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Earn Extra Money by Joining Online Focus Groups

A couple years ago, I was invited to participate in a focus group. I visited in-person along with about 15 other people. For two hours, we vented all of our feelings about the ways a particular health insurance company interacts with its customer base.

At the end, we each walked out with $125. The health insurance company wanted consumer feedback on their products and customer service, and it compensated us for providing our insights.

Focus groups can be a lucrative side hustle when you break down per-hour pay. You get to be a part of a company’s market research efforts, magnifying your opinion above those of other potential consumers.

These days, you don’t have to participate in paid focus groups in person. During the pandemic and beyond, you can use online focus group platforms to earn anywhere from $20 to as much as $600 per hour.

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Online Focus Groups: a Viable Side Hustle

Focus groups can pay extremely well for the amount of time you actually “work.” They can provide surges of side hustle income all at once.

However, they’re not likely to sustain you in lieu of traditional income. Earnings can be extremely inconsistent. First of all, you won’t qualify for every survey, as each focus group has a specific demographic it’s targeting.

Often, though not always, the highest-paying surveys also have the most exclusive demographic requirements. The company may be looking to work with construction foremen who work with specific brands of equipment, for example, or with mobile app developers who use a specific type of programming.

In addition, some consumer research companies will only allow you to participate in one focus group every six months.

Just because work is sporadic doesn’t make this a bad side hustle. When the money does come in, you’re getting paid so much per hour that it’s worth setting aside 30 to 90 minutes of your time.

What You Do in a Paid Focus Group

Most focus groups require between 30 minutes and 90 minutes of work. When you’re doing a focus group remotely, you may be asked to fill out a multiple choice survey. Most of the time, though, you’ll complete a phone or Zoom interview with a live person.

Topics for focus groups are unlimited: You could find yourself answering questions about your favorite margarita recipe, how you’re coping with pandemic parenting or a survey related to your profession.

Some focus groups may require you to dedicate some time outside the interview itself. For example, you might have to give a specific product a test run or keep a journal of your experiences. This extra time is often accounted for in the compensation.

Where to Find Online Focus Group Jobs

All of the following focus group companies currently have online opportunities. In the past, many national opportunities could be completed remotely. But during the pandemic, even most of the city-specific assignments are virtual, too.

These market research companies pay well for your time and consistently update listings for more opportunities. We surveyed current listings for hourly pay and estimated average hourly pay given the jobs currently available.

Respondent

An overwhelming percentage of the focus group opportunities listed on Respondent are remote. The majority of the listings are not city-specific, allowing you to qualify regardless of where you live.

Current job listings range between $20 and $400 per hour, with the average focus group paying around $120 per hour.

WatchLAB

WatchLAB doesn’t have as many opportunities listed, but it does regularly update its inventory on its Facebook page.

Jobs are often city specific, though there is a wide variety of cities with opportunities available. Even city-specific assignments have been primarily remote through the pandemic.

Pay for WatchLAB focus groups ranges from $60 to $150 per hour, with the average focus group paying around $100 per hour.

Focusscope

Focusscope is another smaller consumer research company. It updates its users regularly about new opportunities on its Facebook page, and most studies are now completed remotely.

Focusscope pays $75 to $250 per focus group, with an average payout of $100.

FindFocusGroups.com

FindFocusGroups.com isn’t a consumer research company in and of itself. Instead, it’s a job listing board. It aggregates current opportunities available across the country, and allows consumer research companies to submit listings.

You can search these focus group listings by state. For example, the pay range for current listings in Pennsylvania is $65 to $160 per hour. The average focus group pays around $100 per hour.

User Interviews

If you’re looking for online or over-the-phone focus group opportunities, User Interviews’ listings are plentiful. However, compared to the other companies on this list, more of these focus group opportunities are in-person. Use filters while you search to ensure you’re only being shown the remote opportunities.

A portion of the listings on User Interviews are medical studies rather than focus groups.

Participating in medical trials can be another lucrative way to hustle together some extra cash.

Listings on User Interviews pay between $25 and $600 per hour — though very few studies get close to the $600 mark. The average focus group pays $60 per hour.

Brynne Conroy is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Latest Chase Freedom Unlimited, Freedom Flex sign-up offer – The Points Guy

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Freedom Flex Grocery spending may have reached its peak early on in the pandemic, but it remains an important category for U.S. consumers in 2021. Many popular cards have offered limited-time bonuses on groceries as spending …

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17 ways to use the Amex Platinum’s monthly $30 PayPal credit

As 2020 came to a close, cardholders mourned the end of several temporary perks implemented during the coronavirus pandemic. For example, cardmembers of The Platinum Card® from American Express were disappointed when temporary streaming and mobile statement credits ended as scheduled on Dec. 31, 2020. But, at the start of January 2021, American Express quietly …

Source: thepointsguy.com

How to Move While Practicing Social Distancing

So it’s the middle of a pandemic and you find yourself having to move soon, how do you do it appropriately and safely? There are a few routes to take, whether it’s professional help or just family and friends, but you still need to practice social distancing. Here’s how.

The post How to Move While Practicing Social Distancing appeared first on Homes.com.

Source: homes.com

8 Hidden Problems in the Bedroom You Might Not Spot in a Home Video Tour

bedroom virtual tourFeverpitched

Video tours have quickly become the norm in the COVID-19 era as a safe way to get a closer look at the house you want to see in person. And while no doubt the kitchen and living room are high on your list to check out, the bedroom deserves more than a passing glance.

After all, a bedroom isn’t just a place to catch some zzz’s; it’s also a place that can function as a retreat or a quiet workspace. For your kids, it’s a room to play, do homework, and host sleepovers. And sure, a bedroom’s size and closet space are important—but they’re not the only things you should ask to see during a video tour. In fact, glossing over the bedroom could mean huge peeves after you buy—or worse, real problems that cost you money.

Here are some potential issues you might find hiding in the boudoir.

1. It might not actually be a bedroom

“Many listings will call a bonus room a bedroom even if it does not have a closet and a window, which is technically not correct, ” says John Gluch, founder of the Gluch Group in Scottsdale, AZ.

The legal requirements for classifying a room as a bedroom vary by state. Still, while taking the video tour, you should verify that bedrooms have a door and a window as two means of escape in an emergency.

The ceiling should be tall enough for a person to comfortably stand, and the square footage sufficient to accommodate a bed.

Be sure to ask your agent if the room is legally considered a bedroom.

2. There’s no privacy

Photo by Creative Window Designs 

Have your agent scan the windows and sills to check their condition. Take note of features such as triple-pane or tilt-and-turn windows.

Finally, check the view.

“You’ll want to know if a large, beautiful window in the master bedroom lacks privacy and looks right into a neighbor’s yard,” says Jennifer Smith, a Realtor® with Southern Dream Homes in Wake Forest, NC.

3. The fixtures and outlets are dated or in bad shape

“Buyers’ eyes tend to naturally go toward the beautifully made bed with lots of accent pillows and the art hanging on the walls,” Smith says. “But it’s important to remember to look at the more permanent features of the room that you’ll have to live with day to day.”

Ask your agent to zoom in on things like the flooring, ceiling fan, light fixtures, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and heating and cooling vents. Is there a radiator hiding behind the headboard or an air conditioner in the window?

Be sure to find out how many outlets are in the room. Older houses often have fewer outlets, and they may be the outdated, two-prong variety, which isn’t grounded.

4. The early morning sun will wake you up

Photo by Gaetano Hardwood Floors, Inc.

Oodles of natural light is a coveted feature—unless the morning sunlight wakes you up hours before your alarm goes off.

“Many Realtors and home buyers who visit a property at varying times throughout the day unintentionally fail to consider what the exposure is like at 5:30 a.m. with the sunrise,” says Gluch.

Curtains and blinds are obvious solutions, but you may not want to cover windows that showcase a beautiful view or are placed high in a vaulted ceiling.

5. Your furniture won’t fit

Whether it’s a large master suite or a children’s bedroom, pay attention to how much furniture is in the room and how it’s arranged, Smith says.

“Staging declutters and depersonalizes a space as much as possible, so buyers should think about how their current belongings will fit or if they’d have to buy all-new furniture,” says Smith.

Ask the listing agent for the dimensions of the bed and/or dresser for comparison. But if the dresser is missing, it could mean the bedroom has a large closet with organizational options.

Ask to see inside all the closets, and make note of the size, shelves, and other organizational components.

6. The bedrooms are in an inconvenient location

It’s easy to get disoriented when you’re taking a live video tour, so “buyers shouldn’t forget to pay attention to where bedrooms are located in the house,” Smith advises.

Ask yourself how the locations of the bedroom will suit your lifestyle. Will you be more comfortable with the kids’ bedrooms on the same floor? Is the master suite adjacent to a busy living room or kitchen? Where are the bathrooms in reference to the bedrooms?

7. The master bathroom doesn’t offer separation

Photo by Elad Gonen 

A spacious master suite isn’t just a place to rest your weary head at night. It’s your future dream retreat, where you can sink into a soothing bath or luxuriate in a rainfall shower. But if you want a bit of privacy, be mindful of how the master suite is laid out.

“Many people overlook the fact that there is not a door between the bedroom and the bathroom,” says Gluch. “Likewise, many floor plans now have a water closet—a small toilet room with a door—but do not have a door separating the bedroom from the rest of the bath.”

8. There might be potential safety hazards

If you’re looking at a multilevel home or a house with a bedroom in the basement, verify fire escape routes.

“Consider potential safety hazards such as how difficult it might be to drop a fire escape ladder out of an upstairs bedroom window or a ladder up from a basement bedroom,” says Gluch.

Basement bedrooms should have an egress window, and upper-floor windows should be clear of obstructions like trees or sections of the house that would make an emergency exit difficult.

The post 8 Hidden Problems in the Bedroom You Might Not Spot in a Home Video Tour appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

The Financial Truths COVID-19 Has Taught Us

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us all some hard lessons. Here are six hard financial truths we’ve learned from 2020.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Business credit cards

If you are a small-business owner and cash is not flowing and bills are piling up, the most important thing to do is contact your card issuer.

Some banks are also providing assistance in case you can’t pay your business credit card bill.

Another coronavirus complication: Scams

As consumers wrestle with the impact of the coronavirus, scammers are trying to take advantage of the situation.

In a June 2020 public service announcement, the FBI warned that the increasing use of banking apps could open doors to exploitation.

“With city, state and local governments urging or mandating social distancing, Americans have become more willing to use mobile banking as an alternative to physically visiting branch locations. The FBI expects cyber actors to attempt to exploit new mobile banking customers using a variety of techniques, including app-based banking trojans and fake banking apps,” the PSA warns.

Scammers might also be capitalizing on health and economic uncertainties during this time. In one such scam, cybercriminals are sending emails claiming to contain updates about the coronavirus. But if a consumer clicks on the links, they are redirected to a website that steals their personal information, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).

Identity theft in 2020: What you need to know about common techniques

Bottom line

The outbreak of a disease can upset daily life in many ways, and the ripple effects go beyond our physical health. Thankfully, many card issuers are offering relief. If you’re feeling financially vulnerable, contact your credit card issuer and find out what assistance is available. And while data security may seem like a secondary consideration, it’s still important to be vigilant when conducting business or seeking information about the coronavirus online.

Source: creditcards.com

Unemployment Benefits Explained: Terms, Definitions and More

CARES Act: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was the first coronavirus relief package passed in March 2020. It expanded unemployment assistance, authorized ,200 stimulus checks and provided relief for small businesses, among several other things. Under this law, those who are partially or fully unemployed as a direct result of the coronavirus may receive up to 39 weeks of federal unemployment benefits.
Beyond helping those who were laid off, PUA offers benefits to people who can’t go to work or lost income due to a variety of coronavirus-related reasons. Some examples include contracting COVID-19, caregiving for someone who has COVID-19 or staying home to take care of your kids whose school closed due to COVID-19 lockdown rules.
Millions of newly eligible folks now have access to benefits. But the new programs put state unemployment agencies in a tricky position. They are receiving record-breaking surges in applications at the same time that they are tasked with creating and paying out brand new benefits. The result: overburdened websites, unclear instructions and lots of jargon.
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.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
Here’s a primer on seven key terms that you’re sure to come across as you apply for benefits.
Take, for example, this update to applicants on Arkansas’ unemployment website after the second stimulus package passed:

The 2 Unemployment Programs You Definitely Need to Know

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DOL: The federal Department of Labor oversees all states’ unemployment systems. Your state may have its own agency named the Department of Labor that administers its unemployment benefits. Generally speaking, DOL refers to the federal agency.

Unemployment Insurance (UI)

Also referred to as Unemployment Compensation, UI is the longstanding benefits program run by each individual state. It’s for people who are out of work at no fault of their own. To qualify for UI, you have to have made a certain amount of money in the recent past  — typically from a W-2 job with an employer that paid into the unemployment system through payroll taxes. Specifics like previous employment duration or earnings vary.
PEUC: Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation extends the length of Unemployment Insurance aid for a maximum of 24 weeks. The first stimulus deal extended UI benefits for 13 weeks, and the second stimulus package added an additional 11 weeks. New applicants (after Dec. 27, 2020) are only eligible for the 11-week extension. This program does not extend Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
“Understanding the difference with all these programs and acronyms is going to be confusing,” said Michele Evermore, an unemployment benefits policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project.

Pro Tip
These two foundational programs provide the bulk of unemployment aid through weekly payments. Once you understand the difference between them, a lot of the other programs will start to make sense.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

“Some extensions and changes to federal UI programs will include the reinstatement of the FPUC program, extension of PUA program and PEUC program for those who qualify,” the notice states.
The overwhelming majority of people relying on unemployment benefits are receiving aid from two key programs. According to figures from the Department of Labor, more than 13 million people are collecting Unemployment Insurance and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits.
Our plain English guide will help you make sense of it all. Consider bookmarking this page and referencing it as you trudge through the process of getting your benefits.
DUA: Disaster Unemployment Assistance is not Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. You may come across this long-standing natural disaster assistance program on your state’s unemployment website. Do not apply. Despite their similar names, they are very different.

Our guide to filing for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance includes an interactive map to help you find your state’s application rules.
A woman holds hands with her infant while looking for something on her laptop.

7 Quick Definitions to Important Unemployment Terms and Programs

FPUC: Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation boosts unemployment benefits by 0 a week for up to 11 weeks between Dec. 27, 2020, and March 14, 2021. Anyone who is approved for at least of unemployment benefits will automatically receive this bonus. No separate application or action is needed. This program previously paid out 0 per week under the CARES Act, but that version expired in July 2020.
Additionally, to collect UI, you have to be able to work, available to work and actively seeking work. Some states have waived the “actively seeking work” requirement during the pandemic.
Depending on your state, average UI payments are between 0 and 0 per week, according to the latest data from the Department of Labor. The duration of UI programs also depends on your state. They last between 12 and 30 weeks (without any extensions). The most common duration is 26 weeks.
Since the start of the pandemic, mass unemployment has rocked the nation. To help mitigate the damage, two economic stimulus packages allotted unprecedented sums of money to create new benefits programs that assist people who are out of work.
EB: Extended Benefits are available in every state except South Dakota. EB is a state-level benefit that extends Unemployment Insurance by six to 20 weeks — depending on your state and your local unemployment rate. To qualify during the pandemic, you may have to exhaust a federal unemployment extension first. (See PEUC below.)
For the first time nationally, gig workers and freelancers, who are considered 1099 independent contractors, have been able to receive unemployment benefits through PUA.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a new federal unemployment program. It’s up and running in all 50 states. The first stimulus package created PUA in March 2020. Throughout the pandemic, PUA has been a lifeline for tens of millions of jobless people who don’t qualify for regular UI benefits.
CAA: The Continued Assistance Act, aka Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers, is part of the 0 billion stimulus package that became law on Dec. 27, 2020. It extends many of the unemployment programs created by the CARES Act.
Because PUA is a federal program, all states must offer it for a maximum of 50 weeks. The minimum weekly payments vary by state, however, because they’re calculated as half your state’s average UI payment. With average state UI payments between 0 and 0, you can expect minimum weekly PUA payments between and 5 depending on your state.
Use this tool from the Department of Labor to find your state’s unemployment website and start a UI claim.
After reading that sentence, you may have a couple choice acronyms yourself. Maybe, “OMG — WTH does that mean?”
Now that you have a better understanding of the two major unemployment benefits programs, let’s look at extensions, payment enhancements and other important programs that you may be eligible for.

Can you send money with a credit card?

Sending cash to friends and family? Before you reach for that credit card, grab a calculator. It’s time to do a little math.

With most everything you purchase online or through apps, credit cards have the edge. With plastic, you have chargeback rights. If you’re overcharged or receive the wrong item, broken merchandise or nothing at all, your card issuer will make it right. And if you use a rewards card, you collect points or miles, too. Win-win.

But it’s different story when you’re sending money through peer-to-peer platforms. Many of them (like Google Pay, Popmoney and Zelle), don’t allow consumers to use a credit card to send cash.

Others (like Cash App, PayPal and Venmo), allow credit cards but also charge a fee for the privilege – often about 3%.

See related: How to choose a P2P payment service

The hidden costs of using credit cards to send money

Choose a credit card to send money and you might also end up paying additional fees to your card issuer. That’s because the combination of some peer-to-peer apps with certain cards are coded as cash advances, rather than purchases.

For many cards, that cash advance code triggers a higher interest rate that kicks in the moment you make the transaction, as well as a separate cash advance fee that’s often $10 or 5% of the transaction – whichever is higher. (Currently, the average interest rate for cash advances is 24.8%, while the average APR for purchases is 16.05%.)

So the combination of peer-to-peer service fees, credit card cash advance fees and that higher interest rate (with no grace period) could make sending a few hundred dollars a bit more costly than you’d planned.

No chargeback rights with credit cards

The real kicker: Unlike other venues, you don’t have chargeback rights when you use credit cards to make peer-to-peer money transfers.

When you present your credit card in an online or brick-and-mortar store, there’s a merchant involved – and the law provides chargeback rights for your protection in case you don’t get what you were promised in the deal. But in a peer-to-peer money transfer, there’s no merchant, so currently the laws don’t give consumers any chargeback rights, says Christina Tetreault, manager of financial policy for Consumer Reports.

“The chargeback right requires a merchant,” says Tetreault. “One of the hoops a consumer has to jump through is to try and work it out with the merchant.”

If you use a peer-to-peer service and send the wrong amount or send the money to the wrong person, most platforms advise that the only way to get it back is to contact the recipient and ask them to return it. And that’s often the same whether you use a credit card, debit card, bank account or funded account on the platform.

“Be doubly sure when you’re sending the money that you’re putting in the correct information,” says John Breyault, vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud for the National Consumers League. “It’s still a buyer beware world when it comes to peer-to-peer.”

The solution

If you’re sending money and want to use a credit card, it pays to do a little sleuthing first. Check out the peer-to-peer site. Does it allow users to send money with a credit card? If so what, if any, fees does it charge?

On some platforms (PayPal is one), you could see similar fees for using a debit card – while sending from a bank account or funded account on the platform is free.

The good news is that many peer-to-peer platforms clearly disclose it when there’s an extra charge to use a credit card, says Tetreault. With Venmo, for example, you’ll get a pop-up message.

Harder to decipher: Will credit card transactions on the platform be treated as a cash advance? If your preferred platform doesn’t post this information, you might need to contact customer service. (And how quickly and easily you get an answer can tell you a lot, too.)

Ask your card issuer the same question: Are peer-to-peer money transfers on the platform you’ve chosen treated as a cash advance? If they are, what’s the interest rate, and what’s the cash advance fee?

“What I would suggest is to ask that question, via email, of your financial institution,” says Tetreault. “It may be in their FAQs. And you want to save that email. If you have it in writing, if there’s an issue later, you’re better positioned to contest that fee.”

But “the hard truth is you may not be able to find out ahead of time,” she says.

Another solution: Opt to use a credit card issued by a credit union.

“With credit unions, the APR is usually the same” for purchases and cash advances, says John Bratsakis, president and CEO of the Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association.

Likewise, with American Express cards you pay your regular interest rate and no cash advance fees on peer-to-peer transfers, says Elizabeth Crosta, vice president of public affairs for American Express.

And credit cards from U.S. Bank register peer-to-peer money transfers as regular purchases – with no cash advance fees or cash advance APRs, says Rick Rothacker, spokesperson for the bank.

See related: How do credit card APRs work?

What’s your reason for using a credit card?

Take a good look at the reason you’re using a credit card, too. If you want chargeback rights, that’s not an option. If you’re doing it for the rewards, will the value of those points or miles be eaten up by extra fees or a higher interest rate you have to pay to use the card?

And if you’re using a card because you don’t have the cash, that might be a good reason to rethink the idea of sending money in the first place.

That’s a huge red flag, says Bruce McClary, vice president of public relations at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

“The need to convert credit into cash is what really gets my attention – because that hints at a lack of savings,” he said. “It’s a reality a lot of people are facing, especially now.”

Cash advances aren’t as expensive or risky as payday loans and car title loans, but they should be among your last resorts. If you’re looking for short-term relief, you could ask your credit card issuer for help, or find out if you qualify for a personal loan. You could also borrow from a family member or trusted friend, but be wary of the potential relationship toll if you can’t pay them back.

Getting cash from credit cards

Fifty-two percent of Americans report that the pandemic has damaged their finances, according to a recent survey by the NFCC. More than a fifth of those had to tap savings for everyday expenses, while 16% increased their credit card spending.

And that’s a sign of financial stress, says McClary. “It means that, in some situations, they have run out of savings.”

There are ways you can use your card to get cash, though.

Cashing in rewards

Some rewards cards from issuers such as Chase, Bank of America and US Bank let you deposit cash-back rewards directly to your bank account.

And Wells Fargo also will let you deposit its Go Far Rewards directly into another Wells Fargo customer’s account, says Sarah DuBois, spokesperson for the bank.

Gift cards

Many credit cards let you convert rewards into retail gift cards. So a pile of points can help a friend or family member buy much-needed groceries or a few holiday presents.

Or simply “buy a gift card for someone,” says Bratsakis.

Retailer-specific gift cards and gift cards issued through local and regional retail associations and malls often come with no fees – meaning every dollar you spend goes toward your gift.

Convenience checks

While you can get a cash advance or use convenience checks from your card issuer, both those options often come with fees and higher interest rates. Not a smart money move, especially in the current economy.

While some lenders may offer convenience checks with deferred interest, that’s not the same as “no interest,” says Bratsakis. Also, if you don’t pay the loan in full, will you owe the full interest retroactively?

“That’s where consumers have to be careful,” he says. With a convenience check or even a cash advance, “that’s usually where consumers can get themselves into trouble if they can’t pay it off and get hit with deferred interest.”

See related: What is deferred interest?

Bottom line

When it comes to peer-to-peer payments, cash really is king. You can then put it into a funded account with the money transfer platform or your bank account. And most peer-to-peer platforms let you do this for free.

“The safest way to use these services is to send money person-to-person and be diligent about getting all the details correct so it doesn’t go to the wrong person,” says Tetreault.

Only send to people you trust and know in real life, she says. “And before sending money make sure you understand what, if any, fees you might incur.”

Source: creditcards.com

How to File for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in Every State

January 20, 2021

Note: This article has been updated to reflect the new programs and provisions in the second stimulus package.

For the first time nationally, independent contractors and gig workers can receive unemployment benefits — through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Millions of Americans have relied on this program since it was created by the first stimulus package in March 2020.

Depending on your state, PUA effectively expired on Dec. 26 or 27. At the 11th hour, lawmakers rallied to pass a second stimulus package, extending the program for 11 weeks. However, some states had to pause making PUA payments as they implemented the new rules.

The Penny Hoarder looked at the application process in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. when the program was first created. We compiled the information into an interactive map that shows you how to file in each state, then updated the information based on new provisions laid out in the second stimulus package.

This guide will explain everything you need to know about Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

What Is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?

  • How the Second Stimulus Package Changes PUA
  • A 50-State Interactive Map to Help You Apply for PUA
  • Documents Needed to File for PUA
  • This $300 boost is known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).

    [Back to top ↑]

    How the Second Stimulus Package Changes PUA

    Initially, the CARES Act authorized PUA payments for a maximum of 39 weeks. The second stimulus package extended PUA to 50 weeks total — or 11 extra weeks.

    PUA now sunsets on March 14, 2021, unless extended by Congress and the Biden administration. Those who haven’t exhausted their PUA benefits as of March 14, 2021, may continue receiving benefits until April 5, 2021.

    One new and notable limitation: PUA used to be available retroactively as far back as January 2020. The new stimulus law tightens the window for retroactive PUA payments to Dec. 1, 2020, through March 14, 2021.

    All PUA recipients should be expecting to file more paperwork, too. To curb fraud, the second stimulus deal forces current and new PUA recipients to submit documents related to employment or self-employment, according to the DOL.

    The exact documents needed will be determined by your state agency, which is required to notify you. The deadline to file those documents is March 27, 2021. Defer to your state’s deadline if different.

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    How to File for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, State by State

    Our interactive map includes PUA filing instructions for all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

    Based on The Penny Hoarder’s analysis, 35 states and D.C. process PUA applicants using the same application for general unemployment. Only 15 states have separate PUA applications.

    Here’s how we broke it down on the map.

    General Unemployment

    To determine PUA eligibility, most states funnel applicants through the Unemployment Insurance system first. Those states require you to file two applications: state unemployment first, then PUA.

    In such states, you must get denied Unemployment Insurance (UI) before applying for PUA. Only a handful of states have one streamlined, general unemployment application that determines your eligibility for both PUA or regular benefits.

    For simplicity — and because in both instances your first step is filing a general unemployment claim — both methods are categorized as “general unemployment (UI)” on the map, in dark  blue.

    To see if you need to file two applications or one streamlined version, click your state on the map for specific filing instructions.

    PUA

    States marked in light blue have a PUA application separate from the regular Unemployment Insurance system. If you are a resident of one of these states, you can file for PUA directly so long as you meet the eligibility criteria.

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    Documents Needed to File for PUA

    If you’re ready to file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, you’ll need to gather several types of identification- and income-related documents.

    Your state may require a few additional documents, but here’s an overview:

    Income statements and related documents are crucial to proving how and when the coronavirus affected your earnings. For freelancers and independent contractors, it may be difficult to compile everything. Include as much as possible.

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    Pro Tip

    Depending on which gig app you use and how much you earned, you may not have received any 1099 income forms in the mail. In that case, log on to the app and download your income statements.

    Expect Delays

    Due to new rules outlined in the second stimulus package, state labor departments are once again scrambling. Hiccups should be expected while applying for, asking about or submitting documents related to PUA. Many gig workers and independent contractors warn of website crashes, unavailable customer service, confusing questionnaires and more.

    Perseverance is key.

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

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

    Source: thepennyhoarder.com