply ended in May of 2021, but participants who got a loan through the program can apply for forgiveness any time during the life of the loan. Visit the Small Business Administration’s PPP page for information.

Small Business Tax Credits Program

The ARP extended the Employee Retention Credit and Paid Leave Credit to small businesses through 2021. The ERC allowed businesses to offset their 2021 payroll tax liabilities by up to $7,000 per employee per quarter until December 2021. It was available to small businesses that lost revenue because of COVID-19. The PLC was a tax credit for small and midsize businesses that offered paid leave to employees who were out of work because of illness, quarantine or caregiving, up to $5,000, through September 2021. Businesses who used them should have claimed them when filing taxes in 2022.

Student Loan Forbearance and Forgiveness

Biden’s plan to provide up to $20,000 in student loan forgiveness is being decided by the Supreme Court. The court heard arguments on the case in February, and questions from the Justices did not seem to bode well for the administration.

Payments on loans have been suspended until the Court’s decision; those payments will restart 60 days after a decision is announced. However, if the debt relief program has not been implemented and litigation has not been resolved by June 30, 2023, payment will start 60 days later. Borrowers will be notified before payments restart.

The government recommends borrowers take the following steps to prepare for resumption of student loan payments:

  • Update contact information in your profile on the loan servicer’s web site and in your profile.
  • Review your auto-debit enrollment, or sign up. You may do this through the loan servicer’s web site or by contacting the lender directly.
  • Investigate options to find a repayment plan that meets your goals and budget, or consider consolidating debt.
  • Perhaps apply for an income-drive repayment plan, which can make payments less onerous.

Scammers Alert

The Federal Trade Commission has been warning consumers about scams related to COVID-19 since the pandemic started.

Scammers may use fake social media posts, a fake survey, texts or email that sound like news. Early scams focused on treatments, information on where to make donations for relief. More recent ones try to get people to pay for COVID-19 vaccinations (vaccines are free of charge), rental assistance and more.

The FTC recommends these tips to avoid coronavirus scams:

  • COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are free. If anyone charges you for help signing up or for the shot itself, it’s a scam.
  • You can’t buy a COVID-19 vaccine anywhere. It’s only available at federal- and state-approved locations.
  • Always talk with your doctor or health care professional before you try a product claiming to treat, prevent, or cure COVID-19.
  • Don’t post your vaccination card on social media. Someone could use the information for identity theft.
  • There are currently no official plans to create a national vaccine verification app, certificate or passport.
  • If someone asks you for personal information or money to get a national vaccine certificate or passport, that’s a scam.
  • Contact your state government about its vaccine verification plans and requirements.
  • Before traveling, check with airlines, cruise lines, and event venues about vaccine verification or negative testing requirements.
  • When you’re looking for pandemic-related help, start with sites like and
  • Don’t click on links from sources you don’t recognize
  • Ignore emails claiming to come from the Center for Disease Control.
  • If someone is asking for donations in cash, gift cards or wiring money, it’s a scam.

If you have lost a loved one to COVID-19 and need help with funeral expenses, beware of callers, texts or email from someone claiming to be from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA will wait for your application; no one from the agency will contact you.

Talk to a Financial Professional for Help

Much of the federal COVID-19 aid for consumers has expired, and state relief may not be enough for some people. If you are struggling to make credit card payments, need support or are looking for financial education that will help you with budgeting and financial resources, a nonprofit credit counselor is a good option.

Nonprofit credit counselors will talk to you at no charge, review your financial situation and help strategize solutions. Counselors with agencies certified by the National Federation of Credit Counseling are required by law to act in your best interest – they won’t try to sell you a product.

If you are struggling with credit card or other debt, they may recommend debt relief solutions, including a debt management plan, debt consolidation for-profit debt settlement or nonprofit debt settlement.

Whatever debt relief, or other financial relief, you need, you can start right now by making on-time payments, lowering balances and making good spending choices. A free discussion with a credit counselor may be the step you need to achieve those goals.

About The Author

Bill Fay

Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it in 2012, helping birth into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering the high finance world of college and professional sports for major publications, including the Associated Press, New York Times and Sports Illustrated. His interest in sports has waned some, but he is as passionate as ever about not reaching for his wallet. Bill can be reached at [email protected].


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