Resources To Help With COVID-19

Resources To Help With COVID-19

Legal Aid staff will continue to serve our clients for free through COVID-19. We will also keep helping clients for free with civil legal problems outside of the needs from COVID-19. Here are some resources that may help you access public benefits, learn about utility shut-offs, and more.

Find the Legal Aid Service Provider of Arkansas where you live on the map. Then call if you are experiencing any civil legal problems. 

  • Legal Aid of Arkansas at 1-800-952-9243
  • Center for Arkansas Legal Services at 1-800-950-5817

ONLINE HELP: If you have a specific legal question, please visit AR Free Legal Answers to get connected with an Arkansas attorney for free. You will submit your question along with any supplementary documents or information and an attorney will be in contact with you soon. (Note: There are low-income level requirements to receive help).

UPDATED MARCH 27, 2020

Courts

Arkansas Courts will proceed with these civil matters that Arkansas Legal Services can help with:

  • Orders of Protection

  • Emergency child custody

  • Emergency guardianship

  • Other issues related to COVID-19 public health

Please review https://www.arcourts.gov/news/judiciary-closings-cancellations-changes for more county specific updates, especially if you have a pending criminal case. Call the court where your case is being heard and inquire about any updates.

Please call Legal Aid of Arkansas or the Center for Arkansas Legal Services if you are experiencing domestic violence, child custody emergencies, or need help obtaining guardianship.

Stimulus Payments

Update from March 29, 2020

Congress passed a bill which will authorizes the IRS to send you a stimulus check shortly, which for most people will be $1200 per adult. The IRS will be either direct depositing your stimulus into your bank account or mailing you a check.  The IRS will be using the information on your last filed return, either 2018 or 2019. Next week we should know how soon the checks will start going out.

If you filed a 2019 income tax return with direct deposit to your bank account, that’s where your stimulus will go.  If there was no bank account on the return, then a check will go to your address on that return.

If you haven’t yet filed a 2019 income tax return, please figure out how to do so immediately.  Call the Center for Arkansas Legal Services or Legal Aid of Arkansas if you need help, because the IRS needs your bank account information and your correct address. Please do not rely on a change of address with the post office. In our experience the post office will not forward checks. You need to change your address with the IRS directly.

Please be aware of people calling or emailing you to try and get personal information or collect a fee to process your stimulus payment. The IRS will not call or email you. The payment will be directly deposited to the account on file or mailed to the address that is in their records.

See the IRS website for updates about the stimulus payments at www.irs.gov/coronavirus

Unemployment

The one week waiting period to file unemployment has been waived. Workers who have become separated from employment as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic should file their unemployment claims with the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services (ADWS). If approved, you will be eligible to receive benefits immediately.

Medicaid

You may be eligible to receive benefits to help with health concerns.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Work requirements have been suspended for April and May to receive SNAP benefits. If there have been any changes with income or the number of people living in your household, you may be eligible to receive food assistance.

Use this Guide to make the application process easier. 

Para ayuda en español.

Utilities

Utility companies are approaching disconnections and shut-offs differently around the state. Please contact your utility company to see what, if any, policies are being put into effect to protect residents from shut off. We have a list of known suspensions here (updated 3/24/2020)

Housing

You must receive a court Order signed by a judge to be evicted. If a landlord tries to evict you without a court Order, please call Legal Aid of Arkansas or the Center for Arkansas Legal Services to speak with an attorney.

The Metropolitan Housing Alliance (Little Rock Housing Authority) has suspended evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

If you live in federally subsidized housing- like HUD public housing, low-income housing,  USDA housing, or you receive a Housing Choice Voucher - and you experience a loss of income, tell your housing provider or public housing authority immediately. You may be eligible for a reduction in rent.

Homeowners, please be aware that there is no uniform federal policy concerning coronavirus and suspension of mortgage loan foreclosures. Each lender is adopting its own policy. Please contact your mortgage loan servicer for more information. In any case, continue to make your mortgage payments if you are able. If you are unable to make your mortgage payments, you should contact your loan servicer and let them know about your situation. They might have programs that can help you. 

Remember that housing discrimination is illegal. A housing provider cannot discriminate against you because of, among other things, your disability, race, or national origin. Be aware that there are many fears and misconceptions about coronavirus. If you feel that a housing provider is treating you unfairly because of these fears and misconceptions, please call Legal Aid of Arkansas or the Center for Arkansas Legal Services.

If you get an eviction notice, foreclosure notice, or have any other civil legal issue, please call us.

Domestic Violence

Arkansas Courts are still open for emergency hearings to help individuals and families experiencing domestic violence and other emergencies. This guide will provide information, self-help resources, and ways Legal Aid can help. Each county may have a different procedure, please call Legal Aid or your Circuit Court's office for more information.

Para ayuda en español.

 

In the Workplace

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EOCC) has released guidelines for employers in response to COVID-19. Employers must keep record of your answers confidential. 

  • Can my employer ask me if I have symptoms of Covid-19?  YES

  • Can my employer take my temperature? YES

  • Can my employer require me to go home if I have symptoms of Covid-19? YES

  • Can my employer require a doctor's letter to return to work?  YES

  • If I get a new job, can my employer require a COVID-19 screening*? YES

*Note, an employer can also rescind an offer or delay the start date if the candidate is positive for COVID-19.

Source:  Q&A About the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and COVID-19 from the EEOC, March 18, 2020. https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/wysk/wysk_ada_rehabilitaion_act_coronavirus.cfm

 

IRS and Tax Updates

In Arkansas, the individual income tax filing and payment deadline is automatically extended from April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020.

The federal income tax filing due date is automatically extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020.

  • Taxpayers can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment tax.

Taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms or call the IRS to qualify for this automatic federal tax filing and payment relief.

Individual taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the July 15 deadline, can request a filing extension by filing Form 4868 through their tax professional, tax software or using the Free File link on IRS.gov. Businesses who need additional time must file Form 7004.

The IRS urges taxpayers who are due a refund to file as soon as possible. Most tax refunds are still being issued within 21 days.

Please call our Low Income Taxpayer Clinic Director at 800-967-9224 ext. 6304 with any tax problems or questions. Legal Aid of Arkansas cannot help file current year tax returns.

Unfortunately, the IRS of course has been severely affected in its workplaces.  There is almost no one to answer the phone. All IRS offices are closed for in-person meetings.  Please use the IRS website as much as you can, and if you need help call us at Legal Aid.

Consumer Needs - Money and Debt

Please call Legal Aid of Arkansas or the Center for Arkansas Legal Services with any consumer problems you have relating to, debts, cars, contracts, identity theft, public utilities and sealing criminal records.