As I find money tips that may help through this crisis, I’m sharing them in batches. You can find Batch 1 here.
Here’s what we’ve got in store for Batch 2:
You won’t lose unemployment if your employer illegally reopens in PA.
Through this crisis, he has allowed public health and science to inform his decisions, and as a result, saved countless lives.
He has offered Pennsylvanians the opportunity to do the right thing voluntarily, but has also held businesses accountable when they openly flout the emergency orders put in place to protect the health of our citizens, our healthcare systems and our communities.
And now, he’s out there protecting your unemployment benefits.
Human lives over short-term profit.
If your county reopens prematurely and you don’t feel comfortable returning to work, rest assured that the commonwealth will allow you to continue to receive unemployment compensation, even if your employer reopens.— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) May 11, 2020
Here is the full statement from the governor. Please read it knowing it comes from a twice-democratically-elected governor in a very purple state, regardless of the skewed images you might see on social media.
Basically, about half the state had restrictions partially lifted last week. But that’s not how people here were treating it.
More important to the people of Pennsylvania, that’s not how some employers wanted to treat it. There was this very real, lingering question:
If an employer opens up in an area where it’s been deemed unsafe to work, will you lose your unemployment by refusing to go back into a potentially unsafe environment?
Because maybe, just maybe, you’re not willing to die or kill your grandma for your employer?
The answer is, ‘No,’ according to Wolf’s statement.
At the time of writing this piece, in the state of Pennsylvania, if your business or locality is violating state orders by opening prematurely, you are completely within your bounds to refuse to go in to work. If you stay home, you will continue to be eligible for unemployment benefits.
This is a huge relief for anyone worried about their own health, or the health of the communities in which they live.
It’s a huge relief for the average person struggling economically through this mess as their employers attempt use them as pawns to manipulate financial benefit programs like PPP.
If you’re struggling to pay your mortgage, or are a renter who would like to know what your landlord’s options might be before you approach them about a late rent payment, it’s going to be really helpful to understand the mortgage forbearance rules out there right now.
You can find some perspective from Justine at Live with Plum. As she notes, forbearance is not forgiveness; you’re still going to need a plan to pay this off.
If you’re a renter, you’ll want to check the Batch 1 tips to find out why it’s so vitally important to understand your landlord’s options.
Start Looking at Summer Food Programs Now
Even if you didn’t qualify for or rely on the school lunch program before COVID-19, you might now.
At least in Western Pennsylvania, most school districts are distributing food via a basic signup list, waiving income eligibility limits to make sure all the kids have food.
This eliminates a lot of the paperwork barriers that often impede people from getting the benefits they need, and reduces social shaming.
If you’ve never dealt with the school lunch program before, you may not have thought about the summer yet. Luckily, there are summer meal programs across the country funded by the USDA.
Ask your school district about summer meals now. These meals are sometimes administered by community nonprofits and recreational organizations rather than in schools.
But during the pandemic, things have undoubtedly changed.
The USDA provides a searchable map so you can find local sites. But at least here in Western PA, the map is telling me to do the same thing: Contact your school directly.
Traditionally, admission to these summer meal programs required a separate application. In this time of crisis, so much of your eligibility and access is going to depend on decisions made at the local level.
Get in touch with your district to make sure your kids have enough food over the summer. Make your plan now.
Because believe it or not, we’re almost halfway through May.