How to Get Free Tax Filing Through the Free File Alliance

Instead of this straightforward public service, we have the next best thing: A private system that helps the majority of Americans file a federal tax return for free.
Reporter Jessica Huseman pointed out this frustrating truth in a 2017 story for ProPublica, which resurfaces and regains steam each year around tax time — this year with a bump from a replay of her appearance on WNYC’s “On the Media”.
This part is, in fact, easy. Once you know about it.
(BTW, we are happy to tell you all about those free tax filing services.)
Most importantly: Assume you can find a way to file for free. The agreement aims to make free filing available to 70% of Americans, so the odds are in your favor.
The result is that most filers have no idea the option exists, and hardly anyone takes advantage of it.
To qualify, you have to earn below a certain income limit, which changes each year.

The Free File Alliance MUST Let You File Taxes for Free

We just have to make sure we can find it.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
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“Think about all the things that the IRS already knows about you,” she told OTM.
Filing taxes in the United States could be free and simple for everyone — if only tax prep companies weren’t lobbying to keep it so complicated.
Choose a filing service through the IRS browsing tool. It’ll ask you some questions to help you determine which service is a good fit for your tax situation.
The government has no budget to market it, and the for-profit tax preparers have no incentive to let you know about their free options — and every incentive to funnel you toward a paid option.

How to Get Free Tax Filing Through the Free File Alliance

The problem, predictably, is that no one advertises the free services.
Before you choose a service, read through the requirements for free filing. Some of them cap incomes as low as ,000, or tack on an age requirement or state limitations. A few, but not many, throw in free state filing so you can avoid that surprise charge at the end of the process.
The Free File Alliance is a public-private partnership between a group of tax software companies and the IRS. Nine companies are part of this agreement as of January 2021, according to its recent press release.
The agreement says these companies have to provide the majority of Americans with a free way to prepare and file their taxes online. It also bars the IRS from providing its own free filing system — like that dreamy no-return scenario I mentioned above.
Last year, the Alliance touted “soaring” participation in a press release — a 28% “jump” from 2.3 million filers in 2019 to 2.9 million in 2020. Sounds great, except more than 130 million taxpayers qualified for free filing through the program. That’s a participation rate of less than 2%, exactly where it sat when Huseman called B.S. on the program three years earlier.
Except most of us don’t use it… because we don’t know it exists.
Privacy Policy
For tax year 2020 (what you’ll file in 2021), anyone with an adjusted gross income below ,000 qualifies for free filing through an IRS partner.
From your bank and employer, the Internal Revenue Service already gets a lot of the information you painstakingly report on your tax return. We could, in theory, have a return-free system, where the IRS sends you that information and how much it believes you owe, and you don’t have to file anything unless you disagree with it. <!–

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Dana Sitar (@danasitar) has been writing and editing since 2011, covering personal finance, careers and digital media. She was ticked off she didn’t know about the Free File Alliance and wants to make sure you don’t face the same fate.

If You Had a Baby in 2020, You Can Get $1,100 of Stimulus Money

If you’re the proud new parent of a 2020 baby, here’s some good news to get you through those sleepless nights: Your 2020 bundle of joy qualifies you for a sweet bundle of stimulus cash — $1,100 to be exact.

Why Do New Parents Get an Extra $1,100?

The first stimulus check gave parents an extra $500 for each child age 16 and younger on top of the $1,200 for most adults. The second stimulus check provided families with $600 for each adult and dependent child 16 or younger. So between the two checks, parents generally got $1,100 per kid.

Both checks were an advance on a 2020 tax credit that were processed using 2018 or 2019 returns. But the IRS won’t know about any of the babies welcomed into the world in 2020 until you file a tax return.

When you file your 2020 taxes, you can receive the $1,100 as a Rebate Recovery Credit. That just means you’ll get the extra money as a tax refund. That’s on top of the $2,000 child tax credit parents who are single filers with incomes under $200,000 or joint filers with incomes under $400,000 qualify for.

What Are the Income Limits?

For both stimulus checks, the income limits to receive the full stimulus payments were:

  • $75,000 for single filers
  • $112,500 for heads of households
  • $150,000 for married couples filing a joint return

Checks phased out at 5 cents on the dollar for every dollar of income above these thresholds. For a more detailed explanation of how the phaseout works for child credits, check out Question 7 of our child stimulus credit FAQ.

Do I Get $1,100 if I Adopted in 2020?

You should qualify for an $1,100 stimulus payment for your family’s new addition as long as the child you adopted was 16 or younger at the end of 2020. The same rules apply: File your tax return to get the money as a refund.

What if I’m Not Married to My Child’s Other Parent?

The parent who’s claiming the child as a dependent for tax purposes receives the money.

I Didn’t Get the Money for My 2019 Baby. What Gives?

A lot of parents were frustrated to discover that their stimulus checks didn’t include the child credits — particularly in the first round, when many payments were processed using 2018 returns. If the IRS used your 2018 tax information, you wouldn’t have received a payment for a child born in 2019.

The solution is the same, though: File a tax return. If you file taxes online and provide your direct deposit information, you can expect to get that $1,100 of stimulus money within about three weeks.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected]

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How to Get Your $1,800 Stimulus Check if You’re a Recent Grad

The first and second stimulus checks left a lot of college-age students disappointed. If your parents claimed you as a dependent on their tax returns, you didn’t qualify for the $1,200 and $600 checks.

They also disappointed plenty of parents. The $500 and $600 child stimulus credits were only available for dependents 16 and younger.

But if you graduated from high school or college in 2020 and started supporting yourself, there’s a good chance you can still claim $1,800 of stimulus money. Here’s how.

Why Recent Grads May Qualify for $1,800 of Stimulus Money

Both rounds of stimulus checks were an advance on a tax credit for 2020 that were calculated using 2018 or 2019 returns. But if you qualify based on your 2020 tax situation, you could get $1,800 of stimulus money when you file your taxes as a Rebate Recovery Credit. That’s IRS speak for: “You’ll get it as a tax refund.”

So how do you know if you’re eligible? Basically, if you provided more than half of your own financial support in 2020, your parents can’t claim you as a dependent. If you no longer qualify as their dependent, you can most likely qualify for stimulus money by filing a tax return.

If you graduated last spring, found a job right away and immediately started paying all your own bills, you would probably qualify. The same applies even if you didn’t graduate but you started supporting yourself in 2020.

Where it gets murkier is if your parents still provided some support. For example, if you got a part-time job and moved back home with your parents in 2020, you may or may not qualify.

The best solution here is to use free tax software to file a tax return. The platform you choose will ask some basic questions to determine whether or not you count as someone else’s dependent. It will then figure out whether you’re eligible for stimulus money or any other tax credits and give you the money as a refund.

The deadline to file is April 15. As long as you file online, you’ll typically receive your refund within three weeks.

What About the Third Stimulus Check?

While a third stimulus check for $1,400 is looking likely, it hasn’t passed yet. If it happens, though, it will be a 2021 credit that will be processed using 2020 returns. By filing your tax return now, you’ll ensure that the IRS has the information it needs to get you your third stimulus check ASAP.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected]

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

10 At-Home Date Night Ideas, Whether You’re Together or Apart

The coronavirus pandemic put a halt on a whole lot of awesome things, including date night. If you’ve been with your sweetie for years, it can be tough to find something special to do when you’re spending most of your time at home together. And if you were just getting started dating, it’s hard to establish a connection when you’re apart.

But there are still free and low-cost ways to keep up the date night tradition.

Although they’ve been married for over a decade, Kenny and Celina Beaumont have always realized the importance of romance — especially after having kids.

“If we’re not happy and having fun,” Celina told us in an interview, “our household’s not going to be happy and having fun.”

So they’ve kept their long-standing date night tradition alive through the pandemic with some pretty adorable dates — one of which you may even have seen a glimpse of on John Krasinski’s “Some Good News.” (Look for the fine dining experience around 7:55!)

But dinner dates are just the beginning. Here are some of our favorite at-home date night ideas.

A couple hold hands as they enjoy dinner in their backyard.
Kenny and Celina Beaumont have a date night in the backyard of their home in Orlando, Fla. Photo courtesy of Kenny and Celina Beaumont

Date Nights if You’re at Home Together

If you were already cohabitating, there are plenty of ways to set aside some special time for each other.

1. Fine Dining

You can definitely recreate the restaurant experience at home, complete with dressing up for the occasion and actually sitting down and being waited on. That’s exactly what the Beaumonts did. According to Celina, Kenny and the kids had been conspiring about the idea for several days before surprising her.

They printed real menus, got dressed up and dined al fresco on a three-course meal at “Jack & Olivia’s” — so named for their kids. Kenny cooked up the steaks, while the kids made the salad and dessert.

2. Ballroom (or Any Other Kind of) Dancing

You might not make it out to your local Arthur Murray studio, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to dance. Some couples’ counselors suggest that a tango or two can be as good for your relationship as it is fun.

Crank up a YouTube video, clear out a spot on the living room floor, and give it a whirl. After all, nobody except your SO — and maybe the cat — is watching.

3. Game Night

It might not sound like the peak of romance to some, but sitting down to a game of Scrabble or Chess together is a great way to spend some quality time while also giving your brain a workout. If you’re really geeky, you might even take on a match or four of Magic: The Gathering.

We recommend adding fancy duds to the equation to make it feel even more date-y.

4. Virtual Hometown Tours

If you didn’t grow up in the same place as your SO, and you’ve yet to show them around in person, Google Earth offers a great date night opportunity: a virtual tour of your hometown, complete with stops at all the most important places.

Even if you hail from the same place (or have already gone home to meet the parents), you could use Google Earth or Google Maps to show your sweetheart around your college campus — or explore a city you’re hoping to visit together someday.

5. At-Home Spa Services

Treat yourself — and your beau — to some DIY indulgence. Whether you give each other manicures, facials, or massages, it’s bound to be a whole lot more affordable (and considerably more fun) than it would be in a salon. Check out this list of spa treatments you can do at home.

Tips for Successful At-Home Date Nights

Even with the best of intentions and lots of planning, it’s easy for an at-home date night to feel like … well, just another night at home.

Here are some tips to keep it feeling romantic.

  • Put away your phone. Celina and Kenny say they make a point of putting their screens down during dates.
  • Wait until after bedtime. It’s fun to get the kids in on the action — but if they go to bed earlier than you do, those couple hours of quiet can be a great time to rekindle your connection.
  • Look for the silver linings. Although staying home is hard in a whole lot of ways, it also offers a lot of opportunity for closeness, especially in a world where we’re usually running all over the place.

“We never get to spend this much time with each other,” Celina said of her family. Try to look at your at-home dates as an opportunity to slow down and enjoy yourselves.

Date Night Ideas if You’re Apart

Thanks to technology, there are some ways to recreate a date experience even if you’re miles apart.

6. Virtual Coffee (or Cocktails)

Video call applications like Zoom and FaceTime make it easy to recreate classic low-stakes, first-date ideas like grabbing a drink or a cup of coffee.

7. Reading to Each Other

This one’s super romantic whether you’re at home together or apart. If you’re not in the same place, you can read to each other over video chat or over the plain-old phone.

The options are endless: You could pick a book neither of you have read before or revisit an old favorite.

8. Live Streaming Concerts and Events

From superstars to local up-and-comers, lots of entertainers have transferred their live shows to streaming services. Many are free, though it’s nice to drop a tip for these struggling artists.

Re-create the concert experience at home with a cocktail and maybe a band T-shirt, and enjoy unlimited bathroom breaks without having to snake through a pushy crowd.

9. Virtual Movie Nights

There’s nothing quite as cozy as snuggling up with your sweetheart for a movie, whether at the theater or on the couch at home. But even if you’re stuck apart, you can spend time in front of the silver screen together.

A browser extension called Teleparty easily syncs Netflix, Disney, Hulu and HBO videos for multiple parties while also providing a scrolling text chat along the right side of the screen.

If your movie or TV show is on another service — or if, quaintly and adorably enough, you’re going to watch the same DVD in separate houses at the same time — you can always hop on the phone and queue up the video. Don’t forget the popcorn!

10. Art Therapy

A seriously romantic idea for the bold: re-create each other’s likenesses while on a video chatting application like FaceTime.

If that’s a little too intimate, you could simply spend time together being creative, whether that means knitting, cross-stitching, painting or something else entirely. You could even make plans to gift each other the products of your art therapy session.

Tips for Successful Date Nights Spent Apart

A woman FaceTimes with her boyfriend.
Getty Images

Here are some tips to make it feel more like you’re actually together.

  • Get dressed. It’s all too easy to lie around the house in pajamas all day… and even attend your dates that way. Wearing real clothes can make you feel more like you’re on a real date.
  • Connect often. If you can’t be with each other in person, spending digital time together is extra important. Maybe try to move your date night tradition from one night a week to two or three.
  • Remember: It’s only temporary. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and although we don’t know when this pandemic is going to end, end it shall.

Jamie Cattanach’s work has been featured at Fodor’s, Yahoo, SELF, The Huffington Post, The Motley Fool and other outlets. Learn more at www.jamiecattanach.com.



Source: thepennyhoarder.com

February Class-Action Settlements Involve Godiva, Walmart and More

Sometimes, you notice right away if you have been overcharged for an item. If you pick up a box of cereal marked $2.99 and see it listed at $3.22 on your receipt, that error is pretty easy to spot.

In other cases, price discrepancies aren’t so obvious, as seen in a new pre-filled propane tank class-action settlement offer.

Check out this month’s highlighted class-action settlement offers, some of which have taken years of litigation, to see if you can benefit.

AmeriGas Propane Tanks

If you bought an AmeriGas or Blue Rhino pre-filled propane tank between Dec. 1, 2009 and Nov. 30, 2020, you could be eligible for a portion of a $6.5 million settlement.

AmeriGas and Blue Rhino allegedly agreed with each other to reduce the amount of propane in the pre-filled tanks they sold from 17 pounds to 15 pounds without reducing the price, according to court documents. The lawsuit accused the companies of colluding to reduce the amount of product in the propane tanks while keeping the cost the same in order to increase their profit margin by more than 13% per pound.

AmeriGas admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to the settlement to end litigation. Even though consumers who bought either AmeriGas or Blue Rhino propane tanks may be affected by this settlement, it only resolves claims made regarding AmeriGas because the Blue Rhino case is ongoing.

There are two settlement classes:

  • The Indirect Purchaser Settlement Class is made up of those who purchased AmeriGas or Blue Rhino propane tanks, other than a wholesale purchase directly from AmeriGas or Blue Rhino for resale, in Arizona, California, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah or West Virginia between Dec. 1, 2009 and Nov. 30, 2020.
  • The Direct Purchaser Settlement Class is made up of consumers nationwide who purchased one of the propane tanks directly from AmeriGas or Blue Rhino through a vending machine at retailers or other locations, or paid one of the companies directly through a vending machine to exchange a previously purchased propane tank, other than a wholesale purchase intended for resale.

Consumers can claim a cash payment of $5 for each tank when they provide proof of purchase along with a completed claim form. If no proof of purchase is submitted, the payment is $2.50 each for a maximum of 50 propane tanks.

Submit your valid claim by March 8, 2021.

ABB Optical Group LLC Contact Lenses

You may be eligible to share in a $30.2 million settlement reached with contact lens distributor ABB Optical Group LLC over allegations of a conspiracy to increase the cost of contact lenses.

If you purchased disposable contacts made by Alcon, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, CVI or Bausch & Lomb between June 1, 2013 and Dec. 4 ,2018, you may be eligible for compensation. However, Bausch & Lomb contact lenses bought through 1-800-Contacts after July 1, 2015 are not included in this settlement.

The suit alleged contact lens manufacturers, independent optometrists and ABB agreed to “unilateral pricing policies” that prevented competition from online and discount contact lens retailers. This agreement purportedly began in June 2013.

The settlement money provided by ABB will be added to the claims made under previous settlements with contact lens manufacturers. The estimated amount that will be provided to each consumer is not available at this time.

See if you qualify and submit your valid claim by March 10, 2021.

Synchrony Bank

If you received a call from Synchrony Bank between June 1, 2016 and Oct. 19, 2020, you could receive a portion of a $2.9 million class-action settlement.

Synchrony Bank allegedly violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by calling individuals who did not have an account with the bank. These unsolicited calls were made by an automatic dialing system or artificial/pre-recorded voice, which is in violation of the TCPA unless the caller has prior written consent from the recipient.

Payment amounts will vary, but are estimated between $25 and $50.

Submit your valid claim by March 1, 2021.

Stonefire Naan Bread

You may be eligible for a portion of a $1.9 million settlement from the maker of Stonefire Naan products, FGF Brands, if you bought their naan bread that was marketed as baked in a tandoor oven between Nov. 16, 2013 and Oct. 23, 2020.

If you bought any of these products within that time period, you may claim $2.50 for each item purchased:

  • Stonefire Original Naan
  • Stonefire Roasted Garlic Naan
  • Stonefire Whole Grain Naan
  • Stonefire Organic Original Naan
  • Stonefire Original Mini Naan
  • Stonefire Ancient Grain Mini Naan
  • Stonefire Naan Dippers

Consumers alleged FGF Brands bakes its naan in a conveyor-style, gas-heated oven even though the company claims the breads are baked in a tandoor oven, which is a clay oven that uses charcoal heat that produces smoky flavors.

The lawsuit alleges FGF Brands used fraudulent and deceptive advertising to market its use of a tandoor oven. FGF Brands denies that it has violated any laws.

Consumers may receive $2.50 for each product purchased, but only five may be claimed without a receipt. With proof of purchase, consumers can claim an unlimited number of products.

Submit your valid claim by Feb. 18, 2021.

21st Century Oncology

If you are one of the 2.2 million patients whose personal information was accessed through a 2015 data breach of 21stCentury Oncology, you could be eligible for compensation from a $12.5 million class-action settlement.

In October 2015, hackers accessed names, Social Security numbers, doctors’ names, medical diagnoses, treatment plans and insurance information. Patients whose data was breached should have received a notice from the cancer treatment center in March 2016.

Several affected consumers filed lawsuits alleging 21st Century Oncology failed to take reasonable cybersecurity steps to protect personal data. 21st Century Oncology admitted to no wrongdoing, but agreed to the settlement to resolve the litigation.

Several forms of relief are available, including:

  • Two years of credit monitoring through Identity Guard.
  • Cash payments up to $40 for lost time without any documentation (two hours valued at $20 per hour.)
  • Cash payments of up to $260 for lost time with documentation (13 hours valued at $20 per hour.)
  • Cash payments of up to $10,000 for any fraud and out-of-pocket expenses incurred because of the data breach.

Submit your valid claim by the May 10, 2021 deadline.

Walmart, Sam’s Club Sales Tax Refund

Customers who returned an item bought at Walmart or Sam’s Club between July 17, 2015 and Nov. 25, 2020 may be eligible for part of a $5 million settlement.

Walmart and Sam’s Club were accused providing some customers with incomplete refunds by not including the sales tax paid on the original purchase.

The exact cash payment per customer is not available and will depend upon the number of claims filed and the net settlement fund after attorney’s fees, costs and other expenses are deducted.

Complete and submit your valid online claim form by April 1, 2021.

Godiva Chocolatier

If you made a purchase at a Godiva Chocolatier retail store between April 6, 2013 and Nov. 20, 2015, you may be eligible to share in a $6.3 million class-action settlement.

The settlement benefits customers who made a debit or credit card purchase and received a point-of-sale receipt that displayed more than the last five digits of the card number.

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) prohibits any more than the last five digits from appearing on such a receipt in order to protect consumers.

The complaint alleged Godiva receipts contained 10 digits, including the first six and the last four of the card numbers on its point-of-sale receipts.

Eligible class members might have received a notice regarding a Godiva settlement in 2016 as the case was pending in U.S. District Court in Florida. The case was later refiled in Cook County, Illinois, so if you submitted a valid claim response to the 2016 notice, you do not need to file a new claim in order to receive a payment.

Potential awards are expected to be between $55 and $60.

If you did not submit a valid claim response to the 2016 notice, but you do qualify for this settlement, submit your claim by March 22, 2021.



Source: thepennyhoarder.com

7 Eviction Moratorium FAQs for Renters, Landlords

If you’re behind on your rent because of the coronavirus pandemic, you just got extra time to catch up. During his first day in office, President Joe Biden extended an order that bars most landlords from pursuing evictions through the end of March 2021.

With millions of people at risk of eviction, housing advocates have argued that a large wave of homelessness could worsen the spread by crowding shelters and forcing people into cramped living spaces.

7 Eviction Moratorium FAQs: What Renters and Landlords Should Know

President Donald Trump initially passed the order through the Centers for Disease Control in response back in August. Before Biden ordered the extension, the moratorium was set to end Jan. 31, 2021. We’ve compiled what we know about the latest order into this eviction moratorium FAQ.

1. How do I know if I qualify for the eviction moratorium?

To qualify, you’ll have to sign a sworn declaration affirming that:

  • You’ve tried to obtain government assistance for your rent or housing payments.
  • You earned no more than $99,000 in 2020 if you’re a single tax filer or $198,000 if you’re married filing jointly. You could also qualify if you weren’t required to file taxes in 2019 or if you received a coronavirus stimulus check. (The income limits for the first stimulus checks were the same as the moratorium limits.)
  • You’ve been unable to pay the rent because you lost your job, income or work hours, or you’ve had significant medical expenses.
  • You’ve made your best attempt to make partial payments that are as close to the full payment as possible.
  • The eviction would either leave you homeless or force you into close quarters or a shared living situation.

2. What should I do if my landlord is threatening to evict me?

Print out this declaration form, fill it out and give it to your landlord or whoever owns the property you live in. Note that the form still cites Jan. 31, rather than March 31, as the date the moratorium ends. Each adult covered by the lease should print out their own form. You don’t need to send a copy to the federal government.

3. Does this mean my back rent is forgiven?

No, no, NO. We cannot stress that point enough. Any unpaid rent you owe will continue to accrue. In fact, the order explicitly states that it doesn’t preclude landlords from charging fees, penalties and interest as the result of missed payments.

If your rent is $1,000 a month and you last paid in August, you should expect to owe $7,000 in back rent for September through March, plus whatever fees and interest your landlord tacks on AND April’s rent when April 2021 rolls around.

4. Does the order provide money for rental assistance?

No. The order simply delays eviction proceedings for another two months. It doesn’t offer financial assistance for renters or landlords. However, the stimulus bill that became law in December included $25 billion in emergency rental assistance.

The assistance will be administered by state and local governments. Renters may be eligible if their household income is less than 80% of the area median income, they’ve been impacted financially by COVID-19 and they’re at risk of losing their home. Money can be used for back rent and utility payments, as well as future payments.

To apply or get more information, you’ll need to contact your local housing agency. Figuring which agency to connect with can get complicated. If you’re not sure what agency to contact, try calling the 211 helpline for direction.

5. I’m a landlord who lives off of rental income. What does this order mean for me?

The order doesn’t include financial assistance, however, you could be eligible for a piece of the $25 billion of rental relief. Check with your local housing agency for more information.

Landlords can still pursue evictions, back rent, fees and interest once the moratorium ends. But the order also makes it clear that landlords who violate it could face hefty penalties.

An individual who violates the order could face a fine of up to $100,000, a year in jail or both — and that’s if the eviction doesn’t result in death. If a death does occur, the possible fine goes up to $250,000, in addition to the possibility of a year in jail.

Organizations that violate face a fee of up to $200,000 in cases that don’t involve death, or up to $500,000 for cases where a death occurs.

6. What if I live in a motel?

You’re not covered under the order. The moratorium only applies to tenants covered under a lease. It explicitly states that those living in hotels, motels and other temporary housing are excluded.

In this case, we strongly suggest calling the 211 helpline, which can connect you with local housing resources.

7. Are there any circumstances in which a tenant can still be evicted?

Yes. You can still be evicted for reasons other than not paying. Engaging in criminal activity on the property, threatening other tenants and causing property damage are all still grounds for eviction.

What to Do if You’re Behind on Rent

If you’re behind on rent, you need to treat this as a temporary reprieve to get a plan in place. Don’t wait until March to make your action plan.

Your first step is to try negotiating with your landlord. They may be willing to accept partial payments or waive fees, particularly if you can show them that you’ll be able to resume on-time payments.

Take a hard look at all your bills. Your food, health care and shelter are your top priorities. We’d advise paying your rent unless doing so means going hungry or without medication. Stop making credit card and loan payments if you must. You’ll still owe that rent come April. It will be a lot easier to recover from falling behind on credit cards than losing your housing.

Get connected with local resources now. When you’re facing homelessness, the best resources are available at the local level. Calling that 211 helpline now, even though you’re not on the brink of eviction, is a good starting point. They can also connect you with local food pantries, which could free up some money to put toward rent.

Reach out to family and friends. If you know someone with a spare room who might be willing to let you move in, now is the time to start talking — provided, of course, that the living situation wouldn’t put you at increased risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Pay whatever you can. Every dollar you can put toward rent is a dollar that you won’t owe in April, so pay as much as you can toward your rent, even if you can’t afford the full amount. If you do find yourself facing eviction, showing that you made a good-faith effort to pay can only help your case.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected]

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Instacart Layoffs: Here’s What the Cuts Mean for Your Side Gig

An Instacart worker shops for corn inside a grocery store.


Instacart worker Saori Okawa shops for produce for a delivery in San Leandro, Calif. Instacart plans to lay off nearly 2,000 employees as it shifts away from having shoppers inside grocery stores. Ben Margot/AP Photo

Grocery delivery service Instacart is laying off nearly 2,000 employees in the coming months as it shifts away from having shoppers embedded in stores.

Instacart unveiled the shift to a new “Partner Pick” model in a post on Medium. Under that model, Instacart will rely more on grocery store employees to fulfill orders. The announcement didn’t say how many in-store shoppers are being laid off, but CBS News reported that 1,877 Instacart employees who work embedded in grocery stores across the country will lose their jobs by March.

Going forward, grocery store employees will play a larger role in preparing pickup orders that customers place through the Instacart app. The result is that the current in-store Instacart employees will no longer be needed at many locations.

What Do the Instacart Layoffs and Changing Services Mean for Your Side Gig?

The March 2021 wave of layoffs is primarily focused on one of the two major side gigs Instacart offers: in-store shoppers. The other major side gig, full-service shopping, is indirectly affected.

In-store shoppers are W-2 employees of Instacart, and they work embedded in partner grocery stores around the country. Typically, they shop and prepare orders for pickup — either by a customer or an Instacart delivery driver who then takes the order directly to the customer’s doorstep.

As of March 2020, Supermarket News reported the company employs about 12,000 in-store shoppers. The layoffs mark an estimated 15% reduction in these types of jobs.

“We know this is an incredibly challenging time for many as we move through the COVID-19 crisis, and we’re doing everything we can to support in-store shoppers through this transition,” Instacart said in an emailed statement to The Penny Hoarder. “We’re also providing all impacted shoppers with separation packages based on their tenure with Instacart.”

Instacart did not clarify whether it plans to cut more in-store shopper positions in the future as the company continues to implement its new Partner Pick model.

The cuts have a rippling effect on the more popular grocery-delivery gigs, known as full-service shoppers. These positions are 1099 independently contracted roles. The folks who work these app-based gigs are not employees of Instacart, technically speaking. The “full-service” part generally refers to the grocery shopping and delivery responsibilities.

Pro Tip

1099 independent contractors aren’t eligible for standard W-2 employee benefits or workplace protections, including health insurance, workers compensation, paid time off and more.

Throughout the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of people have supplemented their income with Instacart’s flexible delivery gigs.

Soon, full-service gig workers will start taking over the new shopping-only orders that will become available on the Instacart worker app.

“As part of this pilot, full-service shoppers at select retailer locations will be able to choose orders to pick, pack and stage — no delivery required,” Instacart said in an announcement.

The company did not share when the new type of orders will go into effect for gig workers.

In an announcement following the news of the Instacart layoffs, Kroger — a grocery chain that partners with Instacart — said it had no part in the decision to cut the in-store shoppers working at its locations. The grocer welcomed affected shoppers to apply to a host of job openings.

In a statement to CBS, Kroger said: “For those who are looking for a career opportunity, we have thousands of retail roles available on jobs.kroger.com.”

Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, remote work and other unique ways to make money. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.



Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Women in Tech: Get Hired Jan. 28 at This Free Virtual Job Fair

A resume or a PDF version of your LinkedIn profile is required to register for the fair. Registration closes Jan. 26 at 10 a.m. Eastern.
Don’t worry if you’re new to virtual job fairs. You’re not alone. Read our step-by-step guide on how to prepare for a virtual job fair.
You’ve already broken the mold. You’re a woman in a career field often thought of as a boys’ club. All that’s left is to land a first-rate job at one of the nation’s largest companies.

  • Cybersecurity
  • Data science
  • Software design and engineering
  • Tech consultants and team leaders
  • User-experience and user-interface design

Just because the job fair is online doesn’t make it any less crucial that you make a good impression. Come to the fair prepared with tailored questions for the hiring manager.
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Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He specializes in ways to make money that don’t involve stuffy corporate offices. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism. And if you’re strapped for time, here are the big takeaways.
Ready to stop worrying about money?
To request more information about a specific job listing, you may start a one-on-one chat or video session with a hiring manager. Or if you’re making a good impression, the hiring manager may request a chat session with you.
Is your account properly registered? Are your web browser and flash player up to date? Documents organized and ready to go? Don’t forget the motherlode of all tech issues: WiFi. Hardwire your computer with an ethernet cable, if worse comes to worse. Fairygodboss is giving you the opportunity to do just that — from the comfort of your home. The women-centric career website is hosting a virtual job fair for women in technology, Jan. 28 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Eastern. Big-name employers such as Citi Intuit, ON Semiconductor, PwC, Verizon, WWE and several others are recruiting at the event.
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  1. Do your homework.

    Helping push that trend is Fairygodboss, a women-centric career network where women can find jobs, attend events, get career advice and rate employers. Each employer attending the event has been reviewed by Fairygodboss members, and the results are available on the registration page.

  2. Take care of tech beforehand.

    Fairygodboss recommends that attendees have at least two years of job experience and that students should hold off on attending until they graduate.

  3. Be interview-ready.

    During the event, you will be able to virtually meet hiring managers through an online portal. Each company will have a digital booth, similar to a real job fair, where you can learn more information about the company, browse open positions or join a chat room with other attendees and hiring managers.

If all goes well, a hiring manager might ask to interview you on-the-spot. So be dressed to impress. Make sure you are in a well-lit, distraction-free area where you can chat. It’s OK if that’s not the case, too. Explain that you are not in the best environment for an interview, and offer alternative times when you are available. <!–

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Each company has open positions in a variety of tech-related roles, including: