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As we deal with the fallout from the global coronavirus outbreak, many people will experience legal issues related to not only health care, but a wide variety of other civil legal problems. This page will serve as a resource with issues you should consider and legal information that we hope will be helpful to you.
- Domestic, Sexual, & Elder Abuse
- Child custody and visitation
- Access to the Courts / electronic filing
- Public Benefits
- Employment issues
- Unemployment insurance
- Consumer protection
- Stimulus payments
- Small Business
- How to get help
Learn more about evictions and the CDC moratorium here.
People living in certain kinds of care facilities are not subject to the usual laws that regulate evictions. This includes nursing homes, but not assisted living -- assisted living is treated like normal rental housing for the purposes of eviction. Evictions from places like nursing homes are called "involuntary discharges." Instead of a court hearing, involuntary discharges are heard by an administrative law judge at the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals. People can be discharged for a number of reasons, such as nonpayment of the portion of the monthly payment they are responsible for, but also when the facility cannot appropriately handle their care or behavior. People cannot be forced to leave without a plan for how they will be safely transferred or discharged. People must also receive proper notice and a hearing before being discharged.
Governor Reynolds halted all cases involving involuntary discharge for nonpayment in a proclamation issued March 26, 2020, and most recently continued on December 9, 2020. This moratorium has been extended several times, and is currently slated to expire January 8, 2021, but it may be extended again. This means that all pending nonpayment discharge cases should be stopped, and any new nonpayment discharge cases cannot begin until after the state of emergency is lifted.
Unfortunately, nursing homes and other care facilities will sometimes try to avoid the proper discharge process by sending a resident to a hospital and then refusing to let them come back. If this happens, the resident may still be able to appeal the discharge by filing an appeal with Department of Inspections and Appeals, even if they did not initially receive a proper notice.
What are my rights to be protected against housing discrimination?
The federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) prevents you from being discriminated against in either the renting or sale of housing based on disability, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, and familial status. The Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA) covers all of those categories, plus sexual orientation, gender identity,
What rights does someone with a disability have under the FHA & ICRA?
This includes a refusal to make a reasonable accommodation for one’s disability. A "reasonable accommodation" is a change in policies from your landlord, mortgage company, contract seller, or other entity connected with your housing that allows you to equal housing opportunity regardless of disability.
In addition, a landlord is prevented under the ICRA and FHA from harassing you because of your disability.
Am I a person with disabilities if I have COVID-19?
Probably under the FHA, and definitely under the ICRA. First, the FHA considers you a person with disabilities if you have “(1) a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities, (2) a record of having such an impairment, or (3) being regarded as having such impairment.” “Major life activities” include activities “such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeking, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working.”
In addition to all of the above, the ICRA has additionally defines disability as to “conditions resulting from other contagious or infectious diseases.” The condition of having COVID-19, an infectious disease, is therefore more clearly included as a disability under the ICRA.
What about people who don't currently have COVID-19, but are considered "high risk" if they do contract it?
In addition to COVID-19 being a disability in and of itself, many people may have conditions that would pre-dispose them to being "high risk" for more serious illness if they were to contract COVID-19. These disabilities, too, may create additional potential for protection under the FHA and ICRA.
Some high risk categories, such as being over 60 years old, are not by themselves protected under either the FHA or ICRA.
What protection do the FHA & ICRA give me?
A housing provider cannot refuse to rent or sell to you because you have COVID-19, or any other disability. It is illegal to discriminate in the terms or conditions of rental or sale on the basis of disability. That means you cannot be charged higher rent, have your maintenance delayed, or required to live in a certain building or on a certain floor because you have COVID-19, have a disability that makes you high-risk, or any other kind of disability. This also applies to family members living with you, or other persons associated with you, such as visitors or caretakers.
In addition, the law allows you to ask for a reasonable accommodation for your disability. That means you can ask for a waiver of rules, policies, practices, or services to give you an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the dwelling. A housing provider must grant your request when it is necessary to accommodate the disability and it does not create an undue financial and administrative burden for the provider, or fundamentally alters the nature of the housing provider’s services.
Examples of reasonable accommodations for those with COVID-19 or a disability that makes you "high risk" include
- requests for payment plans for rent due to changes in income
- waiver of late charges for delayed payment of rent
- delays in submission of recertification paperwork due to inability to access financial documents
- delays of home inspections
Housing providers have a right to ask for documentation regarding disability, but there should be flexibility considering you may have difficulty getting such documents in this time where medical professionals may not be available. Landlords may need to give you more time to provide the documents, or accept verification from other sources, such as a social worker, a statement of disability benefits, or the statement of some other person in a position to know about your disability.
A sample form to request a reasonable accommodation is available through the Iowa Civil Rights Commission website.
Can a new landlord or other housing provider require me to prove that I don't have COVID-19?
It is illegal under both the FHA and ICRA for a housing provider to inquire into someone's actual or perceived disability, which would include a diagnosis of COVID-19.
Can a landlord evict me because I have COVID 19, or because I am high risk?
No. This would be discrimination under the FHA or ICRA, and is illegal. In addition, it is illegal under the Iowa Right to Assistance Act to take any adverse action against a tenant because they accessed emergency services, such as an ambulance, for any reason.
Can a landlord make me move to a different unit, or otherwise treat me differently, if they think I have COVID 19?
In general, this would be a violation of the FHA or ICRA, as it involves discrimination based on an actual or perceived disability. However, this rule does not apply to nursing homes and certain other care facilities, which are governed by different law.
The federal CARES Act was signed by President Trump on March 27, 2020, which covers certain residential single family and multifamily property with connections to the federal government. In addition, some people who have mortgages guaranteed by the federal government may have some additional protections. Here is some information about how those protections may apply.
Is my property covered by the federal CARES Act?
The CARES Act provides additional protections for people with residential property that is financed by a federally connected mortgage loan. This includes both single family and multifamily homes, although the protections are different for each of those types of housing. Here are types of federal connected loans:
- FHA & VA guaranteed loans. Check your mortgage document. If it is guaranteed by FHA or VA, it will say that in the mortgage document itself.
- FHA/HUD Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) reverse mortgages.
- Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac. You can see if your loan is guaranteed by either of these companies by using this online lookup tool.
- USDA. There are two kinds of USDA loans, direct and guaranteed.
- Direct USDA loans involve making payments directly to the federal government.
- It can be a little harder to tell if you have a guaranteed loan. The best way to find out whether your loan is USDA guaranteed is to check the "HUD 1 settlement statement" you should have gotten when the loan closed on your home. If a box labeled FmHA, RHS, or USDA is checked, then you might have a USDA guaranteed loan.
My mortgage lender / servicer already filed for foreclosure against me and got a judgment. Can I be removed?
If your mortgage is a federally connected residential mortgage (see above), then the CARES Act stopped all foreclosures -- no matter where they were in the process. This moratorium on foreclosures, including foreclosure sales and evictions after a sale, has been extended until June 30, 2021 for USDA, FHA, VA mortgages, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages.
My mortgage lender / servicer already filed for foreclosure against me but hasn't gotten a judgment yet. What happens now?
See the answer to the previous question. For federally connected residential mortgages, all filed foreclosure cases must stop at whatever stage they are at until the end of the moratorium period. This includes summary judgment hearings or any other case deadline.
My lender / servicer has not filed a foreclosure, but I am behind on my payments. I received a notice telling me I had to pay a certain amount of money within 30 or 14 days. How do these new laws affect me?
Lenders / servicers are required to send a notice to borrowers in default that tells them how much they are behind, and then give them 30 days to pay, before they can file for foreclosure. In addition, lenders / servicers also have to send a “14-day notice of acceleration” before they file for foreclosure if they want to be able to collect attorney fees from you. Our interpretation of the law is that any such notices given during the foreclosure moratorium are invalid. The lender / servicer will have to start the process again after the end of the moratorium.
Isn’t this moratorium just delaying the inevitable if I can’t pay my mortgage? Is there any help I can get to reduce or temporarily stop my payments?
If you experience financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic, you may have a right to an initial COVID hardship forbearance of up to 180 days. You also may have the right to one or more extensions of that forbearance. You must request these options - they're not automatic!
If your loan is backed by HUD/FHA, USDA, or VA, the deadline or requesting an initial forbearance is June 30, 2021. If your loan is backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, there is not currently a deadline for requesting an initial forbearance.
You must contact your loan servicer to request this forbearance. There will be no additional fees, penalties, or additional interest (beyond scheduled amounts) added to your account. You do not need to submit additional documentation to qualify other than your claim to have a pandemic-related financial hardship. If you are facing financial hardships, you should ask for forbearance immediately.
If you already have a forbearance plan and need more time, you can request an extension. If your mortgage is backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or the federal government, you are entitled to a 180-day extension of your COVID hardship forbearance if you request it.
- If your mortgage is backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac: You may request one additional three-month extension, up to a maximum of 15 months of total forbearance. But to qualify, you must be in a COVID forbearance plan as of February 28, 2021, so don't delay contacting your mortgage servicer if you're having trouble paying your mortgage and are not in a forbearance plan.
- If your mortgage is backed by HUD/FHA, USDA, or VA: You may request up to two additional three-month extensions, up to a maximum of 18 months of total forbearance. But to qualify, you must have started a forbearance plan on or before June 30, 2020. Not all borrowers will qualify for the maximum. Check with your mortgage servicer about the options available.
- Deferral: At the end of your forbearance, you may be eligible for a deferral of your delinquent mortgage payments. This means that your past due payments will be put on the back end of your mortgage and your loan will be current. You should check with your mortgage servicer to apply for a deferral.
- Modification: You may be eligible for a modification of your mortgage after your forbearance. This will bring your mortgage current and make your payments more affordable. You can check with your mortgage servicer to apply for a modification or contact Iowa Mortgage Help (877-622-4866) - a free service - to get help in applying for a modification.
Many mortgage lenders / servicers might offer their own programs to help homeowners. You should ask them if they can help you. Before signing a modification or forbearance agreement, it can be a good idea to talk to a lawyer first. People who cannot afford an attorney may be eligible for services from Iowa Legal Aid.
I don’t have a mortgage, but I do have a land contract. Do these laws cover forfeiture of land contracts?
Land contracts are not covered by the CARES Act. Removal from your home after the forfeiture of a land contract may be covered by the CDC eviction moratorium.
This section currently under construction, check back later for more information.
At this time, courthouses are generally conducting business as normal in regard to protective orders. Under certain circumstances, courts may hold hearings remotely. This will depend on the needs of the parties and counsel, and will also vary court to court.
Should I send my children for visitation? What if the other parent is denying me visitation?
There is always a risk when failing to follow a court order. If one party chooses not to allow court ordered visitation, for whatever reason, the party entitled to the visitation can file a contempt action. If this happens, a hearing will be set and the party denying the visitation will have an opportunity to argue they did not deny visitation, or if they did that they did so for a good reason. The judge will then determine whether that reason is enough to deny visitation. If the judge finds that visitation was denied and that denial was not for a legitimate reason, the court can order makeup visitation, jail time, or even a change in custody.
It is also important to remember that the court system may not be equipped to handle these disputes immediately given the limitations on in-person hearings imposed by the courts at this time.
Some factors to consider when deciding if visitation should happen:
- Is a medical professional suggesting visitation not occur? (this would generally be the child’s primary care physician but could also be an emergency room or acute care doctor)
- Does the child have any health conditions that put them at higher risk for complications if they contract the virus?
- Are there other members of the child’s primary care household who are at higher risk of complications?
- Is the non-custodial parent (and others in their household) following recommended health guidelines such as social distancing and proper hygiene and disinfecting routines in the household where visitation will occur?
- Is the custodial parent (and others in their household) following these same guidelines?
- How long will the visitation be denied?
- What proposals or offers have been made for makeup visitation once visits resume?
Obviously, no two cases are exactly alike. A situation where the non-custodial parent is an emergency room physician at high risk for contracting the virus and the child has a half sibling in the custodial home who is immunocompromised will be viewed much differently then a situation where the non-custodial parent is a teacher currently off work and at home practicing good social distancing and otherwise following CDC recommendation and the custodial parent is still working everyday and having to send the child to daycare.
Likewise, a judge will likely find a 14 day pause on visitation after a non-custodial parent returned from a vacation in Italy to be much more reasonable then an indefinite cancellation for a non-custodial parent who is currently off work and having little contact with the outside world except for necessary grocery store trips.
It is also important the custodial parent assess their own compliance with best practices. Courts will be reluctant to impose restrictions on a non-custodial parent if the custodial parent is not following current recommendations.
This global pandemic is unprecedented in recent history and so it is difficult to know how judges will respond. Both parties should use their best judgement to determine the actual risk to the child and their immediate household and balance that against the importance of maintaining a strong bond with non-custodial parent.
In many instances, the best practice is probably to file a written request with the court seeking the temporary change in visitation. This still carries risk, but if you have a good case to make based on the factors listed above, filing a motion to address the issue at least makes it clear that you are doing your best to comply with the order while also balancing any safety concerns for the children.
I need to file something with the court. How can I do that?
As mentioned above, Clerks offices are open and people are allowed access.
Some people who currently have open cases in the courts may have problems with electronic filing, especially if they generally use the clerk's offices or libraries to access the Electronic Document Management System (EDMS). People who can't access EDMS can still request the exemption by filing a written motion at the clerk's office. Access to a smartphone alone does not mean the person has sufficient internet access to be denied an efiling waiver. They may need to make arrangements to physically bring their motion to the clerk's office. Deadlines for responding or statutes of limitation have not been changed. At this time there are no phone waivers or ability to fax instead of physically presenting pleadings for those who are exempt from efiling.
I have a court form that requires a signature, but I don't have access to a scanner or any other way to get a copy of the signed document to my lawyer or the court. Help!
In an order issued on March 28, 2020, the Iowa Supreme Court now allows people to sign by typing the characters "/s/" followed by their name. If you do not have a lawyer, you also need to put down your address, telephone number and email address (if they have them). If you have a lawyer, your lawyer can "sign" the document for you as long as you tell them you want to sign the document and you authorize them to do so on your behalf. NOTE: You will be bound by anything your lawyer signs for you in this way, so make sure you understand exactly what is in the document your lawyer is putting together - have them email it to you or at least read it over the phone before you give permission.
I have a court form that requires a notarization, but I don't have access to a notary.
In the order referenced above, the Iowa Supreme Court also addressed notarization. The first thing to remember is that many commonly filed court documents that have a space for notarization are not actually required by law to be notarized. For example, protective order petitions and contempt documents, financial affidavits for custody and divorce proceedings, applications to expunge cases, and many others are not required to be notarized by the Iowa Code. This is true even though the forms ask for a notary's signature. The Court is in the process of removing these elements of the forms.
For situations where a notary is required by the Iowa Code, there are new procedures being put in place for remote -- i.e. not in person -- notarization. See this guidance from the Iowa Secretary of State for more information. If you determine you do really need a notary, you should call banks or lawyer's offices to see whether they have the ability to do this remotely. Remote notarization will require access to certain video conferencing software.
We are currently working on updating this section.
While a crisis brings out the best in most of us, it brings out the worst in a minority of scammers. Be careful during this time of crisis, and watch out for:
- Fake testing for Coronavirus - tests are hard to come by, so if someone tells you they have some, you should be VERY skeptical!
- Cures for the coronavirus / COVID 19 - make sure you are only getting medical advice from a licensed and competent medical professional!
- Price gouging - $15 bottles of alcohol disinfectant that were $2 two weeks ago? That's called price gouging... and it's illegal!
- Undelivered Shipments. Many online sellers claim to have high-demand goods, such as hand sanitizer, toilet paper, cleaning products, and medical supplies. Scammers can set up an online shop under almost any name. Search online for the seller's name or company, phone number, and email address to look for reports of scams and bad reviews. If the sellers seems real, pay with a credit card and keep your receipts. Also, even if the seller is real, high-demand for home delivery has caused long shipping times, so check the estimated shipping times before you buy.
The Iowa Attorney General has committed to fighting scams and unfair consumer practices related to the coronavirus (read about it here). You can report unfair consumer practices to their office by filing a complaint with their office.
The Federal Trade Commission is also working on these issues, especially in regard to fake 'stimulus checks,' as well as other deceptive practices.
Government COVID-19 Relief Checks: If the government does send checks or deposits, it will NEVER ask you to pay fees to receive the money; it will NEVER call you on the phone to ask for your Social Security Number or bank account numbers. More Information from the FTC on fake check scams here, and general information about scams here and here.
Some auto-finance companies have started programs to work with borrowers affected by COVID 19 - a list of at least some of these borrowers appears here.
The Governor's proclamation on April 24, 2020 that halted garnishments of wages and bank accounts expired May 27 2020 at 11:59 PM.
How does garnishment work normally?
Since the garnishment moratorium ended, normal garnishment rules again apply.
Dealing with a garnishment is difficult even in normal times, but can be particularly difficult in a crisis like the one we face today.
If your wages or bank account is hit by a garnishment, you can file a document called a "motion to quash." In this motion, you might be able to show that you have income that is "exempt" - in other words, protected by law. In most situations, the following income is generally exempt:
Wages, self employment earnings, retirement account disbursements, and pension distributions, according to the following chart
|Amount of weekly earnings (after taxes)||Max garnishment|
|Less than $290||$0 per week|
|$290 to $366||Wages - $290|
|Over $366||25% of earnings|
- Federal benefits like social security, SSI and VA pensions. These are automatically protected from garnishment, as long as you don't transfer them out of the account where they were originally deposited.
- Federal student loan disbursements
- Child support and alimony
- Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit
- Worker's comp
- $1,000 of any other money
The types of income listed above are not a full list, just the most common types of exempt income. In addition to telling the court in your motion to quash that you have these kinds of income, you can also ask the court under Iowa Code 630.3A to determine whether they should let you keep something not on this exempt income list because of "equitable factors."
For example, you have or an elderly parent children to support, someone in the household has a disability, or under the present circumstances that you need resources to hedge against the medical and economic uncertainties of the present pandemic.
Under the present circumstances, in some cases you may be able to ask for a complete stop to a garnishment under this provision.
Can creditors garnish my stimulus funds or unemployment?
Unemployment is always protected and is exempt from garnishment. Stimulus funds might be protected as a public assistance benefit.
Student loans are treated differently depending on whether they are "federally connected" or not. Also, some relief under new federal legislation called the CARES Act only applies to one kind of federally connected loan called "Direct Loans," while other relief applies to all federally connected loans.
In addition, some loans that are not federally connected may also present options to borrowers. Read on to get more information.
The CARES Act provisions passed in March were originally supposed to expire on September 30, 2020, but have now been extended to December 31, 2020.
What is a federally connected loan?
Federally connected loans include Direct Loans, which are owed directly to the government; Perkins Loans, which are owed to your school; and Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL), which were made by a private company or state agency but guaranteed by the federal government. Not all student loans are federally connected.
If you want to be able to tell whether your loans are federally connected, you should log in to Studentaid.gov. If you see your loan listed there, it is federally connected. If you don't, then it is not federally connected. The listing should also tell you if your loan is a Direct Loan, a Perkins Loan, or an FFEL.
Do I qualify for an "administrative forbearance?"
According to the federal CARES Act, some federal loan borrowers can take an "administrative forbearance" from making payments on their loans, starting March 31, 2020 through December 31, 2020.
This means you don't have to pay your payment. People who have either a Direct Loan -or- a FFEL that is "held by the federal government" can take advantage of this program.
It is usually easy to tell if you have a Direct Loan by logging in to Studentaid.gov. Unfortunately, it is more difficult to find out if you have a FFEL owned by the federal government. You might be able to find out by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID, or calling your servicer, but it is not clear whether you can 100% trust the information you get there to be accurate.
How do I get an administrative forbearance if I do qualify?
You can ask your servicer (i.e. the person you pay your bill to) for this forbearance, but it is not necessary to do that - if you do not make your payment, you will automatically be placed into forbearance.
What if they are threatening to take -- or have already taken -- my federal tax refund, wages, or federal benefits (social security, etc)?
Debt collection for all federally connected loans that are in default - Direct, Perkins, or FFEL - has been halted until December 31, 2020. That includes wage garnishments, garnishments of federal benefits, and offsets of tax refunds.
However, if your tax refund was already offset earlier in the season, you will not be able to get your refund back without specifically asking your servicer for a hardship. You can claim a hardship by submitting a request to your loan servicer. Make sure you point out why you need access to your tax refund, and be specific.
Typical hardships may include
- Pending eviction or foreclosure (or likely inability to pay built up back rent or house payments after the moratoriums end)
- Loss of a job, COVID related or otherwise
- Cessation or offset of unemployment benefits
You can submit the hardship request even after your refund, benefits, or wages have been garnished
State [Iowa Student Loan Liquidity Corporation]
- Iowa Legal Aid has been informed that some collection actions for many but not all Iowa student loans owned by ISLLC or "Iowa Student Loan" has been stopped during the pendency of the state of emergency, specifically those cases assigned to private attorneys for collection (Abbott, Osborne & Jacobs; Brick Gentry; etc.). For those cases, no new lawsuits will be filed during the state of emergency.
- At this time, our understanding is that garnishments for lawsuits that have already completed will continue. See our section on garnishment for ideas on how to reduce your garnishment amount.
- At this time, our understanding is that ISL cases collected by the state are continuing as normal.
In the words of the National Consumer Law Center, a national advocacy group for consumers, the federal CARES Act provides "less than minimal protections regarding credit reporting."
The only additional protection provided during this time is that, if a creditor works out some kind of arrangement with you related to a debt that is COVID 19 related, they have to continue to report your debt the same way they did before they worked something out with you during the state of emergency.
This protection extends from January 31, 2020 until 120 days after the federal state of emergency is ended. Also, this minor protection does apply when an account is listed in a credit report as "charged off." Here are some examples to help illustrate:
- You have a debt that was delinquent as of January 30, 2020, a day before the coverage period. This law does not require the credit reporting agency to do anything different, unless you actually bring your account current.
- You have a debt that becomes delinquent as of January 31, 2020. You are unable to work out alternate arrangements with your creditor - like a forbearance, modification, delay in payment, etc. The law does not require the credit reporting agency to do anything different than they otherwise would, and you will be reported as delinquent.
- You have a debt that was current before January 31, 2020 and becomes delinquent after that time. You work out a modification or temporary delay of payments or some other arrangements with your creditor. Under this new law, your creditor has to report this debt as current, not as modified, in a forbearance, etc.
- IRS services are extremely limited due to social distancing guidelines. Some IRS offices are in the process of reopening or have employees working from home. Some phone service is available but expect long wait times. The IRS is directing people to go to www.irs.gov for information.
- The Taxpayer Advocate Service has suspended walk in service but is available by calling (515) 564-6888.
- The IRS has begun processing mail but is severely behind due to the volume of mail received. If you mailed a tax return or other form, it may be several weeks before the IRS will address your issue.
- The IRS has begun mailing out collection notices to some taxpayers. However, due to their computer system, the date on the letters or the dates for responding may be incorrect. If you receive a letter where your deadline to respond has already passed, you may want to contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service or a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic for assistance. Iowa Legal Aid operates a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic.
- For more information about IRS operations during the pandemic, you can visit the Taxpayer Advocate Service (https://taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/) or the IRS Coronavirus Tax Relief page (https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus-tax-relief-and-economic-impact-payments)
Congress has not passed any additional stimulus payment since the CARES Act was passed last spring.
The original stimulus payment was for $1,200 for individuals for $500 for minor dependents.
The IRS has a comprehensive information page about these payments
How much is the stimulus payment be?
The stimulus payment will be, at maximum:
- $1,200 for a person filing by themselves
- $2,400 for a person filing jointly
- $500 for each "qualifying child" (see below for the definition of qualifying child)
People who make under $75,000 in gross annual income filing alone (or under $150,000 for joint filers) will receive the maximum amount.
Those who receive between $75,000 and $99,000 in gross annual income filing alone ($150,000 to $198,000) will receive an amount less than the maximum, and less depending on how much annual income exceeds $75,000 single / $150,000 joint.
What if I have not yet received the $1,200 payment?
You can check the status of your payment on the IRS Get My Payment app, found here: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment. The app will tell you if the payment has been mailed or is scheduled to be mailed or deposited. You can also call 1-800-919-9835.
The payments may be made by direct deposit, check or prepaid debit card. If the app tells you that the payment was mailed but you never received it, you may need to request a trace payment. Instructions on how to do this are on the IRS FAQ page linked above, or you can contact Iowa Legal Aid’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic for assistance.
If you mailed a tax return in order to claim the stimulus payment, the IRS may still be processing your paper return. The IRS is very behind on processing mail, so you may have to wait until your return is processed before you receive the payment.
What if I received my $1,200 payment with my Social Security benefits, but I did not receive a $500 payment for my dependent?
If you receive Social Security Retirement, Social Security Disability (SSDI), Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) or Railroad Retirement and Survivor Benefits, you did not need to provide any additional information to receive your payment. However, you may not have received the $500 because the IRS did not have information about your dependent.
You have until September 30th to enter information about your dependent info into the Non-Filer portal at https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here. This is for taxpayers who do not file a tax return. If you filed a tax return, or need to file a tax return for 2018 or 2019, you should not use this portal.
If you do not enter your dependent info into the portal by September 30th, you will have to wait to claim the $500 payment during the 2020 tax season, in spring of 2021.
What if I don’t receive federal benefits or have to file a tax return? How can I claim the payment?
You can claim the $1,200 payment by using the non-filer portal here: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here. You have until October 15th to enter your information. If you do not enter this by October 15th, you can still claim the payment by filing a 2020 tax return, in the spring of 2021.
If I owe taxes, child support, or other debt owed to the government, won't they just take the payment to pay what I owe?
Often, tax refunds and other payments from federal and state governments can be offset (taken) to pay a debt you owe to or that is collected by the government. The stimulus payment, however, can't be offset to pay for anything except for past due child support.
My spouse owes child support from a prior relationship, but I do not. Both of our payments were taken for the child support debt. What can I do?
The IRS is developing a system to return payments to the “injured spouse” in this situation. If you e-filed a Form 8379 with your tax return, the IRS is anticipating that your payment will be returned in early to mid-September. These payments will be mailed as checks.
If you did not file a Form 8379, or you mailed a paper form to the IRS, you do not need to take further action. The IRS does not yet have a timeframe but has stated that it will automatically issue the portion of the stimulus payment that was applied to the other spouse’s debt at a later date.
Will the stimulus payment effect my public benefits or debts?
Because the stimulus payments are structed as tax refunds, they do not count as income for the purposes of Medicaid, Hawk-I, healthcare Marketplace, or other public benefit program. For Medicaid eligibility groups that have asset limits, the stimulus payment is only counted as resource 12 months after you received it.
Often, tax refunds and other payments from federal and state governments can be offset (taken) to pay a debt you owe to or that is collected by the government. The stimulus payment, however, can't be offset to pay for anything except for past due child support.
In addition, for the purposes of SSI, the stimulus payments will not be counted as resources for 12 months after they are received.
What financial help is available for small business owners?
The State of Iowa has grants available for small business owners (different programs depending on the size of the business). We encourage you to apply as soon as possible, as deadlines are coming quickly and there is likely to be a large demand for these grants. There is also some relief via tax deferments. You can find more information here: https://www.iowaeconomicdevelopment.com/our-agency-detail-resources/6710
The Federal Government makes loans available for small business owners available through the Small Business Administration. You can find more information available here: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/. If you are interested in one of these loans, apply as soon as possible -- we anticipate a large demand for these loans and there may be a wait to receive them.
This situation is quickly changing, and we encourage you to check back with the Iowa Economic Development Agency often. You should also be careful to document losses you experience due to Covid-19 and any extra expenses you have had to incur (for example, expenses for employees to work remotely). These records may be helpful for tax incentives or other financial packages that are made available in the future.
What should I do if I can’t pay my commercial lease/commercial landlord?
We strongly encourage commercial tenants to try to work out a short rent abatement or forbearance with their landlords. We have heard of some landlords allowing tenants to tack a month of rent on to the end of the lease term (interest free) or allowing tenants to use a security deposit to cover rent. These agreements benefit both parties.
It is unclear whether commercial tenants fall under the protection of Governor Reynolds’ eviction moratorium. Moreover, many commercial leases have contractual “liens” that purport to give landlords the ability to lock commercial tenants out of the premises, seize the inventory or items inside the premises, and then terminate the lease and sue for the balance owed under the contract. It is Iowa Legal Aid’s position that all tenants are owed certain due process protections (such as notice and hearing). Nevertheless, many landlords do not do this and commercial tenants should be aware that this could happen. Each lease is different and the facts of your case will change the answer. Contact Iowa Legal Aid if you want help reviewing the terms of your lease.
If I can reach an agreement with my commercial landlord, what terms should be included?
Do commit your agreement to a signed writing including the basic terms agreed on (amount abated, when it’s due). Don’t rely on good faith or memory of parties. Getting agreements in writing helps make sure that both parties are on the same page and avoids headaches down the road.
Do consider things like due date and ability to prepay before the due date, for example.
Do state that you are not waiving any rights or remedies you would otherwise have under the lease.
Do put in a provision allowing the agreement to be signed in separate parts and electronically. Contact Iowa Legal Aid if you want help drafting a rent abatement or forbearance agreement.
What should I do if I cannot fulfill orders or contracts?
The first step is to review your contract. Many contracts include terms that excuse a party from performing when there are things that happen outside of that party’s control. These are sometimes called “act of God” terms. You will have to look at your contract and see what it says.
If you don’t have a contract or your contract doesn’t address the situation, you’re not totally out of luck. Common law does allow a contract to be terminated if the contract will be impossible or impractical to perform. Depending on the specific facts of your situation, this may apply to you. You may still have liability, though. Iowa Legal Aid may be able to help you figure out how to best manage your risk if you cannot fulfill a contract.
If someone at my business has or is suspected of having Covid-19, must I tell my employees or customers?
This is a very tricky question and the answer will depend on the specific facts of your case. You should definitely speak with an attorney about this before you do anything. Various laws protect private health information and prohibit discrimination. This type of inquiry or dissemination of information is hard to navigate, especially in a small workplace where folks are connected on social media. You never want someone to feel discriminated against based on how they are spoken about, nor do you want someone to feel like their private health information is not being respected. The Iowa Department of Public Health may be able to give you some guidance, too.
We strongly encourage people to make a plan about what you will do if you find yourself in this position. Ideally, this would be a conversation you have with the affected employee.
Will my business insurance cover my losses due to Covid-19?
It depends. Insurance policies are contracts and the answer will depend on what the policy says. We have seen a lot of stories about coverage being denied. That said, this situation is rapidly changing, each policy is different, and the facts of your case will change the answer. We encourage everyone to compile their policies and review them carefully. Iowa Legal Aid may be able to help you review your insurance policy.
The uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 and its impact on my business is having a negative impact on my mental health. Can anyone help me?
This is an overwhelming and uncertain time for most Americans. There are many folks who want to help small business owners at this time. Here are some resources you should know about:
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness has a Covid-19 (Coronavirus) Information and Resources page. There are links to various resources and helplines for people who find themselves in crisis. https://www.nami.org/getattachment/About-NAMI/NAMI-News/2020/NAMI-Updates-on-the-Coronavirus/COVID-19-Updated-Guide-1.pdf
- The Iowa Small Business Development Center has a resource page here: http://iowasbdc.org/covid-19/
- Greater DSM Partnership put on a webinar called “Top 5 Ways to Survive and Thrive During Economic Uncertainty,” available on their website at https://zoom.us/rec/play/vZUkd-up-z83S4LHtwSDU_N5W9W-ePms1ylK_vBYyhnkAXAHZwWvYLcbYrAphXwxL2H2LkhUeuwtMeec
- The Iowa Center for Economic Success is working hard to put out webinars and trainings for small business owners at this time. They also have a Covid-19 resource page. http://theiowacenter.org/
To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:call 800-532-1275.
- Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161 or apply online at iowalegalaid.org
- If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer” on the Iowa State Bar Association website iowabar.org. A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.
- As of March 18, 2020, our offices are closed for walk-ins until further notice, due to the coronavirus outbreak.
*As you read this information, remember this article is not a substitute for legal advice.