Frequently Asked Questions for Individuals

We have compiled answers to some of the most common questions that individuals have as they manage the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Financial Assistance

  1. Do I have to pay rent or mortgage this month?
  2. I’m concerned that I am unable to pay my mortgage on my home.  What do I do?
  3. My tenants cannot pay rent and I am unable to pay the mortgage on my rental property.  What do I do?
  4. Can I get relief for my student loans?
  5. What should I do if I am unable to pay my utility bill?
  6. Will I lose my cell phone or internet service if I am unable to pay my bill?
  7. What can I do if I don't think I will be able to pay my property taxes?
  8. Some Vermonters are eligible for free federal and state tax filing. Am I?

Do I have to pay rent or mortgage this month?

If you can afford it, yes. If you are having trouble making ends meet due to the COVID-19 emergency, contact your mortgage service provider or landlord regarding the terms of your payment. While terms may be adjusted, homeowners and renters remain responsible for making payments in full. However, rental and mortgage assistance programs can assist eligible households with housing-related expenses.

FAQs: Financial Assistance


I’m concerned that I am unable to pay my mortgage on my home.  What do I do?

You may be eligible for the Vermont Homeowners Assistance Program (HAP) created by the federal American Rescue Plan. HAP will provide a one-time lump sum payment for eligible homeowners to assist with overdue mortgage payments, homeowners association fees, property taxes, and/or utilities. The Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) will start accepting applications for HAP in early 2022. Check out VHFA’s website to learn more about the program and the eligibility requirements. 

FAQs: Financial Assistance


My tenants cannot pay rent and I am unable to pay the mortgage on my rental property.  What do I do?

Multi-unit property owners should contact their mortgage service provider if they unable to pay their mortgage. Federal law provides up to 90 days of forbearance for multi-family borrowers with a federally backed multi-family mortgage loan who have experienced a financial hardship. The Department of Financial Regulation has complied a summary of national foreclosure freezes and forbearance programs.

For Tenants and Landlords

Beginning Monday, April 5, 2021, the Vermont Emergency Rental Assistance Program (VERAP), administered by the Vermont State Housing Authority (VSHA), is accepting applications from tenants and landlords. You can find the application portal under the “Programs” tab on the Vermont State Housing Authority website (www.vsha.org), or by navigating directly to erap.vsha.org.

Renters, click on the yellow “Renters Apply Here” button to start the application process.

Landlords, click on the “Landlord Information” tab and scroll down to find the yellow button that reads “Click to Access Landlord/Owner Portal”.

Please note that applicants will now be asked to create an account before answering eligibility questions. As with the previous rental assistance program, payments will be made directly to landlords on the tenant’s behalf, and applicants must continue to pay rent if possible. 

Important: After some users have reported errors in accessing the VERAP portals, the website is undergoing changes to better serve all renters and landlords. This process is not affecting users who have successfully completed/started applications, and will not affect the creation of new applications, as the errors reported by other users may not apply to everyone. Please visit the VERAP website for more information: erap.vsha.org.

Call VSHA’s program hotline to get help with the application process: 833-488-3727

FAQs: Financial Assistance


Can I get relief for my student loans?

The federal CARES Act suspends payments of federal student loans from March 13, 2020 through September 30, 2020. Auto-debit payments are suspended and interest will not accrue on loans during this time. If you are participating in a loan forgiveness or loan rehabilitation program, you will receive credit for the time in which your payments are suspended.

The CARES Act does not pertain to private student loans or federal loans such as Perkins Loans or commercially-held FFEL loans. However, under a new initiative, many Vermonters with commercially owned Federal Family Education Loan Program loans or privately held student loans who are struggling to make their payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be eligible for expanded relief.

Borrowers in need of assistance, including VSAC borrowers, must immediately contact their student loan servicer or lender to identify the options appropriate to their circumstances. Relief options include:

  • Providing forbearance of payments for a minimum of 90 days;
  • Waiving any applicable late payment fees;
  • Protections from negative credit reporting;
  • Ceasing debt-collection lawsuits for 90 days; and
  • Working with borrowers to enroll them in appropriate assistance programs, such as income-based repayment.

FAQs: Financial Assistance


What should I do if I am unable to pay my utility bill?

Contact your utility provider to let them know that you are having financial trouble related to the COVID-19 emergency. While payment terms may be adjusted, charges will still accrue, and arrangements must be made to pay the amounts owed.

Homeowners:

Vermont homeowners suffering economic hardships related to COVID-19 can receive financial assistance to cover their utility arrearages through the Vermont Homeowners Assistance Program (HAP). To learn more about eligibility and income requirements, check out the Vermont Housing Finance Agency’s website.

Renters:

Vermont renters can apply for assistance to pay utility bills through the Vermont Emergency Rental Assistance Program (VERAP). VERAP benefits can be used to cover both rent and utility costs. To learn more about covering rent and utility expenses through VERAP, visit the Vermont State Housing Authorities FAQ page. To learn more about applying for utility assistance only, visit this webpage.

FAQs: Financial Assistance


Will I lose my cell phone or internet service if I am unable to pay my bill?

Comcast, Consolidated, Sprint, AT&T and some other internet and cell phone service providers have pledged to maintain services to customers. Contact your provider about their policy. Charges will still accrue, and arrangements must be made to pay the amounts owed in full.

FAQs: Financial Assistance


What can I do if I don't think I will be able to pay my property taxes?

For eligible homeowners, property taxes can be covered by the Vermont Homeowners Assistance Program (HAP). Check out the HAP eligibility and income requirements to determine if you qualify.

FAQs: Financial Assistance


Some Vermonters are eligible for free federal and state tax filing. Am I?

More detailed information is available at https://tax.vermont.gov/individuals/free-file, but you may qualify for free federal and free state online tax preparation and e-filing if:

  • Your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is $69,000 or less and
  • You are age 51 or younger or
  • You are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, or
  • ​Your Active Military for Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is $69,000 or less

FAQs: Financial Assistance

Housing

  1. Can I apply to the state for rental assistance?
  2. Can I be evicted for non-payment of rent?
  3. Can my landlord show my apartment to a new tenant while I am still staying home?
  4. Can I apply to the state for mortgage assistance?
  5. Who can help me with my application for mortgage/rental assistance?
  6. What do I do if I need emergency housing?
  7. Is short-term housing (less than 30 days) available?
  8. May I sign a long-term lease (more than 30 days) on a new apartment or house?

Can I apply to the state for rental assistance?

Beginning Monday, April 5, 2021, the Vermont Emergency Rental Assistance Program (VERAP), administered by the Vermont State Housing Authority (VSHA), is accepting applications from tenants and landlords. You can find the application portal under the “Programs” tab on the Vermont State Housing Authority website (www.vsha.org), or by navigating directly to erap.vsha.org.

Renters, click on the yellow “Renters Apply Here” button to start the application process.

Landlords, click on the “Landlord Information” tab and scroll down to find the yellow button that reads “Click to Access Landlord/Owner Portal”.

Please note that applicants will now be asked to create an account before answering eligibility questions. As with the previous rental assistance program, payments will be made directly to landlords on the tenant’s behalf, and applicants must continue to pay rent if possible. 

Important: After some users have reported errors in accessing the VERAP portals, the website is undergoing changes to better serve all renters and landlords. This process is not affecting users who have successfully completed/started applications, and will not affect the creation of new applications, as the errors reported by other users may not apply to everyone. Please visit the VERAP website for more information: erap.vsha.org.

Call VSHA’s program hotline to get help with the application process: 833-488-3727

FAQs: Housing


Can I be evicted for non-payment of rent?

The Vermont Legislature and Governor have temporarily suspended all non-emergency eviction hearings until 30 days after the end of the Governor’s Emergency Order. If you are in the eviction process and you have a hearing scheduled, it may be postponed. Call your courthouse to confirm. If you receive court papers you must respond within the timeframe given, and if you are paying rent into court, such payments must continue as scheduled. If you have received a Writ of Possession or a Notice to Vacate, contact Vermont Legal Aid at 1-800-889-2047 for assistance. For more information about court operations during the pandemic visit: https://www.vermontjudiciary.org/about-vermont-judiciary/covid-19-and-court-operations

Beginning Monday, April 5, 2021, the Vermont Emergency Rental Assistance Program (VERAP), administered by the Vermont State Housing Authority (VSHA), is accepting applications from tenants and landlords. You can find the application portal under the “Programs” tab on the Vermont State Housing Authority website (www.vsha.org), or by navigating directly to erap.vsha.org.

Renters, click on the yellow “Renters Apply Here” button to start the application process.

Landlords, click on the “Landlord Information” tab and scroll down to find the yellow button that reads “Click to Access Landlord/Owner Portal”.

Please note that applicants will now be asked to create an account before answering eligibility questions. As with the previous rental assistance program, payments will be made directly to landlords on the tenant’s behalf, and applicants must continue to pay rent if possible. 

Important: After some users have reported errors in accessing the VERAP portals, the website is undergoing changes to better serve all renters and landlords. This process is not affecting users who have successfully completed/started applications, and will not affect the creation of new applications, as the errors reported by other users may not apply to everyone. Please visit the VERAP website for more information: erap.vsha.org.

Call VSHA’s program hotline to get help with the application process: 833-488-3727

FAQs: Housing


Can my landlord show my apartment to a new tenant while I am still staying home?

A landlord must give a tenant at least 48 hours of notice if they are to show the space to a potential buyer/renter. As part of the Vermont Forward reopening plan business operations guidance, everyone in the space must wear a mask and maintain at least 6 feet of distance between individuals.

Additional information is provided by Vermont Legal Aid and Legal Services Vermont at:
vtlawhelp.org/coronavirus-updates#landlords

Out-of-state travelers must follow travel guidance provided by the Vermont Department of Health.

FAQs: Housing


Can I apply to the state for mortgage assistance?

Yes. In early 2022, the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) will start accepting applications for the Vermont Homeowners Assistance Program (HAP) created by the federal American Rescue Plan. HAP will provide a one-time lump sum payment for eligible homeowners to assist with overdue mortgage payments, homeowners association fees, property taxes, and/or utilities. For the latest news about this upcoming program or to find out if you qualify, please check the HAP webpage.

FAQs: Housing


Who can help me with my application for mortgage/rental assistance?

If you are trying to figure out whether you are qualified for mortgage or rental assistance programs, your local Housing Retention Counselor (HRC) can help.

HRCs can:

  • Aide you in assessing your current housing situation and needs.
  • Provide Delinquency and Foreclosure Assistance for homeowners and Eviction Prevention Services for tenants.
  • Assist you with understanding the eviction and foreclosure process to better navigate a successful outcome. 
  • Can help you work with your landlord or loan services to negotiate a repayment plan or obtain a viable workout option.

 

These housing counseling services, provided to any household affected by COVID-19, are collaborative between the Vermont Community Development Program (VCDP) and the Community Development Block Grant COVID (CDBG-CV) funds. The housing counseling services are provided by local Homeownership Centers. Where you live will influence which Homeownership Center can provide you with assistance.

Counties Vermont HomeOwnership Centers Serve:

  • RuralEdge - Caledonia, Essex, and Orleans Counties
  • Champlain Housing Trust  – Chittenden, Franklin, and Grand Isle Counties
  • NeighborWorks of Western Vermont – Addison, Bennington, and Rutland Counties
  • Downstreet Housing & Community Development –Lamoille, Orange, and Washington Counties
  • Windham & Windsor Housing Trust – Windham, and Windsor Counties

 

If you are looking for assistance in navigating the Vermont Emergency Rental Assistance Program (VERAP), you can call the Vermont State Housing Authority’s (VSHA) call center at (833) 488-3727, or check out their FAQ’s page at https://erap.vsha.org/

If you are looking for assistance in navigating the Vermont Homeowners Assistance Program (HAP), you can check out the Vermont Housing Finance Agency’s webpage or email HomeownerAssistance@vhfa.org

 

FAQs: Housing


What do I do if I need emergency housing?

Contact Vermont 211, a 24-hour hotline for help obtaining emergency housing, shelter and other resources and services.

FAQs: Housing


Is short-term housing (less than 30 days) available?

Lodging operators, including short-term rentals, must follow the business operations guidance outlined as part of the Vermont Forward reopening plan. Out-of-state travelers must follow travel guidance provided by the Vermont Department of Health.

Short-term rentals and other lodging is also allowed for state-sanctioned emergency shelters for homeless individuals, health care workers, or other workers deemed necessary to support public health, public safety or critical infrastructure.

FAQs: Housing


May I sign a long-term lease (more than 30 days) on a new apartment or house?

Long-term rental leases are allowed. Moving and moving services are also allowed, so long as social distancing guidelines are followed.

FAQs: Housing

Unemployment Insurance

  1. Can I apply for unemployment assistance if I am not typically eligible for unemployment insurance?
  2. Are you out of work because you were told by a medical professional to stay home and self-isolate?
  3. Has your employer closed because an employee has symptoms of, or has been diagnosed with COVID-19?
  4. Have your hours at work been reduced OR have you been laid off due to slow-down in business as a result of COVID-19?
  5. Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19 and were forced to quit your job as a result?
  6. Do you need to take time off work because you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19?
  7. Have you had to leave your job to take care of a family member as a result of COVID-19?
  8. What if I have an existing unemployment claim and am currently in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19?
  9. None of these scenarios apply to me. How do I know if I qualify for unemployment benefits?
  10. If I am concerned about my health and safety at work, who should I contact?

Can I apply for unemployment assistance if I am not typically eligible for unemployment insurance?

Vermonters who are self-employed, independent contractors, and other individuals who are not eligible for traditional unemployment insurance benefits may now apply online for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.

If approved for PUA, claimants must continue to file weekly claims for each week they are unemployed and wish to receive benefits. Failure to do so will result in delayed payment. Eligible PUA claimants will be able to file and receive past benefits, dating back to the week of March 15, 2020. Weekly benefit amounts will be determined by 2019 earnings. Individuals that are eligible for PUA are also eligible for the additional $600 weekly benefit through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program, which provides the additional benefit through July 25, 2020. Claimants can easily choose their preferred payment method (direct deposit or check), choose to have taxes withheld, or make other profile changes by using the online PUA Dashboard.

More information on the PUA application process and eligibility can be found at labor.vermont.gov/pua. For additional information and updates on the Vermont Department of Labor, please visit labor.vermont.gov.

FAQs: Unemployment Insurance


Are you out of work because you were told by a medical professional to stay home and self-isolate?

You may be eligible for unemployment benefits if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are following the guidance of a medical health professional or public health official to self-isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure;
  • You are not receiving paid sick leave or other types of leave from your employer;

To ensure that you are properly filing your claim, please contact the Department of Labor’s Claimant Assistance Line at 877-214-3332. Please note there will not be a work search requirement if your return to work date is within 10-weeks of separation.

FAQs: Unemployment Insurance


Has your employer closed because an employee has symptoms of, or has been diagnosed with COVID-19?

If you are not receiving payment from your employer, such as paid sick leave or paid time off, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits during this period. For more information on establishing an unemployment claim, click here or contact the Claimant Assistance Line at 877-214-3332.

FAQs: Unemployment Insurance


Have your hours at work been reduced OR have you been laid off due to slow-down in business as a result of COVID-19?

In these cases, you would likely be eligible for unemployment benefits during the layoff period. If your hours are reduced, then you would likely be eligible for benefits to assist in time loss. In the case of a temporary layoff, if you have a return to work date within 10-weeks, then you would not be required to conduct a work search. For more information on establishing an unemployment claim, click here or contact the Claimant Assistance Line at 877-214-3332.

FAQs: Unemployment Insurance


Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19 and were forced to quit your job as a result?

If you are forced to quit your job due to contraction of COVID-19, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits once you recover. The Department of Labor is looking into all options to protect individuals in this circumstance.

FAQs: Unemployment Insurance


Do you need to take time off work because you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19?

Employer-paid time off is the first and best option for employees in this case. If employer-paid time off is not available, under the Vermont Earned Sick Time Law, employers are required to give employees 40-hours per year of earned sick time. Employees should check with their employer to confirm what, if any, accrued leave balances they have available. More information on Earned Sick Time is available in English as well as Spanish.

FAQs: Unemployment Insurance


Have you had to leave your job to take care of a family member as a result of COVID-19?

If you leave work to care for a family member who has not contracted COVID-19, you are likely not eligible for unemployment benefits. Employees may be entitled to job protections under the Vermont Parental Family Leave Act or the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

FAQs: Unemployment Insurance


What if I have an existing unemployment claim and am currently in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19?

Claimants with existing unemployment claims will likely remain eligible for benefits if they contract COVID-19 while currently filing. In the event that it is deemed necessary, the Department of Labor is prepared to exempt certain programs requirements for claimants. Further updates will be provided should they be necessary.

FAQs: Unemployment Insurance


None of these scenarios apply to me. How do I know if I qualify for unemployment benefits?

Please contact the Vermont Department of Labor or visit labor.vermont.gov

  • Existing UI Claimants: Claimant Assistance Line - 877-214-3332
  • Employers: UI Employer Services - 802-828-4344
  • General questions: Department of Labor Commissioner’s Office - 802-828-4301

FAQs: Unemployment Insurance


If I am concerned about my health and safety at work, who should I contact?

Employees with COVID-19 related concerns in the workplace should contact the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration (VOSHA). Employees can submit a safety complaint form on VOSHA's website, or call toll free at 1-800-287-2765.

FAQs: Unemployment Insurance

Support Services

  1. If I am concerned about my health and safety at home, who should I contact?
  2. Where can I go to get food assistance?
  3. What grocery stores are providing extended or special hours for seniors or other vulnerable populations?
  4. Can I get my internet connection fixed?

If I am concerned about my health and safety at home, who should I contact?

There are numerous resources available at the local and national level. They include:

  • Vermont Network website: vtnetwork.org/covid-19-update
  • Vermont Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-228-7395
  • Vermont Sexual Violence Hotline: 800-489-7273
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233
  • If you’re unable to speak safely: Log onto thehotline.org, or text LOVEIS to 22522.
  • If you are in an emergency situation: Call 911.

FAQs: Support Services


Where can I go to get food assistance?

Vermont WIC is open and most services are being done by phone appointment to align with social distancing efforts. They have also temporarily expanded their food list to add options for some hard to find items. Check the expanded food list to see what has been added. Visit their online application or text VTWIC to 855-11 to apply. To connect with WIC in your area, visit www.healthvermont.gov/local. WIC will continue to provide breastfeeding support, nutrition education, and community referrals. If you are pregnant, postpartum, breastfeeding, a caregiver or parent with a child under five you may be eligible for WIC.

FAQs: Support Services


What grocery stores are providing extended or special hours for seniors or other vulnerable populations?

The Vermont Retail and Grocers Association has compiled a database of stores that offer special shopping hours and alternative shopping methods for vulnerable populations.

FAQs: Support Services


Can I get my internet connection fixed?

The Governor’s Executive Order states that only activities required to support COVID-19 response, maintain critical infrastructure and construction, or services for safety, sanitation and operations of residences or businesses should occur. Repairing a home's internet connection would be an example of this. However, work to establish a new connection to new construction or to add additional internet connections to a home that already has a working connection is considered non-critical.

FAQs: Support Services

Health and Safety

  1. If I am unable to wear a cloth face covering due to work, health or environmental conditions, may I wear another mouth and nose covering such as a face shield?
  2. If an employee goes on vacation and Vermont guidance requires that employee to quarantine upon return from the vacation, does their employer need to provide sick time?

If I am unable to wear a cloth face covering due to work, health or environmental conditions, may I wear another mouth and nose covering such as a face shield?

It is more important than ever to make wearing cloth face masks or coverings a habit and to bring one with you whenever you leave home. Effective August 1, 2020, Cloth face masks or coverings are required in public settings when a physical distance of at least 6 feet is difficult to maintain. For example, visiting a grocery store or on a crowded sidewalk or bike path.

As part of Governor Scott’s Work Smart & Stay Safe - Restart VT, people are required to wear cloth face masks or coverings over their nose and mouth when using public transportation—including buses, trains and ride services, and in mass transportation stations or terminals, including airports.  They are also required to wear face coverings when returning to work and in the presence of others. Businesses and non-profit and government entities may decline service to individuals who are not wearing a mask.

The advice to wear cloth face masks or coverings is based on data about how COVID-19 can spread before a person has any symptoms. Because people may have COVID-19 but no symptoms, wearing cloth face masks or coverings may help keep people from spreading the virus.

People who have trouble breathing can wear a light-weight bandanna or cloth covering tied to be open at the bottom, or a face shield. Face shields are generally not recommended because they are more for health care settings to protect the person wearing it from droplets getting into their eyes. Face masks or coverings, like a cloth face mask or bandanna, do a better job than face shields of keeping droplets in. However, if your work environment or health does not allow you to wear a cloth face mask, wearing a face shield is better than having no barrier on your nose and mouth.

Neither the use of face masks nor the use of face shields is a satisfactory alternative to social distancing. We all still need to stay at least 6 feet away from people, even when wearing cloth face masks or coverings, practice good hand hygiene and follow the state’s Be Smart, Stay Safe guidance.

FAQs: Health and Safety


If an employee goes on vacation and Vermont guidance requires that employee to quarantine upon return from the vacation, does their employer need to provide sick time?

Yes, the employer does have to pay for the quarantine under the terms of the FFCRA Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.  Mandatory quarantine is a qualifying condition under the Act, and the Act does not take into account the circumstances that led up to the need for quarantine.  Employees may quarantine for 7 days and get tested and return to work after receiving a negative result or quarantine for 14 days.

Employers may consider alternatives to this impact through:

  1. The employer can have a policy that requires employees to request leave ahead of time, and if the request is for vacation in another state that would lead to quarantine, the employer could deny the request.
  2. If the employer has work the employee can do remotely, the employer can require the employee to work while quarantining.

FAQs: Health and Safety

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