Unemployment Benefits and Discrimination Against LGBTQ+ Employees

Were you fired after you began to transition, or your employer found out you identified as a member of the LGBTQ+ community? When you applied for unemployment benefits did your employer claim you were fired for cause or for misconduct causing you to be denied unemployment benefits? South Carolina Legal Services may be able to help with your unemployment appeal. 

A recent Supreme Court case held that an employer cannot discriminate against or fire an employee for being gay or transgender. Prior to this Supreme Court decision, LGBTQ+ employees facing discrimination due to their sexual orientation and gender expression were not considered protected under this law. 

If you are fired for a reason related to your sexual orientation or gender expression your employer is not going to admit you were fired because you are gay or transgender. The discrimination may appear in more subtle forms.  For example, employers may allege that you engaged in misconduct by violating the dress code or that you engaged in unprofessional conduct or conduct out of line with the values of the employer.  This could result in the DEW making an initial finding that you are disqualified from benefits because your employer terminated you “for cause” or for “misconduct.”  

You must appeal this decision within ten days of the mailing date of the decision. South Carolina Legal Services may be able to represent you. To see if you qualify for legal services, you may apply for representation by calling 1-888-346-5592 or online at: https://www.lawhelp.org/sc/online-intake.  

November 21 – Deadline for Non-Income Tax Filers to Register for Stimulus Payment

The deadline to register for an Economic Impact Payment using the Non-filers tool is extended to November 21, 2020 for those who have not received their Economic Impact Payment and do not normally file a tax return. Register before November 21 using the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool on IRS.gov.

The IRS’s Non-Filers tool is secure and can be used if:

  1. You are married with income below $24,400 or single with income below $12,200 and cannot be claimed as a dependent by someone else;
  2. You are a couple or an individual experiencing homelessness;
  3. You are a Social Security and VA recipient whose only source of income is social security retirement, social security disability, Supplemental security income or SSI;

The economic impact payment will be sent to you even if you have a federal income tax debt that is not paid off.

You can speed the arrival of your payment by choosing to receive it by direct deposit. Otherwise, you will receive a check or prepaid debit card. If you are receiving benefits the payment will automatically be paid into the account in which you receive your benefits. After two weeks, you can track the status of your payment using the Get My Payment tool.

December 31, 2020 Deadline for Requesting Mortgage Assistance from HUD

HUD allows borrowers to delay making a mortgage payment under the Forbearance for Borrowers or COVID 19 National Emergency Program. The deadline to request the COVID 19 Forbearance is December 31, 2020. The borrower will not have to make payments for 6 months. However, this period can be lengthened up to another 6 months or shortened at the borrower’s request. The payments usually come due all at once at the end of the forbearance period.  

HUD also has a program called Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (“HECM”) for borrowers with a reverse mortgage. When an HECM borrower defaults on the mortgage, such as by not paying taxes or insurance, HUD requires the mortgage company to call the HECM loan due in full and then to file a foreclosure. Due to the pandemic, HUD has said that HECM borrowers who have defaulted on the mortgage can ask their mortgage company for an additional 6 months before the mortgage company calls in the loan.  The key is that borrowers must make this request to the mortgage company by December 31, 2020.

If you are concerned about losing your home to foreclosure, and you need assistance understanding your options, please call South Carolina Legal Services at 888-346-5592 or apply online at www.sclegal.org.

Social Security Benefits Updates

The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that benefits will increase by 1.3% in 2021. The maximum monthly SSI benefit will be $794 for a single person and $1,191 for a married couple. Retirement, survivor and disability benefits will go up about $20 a month for the average beneficiary.

The Open Enrollment period for Medicare remain open until December 7, 2020. Medicare beneficiaries should use this time to review their health and drug plans and make any changes based on their current healthcare needs. The South Carolina State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) provides free counselors who can help you find plans. SHIP be reached at 800-868-9095 and just ask for a SHIP coordinator. It is important to know that you should never pay anyone to help you choose a plan.

Medicare is offering new health plans that will cap your out-of-pocket cost at $35 or less for a month’s supply of insulin. The government will not call you and ask for your Medicare or social security number. It will not threaten you with jail if you do not provide personal information to the caller. Scammers can use your Medicare number to file false claims or obtain treatment under your name or they can try to sell you a bogus insurance policy for genetic or COVID testing. Finally, the government will not show up at your door to sell you a Medicare plan, medical equipment, medication, or supplements. You may register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry at https://www.donotcall.gov/ or 888-382-1222.

Domestic Violence Behaviors

Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.

More than 2 in 5 women will experience either physical violence, sexual violence, or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes. South Carolina ranks in the top 10 worst states for the rate of women murdered by men.

Domestic violence is not just physical violence against a partner. It is also sexual and psychological violence, as well as emotional abuse. It can also look quite different depending on the relationship and depending on the abuser.

Those who use domestic violence to create power and control over their partner can use a variety of tactics. This includes, but is not limited to, using intimidation, emotional abuse, and isolation. The abuser can also minimize, deny, and blame the victim in a way to manipulate and shift responsibility. This abuse can also look like the use of threats, including economic threats, and the use of children.  

If a person is in an abusive relationship as the victim, (s)he is not the one to be blamed and does not need to be ashamed.     Help for the survivor is just a phone call away. Visit www.sclegal.org for a listing of shelters throughout the state that will provide you with a safe space away from your abuser. You may also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.7233 or text “LOVEIS” to 1.866.331.9474.            

South Carolina Legal Services may also offer free legal assistance to domestic violence victims, including obtaining Orders of Protection, divorces, and custody. To apply, you can call 1.888.346.5592 or apply online at www.sclegal.org.