Non-filers now have until Nov. 21 to register for an Economic Impact Payment (Stimulus Payment)

The deadline to register for an Economic Impact Payment using the Non-filers tool is extended to November 21, 2020.

If you don’t typically file a tax return – and haven’t received an Economic Impact Payment – register soon using the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool on IRS.gov.

This extension is only for those who haven’t received their Economic Impact Payment and don’t normally file a tax return.

The IRS’s Non-Filers tool is secure. You can use it if you’re married with income below $24,400or single with income below $12,200 and can’t be claimed as a dependent by someone else. This includes couples and individuals who are experiencing homelessness. Social Security Benefits and VA recipients, whose only source of income are social security retirement, social security disability, Supplemental security income or SSI, or if you receive Veterans benefits the IRS will automatically issue your economic impact payment to the account in which you receive your benefits. The economic impact payment will be sent to you even if you have a federal income tax debt that is not paid off.

If you began receiving Social Security Income or VA Benefits in 2020 and did not file a tax return for Tax Years 2018 or 2019 you may not automatically receive the economic impact payment. As long as you are not required to file a 2019 Federal Income Tax Return you can apply for the economic impact payment on the IRS website by November 21, 2020 using the Non-Filer Tool. The link to register is called Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Info here. The link to the IRS website is on our website and can also be found on IRS.gov. You will be able to provide your bank account information if you would like your economic stimulus payment directly deposited into your bank account. If you have filed a 2018- or 2019-income tax return do not register on the non-filer link.

You can speed the arrival of your payment by choosing to receive it by direct deposit. Otherwise, you’ll receive a check or prepaid debit card.

After two weeks, you can track the status of your payment using the Get My Payment tool.

HUD Extends to December 31st the Deadline for Requesting Certain Mortgage Assistance

On April 1, 2020, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced programs for borrowers who had suffered a financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Borrowers with regular mortgage payments can ask their mortgage company for a forbearance of their mortgage payments.  A forbearance is a program that allows a borrower to delay making a mortgage payment.  In other words, a borrower will forbear making payments for a number of months.  However, the payments usually come due all at once at the end of the forbearance period. 

HUD calls this forbearance program the “Forbearance for Borrowers Affected by the COVID-19 National Emergency” or the “COVID-19 Forbearance.”  On October 20, 2020, HUD extended the deadline for borrowers to request a COVID-19 Forbearance to December 31, 2020.  The initial forbearance period for a COVID-19 Forbearance is six months.  This period can be lengthened, up to another 6 months, or shortened at the borrower’s request.

            HUD created a separate program for borrowers with reverse mortgages.  HUD calls reverse mortgages “Home Equity Conversion Mortgages” (“HECM”).  When a 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.  HUD has strict time frames for calling a loan due in full and filing 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 six 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 do not hesitate to call SC Legal Services at 888-346-5592 or to apply online at www.sclegal.org.       

Social Security Benefits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) released a statement on October 13, 2020 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 federal government has not released the 2021 premium amounts for Medicare.

The Open Enrollment period for Medicare started on October 15, 2020 and will 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. There are tools available to help a person choose the right healthcare and prescription drug plans. If you are comfortable with computers and have internet access, go to https://www.medicare.gov/plan-compare/#/?lang=en&year=2020 to compare plans and costs. The SC State Health Insurance Assistance Program provides free counselors who can help you find plans. It can 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. Remember to look for hidden costs when comparing plans and not just the monthly premium. You should verify that your doctors are included in the plan you choose.

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. To find one of these plans, look for the “filter plan” button in the upper right-hand corner of your computer screen and check the insulin savings box. Or tell the coordinator at the SHIP that you need one of these plans.

There are lots of scams that target Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries during this time of year. You should never give your Medicare or Social Security number to a random person who calls you. The government will not call you and ask for either of these numbers. It will not threaten you with jail if you do not provide personal information to the caller. The government will not call you to cancel or verify your Medicare coverage. 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 or 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 should register your phone number(s) with the federal “Do Not Call List” if you are getting a lot of unwanted calls or text messages. You can register your phone numbers on line at https://www.donotcall.gov/ or you can call 888-382-1222.

Eviction Dismissal

A couple came in in mid-September. They had been behind in their rent for a few months because the wife lost her job due to COVID-19. They thought everything was going to be fine when they secured enough rental assistance to get current on their rent, but the landlord refused to accept it. Additionally, the landlord also refused to accept the partial payments the clients offered. The couple recently heard that the landlords wanted to cut the current leases so they can start charging much higher rent. The clients believe that’s why the landlord decided seemingly out of nowhere to file for an eviction for nonpayment of rent while simultaneously refusing to accept their money.

Our office tried to mail the landlord the couples’ signed CDC Declaration forms certified, but we didn’t get any confirmation of receipt before the hearing. At the hearing, however, the judge asked if the landlord got the signed CDC Declaration forms. I said they are in the mail and had the postage receipt, but I also had copies with me that I could give everyone now. The judge asked to see them, and so I gave the signed copies to the landlord and to the judge during the proceeding. The judge said since the forms have now been signed and the landlord has now received them, he would dismiss the case and allow the landlord to file for an eviction after December 31.

This unfortunately isn’t the case for everyone protected by the CDC Order, but the delay until Jan 1 was all my clients needed. The week before the hearing the husband got a better job outside of Nashville, and they were planning on giving the landlord their 30-days’ notice the day after the hearing. The dismissal got them more time to pack and get their affairs in order, but more importantly to them, the dismissal kept an eviction off their record and allowed them to open the next chapter of their lives scot-free.   

Behaviors of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.[1] Nationally, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of domestic violence within their lifetimes, and 1 in 4 women have reported that they have experienced severe physical violence in an intimate relationship.[2]

However, South Carolina has exceedingly high rates of domestic violence against women. More than 2 in 5 women will experience either physical violence, sexual violence, or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes.[3] South Carolina also ranks in the top 10 worst states for the rate of women murdered by men.[4]

            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.  

            It is important to remember that if you find yourself in an abusive relationship as the victim, you are not the one to be blamed and you do not need to be ashamed. It is a powerful and strong move to come forth and protect yourself. You deserve to be treated with respect and to live a safe and happy life. It is also important to remember that you are not alone and that there are plenty of people and organizations that are ready and waiting to help.

            In South Carolina, help is just a phone call away, and there are domestic violence shelters throughout the state that will provide you with a safe space away from your abuser. Our website has a thorough listing of shelters across South Carolina, including phone numbers for you to call.

If you do not know who to call, the National Domestic Violence Hotline has a 24/7 hotline. Their phone number is 1.800.799.7233. You can also 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.


[1] What is Domestic Violence?, National Domestic Violence Hotline, https://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/abuse-defined/ (viewed June 15, 2020).

[2] National Statistics, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, https://ncadv.org/learn-more/statistics (viewed June 15, 2020).

[3] Domestic Violence in South Carolina, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, https://assets.speakcdn.com/assets/2497/south_carolina_2019.pdf (viewed June 15, 2020).

[4] Nearly 2,000 Women Murdered by Men in One Year, New VPC Study Finds, Violence Policy Center, https://vpc.org/press/nearly-2000-women-murdered-by-men-in-one-year-new-study-finds/ (viewed June 15, 2020).

Eviction Averted After First Moratorium Ended

Jane, a single mother with several young children, was served with an eviction notice in February. She had lost her job and had applied for but had not received any unemployment benefits and was awaiting her income tax refund.

Later, Jane was able to pay the past due rent. However, she did not answer the eviction action because she assumed that payment of the rent ended the eviction. Jane made several attempts to pay ongoing rent at the management office of her complex, but the office was closed due to the COVID 19 stay at home order.

The landlord did not move forward with the eviction action filed in February because of the Supreme Court’s issued moratorium. However, when that moratorium ended Jane received a certified letter from the landlord on July 31st advising her to move out of the property within 30 days. The eviction action from February had moved forward even though she had paid her back rent. Jane was unaware of this until she was served with a Writ of Ejectment, informing her that she had to be out of her home in three days.  Jane applied for legal services while in the process of packing her personal belongings. Not only would Jane lose her home, but she would also lose her Section 8 voucher if the eviction was ordered.

An SCLS attorney filed a motion to stay the eviction action. With the attorney’s assistance, the eviction case was dismissed by the Judge. Jane and her children were able to stay in their home and keep the Section 8 voucher. She has returned to work and is now able to pay her rent without difficulty.

Facing Eviction?

South Carolina Legal Services can represent you. Call our toll-free number at 888-346-5592 or applying online at https://sclegal.org/

Can’t pay rent?

Click here to see a list of agencies that can help you pay your rent.

Need Help Completing The Declaration To Stop Eviction?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published an Order that could stop evictions for those who have unpaid rent.  The Order will last until the end 2020. Tenants must continue to pay rent. The rent is not forgiven. Tenants still may have to pay late fees for not paying your rent on time.  The Order does give relief to tenants who are unable to pay rent due to a financial hardship and who are making efforts to pay what they can.  

Every adult living in the rental unit must sign a Declaration that contains the following information AND give it to the landlord with proof of delivery to the landlord to be protected by the Order:

  1. Have used their best efforts to get all available government rental help;
  2. Have a specific income;
  3. Are unable to pay full rent;
  4. Using their best efforts to make timely payments;
  5. Have no other housing options if evicted;
  6. Understand full rent must be paid and other terms of the lease followed;
  7. Understand can be charged fees, penalties, or interest for not paying rent on time;
  8. Understand that the moratorium will end on December 31, 2020.

The CDC Order provides steep penalties if the landlord violates the Order or if a tenant gives false information.

The Order does NOT stop all evictions.  The following evictions are still allowed:

  1.  Engaging in criminal activity while on the premises;
  2. Threatening the health or safety of other residents;
  3. Damaging or posing an immediate and significant risk of damage to property;
  4. Violating any applicable building code, health ordinance, or similar regulation relating to health and safety; or
  5. Violating any other contractual obligation.

SCLS can help with the following by calling our toll-free number at 888-346-5592 or applying online at https://sclegal.org/

  • Explaining the qualifications;
  • Filling out the Declaration;
  • Locating agencies who may assist with rental payment;
  • Representing if served with an eviction action.

Avoiding COVID-19 Related Foreclosures

Homeowners who have lost income due to the COVID-19 crisis have been worried about the prospects of foreclosure this year.

Foreclosure Moratoriums

In March, the S.C. Supreme Court and the federal government halted foreclosures for a few months. Since then, the five federal agencies that own or insure most of the mortgage loans in the U.S. have extended foreclosure moratoriums for their mortgages through at least December 31, 2020. The “Big Five” are Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) (through the Rural Development Program), and the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). There is no foreclosure moratorium for private mortgages that are not owned or insured by one of the Big Five.

Payment Relief

If you have a mortgage backed by one of the Big Five you can obtain a payment forbearance if you cannot make a mortgage payment because you have had a COVID-19 related financial hardship. A forbearance means that you may put off, or “forbear,” making mortgage payments for a set period of time. The payments are not forgiven and will come due at the end of the forbearance period. If you have a COVID-19 related hardship, you can ask your mortgage company for a “CARES Act Forbearance.” If you are eligible, then you should get a CARES Act Forbearance that will last up to 180 days. You should not have to prove you suffered a COVID-19 related financial hardship, and you should not be charged late fees or penalties during the forbearance. You can ask for another 180 days if your circumstances have not improved by the end of the first CARES Act Forbearance. You will still owe the money that would come due during this time. You normally would have to pay it all in a lump sum at the end of a forbearance period. But if your mortgage is backed by one of the Big Five, you have other options.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: If you were current on your payments and can afford to resume payments when it ends, you can get a special COVID-19 Payment Deferral, which moves your missed payments to the end of the loan. If not, you can apply for a loan modification. This would change the terms of the loan to make the payment more affordable.

  1. FHA and HUD: Depending on whether you were current before the forbearance, they may offer a mixture of Partial Claims (placing arrears into a junior lien that is repaid when you refinance or sell the home, or at the end of the loan), loan modifications, or both. They may offer other programs as well.
  2. USDA: If you can resume your payments, you can get a repayment plan or extend the term of the loan by the length of the forbearance. If you cannot resume your payments, you can ask them to review you for their standard loss mitigation options.
  3. VA: You may request a deferral program, repayment plan, or loan modifications depending on your needs. They cannot require you to make a lump sum payment at the end of the forbearance.

These programs are not automatic! You must reach out to your mortgage servicer to ask for this help. If you get a forbearance under the CARES Act, you should reach out again before the forbearance ends to discuss your options about how the missed payments will be repaid. If you do not have a mortgage backed by one of the Big Five, you still should ask your loan servicer what options it has to avoid foreclosure.

Call SCLS at (888) 346-5592 or apply online at www.sclegal.org if you get a foreclosure notice or if you have any questions about foreclosure issues.

Social Security Administration and Its COVID Related Plans

COVID-19 continues to guide the way we interact with government agencies. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offices remain closed to the public.  It is unknown when they will fully reopen. It is important that we remember that SSA’s field and hearing offices have rather small public areas.  These areas are often packed with vulnerable individuals. SSA is trying to develop procedures to protect its staff and the public.

SSA is encouraging the public to set up a personal “my Social Security” account.  This will allow you to check your earnings record, eligibility for benefits, your current benefits and even get a replacement Social Security card. Go to https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/ to set up an account. You can apply for most benefits online. You can also file an appeal if you are denied benefits. Remember to keep proof of any on-line transaction (even if it is just taking a picture with your smart phone). One of the projects SSA is developing for the field offices is a mobile app. The app will let you check in for an appointment on your smart phone from your car. 

Social Security hearings are still being heard solely by telephone.  But, SSA has plans to go to video hearings using Microsoft Teams. Unrepresented individuals with an email address have started to get their hearing record by secure email rather than on a disc.  It is important to ask for the hearing record if you have a hearing scheduled and cannot get someone to represent you. This allows you to see the evidence SSA is using to deny or cut off your benefits.

SSA and its Inspector General is reminding the public to be on the alert for scams. Be very careful if you get an unwanted call from someone saying they are from the government. Do not give out personal information like your date of birth, social security number, place of birth, or mother’s maiden name. SSA will never call and threaten you with arrest or legal action, tell you that your social security number has been suspended, demand secrecy in handling a Social Security-related problem or ask for payment in exchange for services.

If you have any issues regarding your Social Security Benefits, you may apply for free legal services by calling the SCLS toll free number 888-346-5592 or apply online at https://sclegal.org/

15th Annual Neighbor Day

The 15th Annual Neighbor Day was a success in spite of the restrictions of COVID-19.  Generous donations, established sponsorships, and dedicated employees at the Charleston office of South Carolina Legal Services were determined to make this another successful year.  Due to COVID-19, a more creative and strategic approach was needed for this year’s community outreach project. Parents who previously attended Neighbor Day  were contacted via phone, email and mail.  They were given instructions on how to sign up and later schedule an appointment to pick up the items.  We were able to provide over 160 children including the children housed at the Carolina Youth Development Center with shoes, socks, school supplies, dental hygiene kits, and PPE supplies.  We also made a sizable shoe donation to The Lowcountry Orphan Relief.

COVID-19 didn’t stop our efforts of providing resources and much needed items for the people of our community.  We will continue to be a resource for our community and look forward to a COVID-19 Free Neighbor Day 2021.