12 million low-income Americans at risk of missing out on their coronavirus stimulus payment

About 12 million Americans risk missing out on the stimulus payments provided through the recent CARES Act because they don’t normally file taxes or receive federal government benefits. 

While some 159 million checks have already been delivered by the government, analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) has identified a group of predominantly low-income people who are eligible to receive the payments but are in danger of never receiving the money they are due. With household debt already rising across the U.S ., the fear is that those who are being hardest hit by the pandemic will be the ones to miss out. 

Who could miss out? 

The group identified as vulnerable by the CBPP includes very low-income families with children, people who have been disconnected from work opportunities for a long period, and many low-income adults not raising children in their home. 

Up to nine million of those in question – or roughly three in four – already receive financial assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps) or Medicaid. The report also said that this group of non-filers are “disproportionately people of color because they are likelier to have lower incomes due to historical racism and ongoing bias and discrimination.” Of the nine million, 27% are Black, while another 19% are Latino. 

The other three million eligible people who are likely to miss out don’t normally file tax returns, but also do not receive state or federal benefits.

What has been delivered so far?

Under the coronavirus stimulus scheme, payments of up to $1,200 are being made to eligible individuals , with joint-filers receiving up to $2,400. An additional $500 per qualifying child is also paid to families.  

As of June 4, the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had delivered 120 million electronic payments directly to individuals’ bank accounts, a further 35 million via a paper check in the mail, and some 3.7 million by prepaid debit card holding their payment.

These payments have been made to those who have filed taxes for either 2018 or 2019 or receive certain federally administered benefits, such as Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Railroad Retirement, or Veterans Affairs pension or disability benefits. 

However, the automatic payment method misses about 12 million people because they aren’t required to file federal income tax returns due to their low incomes and they do not participate in one of the specified, federally administered programs.

How will awareness be raised?  

In order to make sure the 12 million identified undertake the steps required, the CBPP has called for “an aggressive outreach program” at state and local levels to raise awareness of the scheme among eligible individuals. 

Community organizations such as community action agencies, faith-based organizations, and religious institutions are highlighted as key avenues for helping to relay the necessary information, along with organizations providing critical services such as food banks and health care.

“The health and human services agencies that administer SNAP and Medicaid are uniquely positioned to reach, using established communication channels, the subgroup of nine million people who participate in those two programs,” said the report. “Governors and state agencies can also do much to reach the other three million eligible people, who generally do not receive state or federal benefits. Public education efforts and partnerships with key stakeholder groups, such as service providers for people experiencing homelessness, will be critical to connecting people to the $1,200 payments.”

What to do if you haven’t received a stimulus payment

If you are among the estimated 35 million people yet to receive the stimulus payment , it might be that your check is already in the mail . 

However, there will also be many others – as just highlighted – who will need to check in with the IRS to ensure they receive the payment they are due. 

In most cases, filing a 2019 tax return will ensure the stimulus check finds its way to you. The deadline for filing taxes is now just a month away , but shouldn’t pose a problem, particularly if you use the best tax software to help get everything in order.  

For those who don’t usually file taxes, you will need to sign up to use the non-filer tool at IRS.gov before October 15 to make sure the service has all the details it needs to make your payment. 

Are you worried about your debt? The best debt consolidation companies might be able to help you get your finances back on track. 

4 million Americans in forbearance as refinance mortgage restrictions eased

More than four million Americans are currently not paying their mortgages as the coronavirus continues to impact the everyday finances of households across the U.S. According to the latest Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) data , the share of mortgage loans in forbearance increased to 8.16% as of May 10, 2020, meaning 4.1 million homeowners are at least one month behind on their payments. 

The latest figure represented a slight uptick on the 7.91% recorded the week before, but is almost 33 times higher than the 0.25% of mortgage loans that were in forbearance at the beginning of March, just prior to the coronavirus devastating the economy. 

Mortgages backed by Ginnie Mae continued to have the largest overall share of loans in forbearance by investor type, rising from 10.96% to 11.26% week-on-week, while the share of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans in forbearance increased from 6.08% to 6.25%. Forbearance numbers rose to 8.99% among depository servicers, while independent mortgage bank servicers recorded an increase to 7.85%.

Is the number entering forbearance stabilizing?

More encouraging was a continued decline in the volume of forbearance requests, which dropped for the fifth consecutive week, relative to the prior week, from 0.51% to 0.32% of loans. Call centers were also slightly quieter, with weekly servicer volumes dropping back from 8.6% to 7.8%.

“The pace of forbearance requests continued to slow in the second week of May, but the share of loans in forbearance increased,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s Senior Vice President and Chief Economist. “There has been a pronounced flattening in loans put into forbearance – despite April’s uniformly negative economic data, remarkably high unemployment, and it now being past May payment due dates. However, FHA and VA borrowers are more likely to be employed in the sectors hardest hit in this crisis, which is why more than 11% of Ginnie Mae loans are currently in forbearance.”

According to Fratantoni, record-low mortgages rates are sustaining the refinance wave, helping homeowners lower their mortgage payments and save money during these challenging times. Furthermore, he suggested that a consecutive increase in purchase applications in the last four weeks was a sign that housing demand is strengthening, as more states ease restrictions on activity and people get back to work.

“We will continue to closely monitor the forbearance request and call volume data for any sign of an uptick, but current trends suggest that if the economy continues to gradually reopen, the situation could be stabilizing,” he added. 

Forbearance rules over new mortgage loans eased

Separately, there was positive news from federal regulators, who have moved to relax some of the restrictions that were imposed on those in forbearance, or just out of forbearance, but who were looking to refinance their mortgage or buy a new home. 

In a Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) statement , Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issued temporary guidance stipulating that borrowers will be able to approach the best refinance mortgage companies or get a new mortgage for house purchase if they are in a forbearance agreement, but are also current on their mortgage – in other words, they have continued to make their mortgage payments or reinstated their mortgage.

At the same time, it was announced that borrowers will now be eligible to refinance or try to secure a new loan from the best mortgage lenders to buy a new home just three months after their forbearance ends and they have made three consecutive payments under their repayment plan, or payment deferral option or loan modification. 

Help for overcautious homeowners

The move is effectively aimed at helping homeowners who were perhaps too cautious and overly eager in choosing to enter forbearance when the rules were relaxed to effectively allow those with federally-backed mortgage to skip payments with almost no questions asked. Usually borrowers have to wait a year after their payments are up to date after exiting forbearance before they can get a new refinance mortgage or buy a new home. 

“Homeowners who are in Covid-19 forbearance but continue to make their mortgage payment will not be penalized,” said FHFA Director Mark Calabria. “Today’s action allows homeowners to access record low mortgage rates and keeps the mortgage market functioning as efficiently as possible.”

Despite the slowdown in numbers seeking forbearance, millions will still have questions over what to do if you can’t pay your mortgage . Sharing such concerns with your loan provider is key, and the best mortgage lenders and refinance mortgage companies will be ready and willing to take your call. 

67% of singles get anxious about dating (and some find it more stressful than taxes)

What do work, elections, and doing taxes have in common? They can be less stressful than dating. In fact, according to new research from Plenty of Fish , dating is a bigger source of anxiety for some than elections, work, or even doing taxes. 67% of those surveyed by Plenty of Fish find dating to be a source of anxiety, and one in five has even skipped a date entirely due to this.

When it comes to pre-date nerves, the study found the most anxiety inducing moments before a date. 30% find waiting for their date to arrive the most nerve-wracking part, and stresses typically come down to self-conscious thoughts. 69% of singles are anxious about how their date will perceive them, with 64% worrying about keeping the conversation going.

When it comes to keeping dates anxiety-free, Plenty of Fish was able to pick up on some top tips. According to its research, singles feel the least anxious on less formal dates, such as getting a coffee (keeping it virtual for now, of course), going for a simple (socially distanced) walk in the park, and dates that revolve around an activity, such as cooking or online games. These keep the conversation going, and can be achieved over video chat. With this in mind, Tinder has launched in-app video calls to help people continue to date in lockdown. 

This is a trend being picked up among the best online dating sites , with OkCupid recently revealing that 94% plan to continue to date  throughout the coronavirus crisis, but virtually. In fact, Plenty of Fish found that 8 in 10 wouldn’t date somebody who isn’t taking social distancing seriously, so video dates are the obvious choice. ‘Before social isolation, only 26% of singles had video chatted with a prospective date, now 60% of singles are more likely to use video chat with a potential date.’

Anxiety is on the rise

Among the specifics of dating and anxiety, Plenty of Fish also revealed some worrying findings regarding the rise of anxiety in general. In its Dating From a Distance report, the site found that 7 in 10 singles report feeling more anxious than usual these days. This comes among reports that WHO experts think social distancing will cause a second pandemic : mental illness. And it’s not just singles facing increased levels of anxiety; recent research revealed that 35% of people working from home say their mental health has worsened. 

If you’re experiencing a drop in mental stability throughout the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve put together a guide on how to stay healthy and feel happy while isolating at home. If you are concerned for your mental health, these resources are here to help:

  • MIND
  • Mental Health America
  • The National Institute of Mental Health
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • The Child Mind Institute
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Mental Health

85% of Americans have changed their food habits due to coronavirus, survey finds

85% of Americans have experienced changes to their habits around preparing and eating food, according to a new survey from the International Food Information Council (IFIC). Half of those surveyed also expressed safety concerns around eating food which hasn’t been prepared in their own home. 

The survey, which took place in early April, involved Americans aged 18 to 80. It revealed that it’s disproportionately younger Americans who are likely to have changed their diet throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, whether healthy or unhealthy. 41% of over 35s, and the same percentage of parents with children under 18, are turning to snacks to get through lockdown measures. This is mostly due to hunger, but 25% deem snacking a lockdown treat. 

Unsurprisingly, the largest change among Americans during the coronavirus pandemic has been an increase in cooking at home. 57% of Americans have increased spending on groceries while in quarantine, according to a recent survey from Ameritrade . Snacking and washing fresh produce also increased significantly, according to the survey. To be sure you’re doing this safely, check out our guide to sanitizing your food .

“More than a third of Americans also say that they actively avoid foods and beverages as a result of their concerns about the food safety issues” according to the IFIC, with 20% feeling very concerned when eating food prepared outside of the home such as takeout. 

COVID-19 has led to an increase in pre-made meals

Another change is the nearly 20% increase in eating pre-made meals from home. SunBasket CEO Don Barnett recently described eating at home the “new normal”, predicting a sustained growth in the rise of the best meal kit delivery services beyond lockdown. However, it may just be the 92% increase in sales of frozen pizza which is responsible for the rise in pre-made meals. 

Grocery shopping has also changed, although less dramatically than other areas of food behaviour. According to the IFIC, “the amount of in-person shopping is down, especially among those in poorer health. Meanwhile, online grocery shopping has increased.” However, “the changes have not been entirely drastic – the biggest shift for in-person shopping is that fewer Americans are making multiple trips a week”. This may be because slots from the best grocery delivery services have been hard to come by in recent months, which has forced many to shop in person when they may have preferred to shop online.

Fitness trackers are increasing awareness 

The IFIC found that only one in five Americans use a mobile health monitoring device or apps such as the best fitness trackers or smartwatches , but among those who do this has led to healthy changes. 

95% of those who use devices to monitor their health have reported an increased awareness of their general health and fitness, with 66% saying this has led to healthy changes. 

American homeowners could save $52,000 as mortgage rates fall to record lows

American homeowners have been told they could save up to $52,000 over the course of a 30-year mortgage if they use the best mortgage lenders , after mortgage rates fell to another all-time low. 

According to new analysis from LendingTree, the best mortgage rates on offer can be as much as 1% lower than the worst rates, giving rise to potential savings of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a loan. 

The study looked at the average differences, or spreads, between the highest and lowest annual percentage rates (APRs) offered to the same borrowers on the LendingTree platform in April. APRs were used rather than simple mortgage rates, as an APR combines both interest rates and loan origination fees to give a better indication of the actual cost of a loan over a year. 

Using the benchmark of a $250,000 loan over a 30-year term, the analysis found the average APRs offered to borrowers with a credit score of between 680 – 719 ranged from a low of 3.62% to a high of 4.61%. Equating to a spread of almost one percentage point, it was further calculated that opting for the lower rate over the higher rate would save a borrower $51,725 over the lifetime of the loan. Savings in excess of $50,000 could also be made among borrowers with credit scores ranging from 720 to 759, while those with a credit score of 640 – 679 could potentially save $48,699.  

Potential savings between lowest and highest new mortgage offers on LendingTree platform – April 2020
Credit Score Range Average Lowest Offer Average Highest Offer Implied $ Savings on $250,000 Loan (360 Months)
Less than 640 3.69% 4.16% $24,271
640 – 679 3.87% 4.79% $48,699
680 – 719 3.62% 4.61% $51,725
720 – 759 3.46% 4.43% $50,148
760+ 3.47% 4.32% $43,807

Savings on refinance loans

For those who already have a mortgage, the analysis also found significant differences between the highest and lowest APRs on refinance loans.

By opting for a low rate from one of the best refinance mortgage companies ahead of the highest rates that are on offer, those with a credit score of between 640 and 679 could benefit from the biggest potential saving of $28,259 (based on a lower loan amount of $200,000 and a term of 20 years). Existing borrowers with a credit rating in the range of 680 – 719 could lower their lifetime mortgage costs by $24,859 by shopping around and choosing the lowest APRs.  

Potential savings between lowest and highest mortgage refinance offers on LendingTree platform – April 2020
Credit Score Range Average Lowest Offer Average Highest Offer Implied $ Savings on $200,000 Loan (240 Months)
Less than 640 3.15% 3.61% $11,276
640 – 679 3.58% 4.69% $28,259
680 – 719 3.36% 4.35% $24,859
720 – 759 3.26% 4.09% $20,654
760+ 3.23% 4.03% $19,863

Mortgage rates fall again

Helping make all of this possible are the record low mortgage rates that the top mortgage lenders continue to offer. According to the latest data from Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.15% for the week ending May 28, down from 3.24% seven days earlier, and the lowest level recorded in the survey’s nearly 50-year history.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.62%, falling from 2.7% a week earlier, and significantly down on the average of 3.46% recorded a year ago, while 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 3.13%, down from 3.17% last week and 3.6% a year earlier. 

While homebuyers have recently experienced difficulties in accessing these record low rates , Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist, suggests more borrowers are now proving successful when approaching lenders.

“These unprecedented rates have certainly made an impact as purchase demand rebounded from a 35% year-over-year decline in mid-April to an 8% increase as of last week—a remarkable turnaround given the sharp contraction in economic activity,” he said. “Additionally, refinance activity remains elevated and low mortgage rates have been accompanied by a $70,000 decline in the average loan size of refinance borrowers this year. This means a broader base of borrowers are taking advantage of the record low rate environment, which will benefit the economy.”

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Apple TV welcomes Peloton’s fitness app for yoga, weights and cardio workouts at home

Following mass temporary gym closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, some Americans have become accustomed to exercising at home, and Peloton is about to make the prospect more enticing with its slick new Apple TV app. 

People who subscribe to Peloton’s digital fitness program can now access live and on-demand workout classes via Apple TV, in addition to other devices such as the best fitness trackers – many of which can be found among the best Amazon Prime Day Fitbit deals .

Available workouts include yoga, strength training and bootcamp, as well as running – ideal if you own one of the best treadmills for walking and running indoors. While Peloton is famous for its world-class cardio bike, if you don’t own one you can still exercise along with the brand’s indoor cycling classes using an alternative exercise bike .

  • Download the Peloton Apple TV app

In March, Peloton announced a free 90-day trial of its digital fitness service to see people through the initial phase of lockdown, but the free trial period has now returned to a standard 30 days. In April, the global home workout brand also rolled out Android TV support, so with the addition of its new Apple TV app, you can now access Peloton digital on a variety of platforms and devices, including the best fitness trackers . 

Once your free trial period is over, a Peloton subscription costs $12.99 a month. There are 10 workout ‘types’ and thousands of classes to choose from on any given day, whether you want to lean up all over with a full body workout, or focus on more specific exercises (eg, abs workout, leg workout) on different days. 

The workout types covered include running (plus coaching for when you get out on the trail or sidewalk), cycling (indoor and outdoor), yoga, bootcamp (including H.I.I.T.), strength training, and restorative stretching. Peloton also offers meditation classes, though if you’re interested in deepening your practice, we’d recommend downloading the best meditation apps , many of which now offer free seven-day trials. 

Widespread temporary gym closures have led to spikes in the sale of home gym equipment, with a run on everything from resistance bands to kettlebells, as people continue their existing exercise routine or start a new one during lockdown. It will be interesting to see whether the enhanced availability of online fitness programs like Peloton and its rival, Fitbit, will actually encourage people to continue exercising at home once fitness centers reopen, or whether people will prefer to return to the gym.

Beats Powerbeats Pro earbuds arrive in four new colors to brighten up summer

If you’re looking for a new pair of headphones but think that most brands look a little bit too understated, then we’ve got great news for you, as Beats has officially unveiled the colorful new lineup of options for its Powerbeats Pro headphones. The new lineup of colors includes pink, yellow, blue, and red and will be available for purchase on June 9th. There has been no change in price, so expect to see the Powerbeats Pro earbuds on sale at $249.95.

We have to say, as we look through our choices for the best headphones there is a glaring lack of vibrancy and color in the options, as most manufacturers have gone for a sleek but understated visual style. So it’s refreshing to see Beats try something different with these color additions.

Rather bizarrely, Beats didn’t make the announcement through a press release or post on its website, but instead collaborated with e-sports video gaming team FaZe to make the announcement on Instagram . We’d like to put a content warning here for terrible acting.

@beatsbydre dropped off a crazy care package for our FaZe 10 year anniversary 🔥 #FaZeUp FaZe Clan

A photo posted by @fazeclan on May 29, 2020 at 10:32am PDT

Beats originally launched the Powerbeats Pro wireless earbuds back in April 2019, with a substantially more muted color range at the time. Beats hasn’t said anything about whether these new headphones will have any upgrades other than a new coat of paint, but we’d take no news on this to mean nothing has changed internally. 

Beats is owned by Apple and while its products aren’t exclusive to Apple devices, they are designed to work well with other Apple products like the iPhone 11 or the new iPhone SE (which is strange when you consider that Beats compete directly with Apple’s own AirPod Pro earbuds).

Regardless of your brand of choice though, these earbuds would be the perfect accompaniment to any of today’s best smartphones , since they’re completely wireless and the headphone jack is a thing of the past in smartphones.

Change your door locks every five years, according to security experts

Home security is normally high on the agenda for most people, after all keeping our families and our possessions safe is pretty important.

Now, security experts at Mul-T-Lock have revealed that you should replace your locks when you move into a home and then again every five years after that.

The home locking security company, Mul-T-Lock reported that ‘73% of domestic burglaries occur through a door’, stressing the importance of making sure your home is as secure as possible. 

Door locks are just one of the ways you can keep your home safe too, take a look at the best home security systems , where the best ones offer wireless security cameras , alarms, professional support, and in-app features so that you can monitor your home’s security when you’re not there. 

When do burglaries occur the most? 

Research from Safe At Last , revealed that ‘homes without a security system are 300% more likely to be broken into’, yet only ‘17% of US homes actually have a security system’. 

While it’s more common for burglaries to occur during the daytime, it’s not unheard of for burglaries to occur when you’re at home. However, with lockdown easing across the U.S, Mul-T-Lock is stressing the importance of making your home secure, especially if you’re going to be heading out more. 

To keep your home and possessions as secure as possible, take a look at our round up of the best smart lock s or the best home safes .  

Coronavirus has changed how we spend money: here’s what people are buying

57% of Americans have increased spending on groceries while in quarantine, according to a new poll from Ameritrade which looks into how COVID-19 has changed spending habits. On average, those polled had spent an extra $282 on groceries since the start of quarantine measures, with 20% saying that the lockdown has boosted their grocery spending significantly. 

The survey suggests that, for many Americans, stay-at-home measures have redirected spending to essentials or at-home activities. Understandably, 53% have reported an increase in spending on cleaning products. Nearly a third have also increased spending on streaming, with the best streaming services bringing out new content or making socially-distanced viewing parties possible as a way of keeping people occupied and in contact.

The best grocery delivery services have been kept busy throughout the coronavirus pandemic, with some shoppers struggling to secure delivery slots and fearing food shortages. This, alongside an increase in time spent in the home due to a shift to homeschooling and working from home, could explain why people are spending more on groceries. However, the takeout industry has also been busier due to the crisis, with a third of those polled saying they have increased spending on takeout. This may be due to the inability to visit favorite restaurants and eat out. 78% say that lockdown has decreased their spending on eating out, and a further 64% said that quarantine has saved them money on going out for drinks.

We recently reported that Sun Basket CEO Don Barnett declared eating at home the ‘new normal’, with the best meal kit delivery services dealing with an increased demand for convenient and pre-portioned food in lieu of restaurant options. Going forward, the survey found that 71% of Americans intend to ‘cook more at home instead of dining out or ordering takeout’ when the pandemic is over.

“You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a good time”

Ameritrade found that people are turning increasingly to low-budget or free activities to pass the time, with 82% agreeing that “you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a good time”. The most popular activities include going for walks (63%), playing games and puzzles (49%), working out (45%) and virtual tours of museums and national parks (10%).

We recently brought you ideas of 40 free and fun things to do in lockdown , to bring you the best free trials and events being released to keep people occupied. It’s no surprise that physical activities have proved popular during lockdown. Experts have recommended that physical exercise is one of the most effective ways to stay healthy and feel happy when working from home . 

Correcting your tax return is about to get easier as IRS introduces electronic filing options

American taxpayers will soon find it easier to correct their tax returns after the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced electronic amendments will be introduced for the first time this summer. 

The move will be welcomed by those who prefer to use the best tax software packages to manage their financial affairs online, as well as those currently reluctant to venture outside. While electronic filing is already available for regular income tax returns, amended returns – known as Form 1040-X – have always had to be filed on paper. 

The IRS said the new electronic option will allow for faster amended returns and also help reduce errors normally associated with manually completing the form. About 3 million Forms 1040-X are filed by taxpayers each year.

Back in April, at the height of the coronavirus lockdown, the IRS urged taxpayers to file electronically as social distancing meant it was unable to process individual paper tax returns. The Covid-19 outbreak has also seen the tax filing deadline extended to July 15, from April 15, although some have been keen to file to make sure they receive their coronavirus stimulus payment . Those looking to file prior year tax returns to secure a tax refund for 2016 have also been given until July 15 to make their move. 

“This new process is a major milestone for the IRS, and it follows hard work by people across the agency,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “E-filing has been one of the great success stories of the IRS, and more than 90% of taxpayers use it routinely. But the big hurdle that’s been remaining for years is to convert amended returns into this electronic process. Our teams have worked diligently to overcome the unique challenges related to the 1040-X, and we look forward to offering this new service this summer.”

How will electronic tax amendments work?

When electronic filing becomes available later this summer, only tax year 2019 Forms 1040 and 1040-SR returns will be able to be amended electronically. In general, taxpayers will still have the option to submit a paper version of the Form 1040-X and should follow the instructions for preparing and submitting the paper form. 

Make tax filing easier

File your tax return faster and more efficiently with the best tax software packages .

The IRS says the new option will allow for “more complete and accurate data in an easily readable format”, and will therefore help customer service representatives to answer taxpayers’ questions. Anyone wanting to check the status of an electronically-filed 1040-X will still be able to use the ” Where’s My Amended Return? ” online tool.

The coronavirus pandemic has already changed the way Americans spend their money , and now it is changing the way money can be managed too, with the IRS promising additional enhancements are already planned for the future.

“Adding amended returns to the electronic family also complements our partnership with the tax software industry, which continues to work with us to provide better ways to help taxpayers,” said Ken Corbin, Commissioner of the IRS Wage and Investment division.