Legal Aid Responds to COVID-19

Legal Aid Responds to COVID-19

Legal Aid staff will continue to serve our clients for free through COVID-19. We will also keep helping clients for free with civil legal problems outside of the needs from COVID-19. Here are some resources that may help you access public benefits, learn about utility shut-offs, and more.

Find the Legal Aid Service Provider of Arkansas where you live on the map. Then call if you are experiencing any civil legal problems. 

  • Legal Aid of Arkansas at 1-800-952-9243
  • Center for Arkansas Legal Services at 1-800-950-5817

ONLINE HELP: If you have a specific legal question, please visit AR Free Legal Answers to get connected with an Arkansas attorney for free. You will submit your question along with any supplementary documents or information and an attorney will be in contact with you soon. (Note: There are low-income level requirements to receive help).


Need help applying for SNAP, Unemployment, or Medicaid?

Emergency Guide to Benefits Beneficios Durante Esta Emergencia

Courts

Arkansas Courts will proceed with these civil matters that Arkansas Legal Services can help with:

  • Orders of Protection

  • Emergency child custody

  • Emergency guardianship

  • Other issues related to COVID-19 public health

Please review https://www.arcourts.gov/news/judiciary-closings-cancellations-changes for more county specific updates, especially if you have a pending criminal case. Call the court where your case is being heard and inquire about any updates.

Please call Legal Aid of Arkansas or the Center for Arkansas Legal Services if you are experiencing domestic violence, child custody emergencies, or need help obtaining guardianship.

Economic Impact Payments

Update from April 14, 2020

Congress passed a bill which will authorizes the IRS to send you an economic impact payment shortly, which for most people will be $1200 per adult. The IRS will be either direct depositing your payment into your bank account or mailing you a check.  The IRS will be using the information on your last filed return, either 2018 or 2019.  Use this Frequently Asked Questions Guide to Economic Impact Payments (Spanish and Marshallese) to find more information about receiving your payment and what you can do to make sure you get it if you are entitled.

Please be aware of people calling or emailing you to try and get personal information or collect a fee to process your economic impact payment payment. The IRS will not call or email you. The payment will be directly deposited to the account on file or mailed to the address that is in their records.

See the IRS website for updates about the economic impact payment at www.irs.gov/coronavirus

After your economic impact payment has been sent, the IRS will send you a letter confirming your payment. If you receive this letter, but you have not received your economic impact payment, please report the missing payment to TIGTA through their website at tips.TIGTA.gov. You will also need to report the missing payment separately to the IRS.  

Documents to Help You Plan

Durable Power of Attorney- This document allows you to choose someone else to make financial decisions for you. A Durable Power of Attorney document is important because someone else can handle business for you, like if you become ill. You can choose whether the person you select can make financial decisions for you immediately or only when you can't make your own decisions. This document does not take the place of a will. The person you select to make financial decisions for you can only make decisions while you are alive. A will determines what happens to your property when you pass away.

Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare- This document allows you to choose someone else to make decisions about your healthcare when you are unable to make decisions for yourself. The person you select can make a broad range of decisions about healthcare for you. You should talk to the person you select to make sure they understand your personal values.

Power of Attorney for Minor- This document allows you to select someone to make decisions about the care of your child if you are unable to care for your child. For example, you can select someone who can make decisions about the care of your child while you are ill or outside of the country. This document cannot change the rights of another parent or alter a custody or visitation order.

Revocation of Power of Attorney for Minor- This document allows you to end a Power of Attorney for Minor that you previously created.

Unemployment

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claim filing system is now available. Learn who is eligible and apply online 7 days a week between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m at pua.arkansas.gov

The one week waiting period to file unemployment has been waived. Workers who have become separated from employment should file their unemployment claims with the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services (ADWS). If approved, you will be eligible to receive benefits immediately.

If you think you have been wrongly denied unemployment benefits, please call us. It is likely that you will need to reapply for special unemployment if you’ve lost work due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, Arkansas is not processing special unemployment applications yet. Stay tuned for more updates about when that becomes available. Feel free to call us to talk more about your specific unemployment situation to see if we can help.

Medicaid

You may be eligible to receive benefits to help with health concerns.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Work requirements have been suspended for April and May to receive SNAP benefits. If there have been any changes with income or the number of people living in your household, you may be eligible to receive food assistance.

Use this Guide (Spanish) to make the application process easier. 

Utilities

Utility companies are approaching disconnections and shut-offs differently around the state. Please contact your utility company to see what, if any, policies are being put into effect to protect residents from shut off. We have a list of known suspensions here (updated 4/14/2020)

Housing

On April 28, 2020 the Arkansas Supreme Court issued an order requiring landlords to take an extra step to file evictions. Now anyone filing an eviction in Arkansas must affirmatively plead that their property is not subject to the federal eviction moratorium that was established by the CARES ACT. This is because it is easier for a landlord to determine whether their property is covered than it is for a tenant to get that information. Read more about this important announcement here: https://bit.ly/3d2B8Bz

Starting March 27, 2020, there is a 120-day ban on filing court actions for evictions and charging additional fees for nonpayment of rent for federally funded housing. This includes HUD, USDA, and LIHTC properties. It also applies to private landlord rental housing if the property is subject to a government backed mortgage such as HUD, VA, FHA, Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac. Be aware that this ban does not stop evictions filed before March 27, 2020, and it does not apply to any eviction based on anything other than non-payment of rent or other fees. 

There is also a 60-day ban on foreclosures on federally-backed mortgages, including mortgages from HUD, VA, FHA, USDA, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. 

We encourage you to continue to pay rent or mortgage if you are able. Please contact your landlord if you are not. 

If you are being evicted or foreclosed on during this 120-day ban, please call  us at 1-800-952-9243.

Remember that housing discrimination is illegal. A housing provider cannot discriminate against you because of, among other things, your disability, race, or national origin. Be aware that there are many fears and misconceptions about coronavirus. If you feel that a housing provider is treating you unfairly because of these fears and misconceptions, please call Legal Aid of Arkansas or the Center for Arkansas Legal Services.

If you get an eviction notice, foreclosure notice, or have any other civil legal issue, please call the Center for Arkansas Legal Services or Legal Aid of Arkansas.

Domestic Violence

Arkansas Courts are still open for emergency hearings to help individuals and families experiencing domestic violence and other emergencies. This guide (Spanish) will provide information, self-help resources, and ways Legal Aid can help. Each county may have a different procedure, please call Legal Aid or your Circuit Court's office for more information.

In the Workplace

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EOCC) has released guidelines for employers in response to COVID-19. Employers must keep record of your answers confidential. 

  • Can my employer ask me if I have symptoms of Covid-19?  YES

  • Can my employer take my temperature? YES

  • Can my employer require me to go home if I have symptoms of Covid-19? YES

  • Can my employer require a doctor's letter to return to work?  YES

  • If I get a new job, can my employer require a COVID-19 screening*? YES

*Note, an employer can also rescind an offer or delay the start date if the candidate is positive for COVID-19.

Source:  Q&A About the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and COVID-19 from the EEOC, March 18, 2020. https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/wysk/wysk_ada_rehabilitaion_act_coronavirus.cfm

IRS and Tax Updates

The IRS and the State of Arkansas have extended the filing and paying deadline to July 15, 2020.  The IRS will not impose any penalties if you pay any balance due by July 15. Read this Frequently Asked Questions Guide to the IRS During COVID-19 (Spanish and Marshallese) for more information and tax updates.

Please call our Low Income Taxpayer Clinic Director at 800-967-9224 ext. 6304 with any tax problems or questions. Legal Aid of Arkansas cannot help file current year tax returns.

Consumer Needs - Money and Debt

Please call Legal Aid of Arkansas or the Center for Arkansas Legal Services with any consumer problems you have relating to, debts, cars, contracts, identity theft, public utilities and sealing criminal records.

Scammers often target people during difficult times. Coronavirus scammers are setting up websites, contacting people by phone and email, and posting disinformation on social media platforms. Here are some tips to help you avoid scammers. 

Posted: March 30, 2020