BARNEGAT/WARETOWN, NJ -  Life without an income for any length of time calls for desperation for many people who are accustomed to working hard. Truth be told, 3 out of 4 American families live paycheck to paycheck.  Authorities stress that social distancing is a means of containing the coronavirus. In the meantime, who’s paying the bills?

It’s not just the problem with paychecks that’s adding to stress among just everyone.  The stock market’s huge dive came back – but remains unpredictable.  Just about anyone with investments or a 401K feels the burden of the uncertainty.

For some parents, the closing of schools adds to issues with childcare and ensuring their children participate in virtual learning assignments. This means access to a computer as well as the ability to log on to the internet.

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In Barnegat, the school district has set up a program that allows students to bring home a Chromebook. Board of Education member Sean O’Brien passed on some usual information concerning free internet access.

“Comcast is offering a free package for sixty days,” shared O’Brien.  “It may be helpful for anyone who needs it to submit an application.”

To apply for the Internet Essentials package, residents need to follow the directions on the Comcast website.  New customers who want to start service for a longer period of time will receive the first two months free.

While some employees may be able to work from home, many do not have the type of job that allows them to do so.  Others such as substitute teachers won’t have a role in the classroom. Service industry workers who rely on tips may find that the social distancing impacts their tips.

State Senate Steve Sweeney has announced legislation designed to help some of those stuck at home. Among other things, he’s hoping to put a temporary halt on both sales and payroll taxes. Additionally, Sweeney is advocating for raising SNAP benefits and calling upon mortgage lenders to allow their customers to make interest only payments.

The good news comes from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (“FHA”).  In a recent statement, agency representatives stated “To meet the needs of borrowers who may be impacted by the coronavirus, last week Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (“the Enterprises”) reminded mortgage servicers that hardship forbearance is an option for borrowers who are unable to make their monthly mortgage payment. “

According to the press release, borrowers that may be experiencing a hardship were encouraged to reach out to their lenders. However, that also begs the question as far as those who lease property.

In some cities in other states, the government has put a moratorium on all evictions.  For now, landlord/tenant courts are closed until Friday, March 27, 2020. The courts are working on suspending lockouts prior to that date.

For those facing medical issues as a result of COVID-19, Governor Phil Murphy has appealed for an extension of time from the federal government. “I respectfully urge the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to authorize a Special Enrollment Period in New Jersey to allow individuals to access affordable health insurance options through the federal platform.”

Schools have put the word out to parents regarding accessibility to lunch for those who are eligible.  According to Mayor Ken Baulderstone, the food bank at St. Stephen’s Church is open as long as they have volunteers.

On a national level, the House of Representatives has already passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.  If the Senate passes it on Monday, it calls for supplemental appropriations for nutrition and food assistance programs. 

In addition to other measures, the bill would establish a federal emergency paid leave benefits program to provide payments to employees taking unpaid leave due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Local restaurants are mindful of the call for social distancing and have added curb service to accommodate it.  The first to make this announcement is Lefty’s Tavern.

Of course, there’s the whole concept of helping one another.  Obviously, that’s always great in times of crisis. It certainly works wonders in blizzards and unexpected superstorms like Sandy. However, there’s something different with this one.

“The only thing I caution with the neighbors helping neighbors concept is that it is critical to maintain social distancing and limit social interaction as much as possible,” stressed Barnegat Police Chief Keith Germain.

If you know of services that can help someone in need as the country tries to avoid this pandemic, please send an email to sfaughnan@tapinto.net.  We’d like to help spread the word.