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Update on COVID-19 benefit and relief provisions


The following material is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice or assistance. The information below is based on current law. Legislative and executive actions at the state and federal levels could change the protections and benefits discussed below. Finally, this is not an exhaustive list of information or resources. Check with your local Community Action Agency, United Way, or other social service agency for additional assistance.

December 31, 2020

The COVID-19 Emergency Relief bill passed by Congress and signed by the President includes the following provisions, among others:

Unemployment Benefits: The relief bill extends all CARES Act federal unemployment benefits to March 14, 2021. This includes Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which provide compensation to individuals who are not eligible for “regular” unemployment benefits but who cannot work or lost their job for specified COVID-19 related reasons. It also includes the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation programming adding $300 to benefits (down from the $600 earlier in 2020)

Eviction Moratorium: The Center for Disease Control eviction moratorium for the nonpayment of rent is extended to January 31, 2021.  The relief bill established a federal emergency rental assistance program to be administered by the states that will assist families impacted by COVID-19 who are struggling to pay rent. 

Direct Payments:  The relief bill includes direct payments in the amount of $600 to individuals making up to $75,000 a year and $1,200 to couples making up to $150,000 a year, as well as $600 for each dependent child.

Assistance Programs:  The bill includes an increase in SNAP benefits, a new low-income water and sewer bill assistance program, and funding for child care to assist families during the pandemic.

Federal agencies have extended the following relief programs for borrowers of federal home and student loans:

Foreclosure Moratorium and Mortgage Forbearance: The foreclosure moratorium for home owners with federally-backed home loans has been extended to at least January 31, 2021 for FHFA loans (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac) and through February 28, 2021 for FHA, USDA, and VA loans. If you are having a hard time making your mortgage payments due to COVID-19 and have an FHA loan, you can request forbearance from FHA before February 28, 2021, for up to 180 days and another 180 day extension if needed. If you have another type of federally-backed loan (e.g. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, VA), contact your servicer to ask if you can still receive forbearance for up to a year. If you have a private loan, talk to your servicer about options they offer to borrowers facing financial hardship.

Student Loans:  The U.S. Department of Education extended the moratorium on collection activities and suspension of interest on federal student loans through January 31, 2021.

The COVID-19 emergency relief bill did not include a provision to extend emergency leave benefits. The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) and Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) will expire December 31, 2020. The EMFLEA provided leave benefits for parents who are caring for children whose schools are closed due to the pandemic. The EPSLA provided up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19.  While the FFCRA leave provisions were not extended into 2021, employers who voluntarily offer such leave may utilize payroll tax credits to cover the cost of benefits paid to employees through the end of March.

What can I do?

Start planning now.

Ask your employer about any leave options if you are caring for a child whose school is closed due to COVID-19.

If you are reaching the end of your mortgage forbearance period, talk to your servicer about post-forbearance options, such as deferral or loan modification. If you are not in forbearance but are having trouble with your mortgage payments, talk to your servicer about forbearance or other loss mitigation options.

Talk to your landlord to try to negotiate a payment plan for past due rent.

Call United Way 2-1-1 number to find available resources for utility, rent, or other assistance. Boone County residents can also go to .

If you need legal assistance in mid-Missouri, you can apply for legal services from Mid-Missouri Legal Services.

Laws and programs could change in the next few months. Stay tuned to reliable sources to learn what changes could impact you.


MMLS Helps Bridge the “Opportunity Gap” for Mid-Missourians

Did you know that Boone County is “among the worst counties in the U.S. in helping poor children up the income ladder?”

Click on the following link to learn more: Missourian

To help reduce this “opportunity gap,” MMLS has launched a Financial Stability Project to expand its representation of low-income consumers in matters that impact their financial stability and economic mobility. MMLS is pleased to welcome consumer attorney Julia Stensby in connection with this project.

Examples of issues for which we can provide legal assistance include:

  • Garnishment and debt collection proceedings;
  • Unlawful and/or predatory loans;
  • Automobile and title cases (including fraud);
  • Credit reporting issues;
  • Employment terminations and wage and hour claims;
  • Appeals of unemployment compensation denials;
  • Contract disputes;
  • Public utility billing practices; and
  • Bankruptcy assistance (limited).

Ms. Stensby will also be working closely with community partners to strengthen collaborations, increase referrals, and connect consumers with financial counseling resources and providers of emergency relief. Community partners, please click this link for a copy of our flyer.

Thank you to Heart of Missouri United Way for providing funds for this project


After a natural disaster, such as the storms and tornadoes that hit Jefferson City this week, community members will come together to help their neighbors with clean-up, re-building, and financial and emotional support. Unfortunately, some people try to take advantage of consumers and homeowners who are anxious to repair their damaged homes. Missouri consumers and homeowners affected by the recent storms and tornadoes need to be on the alert and protect themselves from scams perpetrated by storm-chasers who target survivors of natural disasters.

If you are approached by a company or contractor offering to sell you products or services, take time to ask questions and assess whether the company is a reputable, legitimate business.

Be skeptical – if an offer sounds too good to true, it probably is.

MMLS offers the following tips on warning signs and steps you can take to protect yourself.

Avoid contractors who:

  • Use high-pressure tactics such as offering a “now or never” deal or asking consumers to sign documents immediately;
  • Demand cash up front for the entire amount;
  • Refuse to give an estimate of the job;
  • Are unable to produce local references; or
  • Ask you to obtain the building permit.

The following tips can help you prevent a scam

  • Get recommendations for a contractor from friends, relatives, co-workers, or insurance agent.
  • Check for any complaints with the Better Business Bureau, Home Builder Association, or Attorney General’s Office.
  • Get at least two estimates in writing that itemize the work to be done and separate supplies and labor.
  • Get everything in writing.
  • Do not sign a contract quickly without reviewing it carefully. Include an estimated start and end date, the contractor’s obligation to obtain the necessary permits, and any warranties covering materials and workmanship.
  • Ask to see a copy of the contractor’s general liability and worker’s compensation insurance and make sure any subcontractors have liability coverage, preferably under the general contractor’s coverage.  You can ask a friend, relative, or attorney to review the contract. Make sure you have a copy of the signed contract.
  • Get the phone number and street address for the company. If it only gives you a cell phone or post office box, it may be trying to avoid being found.
  • Ask to see the contractor’s business license. A business providing services in Jefferson City and Cole County must have a business license.
  • Ask for and check references from former customers.
  • Never pay in cash. Do not pay full price for services you have yet to receive.
  • Make full payment only when the terms of your agreement have been met.
  • Take a picture of the contractor’s vehicle and license plate number.

Elderly persons and people with disabilities may be targeted by scammers who lie about the extent of damage to parts of the home that the homeowner may not be able to physically access. If you cannot see the damage for yourself, ask for pictures; work with your insurance agent, friends or family to find reputable contractors; and get multiple bids.

Financial exploitation of a person who is elderly or has a disability is a criminal offense. Financial exploitation includes taking money and promising to perform a particular job that the offender does not intend to perform or knows will not be performed. You can report financial exploitation to the police or the county prosecuting attorney. Collecting and documenting as much information as you can about the identity, operations, and location of the person(s) taking your money will help the authorities find and charge the perpetrator.

Reporting Scams

Even when a person is careful, they can fall victim to a scam. If you have been a victim of a fraudulent company, report it to the police or the Missouri Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline. It is not your fault. Reporting the scam can help authorities investigate and stop fraudulent contractors.

Missouri Attorney General Consumer Hotline 800-392-8222 or online

Other Resources

Mid-Missouri Legal Services

National Consumer Law Center – Disaster Relief & Consumer Protection

Attorney General’s Office – Natural Disasters division/consumer/consumer-alerts/natural-disasters

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ Toll-free 24-hour Elder Abuse/Neglect Hotline: 1-800-392-0210

Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Honors a Local Attorney for Pro Bono Service

“Irene Karns, a pro bono attorney for Mid-Missouri Legal Services and a member of the Boone County Bar Association, recently was selected by the Legal Services Corporation of Washington, D.C. to receive a LSC Pro Bono Award. Irene was honored at a Pro Bono Awards Reception on Thursday, January 17, 2019 at Stinson Leonard Street LLP in St. Louis.

Ms. Karns is a retired public defender who has volunteered in MMLS’s Uncontested Divorce Clinic (UDC) for seven years. She has assisted more than 80 clients at the MMLS Columbia office since the Clinic’s inception. The UDC was created by Columbia attorney Brian Taylor, and Ms. Karns has been instrumental in expanding and staffing the Clinic. The UDC is one of the most successful family law clinics in the country, with 90% of participating litigants successfully obtaining their decrees.”

Presenters were from left to right: John Levi, Esq., Chicago, Illinois, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation Irene Karns, Esq., Columbia, MO Victor Maddock of Louisville KY, Member of the Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation Jim Sandman of Washington, D.C., Executive Director of the Legal Services Corporation.

Columbia Office

Jefferson City Office