Uncategorized

Looking for help?

Unprecedented times, many people in need — and help is available. Here’s a brief rundown of some of the ways federal, state and local governments, and others, are stepping up to provide assistance during the COVID-19 crisis.

Help for whom: Everyone

From whom: The federal government

What’s offered: On Friday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the Internal Revenue Service will move the deadline to file and pay federal taxes this year from April 15 to July 15. For individuals and businesses who owe taxes, it’ll be a brief respite — there will be no interest or penalties for later payments. Mr. Mnuchin added some obvious advice: “I encourage all taxpayers who may have tax refunds to file now to get your money.” Indeed.

How to get it: Automatic


Help for whom: Parents and child care providers

From whom: New York State

What’s offered: A law mandating that child care providers undergo criminal background checks has been suspended for the time being to make sure there are enough providers out there. Other rules related to day care facilities, including capacity limits and mandatory staffing minimums, are temporarily waived.

How to get it: Automatic


Help for whom: Restaurant staffers

From whom: The federal and state governments

What’s offered: The federal government has granted sick leave benefits for up to two weeks, which means individuals will earn full pay while out sick or on quarantine. That includes aid for gig workers and the self-employed. There are potential exceptions for very big (500-plus employees) and very small (fewer than 50 employees) companies, but the New York State Legislature piggybacks on the measure and requires any company with 100 or more employees to provide two weeks of sick leave to anyone quarantined. For restaurants with 10 to 99 employees, the state mandates a week of emergency paid sick leave. Beyond that, the state’s paid family leave program will pay up to 60 percent of wages. There is no waiting period to qualify, and part-time employees are covered by the federal law. Businesses will get back 100 percent of the cost of sick leave through payroll tax credits.

How to get it: Through employers


Help for whom: Everyone

From whom: The state

What’s offered: A hotline for any questions on the novel coronavirus, manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

How to get it: 1-888-364-3065


Help for whom: Everyone

From whom: Suffolk County

What’s offered: Up-to-date information on the novel coronavirus in the county.

How to get it: Text “covidsuffolk” to 67283 to get regular text updates to your mobile device. You also can dial 311 to speak to someone providing access to help provided by Suffolk County agencies.


Help for whom: Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 (cough, shortness of breath, fever)

From whom: Stony Brook University

What’s offered: A mobile testing center in Stony Brook, but it’s available by appointment only. The site provides drive-through testing from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week, and can do up to 1,000 tests per day. You also can call to speak with a health care professional about your symptoms.

How to get it: Call the state hotline, 1-888-364-3065, to make an appointment.


Help for whom: Business owners

From whom: Suffolk County’s Business Recovery Unit

What’s offered: County Executive Steve Bellone launched the unit to “address the concerns and questions that businesses have amid the coronavirus outbreak.” The unit, part of the Department of Economic Development and Planning, is a landing spot for questions for the county’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Consumer Affairs.

How to get it: Call the county hotline, 311, or email [email protected].


Help for whom: Homeowners with mortgage payments due

From whom: The state

What’s offered: A 90-day break on mortgage payments, with no penalty. The missed payments are simply moved to the end of the mortgage payment schedule, with no further penalty. There is no negative reporting to credit bureaus, no late payment or online payment fees, and foreclosures are postponed or suspended.

How to get it: Automatic, though a call to your mortgage provider to confirm is always a good idea


Help for whom: K-12 and college students without internet

From whom: Alltice USA

What’s offered: The local internet provider — the parent company of Optimum — is offering free home internet access (30 Mbps broadband) for 60 days to any new customer where it provides service, as long as there is a student in the household (including college students who are left without a campus.

How to get it: Call 866-200-9522 to enroll


Help for whom: All Optimum internet and phone customers

From whom: Alltice USA

What’s offered: Optimum’s parent company said it will not terminate broadband and voice service to any residential or small business customers because of nonpayment of bills due to the crisis. The company also will waive late fees.

How to get it: Automatic — but, again, a call to customer service at Optimum, 631-393-0636, if you’re going to miss payments probably isn’t a bad idea


Help for whom: Small business owners and nonprofit organizations

From whom: The U.S. Small Business Administration

What’s offered: Low-interest federal disaster loans to cover the economic impact of the crisis. Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million per business or organization are available. The loans can cover debt, payroll, accounts payable and other bills. The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses, and 2.75 percent for nonprofits; long-term repayment, up to 30 years, is available on a case-by-case basis.

How to get it: Several ways. The SBA website, sba.gov, has details. You also can call them at 1-800-659-2955, or send an email to [email protected]. But you also can contact the Small Business Development Center at Stony Brook University, which also has staff at Stony Brook Southampton: 631-632-9837, or by email to [email protected].

Editor’s Note: This article was published in conjunction with The Southampton Press.