By Ed Kimble
A lot has changed in the 33+ days since SoAZ Senior Pride published our first COVID-19 Update on March 26. That was the date the United States surpassed both Italy and China in the number of reported infections reporting 83,836 cases that day. Tuesday, April 28, we had 1,027,024 cases and 58,341 deaths. In response, state and local governments shuttered non-essential businesses, forbid large gatherings of people, and imposed a variety of stay-at home orders, causing millions to lose their jobs, businesses or gig income. Nationally, 26.5 million workers had filed for unemployment as of April 22.
»See USA TODAY’s COVID-19 Timeline
Congress enacted a $2 trillion aid package to boost unemployment benefits, help businesses keep furloughed workers on their payrolls, and provide low- and middle-income earners direct payments of up to $1,200 per person. Although direct deposits began showing up by April 15 in bank accounts of individuals who had given the IRS direct deposit information for tax returns, millions more still await their stimulus payments. If you are still waiting for your check, here’s helpful information from AARP and the Washington Post (subscription may be required). .
The IRS offers a stimulus payment tracker, and if you don’t regularly file taxes you can enter your payment information into the IRS website to speed up your payment.
Moratorium on Evictions
The biggest economic worry for most people who have lost income due to COVID-19 shutdowns is losing their home. Arizona has imposed a moratorium on rental evictions but rents will eventually need to be paid. For rent help, the state Department of Housing set up an online program qualifying assessment tool for its COVID-19 Rental Eviction Assistance Program. Individuals without internet access can call the state’s 2-1-1 hotline for assistance. (press 8 for COVID-19; pick a language, press 1 or 2; then press 5 for Eviction Prevention). More information is available on the Arizona Department of Housing website.
Pima County Community Action Agency set up a new hotline to advise those seeking aid from the COVID-19 Rental Eviction Assistance Program at 520-724-2505. The program is a first-come, first-serve program and is not expected to have enough funds to cover all applicants.
The Arizona Department of Housing has another online assessment tool to help homeowners who have difficulty making mortgage payments due to COVID-19 economic impacts. .
The Federal Housing Authority has created a resource guide for homeowners with FHA-insured single family home mortgages who are economically hurt by COVID-19 restrictions. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has released guidance for individuals seeking mortgage relief due to the coronavirus.
Though many people who worked in non-essential business have already lost their jobs, essential businesses are looking for new workers. Pima County Jobs lists newly available jobs (be sure to refresh page daily) and provides information about filing for unemployment and jobs training.
The county’s One Stop Career Center began new online Employability Skills classes Monday, April 27, to replace in-person classes suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The class is free and is part of the approval process for those seeking funding for job training. A new online, seven-unit class begins each Monday and can be completed in one day, though enrollees have up to seven days to complete it. Call the One-Stop’s Dislocated Worker Hotline at 520-724-5735 to sign up.
Help for Marginalized Groups
Undocumented workers are not eligible for stimulus payments. Sex workers don’t qualify for unemployment. And other marginalized groups have special needs that Ilya Parker of Decolonizing Fitness didn’t see being addressed by mainstream organizations, so he/they put together a downloadable PDF of resources for “Indigenous, POC, Trans, Disabled & Undocumented Communities”.
The Arizona Foundation has set up a special fund to assist undocumented workers.
And a special Go Fund Me page has been established for sex workers in the Southwest by a Phoenix member of Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs.
Other Local COVID-19 Assistance Portals
Several other local websites continue to provide updated COVID-19 information and assistance daily or weekly. Be sure to refresh these pages often to check for latest updates.
United Way Tucson: The United Way is raising funds to distribute directly to Southern Arizona individuals in need through its many community partners.
Pima County Public Library: Although the library is closed, it has many online offerings and posts updates about other helpful resources for coping with COVID-19. And FREE WIFI is currently available at 26 libraries in Pima County, 6am-10pm daily. Park in an adjacent lot to pick up the signal from the library building. Look for network named Library-Public. The password is pclibrary. No library card needed. »Read more on Pima County Public Library’s Facebook page