If you need assistance in Massachusetts, call 2-1-1 or visit mass211.org
Boston residents: call 3-1-1
Available 24/7

Disaster Distress Helpline
Call 1-800-985-5990 or Text “TalkWithUs” to 66746
Available 24/7

Information, updates, and guidance from:

IMPORTANT! Getting tested or treated for the virus will NOT count as a public charge for immigrants.

Donate to EMPath’s Crisis Response Fund

Please note, this information is continuously changing, so keep checking back.

At-Home Learning & Activities for Kids

Avoid this being a time where kids zone out on movies and TV for the whole day.

Online Educational Resources

Learning Keeps Going: Comprehensive list of free digital education tools offered by companies and organizations to support learning during extended school closures – for adults and children of all ages. Search and filter by age, category, language, and more.

  • Academic support and mentorship: A group of college students formed CovEd to offer free support to K-12 students. They provide tutoring services for all school subjects from K-12 (including some AP and Honors classes), mentorship, and college preparation (including help with college essays or preparing for the SAT/ACT/Subject Test exams).
  • Amazon: Amazon has dropped the paywall for all their child-related videos and is offering children’s programming for free.
  • Children’s Museum: Boston Children’s Museum has free online learning resources.
  • Codecademy: Offering scholarships to Codecademy Pro for free to high school and college students across the world for the rest of the school year.
  • Khan Academy: Free learning resources for parents (as well as teachers and school districts).
  • Libraries: Massachusetts libraries have many e-books, audiobooks, and other resources available online. Boston Public Library has online resources on many topics for all ages.
  • MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: Free online educational resources for parents and students.
  • Stories: Audible is offering free stories for kids to stream.
  • PwC: Free technology skills and financial literacy curricula.
  • WGBH: WGBH’s Distance Learning Center has lots of resources for students, educators, families and more. WGBH’s public TV station will also be televising educational content between noon and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For Children with Special Needs

Aquariums, Zoos, Museums & Other Activities:

  • Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is providing online performances, as well as dance lessons for those seeking to enhance their own skills at home.
  • Free virtual galleries from museums across the world.
  • Joshua Smith, Student Wholeness Specialist at Baltimore Public Schools, is live-streaming social-emotional learning puppet shows on his Facebook page to help kids cope with the COVID-19 crisis, every weekday morning from 10-10:30am.
  • Michelle Obama is reading aloud from a different classic children’s book every Monday at noon Eastern Time, starting April 20 and running through May 11. Streaming live on PBS KIDS’ YouTube.
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, CA has live streams of their aquariums.
  • New England Aquarium is posting educational animal videos online.
  • San Diego Zoo has live cams of animals.
  • The U.S. National Parks have set up free virtual ranger guided tours.
  • Virtual playgroup hosted by Mattapan Family Engagement, every Monday and Friday at 10:30 a.m.
  • Virtual story time events from Boston Public Library

Additional Resources

Cash Assistance and MA Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA)

For the most up-to-date information posted by MLRI on DTA & COVID-19, see this google doc.

Get cash assistance

  • Call your local DTA office to start an application. Find your local DTA office here.
  • Hotline: If you’re in Boston and have questions about cash assistance (TAFDC or EAEDC), SNAP, or child care, call Greater Boston Legal Services’’s Welfare Law Unit at (617) 603-1806. Make sure to leave a voicemail with your name and number to get a call back.
  • Union Capital Boston is providing $150 Visa gift cards to families in the Greater Boston area who are in need of financial support due to coronavirus, either because of school closings or lost wages. Click here to sign up for support (note: the waitlist is very long).
  • See the “Food assistance” section for SNAP and other resources, and the “Additional resources” section for more emergency relief funds.

DTA offices

  • DTA local offices have been closed to in-person visits until further notice. You can still call the DTA Assistance Line at (877) 382-2363, visit DTAConnect.com, and download the DTA Connect mobile app.
  • Click here for more information.

Other DTA information

  • DTA is stopping all negative cash assistance case actions (for TAFDC and EAEDC only). This means that, prospectively, no one should be terminated or reduced for any reason - including sanctions, failure to verify information, reaching the time limit, etc.
  • DTA COVID-19 FAQ

Child Care

  • As 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, March 22, all non-emergency child care programs in MA must be closed.
  • This will remain in effect until at least June 29 (extended from May 4).
  • This applies to all group child care settings, both center- and family-based. The order does not apply to residential schools, community group homes, temporary shelters, transition-to-independent living facilities, teen parent programs, and DYS secure facilities.
  • Emergency child care programs are still open, FREE of charge. Click here to search for an emergency program and click here for an interactive map.
  • Priority access to emergency child care is being given to vulnerable children, and the children of families designated as “COVID-19 Essential Workforce,” with emphasis on those in the health care, public health, and human services and law enforcement, public safety, and first responder fields.
  • Parents who receive child care subsidies will not lose their vouchers. The state will continue paying subsidies and parent fees for subsidized cases for the duration of the closure.
  • The temporary closure of all child care programs will not impact any parent’s eligibility for care.
  • Click here for more information.

Domestic Violence

  • Call 911 if you are in danger right now.
  • If you are not in immediate danger, but still need crisis assistance or services, call SafeLink at 877-785-2020 (TTY: 877-521-2601), Casa Myrna Vasquez at 800-992-2600, or see Jane Doe’s list of Massachusetts domestic violence programs here.
  • Although courts are closed to non-emergency cases, Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault request are emergencies, if you need a restraining order betwen Mon-Fri, 8:30am-4:30pm call the clerk at the District Court, Boston Municipal Court, or Probate or Family court where you need to file. Click here for a list of courts serving your city or town.
  • If you cannot reach someone for any reason, call your local police station and ask if they have specific instructions from the court on how to get an order, or call SafeLink at (877) 785-2020.
  • Click here for additional information and legal resources for survivors.

Employee Paid Leave

The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), passed on March 18, has two main parts. These provisions apply to private employers with fewer than 500 employees, as well as certain public employers.

  • Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA): Requires that certain employers provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave to employers that need to take sick leave for reasons related to COVID-19, including:

    • Employee or someone the employee cares for has been advised to self-quarantine
    • Employee is experiencing COVID symptoms and seeking medical attention
    • Employee is caring for child whose school is closed due to COVID-19
  • Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA): Requires that certain employers provide up to 10 weeks paid and 2 weeks unpaid leave to employees caring for children whose schools are closed due to COVID-19.

If you are expected to work but are unable to due to COVID-19-related health concerns or lack of child care, you may be eligible to receive paid time off under FFCRA. Depending on why you need time off and the length of time you need, you will either be paid at your regular rate or two-thirds your regular rate. Click here for more information.

Additional Tips from EMPath’s Career Specialist:

  • Speak with your employer/human resources department about whether or not you’re eligible for FFCRA.
  • If you are not eligible for UI or FFCRA benefits, but have concerns about possible exposure, request accommodations with your employer.
  • Some employers are offering hazard pay, so you should ask about that as well.
  • If you believe your employer’s response to the possible spread of COVID-19 creates a serious safety hazard or if you think your employer is not following OSHA standards, you can file a complaint.

Food Assistance and School Meals

  • Hotline: MA residents can contact Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333 (TTY 1-800-377-1292) or gettingsnap.org for resources in their community and help signing up for SNAP (“food stamps”), WIC (Women, Infants, & Children). Available in 160 languages and for those who are hearing impaired.
  • Find food pantries and community meal programs: Click here.
  • Community meal programs in Boston: Click here for a list compiled by the City of Boston.
  • More food resources in Boston: Click here for soup kitchens, food pantries, and meal sites for adults & kids.
  • Food For Free: Food delivery program for eligible Cambridge residents. Click here for details.
  • Grocery store gift cards: Apply for $250 gift card from the Red Sox Foundation here.
  • Stores: Gov. Charlie Baker ordered grocery stores and pharmacies to provide at least one hour a day of shopping time for adults over 60 years old. Some have designated more than one hour. Check stores’ websites for details.

For the most up-to-date information posted by MLRI on DTA & COVID-19, see this google doc.

Free Groceries

SNAP (food stamps)

Click here for a short video explaining SNAP during COVID-19, including information on how to apply.

Pandemic EBT Food Assistance (P-EBT)

As part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that Congress passed on March 18, many children are eligible for “Pandemic EBT” food assistance while schools are closed, also called P-EBT. These are “electronic benefits transfer” benefits – emergency money to buy food at local grocery stores.

  • Families receiving SNAP benefits (food stamps) will have P-EBT benefits issued directly onto their SNAP EBT card.
  • Families approved for free or reduced-price meal status will get special P-EBT Food Cards in the mail for each eligible child. The family will need to PIN the card with the child’s date of birth.

This P-EBT card is used like a debit card to buy food at grocery stores. This P-EBT food benefit is available for eligible school age children, in addition to any food pantry or free school meal pickup that children receive.

Click here for more information, including how and when families will receive P-EBT.

SNAP Applicants

  • If you lost your job or work hours because of COVID-19, you can apply for SNAP at any time. You do not have to wait to file an application.
  • MA Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) requires applicants to provide the “best available proof” for verifications during application for all benefits. DTA recognizes that some documents might not be available at this time. A self-declaration letter might be the best available document to provide and is acceptable.
  • New SNAP recipients will receive their EBT card by mail only and it may take 5-10 days to receive your new card. People experiencing homelessness can use a shelter address to receive their card.
  • More information for workers who lost hours or job due to COVID-19: English | Español

Current SNAP recipients

  • SNAP recipients who are due to re-certify will have their benefits extended for 6 months. No one receiving benefits will lose their benefits during this time.
  • The SNAP work requirement rule for adults without dependents has been suspended.
  • Eligible households whose monthly SNAP benefit is less than the maximum SNAP for your household will get a supplemental benefit up to the maximum SNAP grant. If you get the maximum SNAP benefit, you will not get extra SNAP. More information on emergency SNAP benefits: English | Español
  • Reminder: households can give permission to friends, family, or other trusted people to use their EBT card on their behalf, with no need for formal documentation or written paperwork. This may be helpful for seniors, persons with disabilities, and other populations who are particularly vulnerable and at risk from COVID-19, and who may need to ask others to go shopping on their behalf.

WIC (Women, Infants, & Children)

  • All WIC Programs are providing all services by phone: (800) 942-1007. Hours are Monday-Friday 9 a.m.–5 p.m. If you hear a recording, leave a message with your name and telephone number.
  • People who use WIC should plan to arrive at the grocery store first thing before things are cleared out for the day. You can call the store and find out what days they are restocking certain items.
  • Contact your local WIC office with any questions about breastfeeding, nutrition or shopping.
  • Click here for more information and updates.

School Meals

Free meals to all youth and teens (this information is continuously changing, so keep checking back if you don’t find meals in your community):

Health Insurance & COVID-19 Testing

  • HelpLine: Call Health Care For All’s HelpLine at (800) 272-4232 for questions about applying for health insurance in MA, health insurance benefits, and issues with state programs. Open 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Monday – Friday.
  • The MA Department of Public Health has ordered all commercial insurers and the Group Insurance Commission to cover medically necessary telehealth services in the same manner they cover in-person services. Insurers must do this without requiring cost-sharing of any kind – such as co-pays and coinsurance. Read the full order here.
  • Testing: Information on the state’s website | Map & list of testing sites in Boston
  • How to Support Children’s Health During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • DO NOT avoid testing or treatment for lack of coverage!

MassHealth

  • If you have MassHealth, you’re FULLY COVERED for COVID-19 testing and treatment. No referrals are needed.
  • If you’re uninsured, you can apply for MassHealth or Connector plans.
  • All MassHealth Enrollment sites are closed for walk-in visitors until further notice. If you are a MassHealth member or applicant and you need support or have any questions, call the Customer Service Center at 800- 841-2900 (TTY 800-497-4648).
  • MassHealth patients are able to pick up 90-day prescription refills. There will also be leniency around picking up the prescription early.
  • Click here for more information on MassHealth.

Housing

Shelter:

Rental Assistance:

  • The City of Boston has dedicated $3 million to a Rental Relief Fund to help Boston residents at risk of losing their rental housing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) is a MA state program aimed at preventing homelessness by providing short-term financial assistance to families experiencing homelessness or at risk of experiencing homelessness.
  • The state has added millions to RAFT in the wake of the coronavirus for eligible households (families and individuals) who may face eviction, foreclosure, loss of utilities, and other housing emergencies. Click here for info.

Rent Adjustments:

  • Folks in subsidized housing/public housing/vouchers who have lost income or jobs should contact their rental manager. This may be difficult as offices are closed; keep a log if you cannot reach anyone. Keep paystubs, layoff notices, etc. These will be essential is obtaining rent adjustments.
  • NOTE: Anyone living in Boston Housing Authority (BHA) public housing must see their property manager to report income changes.

Evictions and Foreclosures:

  • On April 20, MA Governor Charlie Baker signed an eviction and foreclosure moratorium into law. This means landlords cannot evict or threaten to evict their tenants, and mortgage companies cannot foreclose on homeowners during this crisis. This moratorium:

    • Stops landlords from sending Notices To Quit
    • Stops courts from hearing eviction cases or entering judgments
    • Stops sheriffs from enforcing executions for possession
    • Stops late fees + negative reporting for COVID-impacted tenants
    • Moratorium on residential foreclosures
    • Moratorium on evictions of small businesses The moratorium will last for 120 days, or until 45 days after the state of emergency is lifted, whichever is shorter. Read more from City Life/Vida Urbana.
  • Hotline: If you’re struggling with an eviction or displacement emergency, call City Life/Vida Urbana’s Housing Hotline at 617-934-5006 (English) or 617-397-3773 (Español).

  • Click here for more about what tenants should do if they are facing an eviction.
  • Click here for housing rights and resources from City Life/Vida Urbana

Housing in Boston:

  • Boston Housing Authority (BHA) is limiting in-person contact, but continues to be available on-site and by phone and email. Click here for more information.
  • BHA has postponed evictions unrelated to public health or safety until further notice.
  • For help with rental assistance and arrears, contact the Office of Housing Stability at (617) 635-4200 or housingstability@boston.gov.

Metro Housing Boston & Vouchers:

  • Metro Housing Boston staff are working remotely, taking requests for help via ResourceLine@metrohousingboston.org.
  • RAFT pre-applications may still be submitted online here. All applications will be processed electronically.
  • Click here for more information about services offered through Metro Housing Boston.
  • DHCD is moving to temporarily suspend terminations of federal and state rental vouchers, including assistance provided under the Section 8 (DHCD portfolio only), Massachusetts Rental Voucher and Alternative Housing Voucher programs, in all cases other than those involving violent or drug-related criminal activity that seriously affects the health and safety of other residents.

Residential Leasing/Showing:

  • Click here for guidance from EMPath’s housing attorney.

Click here for more info on housing assistance, evictions, and vouchers.

Immigration

  • Getting tested or treated for the COVID-19 will NOT count as a public charge for immigrants.
  • Emergency funds for undocumented folks: Click here.
  • Resource guide for Boston’s immigrants: Click here.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices are currently closed to the public. Click here for information on their COVID-19 response and for resources if you have a pending case.
  • For women seeking immigration advice, contact the Rosie’s Place Legal Program at (617) 318-0280.
  • Click here for multilingual information (información en español, informação em português, enfóomayon an ayisyen, المعلومات باللغة العربية, 中文信息) from the Center to Support Immigrant Organizing.
  • Click here for resources from MIRA Coalition in multiple languages.
  • For immigrants without access to benefits (undocumented, TPS, DACA, etc.) such as SNAP, unemployment, disability, and cash assistance, click here for assistance in your neighborhood and call 211 to ask for information on the United Way’s COVID-19 Family Support Fund.

Internet, Computers, & Phone

Free and low-cost WiFi

  • EveryoneOn’s search tool lets you find low-cost internet service and computers in your area.
  • Comcast is offering 60 days of free service to new Internet Essentials customers who apply by April 30, and free remote installation. It’s also increasing service speeds for new and existing customers and has made Xfinity WiFi hotspots free for all to use.
  • PCs for People offers low-cost WiFi hotspots and computers to qualifying households. They now accept Pell Grant documentation for eligibility for higher education students impacted by COVID-19-related school closures.
  • Starry is offering free service until the end of May to all current Starry Connect subscribers and anyone who signs up for Starry Connect before the end of May. You must live in a building that is currently served by the Starry Connect program.
  • Verizon announced two months of waived Internet and voice service charges for current Lifeline customers. The company also has new, affordable Internet options for low-income households.
  • Click here for more free and low-cost internet programs.

Free and low-cost computers

  • EveryoneOn’s search tool lets you find low-cost internet service and computers in your area.
  • Computer Care and Learning (Cambridge, MA) provides folks with low incomes with refurbished PCs. They are asking for $50 in donation; if someone cannot pay $50, they simply ask for volunteer hours.
  • PCs for People offers low-cost WiFi hotspots and computers to qualifying households. They now accept Pell Grant documentation for eligibility for higher education students impacted by COVID-19-related school closures.
  • Tech Goes Home offers free technology training and low-cost brand new Chromebook laptops for $50. They are still operating classes virtually and delivering laptops during this time.

Other internet resources

Low-cost phone

  • Certain program recipients in Massachusetts (such as MassHealth members) are eligible for a low-cost phone through the Lifeline Program.

Legal Help

  • COVID-19 Legal Help in MA: Legal information about a wide range of legal issues, including housing, family law, unemployment, the courts, and more (see links on the left sidebar).
  • Legal Resource Finder: Contact information for legal aid programs, nonprofits, government agencies, and court programs that may be able to help you with your legal issue for free or at a low cost. Also provides links to legal information and self-help materials.
  • Mass Legal Answers Online: Online legal advice from a volunteer attorney.
  • Click here for more legal resources.

Courts

  • Trial Court: If you have questions about a court hearing, you can call Rosie’s Place Legal Program at (617) 318-0280 (note: Rosie’s Place serves women only).
  • Housing Court: On April 20, MA Governor Charlie Baker signed an eviction and foreclosure moratorium into law. This means landlords cannot evict or threaten to evict their tenants, and mortgage companies cannot foreclose on homeowners during this crisis. The bill also stops courts from hearing eviction cases or entering judgments. See the “Housing” section above for more information.
  • Click here for more information about the MA court system in light of COVID-19.

Libraries

  • Most municipal libraries have closed or modified services. Contact your local library for more information. Click here for an updated list of public library closings and service changes.
  • All Boston Public Library locations are closed, all events have been cancelled, and due dates are extended.
  • Massachusetts libraries have many e-books, audiobooks, and other resources available online.

Mental Health

Emergency Helplines

General Information

Free and Low-Cost Therapy

Mindfulness and Meditation

For Children

Substance Use & Addiction Recovery

Managing Finances

NOTE: The deadline to file and pay both federal and MA state taxes has been moved to July 15.

How Do I Manage My Finances During COVID-19?

From EMPath’s Financial Specialist

Communication is key

  • The most important advice in managing debt during ANY financial hardship is regular communication with your financial institution such as your bank, creditor, or student loan servicer.
  • Always alert your financial institution immediately when you are beginning to experience financial hardship and inquire about options they can provide such as lower interest payments, changing the bill due date, temporary relief, etc.
  • It is understandable that taking the time to call and have those conversations can be difficult emotionally. Keep in mind that financial hardships often happen at no fault of your own. Speaking with your bank as soon as possible can save you money in the long-run, such as reduced interest payments or preventing a debt to go into collections.
  • Be prepared to explain your situation to your bank/creditor. You may want to write down your story prior to the call to help you better explain your situation to the customer representative. This may include important dates related to your employment and a list of other debts/accounts/medical expenses you have financial obligations to at this time and having difficulty paying due to reduced income or employment.

What steps can I take?

  • Contact your bank or financial institution immediately via the customer service phone number on the back of your credit card to inquire about financial help during the pandemic.
  • You may also be able to contact your financial institution via online support through their website or online chat support. Take notes as you speak with your financial institution and request for documentation of any agreed upon terms or changes to your credit card/bank etc.
  • Utilize online banking or mobile apps to manage your payments or fund transfers to decrease in-person contact at financial institutions.

Additional information and resources:

Physical Health

Workouts


Playgrounds & Parks

  • City of Boston playgrounds and tot lots are temporarily closed.
  • Fitness equipment, basketball courts, and sports fields at Boston parks are closed.
  • City of Boston parks remain open for passive use such as walking, running, cycling, and skateboarding, while practicing physical distancing. Keep six feet of space between yourself and others.
  • Click here for more information from Boston Parks and Recreation.

School Closures

  • K-12: All public and private K-12 schools in Massachusetts are closed (except residential special education schools) through the end of the school year. Click here for more information.
  • Laptops: Boston Public Schools is providing Chromebooks to students who do not have consistent access to a computer at home. If your child needs a laptop, click here.
  • Boston-area colleges: Click here for info.
  • For information on child care centers, see the “Child Care” section above.

Student Loans & Debt Protection

Click here for free student aid-related COVID-19 guidance for students, families, and student loan borrowers.

Student Loans - CARES Act

This section contains information compiled from StudentAid.gov regarding student loan payments as a result of the federal government’s CARES Act. The information below pertains to federal loans only. (Policies and terms may continue to change, so make sure to check with your loan servicer regularly for the most accurate information.)

Key Points:

  • On March 27, 2020, the president signed the CARES Act into law, which, among other things, provides broad relief for federal student loan borrowers.
  • Your payments will automatically stop from March 13 through Sept. 30, 2020 (this may take some time to reflect on your account, make sure to check your account and contact your loan servicer).
  • The administrative forbearance will last from March 13 through Sept. 30, 2020.
  • Any payment you made during the administrative forbearance period (March 13, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2020) can be refunded.
  • Suspended payments will count towards IDR forgiveness and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Payments

If I make loan payments during the 0% interest period, how will they be applied?

During the period of 0% interest (March 13, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2020), the full amount of your payments will be applied to principal once all the interest that accrued prior to March 13 is paid.

Are private student loans eligible for the 0% interest benefit?

No. ED does not have legal authority over private student loans, and they are not covered by the CARES Act.

Loan Forgiveness

If I’m currently in an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan, will my suspended payments count toward IDR forgiveness?

Yes.

Will suspended payments count toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)?

If you have a Direct Loan, were on a qualifying repayment plan prior to the suspension, and work full-time for a qualifying employer during the suspension, then you will receive credit toward PSLF for the period of suspension as though you made on-time monthly payments.

Questions About the Forbearance (Temporary Suspension of Payments)

I understand that my loans will be placed in administrative forbearance, temporarily suspending my monthly payments. How long will the administrative forbearance last?

The administrative forbearance will last from March 13, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2020.

What will happen to my regular auto-debit payments if I do nothing?

Auto-debit payments are suspended during the administrative forbearance. Any auto-debit payments processed between March 13, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2020, can be refunded to you. Contact your loan servicer to request that your payment be refunded.

If I made a payment after the president signed the CARES Act on March 27, 2020, can I receive a refund?

Yes; any payment you made during the administrative forbearance period (March 13, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2020) can be refunded. Contact your loan servicer to request that your payment be refunded.

If I’m trying to rehabilitate my defaulted student loan, will my suspended payments count toward my rehabilitation?

Yes.

How will I know when I will have to start making payments again?

The 0% interest period and administrative forbearance is currently set to expire on Sept. 30, 2020. Your servicer will contact you, no later than in August, to remind you that you will need to start making payments again. Make sure your contact information is up to date in your loan servicer account profile.

What if I want to continue making payments?

If you wish to continue paying your loans during the administrative forbearance period, or to pay more or less than your regular payment amount, you are free to do so. Contact your loan servicer or visit your servicer’s website to make a payment or to find out how you can continue or start auto-debit payments. Continuing to make payments during the administrative forbearance could help you pay down your loan balance more quickly because the full amount of a payment will be applied to principal once all interest accrued prior to March 13, 2020, is paid.

If you continue making regular payments but then experience a change in income, please contact your loan servicer as soon as possible to discuss options, such as enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan to lower your payments or opting in to the administrative forbearance that ends Sept. 30, 2020.

What if I want to continue making a partial payment while my loan is in forbearance?

As long as you are in forbearance, you will not be penalized for making a payment that is less than your usual monthly payment. Meanwhile, you still have the option to make a payment on your loan to make progress toward reducing your balance. Contact your loan servicer or visit your servicer’s website to make a payment or to find out how you can continue or start auto-debit payments.

Questions About Defaulted Loans

On March 25, 2020, ED announced that my federal tax refund would not be withheld to repay my defaulted federal student loan debt. My refund has already been taken. Will I get it back?

Yes, but only if your federal tax refund was in the process of being withheld—on or after March 13, 2020, and before Sept. 30, 2020—for the repayment of a defaulted federal student loan.

Your federal tax refund will not be returned to you if the process to withhold your refund was completed before March 13, 2020.

If you have questions about whether your federal tax refund was withheld, call ED’s Default Resolution Group at 1-800-621-3115 (TTY for the deaf or hearing-impaired 1-877-825-9923).

Click here for more FAQs about student loans and the COVID-19 crisis.

Student Loans - Relief Options for Borrowers in MA

COVID-19 impacted borrowers in Massachusetts with private student loans not covered by the CARES Act may be eligible for some relief options through a multi-state initiative between 15 private student loan servicers and the Massachusetts Division of Banks (DOB), announced on April 21.

If you think your loan servicer is not acting in your best interest, contact:

  • Massachusetts Division of Banks at 617-956-1501 or file a complaint here.
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to file a complaint here.

For more information and resources on these relief options, see the Consumer Advisory.

Debt Protection

  • If you have questions or need assistance with debt collection or other issues around debt, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 617-727-8400 (available Monday - Friday, 10am-4pm)
  • Click here to learn more.

Transportation

  • The MBTA is reducing service on some lines, with some high-demand lines retaining normal service. Click here for updates.
  • The MA Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) has switched to an appointment-only reservation system for necessary and required in-person transactions, including certain CDL license transactions and some new registrations. Click here to make an appointment.
  • The RMV is now conducting suspension hearings over the phone. You will still need to visit the RMV to apply for and initiate a suspension hearing.
  • The RMV is suspending the issuance of new REAL IDs and non-commercial learner’s permit exams until April 7.
  • Click here for more RMV information.

Unemployment

If you believe you were unfairly fired from a job or are currently working but believe your employer is not following labor laws (not paying you correctly or for overtime, not giving you breaks or access to sick time and other types of leave, retaliating against you, etc.), contact the MA Attorney General’s Fair Division hotline at 617-727-3465 (TTY 617-727-4765) for help. Click here for more information and to file a complaint. All workers, regardless of immigration status, have certain rights in Massachusetts.

  • Click here for FAQ from MA Attorney General Maura Healey’s office on employee rights and employer obligations regarding COVID-19.

Applying for Unemployment in MA

If you have been laid off, terminated, or have experienced a significant decrease in hours, you may be eligible to receive unemployment assistance. NOTE: Unemployment benefits are not usually considered a public charge.

  • Apply: The quickest way to file a successful unemployment claim is through the state’s online portal. You can also call the Department of Unemployment Assistance at 877-626-680 (open Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m–12 p.m. Multilingual call agents are available).
    • Click here for a step-by-step guide to filing a new unemployment claim
    • Click here for more information and the latest updates.
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA): Provides payment to workers not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits (self-employed, independent contractors, workers with limited work history, and others) who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency.
    • Click here to apply online.
    • You can also call the Department of Unemployment Assistance at 877-626-680 (open Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m–12 p.m. Multilingual call agents are available).
    • Click here for more information, including what information you need for the application.

Help Applying

  • If you have questions and need assistance, click here for more information, call 617-603-1530 (español) or 617-603-1639 (all other languages), or fill out this short form and someone from Greater Boston Legal Services will contact you.
  • Sign up for one of the MA Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA)’s daily town halls leading applicants through a step-by-step process of a successful unemployment claim.
  • If you have already applied for unemployment and have questions for DUA about your case, fill out this form and someone will call you.
    • Keep your phone near with the volume on, and answer when DUA calls (usually from 617-626-6800). DUA will not call back if you miss the call, unless you submit another request.

Changes Made to Unemployment Assistance

  • The MA Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) will now pay workers who are ordered to quarantine themselves or leave work because of risk, exposure, or infection will be paid.
  • People will also be paid if leaving work to care for a family member.
  • If you had to quit your job due to reasons related to COVID-19, you may eligible for unemployment benefits.
  • While employees are still asked to work when able, they will not need to provide any medical documentation for their leave.
  • Some requirements around current unemployment claims have been relaxed, allowing many workers who are affected by closures to get some relief faster.
  • The one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits has been waived as of March 18, effective immediately, allowing new unemployment claims to be paid more quickly.
  • Click here to read more.

Federal CARES Act

  • Under the CARES Act, effective March 27, workers are receiving an additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits until July 31, 2020. Some people have started receiving this additional benefit. Others should be receiving it soon, and it will be retroactive.
  • The maximum number of weeks one can receive full unemployment inusurance benefits is 30; however, the CARES Act provides an additional 13 weeks, if needed.
  • For more information and updates about unemployment insurance and COVID-19, see MA Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA).

Public Assistance

  • If you are currently receiving public assistance, such as SNAP, and have lost hours at work, let the overseeing agency, such as DTA, know that you have experienced a decrease in income.
  • If you previously did not qualify for public assistance, but have lost wages, you may now be eligible. Feel free to apply!

Looking for Work

Most employers have needed to close or cut hours, so the likelihood of being hired at this time is slim. If you need work and are able to do so, the best places to look are:

  • Grocery Stores
  • Pharmacies
  • Takeout/fast food restaurants
  • Health care
  • If you are a native English speaker and have a Bachelor’s degree, you may want to consider teaching English online. Try Qkids or DaDa.
  • Newmarket Jobs Initiative (for job seekers 18-40 years old living in, or originally from, Roxbury, Dorchester, or Mattapan)

Remote job search sites:

Utilities

  • Utility assistance: Click here.
  • The MA Department of Public Utilities is extending the state’s moratorium on electric and gas service shutoffs for the duration of the state of emergency in MA. More information from MassLegalHelp.

Working From Home

Additional Information