Many residents have lost their jobs because of the state’s efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus by closing businesses. Following are answers to some frequently asked questions from people facing hardship in connection with COVID-19.

Am I eligible for unemployment?

Earlier this month, Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order relaxing the state’s requirements for unemployment insurance benefits.

The order waives the one-week waiting period for benefits, and applicants are no longer expected to demonstrate that they’re actively looking for new jobs. Individuals who are “temporarily out of work or working reduced hours” because of the state’s efforts to curb the pandemic are eligible for assistance, according to the employment security division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

Claims can be submitted over the phone by calling 888-737-0259, but the division said the “fastest and most efficient way to file for assistance is online.” You must create a user account before filing an online claim.

When applying, you’ll be asked to provide your social security number, recent employment history, salary information and bank numbers for direct deposit. Remember to select “coronavirus” as the reason for separation from your employer.

If approved, your benefits will be based on what you were earning. The maximum payout is $350 a week.

Independent contractors and other self-employed individuals do not currently qualify for unemployment insurance benefits.

Will I lose power, water and other essential services if I am unable to pay my bills?

All four major electric utilities in Moore County have waived late fees and suspended disconnections for non-payment. This applies to customers of Duke Energy, Randolph EMC, Central Electric Cooperation and Pee Dee Electric. 

Residents who receive water through Moore County Public Works will not lose service if they are unable to pay their bill. Some municipalities including Southern Pines, Carthage and Robbins have also suspended water shutoffs.

Spectrum has announced it will not charge late penalties or terminate internet, phone or television service for customers facing “difficult economic circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.” AT&T is dropping late fees and halting disconnection of wireless, home phone and broadband services for the next two months.

Verizon customers experiencing financial hardship because of the coronavirus can avoid disconnection and late fees until May 13 by filling out this form on the company’s website. T-Mobile is advising affected customers to make payment arrangements online.

What if I am unable to pay rent?

The United Way of Moore County is providing its partner agencies with emergency crisis grants to assist residents with housing, food and utilities.

Individuals in need of assistance can connect with the appropriate agency by calling 211, the United Way’s hotline in North Carolina. 

After answering the automated prompt to proceed in English or Spanish, press 1 to access the coronavirus menu, then press 3 for information about available resources. Following a lengthy prerecorded message about the state’s response to COVID-19, you’ll be transferred to an operator. Simply say you need assistance with rent or housing because of the coronavirus.

How can I feed my children? 

Parents of children 18 and younger who rely on school-provided meals can pick up free lunch and next-day breakfast from Monday to Friday at 16 distribution sites in Moore County. Click here to see the full list of locations.

(2) comments

Holly Powell

Please spread the word that people who lose their jobs and their health insurance can apply to the Marketplace for health insurance and may qualify for help paying the premiums as well as out of pocket expenses. Phone appointments with Navigators are available to assist those who want to explore this possibility. NC residents can call 1-855-733-3711 or go to NCNavigator.net for an appointment.

Kent Misegades

The age-old rule of thumb for adults is to always have savings equal to at least three months of all essential expenses. Before asking for a handout, tighten belts as much as possible, sell everything not really needed, cut out all non-essential expenses and live modestly.

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