COVID-19 Financial Empowerment Services

A- A A+

Every day at the YWCA of Alton we view our work through the eyes of the communities we serve, and this time, with its own unique challenges is no different. To ensure that women, struggling families and individuals, the elderly, homeless, and those differently-abled can survive during this climate of the COVID-19 pandemic, the YWCA of Alton has curated a list of local and national financial resources for communities as they navigate their lives day today. If you are experiencing any financial impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, review the websites of local and national government sites to understand what assistance might be available.

Keep checking the YWCA of Alton website for a list of economic empowerment resources, education, and supports as we continue to collaborate internally and with our external partners. In the meantime, below are a list of resources for you to utilize and share widely that are listed in the form of Frequently Asked Questions or FAQs.

Can I get unemployment benefits? The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) has a page dedicated to answering your questions about the COVID-19 Coronavirus and Illinois Unemployment Benefits. IDES recently adopted emergency rules to try to make the unemployment insurance system as responsive to the current situation as possible. You will find useful information such as who and when a person may qualify for unemployment benefits during the pandemic. Additionally, if you any of the following concerns, please use the links below:

To file an Unemployment Insurance claim, click here. If you have questions about Unemployment Insurance, please call our Customer Service Center at 800-244-5631 or 866-488-4016 TTY.

To certify for Unemployment Insurance benefits, click here or call Tele-Serve at 312-338-4337 Monday – Friday 5:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. To post your resume, search job postings, or find a job, visit

If you are outside the State of Illinois, you can find links to other state’s workforce websites here.

Am I eligible for any health insurance or food assistance? If your income has dropped or stopped, the Illinois Department of Human Services has information on government assistance programs to help with health insurance, food, and other needed resources. This website has eligibility information, a list of information needed to apply, and a link to apply for benefits.

What do I do if I need to make emergency withdrawals from my pre-tax retirement plan? The Internal Revenue Service allows “hardship withdrawals” from certain retirement plans when you’re faced with an “immediate and heavy” financial need. A retirement plan, such as a 401(K) or 403(b), might offer hardship withdrawals but is not required to and other plans, like IRA’s, have different rules, so you’ll need to check with your specific plan. Click here to find out more on the IRS website. A withdrawal is not considered necessary by the IRS if you still have other options open to you, like getting a bank loan or selling assets. You can find more information on the pros and cons of options to increase your income in University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension’s program Increasing Your Income handout. If the worst should happen and a person needs to declare bankruptcy in the future, also keep in mind that retirement accounts are protected from creditors in a bankruptcy and can be used to start over.

How can I protect myself financially from the impact of the coronavirus? This site from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau features useful information on what to do if you have trouble paying your bills, experience a loss of income, or think you have been targeted by a scammer.

Where can I go for essential services?

Call 211 or visit this site for referrals to food assistance, paying housing bills, accessing free child care, or obtaining help with other needs.

What if I can’t make my IRS tax payment? The Internal Revenue Service has established a special section focused on steps to help taxpayers, businesses and others affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus.

What can my small business do when our sales have dropped or stopped? The Small Business Administration provides low-interest disaster loans to help businesses and homeowners recover from declared disasters, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

What if I can’t make my federal student loan payment? The U.S. Department of Education has information and links on repaying student loans and what to do if you’re unable to make your loan payments. The White House did announce that a program would be put in place to ‘pause’ the interest on federal loans to support impacted student borrowers though it’s unclear how and when that option will be available.

What if I can’t make my mortgage payment or my car loan? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides tips and resources for working with creditors. As you plan for the potential impact of the coronavirus, there are a number of steps that you can take to help protect yourself or a loved one financially, both in the short and long term.

Where can I find more information on the virus? This Center for Disease Control and Prevention website has information on minimizing your exposure to the virus, what to do if you think you may have the virus, and links to community resources.

What national government resources are available? For answers to other questions, find a complete list of government agency resources related to COVID-19, including Health and Human Service updates and a link to the Federal Trade Commission’s website tracking scams related to the virus.

What if I experience virus-related price gouging on consumer goods? Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said his office is investigating widespread reports of price-gouging. The most important thing that the public can do to assist the State is to report incidents of price-gouging online by completing the Consumer Complaint On-Line Submission Form. Also, please do not hoard any supplies that would help to prevent the spread of COVID-19, to make sure everyone can get the products they need, especially professional health care providers.

What can I go to learn more about money management for myself and my family? MoCaFi, short for Mobile Capital Finance, Inc., offers a platform that seeks to provide banking services to the underbanked while helping them build credit and improve their economic mobility. MoCaFi provides low-cost personalized access to banking, credit, and wealth-building financial services that guide your path to economic mobility View their blog for empowering articles on topics such as credit, savings, and budgeting. You can also check out their financial coaching videos to create a solid financial foundation for yourself – even during this epidemic.

How can I educate my children on family finances while they are home from school? Click on this link to access Next Gen Personal Finance, where you’ll find lessons for all grade levels on topics like saving, budgeting, managing credit, and dealing with financial pitfalls.