Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts on March 10, 2020 due to COVID-19. Because of the pandemic, VLS’s office is closed and all VLS legal clinics have been cancelled through at least May 4, 2020. Additional cancellations are expected. Please check back periodically for updates. We anticipate that services will reopen gradually. VLS will work with our host sites to determine when and how to resume services, and any necessary precautions, which may be different at each location.
VLS is continuing services for existing clients during this challenging time and offering remote services to new clients in need of assistance. We look forward to resuming in-person services, in partnership with our host sites, when it is safe to do so.
Remote Legal Services from VLS
Please call 857-317-4474 for the most up to date information and to see if you are eligible for remote assistance. Alternatively, you can complete an online eligibility screening by filling out this form. All information you provide is confidential.
If an advocate is not available to take your call, please leave a message with a callback number and the best time to reach you. It is important to let us know if it is not safe to leave a message on your phone or if someone else answers. For example, if you need assistance because you are afraid of someone in your household let us know so our staff can return your call without putting your safety at risk.
Please also note that because staff are working remotely an advocate may return your call from a blocked number.
Access to the Courts
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ordered that all courthouses are closed to the general public for non-emergency matters until at least May 4, 2020. Courts are still open to conduct court business, but no one can enter a courthouse building, except where entry is required to address emergency matters that cannot be resolved virtually (i.e., by telephone, videoconference, email, or comparable means, or through the electronic filing system).
Most court deadlines, including filing deadlines, statutes of limitations, or deadlines for payment of fees and fines, have been extended until at least May 4, 2020.
Emergencies include emergency protection and harassment prevention orders, arraignments of new arrests, bail reviews, dangerousness hearings, mental health commitment orders, and care and protection orders. Most non-emergency matters have been rescheduled. If your case has been rescheduled, you should receive notice in the mail of the new date, but please keep in mind that the courts had to put these procedures in place very quickly and some notices may be delayed.
If you are not sure if you have a court date call the court where your case is, or where you need to file your emergency case. Use the Courthouse Locator page to find the court you need and the phone number to call.
If you cannot reach your local court, call the Trial Court’s Help Line – (833) 912-6878 Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Help Line can look up information about your case and answer questions. If you cannot get through on the phone, email the clerk of the court your case is in. See this list of email addresses on the court website.
For more information on how to access the courts during the pandemic visit Mass Legal Help’s COVID-19 & The Courts page.
What is Chapter 115? The Chapter 115 Program provides financial assistance for food, shelter/housing, clothing, and medical care to veterans and their dependents with limited incomes. It is established by state law and run by the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) in partnership with local Veterans’ Service Officers (VSOs). You may be eligible for up to $2,2570.
Who can get Chapter 115 Benefits? Chapter 115 is a benefit veterans earn through their service. To qualify, you must be a veteran or a dependent of a veteran, have financial need, and live in Massachusetts. Dependents can include children, spouses, and even some parents. Financial need is determined based on your income and assets.
How does Chapter 115 work? Your city or town’s local VSO takes applications, gets approval from DVS, and distributes benefits. All applications are confidential.
Are you having trouble filing an application for Chapter 115 Veterans Benefits? Please complete our survey! We are working to find solutions to make sure all eligible veterans and their dependents get the benefits they have earned. Your answers will help us.
On April 20, 2020, Massachusetts passed an emergency eviction moratorium law. This stops evictions and certain foreclosures from happening during the COVID-19 state of emergency. For more information on the COVID-19 emergency housing law visit https://www.masslegalhelp.org/covid-19/housing.
If you are a tenant:
- Your landlord is not allowed to send you any eviction notices. They must not send you a:
- Notice to Quit,
- 14-day notice,
- 30-day notice,
- Notice to vacate, or
- Any other kind of notice that says you must move out.
- Landlords cannot file any new eviction cases in court, including:
- Non-payment of rent, or
- No-fault/no cause.
- Courts can only schedule hearings if the case is an emergency.
- Courts cannot enter judgments, including agreements for judgment and default judgments.
- Courts cannot issue orders to evict, “executions.”
- Landlords are not allowed to give executions to sheriffs to serve “48 hour notices”.
- Sheriffs, constables and movers must not physically move you out of your home.
- Landlords cannot charge late fees or give negative reports to credit reporting companies if you can show you were unable to pay because you were affected by COVID-19 in some way.
You are still responsible for paying your rent. Landlords may still go to court to remove tenants in an emergency. Emergencies involve criminal activity or lease violations that endanger the health and safety of others.
If you are a homeowner or landlord:
- Lenders cannot foreclose on owner-occupied 1-4 family residential properties.
- If you ask your lender to “pause” mortgage payments and add missed payments to the end of the loan because you have been affected by COVID-19, lenders must agree to give you a “mortgage forbearance.”
- If you are a homeowner and you are in mortgage forbearance, your lender is not allowed to report negative remarks to any credit reporting agency.
- If you are a landlord you may use your tenants’ last month’s rent to cover expenses, but you must repay these funds with interest.
It is illegal for your landlord to move you out of your apartment without a Court’s permission. Your landlord cannot change your locks; turn off your heat, hot water, or other utilities; move your belongings out of your apartment; or interfere with your use of your apartment without a Court Order. If your landlord has done any of these things without permission from the Court it is an emergency. Contact VLS or the Court for assistance. For more information on illegal evictions visit https://www.masslegalhelp.org/health-mental-health/covid-19-illegal-eviction.
CARES Act Economic Impact/Stimulus Payment
Under the CARES Act the government is sending payments to individuals and families because of the economic impact of the pandemic. These are sometimes referred to as recovery or stimulus payments.
You qualify for the stimulus payments if:
- You filed a tax return for 2019 or 2018. You can still file your 2019 tax return. Or,
- You receive SSI, Social Security or railroad retiree benefits and are not required to file a tax return. Or
- You are low income and you file the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info online on the IRS website.
- You must have a social security number.
- You cannot be a dependent on someone else’s tax form, and
- Your income must be below the limits for your filing status. See How much will I get?
If you qualify, your payment will be:
- $1,200 if you file taxes as an individual and your “adjusted gross income” (AGI) is $75,000 or less. Find your AGI on line 7 of your 2018 1040 income tax form, or line 8 of your 2019 1040 tax form.
- $1,200 if you file taxes as head of household and your “adjusted gross income” (AGI) is $112,500, or less.
- $2,400 if you file taxes jointly as a married couple and your adjusted gross income is $150,000 or less.
- Plus $500 for each qualifying child age 16 or under
If your income is higher you will get a lower payment or no payment. See the IRS information for more details.
How do I get my stimulus payment?
If you filed a federal tax return in 2018 or 2019, you should receive your payment automatically from the IRS. The same is true if you received Social Security or most other federal benefits in 2019.
Initially there was some confusion whether veterans would need to file a form to get the stimulus payment. The IRS and the VA have since confirmed that they will arrange for veterans who receive benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to receive their payments automatically.
If you did not file a 2018 or 2019 federal tax return and were not receiving federal benefits in 2019, you will need to file a special form to get your payment.
Use the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info online on the IRS website if you do not have to file taxes normally, and your gross income in 2019 was:
- $12,200 or less for an individual, or
- $24,400 or less for a married couple.
You can also get the $500 payment for each qualifying child age 16 or under by listing them on this form.
You will need to include the following information on the form:
- Full name, current mailing address and an email address,
- Date of birth and valid Social Security number,
- Bank account number, type and routing number, if you have one,
- Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN) you received from the IRS earlier this year, if you have one,
- Driver’s license or state-issued ID, if you have one,
- For each qualifying child: name, Social Security number or Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number and their relationship to you or your spouse.
For more on the stimulus payment visit https://www.masslegalhelp.org/covid-19/stimulus-payment.