COVID-19 not only affect your health, it can also affect your finances. Hillsborough County and other community partners are offering resources to help you and your family get through this. If you or your family need assistance with social programs or support, call: 211 or visit the 211 Tampa Bay site.
Jobs & Reemployment Assistance
Florida residents whose incomes are negatively affected by efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 may be eligible for Reemployment Assistance. Find resources.
Hillsborough County and its community partners have services to help pay for housing expenses, including home mortgages, mobile homes, rent, and energy bills.
- Power and utility bills. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Emergency Home Energy Assistance Program (EHEAP) help Hillsborough County residents pay for energy bills so they don't have to choose between electricity and groceries. Assistance is provided for as long as program funds are available.
- Rental payments and mortgages. Hillsborough County offers limited rental payment assistance to eligible households, home mortgage (no foreclosures), apartment rent, mobile home, lot rent, and utilities (if included in the lease.)
The Bristol-Myers Squibb expanded Patient Support Programs. These programs are designed to help newly uninsured patients impacted by COVID-19 coronavirus. The national programs are for eligible, unemployed patients who have lost their health insurance due to the pandemic. The expanded programs offer access to branded Bristol Myers Squibb medicine for free, including some of its most widely prescribed products, as well as those prescribed via telehealth services.
The programs feature:
- Immediate access for patients who have lost their employment and health insurance
- A simple, single point of entry
- Streamlined enrollment process
- Vouchers to assist with continuity of care for several self-administered BMS medicines, for eligible patients
Hillsborough County residents, interested in learning more about these programs can call (800) 721-8909 or visit BMS.com.
Mental Health Assistance
During these challenging times, mental health is just as important as physical health.
- Local assistance for mental health support. Anyone can find themselves facing a crisis in life and Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is here to help residents.
- How to talk to children about COVID-19. The CDC has created guidance to help adults have conversations with children about COVID-19 and ways they can avoid getting and spreading the disease.
- Managing stress and anxiety for Veterans. Veterans having thoughts of suicide or that need mental help during this time can contact the Veterans Crisis Line by either calling 1-800-273-8255 and pressing 1, texting 838255, or chatting online with Veterans Crisis Line. The free support is confidential and available 24/7.
- Wellness resources for mental health and wellbeing. The national Disaster Distress Helpline is available to anyone experiencing emotional distress related to COVID-19. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to speak to a counselor. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
- Tips on how to manage stress. The CDC provides assistance and resources for those dealing with stress during coronavirus pandemic.
- Meals for kids - Parents can visit one of the Hillsborough County Grab-and-Go Feeding sites for a free breakfast and lunch for their child. See participating locations.
- Food for families and individuals - Feeding Tampa Bay offers a number of different ways to bring food to your table every day, from Breakspot Meal Sites and Senior Groceries to Mobile Pantries and Trinity Café
- Families in underserved areas of Hillsborough and East Pasco counties also have access to fresh fruits and vegetables through the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA Veggie Van
- Food for pets - Pet Resource Center offers people who need help feeding pets with its Food Pantry. To receive assistance, call (813) 744-5660
- Drive-thru grocery distribution - Residents in need of food in the Tampa Bay area can go to the Feeding Tampa Bay's free drive-thru grocery distribution happening every Saturday starting at 9 AM. Tampa Bay area locations are at Hillsborough Community College (Dale Mabry campus) and at Tropicana Field (Lot 4).+
- Food for COVID-19-affected and low-income residents -The Florida Food Assistance Program helps people who have low-incomes, as well as residents who have recently lost their jobs or experienced a significant reduction in the number of hours they are able to work due to the COVID-19 event, buy healthy food and have access to a healthy diet through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Fresh Access Bucks for SNAP recipients also have local markets in Tampa Bay area open.
- Many local YMCA facilities are offering “relief care” for school-age children whose parents work in medical, emergency response, and military fields. Visit their website for more information.
Free Tax Help
The Hillsborough County Extension Service will be offering free tax prep assistance for Hillsborough County residents who can connect through a web-based meeting platform starting April 7, 2020. During the meeting, tax filers will be given access to tax filing software and will receive one-on-one assistance from IRS trained and certified volunteers.
Things to remember:
- This is a FREE service
- Appointments are required and must be made in advance
- Available appointment times: Tuesday through Friday from 9 AM to noon, and 1 to 4 PM.
- The due date for filing tax returns and making tax payments has been extended to July 15, 2020. You may file a request for an additional tax extension to extend your deadline to October 15, 2020. For more information, email Denise Kantak or call (813)744-5519.
- Seniors who attend dining centers/congregate meal sites, receive services through adult day care centers, or receive home delivered meals, please call (813) 272-5160, for information about the continuation of services.
- Easy to make recipes from Aging Services
Phone-In Wellness Session
To help ease those feelings and keep older people healthy, Aging Services is offering virtual phone-in wellness sessions so seniors can stay mentally and physically engaged while at home.
Virtual senior wellness sessions are offered twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday in both English and Spanish.
- Sessions in English are from 11:45 AM - 12:45 PM
- Sessions in Spanish are from 1- 2 PM
The Call-in Number is: 1-888-585-9008
Conference Room Number is 784132094#
Each session is broken into segments that feature the following topics:
- Health and safety tips with a registered nurse
- Healthy eating tips during stressful times by a registered dietician
- Updates related to COVID-19
- Senior resources and links to stay connected
- Activities focused on the seven dimensions of wellness
- Mindful meditation or laughter is the best medicine for stress
- Go to Go4life.nia.nih.gov, and find a workout one that works for you.
- Workout with Silver Sneakers videos on YouTube. Facebook users can get engaged at Facebook.com/SilverSneakers
- A variety of fitness videos for active older adults are available on demand at YMCA360.org.
Suspect price gouging?
Under declared states of emergency, Florida's price gouging law immediately takes effect to prohibit extreme increases in the prices of essential items such as food, ice, gas, hotels, and water 30 days before and throughout the duration of the emergency. See a complete list of cancellations and closures.
Residents and visitors can report suspected price gouging or unlicensed contractors by:
- Calling the Florida's State Attorney price gouging hotline at 1 (866) 9-NO-SCAM or 1 (866) 966-7226
- Complete the Florida Office of the Attorney General's Price Gouging Complaint Form
College & University Students
Many students may be facing financial challenges associated with higher education. Here are resources:
- University of South Florida’s Office of Financial Aid
- University of Tampa Financial Aid
- Hillsborough Community College Financial Aid
- Affordable Colleges Online
Farmers Impacted by the COVID-19 Coronavirus
The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program application process starts May 26. Agricultural producers will apply through USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA).
How to Prepare Now
You can start gathering information on your farm's recent sales and inventory, as well as completing eligibility forms at farmers.gov/CFAP
Some of the info you'll need includes:
- Tax Identification Number
- Farming operating structure
- Adjusted Gross Income
If you have worked with FSA previously, much of this information is likely on file.
How to Apply Once Sign-Up Begins
- Call your FSA county office at (813) 752-1474 ext. 2 to make an appointment.
- FSA will not be able to meet in-person, but will work with you via phone, email, fax, mail, or online tools to receive and complete your application. You can contact your Hillsborough County FSA team by email at Hilary.Howard@usda.gov and Marcinda.Kester@usda.gov.