JFS Staff (Covid-19) Resource Page

NUMBERS UPDATE: April 1, 2020

Global cases

  • 921,924 confirmed cases
  • 46,252 confirmed deaths
  • 192,964 recovered

U.S. cases

  • 208,449 confirmed cases
  • 4,620 confirmed deaths
  • 8,745 recovered

Massachusetts cases

  • 7,738 confirmed cases (475 in Hampden County)
  • 122 deaths

Call active clients daily or every other day, emphasize CDC guidance:

  • Wash hands for 20 seconds. Washing hands often under clean, running water can help prevent the spread of germs. If you cannot wash your hands, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60-95% alcohol.
  • Share/text this video of how to properly wash hands: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdQuPGVcceg
  • It may be possible to get coronavirus and not have symptoms (show you are sick or for others to show they are sick) for a few days. Even if you are not sick and you do not meet people who seem sick, it is important to practice good hygiene and avoid close contact with other people at this time.
  • Do not gather in large or small groups outside of your family. You can go outside to take walks or play, but do not go visit other families or have parties or social gatherings.
  • Stay 6 feet (2m) away from other people. Do not shake hands. This will spread germs.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Use a tissue to cover coughs and sneezes, then dispose of the tissue. When a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your elbow.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces or objects. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.

IMPORTANT: If JFS Clients Report Covid19 Symptoms – Here is What to Do:

If your client has any respiratory symptoms including a dry cough, fever, chest pain or difficulty breathing, first ask them about all their symptoms and when they started. They cannot leave their homes and should limit contact with family members. Call their PCP right away for medical advice. When calling Caring Health Center, you will use the extension that they have dedicated to patients with those symptoms. They will give you medical advice and possibly schedule a remote appointment with interpretation. Provide them with a reliable number for the client and let your client know. They will call the client and assess their medical needs. They will either prescribe medications, recommend isolation or advise an ER visit. Follow up with your clients after the remote appointment. Please make sure they know not to leave their home, even for groceries or to pick up medication. If they need assistance getting groceries or medication – their family member or JFS staff should help them get necessities. JFS staff should not enter the house or apartment or have any contact with the client. Any items should be left on their doorstep and the client notified afterward. Because they are exhibiting symptoms, they have to stay at home and limit contact with anyone for at least two weeks. Please stress that they follow their PCP’s directions. Report any potential cases to your supervisor.If you feel sick, do not go to the doctor or emergency room. Call the doctor’s office first! If you need help calling, call your case manager.

Be Wary of Fraudulent Covid-19 Testing Offer

ADVOCACY AND NEWS:

US CENSUS The US Census records who is living in the US every ten years on April 1! Please educate yourselves and your family and friends about how important it is to fill out the Census. It only takes a few minutes and is online! If you have clients who need help, reach out to Adan, Mandhoj, Abdul, Linda, Rose, or Ehkamwee – they all have dedicated time to help clients and community members with the Census. In case you have questions, please look at the fact sheet attachment in the April 1, Staff Update email.

Update from MIRA:

- There is a new powerpoint that describes how to file an unemployment claim. See attachment in April 1, Staff Update email. There is also a webinar by Workforcefps on Unemployment Compensation for Individuals Affected by the Coronavirus. Click here for the webinar: https://www.workforcegps.org/events/2020/03/12/17/52/Unemployment-Compensation-UC-for-Individuals-Affected-by-the-Coronavirus-Disease-2019-COVID-19

- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services yesterday announced that it will reuse previously submitted biometrics in order to process valid Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, extension requests due to the temporary closure of Application Support Centers (ASC) to the public in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. (We will discuss this further on Tomorrow's call).

Office of Attorney General Maura Healey is holding Virtual Trainings on subjects that may be relevant to staff. Register here for any of the below trainings.

  • When You Turn 18 – April 6th 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM
  • Landlord/Tenant Rights and Responsibilities – April 7th 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM

Baker Administration announces program to recruit healthcare professional volunteers and streamline donations of essential protective equipment which you can find out about right here:  COVID-19 PPE Procurement and Donation Program.

Major Disaster Declaration obtained for MA: On Saturday, March 28, Trump Administration approved a request to FEMA for a Major Disaster Declaration for Massachusetts, funneling more federal assistance to state and municipal governments, which you can learn about here.

Stimulus Relief CARES Act:

March 30th: Further Analysis of the CARES Act and what it means for immigrant/refugee families:

1. Unemployment Insurance for Non-Resident Aliens and Non-Citizens Who Are or Were Not Authorized to Work
     a. Whether a person is eligible for unemployment insurance under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance provisions depends on presence and filing of certain documents. The bar to establish the presence required to access the insurance is quite high. It is hard to obtain proof of the presence and documents required for most of the individuals that we in the network serve. Since this bill mostly establishes eligibility based on how and if an individual pays taxes, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sets the presence standards (found here).
     b. Please do not assume a client is eligible for this just by working or how long they have been here. Do consult an immigration attorney and a tax specialist before advising a client. Most cases will be ineligible.

2. Continuation of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program
     a. The bill extends block grant totals of $16.5 billion to states, so TANF programs are included under this through November 30, 2020.

3. Direct Cash Payments

     a. In order to receive a direct cash payment under the bill, you must be:

  •           i.      An adult;
  •          ii.      Who filed a 2019 tax return (or 2018 tax return if you did not submit your 2019 filing by March 27);         
  •          iii.      AND have a Social Security Number (SSN
  •          iv.      AND have a Green Card or other IRS residency requirements (e.g. refugee status).

     b. Individuals who receive Social Security benefits but do not file tax returns are eligible.

     c. Individuals who arrived in 2018 or 2019 and have not filed a tax return for the year of arrival will not receive a cash payment.

     d. The principal individual filing a tax return must have a SSN to receive a cash payment. If they are filing jointly with a spouse, the spouse must also have a SSN to receive the cash payments. If the principal or their spouse does not have a SSN, the entire family is ineligible for cash payments (some exceptions for military families)

     e. Do consult an immigration attorney and a tax specialist before advising a client.

A 2 Trillion Dollar Relief Bill was passed in order to help the country during this time. THERE ARE MANY RUMORS SPREADING WITH CLIENTS ABOUT THIS BILL. Please see accurate information below and pass it along. Importantly – there is a lot of information we do not know yet, so don’t encourage rumors! Share information only from credible sources and don’t share an article or video unless you know what sources they used and that the information is factual. If you want to fact check a rumor or an article, ask Sara.

  • No one will need to apply for direct cash assistance that will come from the CARES Act. We have no doubt that scammers will use this issue and try to trick our clients. Clients do NOT need to apply for money from the government – the government will use tax and social security records to pay eligible individuals. If clients get a phone call or mail telling them to apply, they should not share any of their information – particularly bank information or Social Security Numbers.
  • Cash benefits for individuals and families who file taxes: This legislation provides $1,200 in cash payments to adults who filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return (whichever year is most recently filed) and have a Social Security Number. An additional $500 cash payment is available per child (16 and under). The full payment is available for individuals making up to $75,000 (individual) and $150,000 (married), in adjusted gross income. The value begins decreasing and then phases out completely for those making over the full payment income cap.
  • Eligibility for Direct Cash Assistance: Individuals must have a social security number AND be either a U.S. Citizen, Legal Permanent Resident, or a Resident Alien who meets the substantial presence test. Individuals must have filed 2018 or 2019 tax returns.
  • Exclusions from Direct Cash Assistance: “Non-resident aliens” (noncitizens who don’t have green cards and haven’t been physically present here long enough to establish “substantial presence”) are excluded from the direct cash payments. Under the CARES Act, people who use Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) for anyone in the family are excluded from the direct cash assistance even if some in the family have Social Security Numbers (SSNs) that are valid for employment. There is a limited exception for military families if at least one spouse has a valid SSN.
  • Exceptions to Exclusions: Certain individuals who arrived in 2019 and have NOT yet filed a 2019 tax return may receive cash assistance, if that individual has a green card, or meets the “substantial presence test,” or "First-Year Choice" test. More information about determining these dates to meet the residency requirement is available here. A tax guide for immigrants filing a 2019 tax return is available here. If you are retired and collect social security, you will get a cash rebate.
  • IMPORTANT: If an asylee/refugee or asylum seeker was not present in the U.S. in 2018 but does meet the substantial presence test for 2019, they must file a 2019 tax return to get a cash rebate. We do not know what date a 2019 tax return needs to be filed by but encourage anyone, but especially those who did not file a 2018 tax return, to immediately file their 2019 tax return.
  • Washington Post has a helpful calculator for rebate amounts, and here is a good op-ed on the shortfalls of the decision made on the stimulus checks.
  • The government will start this process in 3 weeks so clients need to be patient. More information will be released in the coming weeks.
  • For people who do not file taxes – have no or low income – the IRS will obtain their information from the social security office. More information is to come about this process as well.

RESOURCES:

New Resource Summaries These are VERY WELL DONE Summaries of available resources – we receive a lot of links, but Sara recommends clicking on these:

Case Management and Mental Health in Times of Emergency Webinar Material. The PowerPoint from this webinar is attached to 3.27.20 Staff Update – we highly recommend you read through the slides. There is important information about mental health check-ins with clients, about considerations with medications and working with HIV+ clients during this time. The PowerPoint is attached from the presentation on 3/26.

Tips for Managing Stress and Anxiety from a Webinar called Case Management and Mental Health in Times of Emergency 3/26

Employer Verification of Work Authorization Documents: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on March 20, 2020 that the agency will temporarily suspend the in-person review of documents normally required to complete the Form I-9 for employers who have transitioned to a telecommuting policy for a 60-day period, or for three days following the end of the COVID-19 emergency, whichever date is earlier. Please note:

Employers with any employees physically present at a worksite do not qualify for this exemption.

Physical review requirement is temporarily suspended, not eliminated

Scholarshop Opportunity Not related to Coronavirus, but an opportunity for New American students: New $1k scholarship for high school students who’ve immigrated to the US.  Bold.org, a scholarship platform that helps student reduce their debt, is soliciting JFSWM for scholarship applicants.  Here are the key details: Scholarship Name: Recent Immigrant Scholarship; Eligibility: Any high school student who immigrated to the US after January 1, 2010; Amount: $1,000; Application Deadline: March 31, 2020; Link: https://bold.org/scholarships/recent-immigrant-scholarship/; Contact Dror Liebenthal, CEO at https://bold.org, with any questions, 415-475-BOLD.

HIAS created a summary of resources about Covid-19 for clients, including multilingual resources and videos. Please see attachment in 3.25.20 Staff email update.

JFS Citizenship Program: The JFS Citizenship and Immigration Program is doing applications by phone, FaceTime, WhatsApp, etc.  To start an application or be in touch, leave a message for the team at 413.304.2187.  Announcements in Spanish, Arabic and Nepali are available to distribute to clients. 

New video on how to set up Zoom on a Smart Phone. It is in English for Case Managers, who can reach out to clients to help with the process. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCwiweO9nXI&feature=youtu.be Reminder: if using Zoom for video calling over smartphones (rather than computers), make sure to be connected to a WiFi network when placing calls—and ensure that the recipient of your call is also connected to a WiFi network. This improves the audio and video quality of the call itself, and will not incur large costs for using cell data.

A new directory from “Network of Care” Massachusetts was released recently. You can use simple search terms (“food pantry”) to find critical information, communication and social services. Check it out: https://massachusetts.networkofcare.org/mh/index.aspx

Check out: www.mass211.org (there is a translate button!) for help or resources during this time. It also has up to date information on the coronavirus outbreak in MA.

Sign up for Masslive updates on the coronavirus: https://www.masslive.com/coronavirus/2020/03/coronavirus-updates-sign-up...

Multi-Lingual Resources on Covid-19 for Client Distribution and Staff Education:

Compilation of resources on COVID 19 in a variety of languages – including minor languages, like Tigrinya and an audio language in Kinyarwanda, and Haitian Creole. Some are print, but others are videos or audio. https://docs.google.com/document/u/1/d/1DyvjFYRsOkpH9UeEBEmgFd6ehSLfpMtw8j6ZFvV8JPA/mobilebasic 

New COVID-19 Visual Communication Tool for non-English speakers and those who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing to help communicate with medical professionals during appointments. (see attachment Coronavisual Tool... in JFS staff email sent 3.25.30)

Great new resources in English, Pashto, Karen, Arabic, Burmese, Swahili, Russian, French, Nepali, Kinyarwanda and Spanish: These videos do not include any location-specific information, do not require any level of literacy, and have been approved by the Ohio Department of Health. Find all videos here 

Resources in over 50 languages are in a Google Drive Folders so you can easily access covid-19 info, fact sheets and other resources. Go to this link and then open the folder for the language you’re looking for. See the Google Drive folder here

Novel Coronavirus Fact Sheet, Washington State Department of Public Health:
Available in English, Amharic, Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese.

Coronovirus Fact Sheets by the IRC (a Refugee Resettlement Agency): https://www.facebook.com/1478591585726090/posts/2474312626153976/?d=n

Facts, posters, multi-media resources from Switchboard "A Round-Up of Multilingual Resources" on Covid-19.

Video (no sound) on How to Wash Your Hands: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdQuPGVcceg

Video (no sound) on How to Use Hand Sanitizer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nA3G7NBOseQ

UPDATES, OPENINGS, CLOSINGS:

JFS Office: (413) 737-2601 www.jfswm.org, Effective Tuesday, March 17th, 2020 closed to the Public Until Further Notice. New hours: Monday, 9-5, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 9-4, and Friday 9-3 pm. Claudia will be working at the front desk on a slightly limited basis until we are out of this crisis. If anyone needs Claudia to be on the lookout for drop offs or needs mail opened and scanned, please also copy Ellie in as we are a tag team for coverage.

IMPACT:

  • This will impact clients if you and or your staff are directing clients to come by to drop off or pick up anything at our front desk. We are no longer able to receive paperwork or receive  payments from 9-6 or 9-5 or 9-4, Monday through Friday. Please also read the attached notice provided to Crocker communications.
  • This will impact staff who might come at the end of the day and expect Claudia to buzz them in. Staff need to have keys ready and notice if the alarm is on.

Department of Transitional Assistance Springfield

SNAP supplemental emergency benefits: see IMPORTANT UPDATES below under Food Assistance.

DTA information, Project Bread School Meal Site Info & updated MLRI resources

As shared during the SNAP Coalition call on Tuesday, March 24th:

  • USDA SNAP Waivers: USDA approved DTA's request to postpone Interim Reports and Recertifications that are due in March, April, or May for 6 months. Clients may still get this paperwork in the mail - but should not be cut off if they don't do the paperwork or if DTA gets it but doesn't have the capacity to process it right now. This means folks who are on the caseload now should stay on SNAP for the next 6 months without interruption. You can see the letter from FNS to DTA here. DTA has requested other waivers to simplify SNAP processing and we will keep you posted. 
  • DTA has posted a COVID-19 webpage here: Mass.gov/info-details/dta-covid-19-resources-and-support
  • School meal sites: Project Bread is keeping an updated school meal resource list and map of the school districts offering prepackaged meals for school age children.
  • Updated SNAP Fliers: MLRI has updated the SNAP flier for workers who have lost pay as a result of COVID-19. It’s also posted in Spanish  here: Masslegalservices.org/COVID-19workersandSNAP
  • EBT purchases during pandemic. Remember that any SNAP household member can go food shopping, whether their name or pix is on the EBT card (the back of the card confirms that); and any SNAP household member can authorize a trusted third party (e.g. a relative or friend) to help food shop as well.  If that person is regularly food shopping for the SNAP household, best to then have the SNAP household send a note to DTA (by mail, fax or DTA Connect) if the household plans to have that third party be an “authorized rep” – but no need to set that up in advance.
  • Online EBT purchasing?  We've received lots of questions about that.  MA is not one of the current states piloting online EBT purchasing (for ex, with Amazon or WalMart). It will take some time to get this in place, and may be quite limited to the very large grocers.  BUT EBT grocers can still offer curbside “click, collect and pay” with SNAP EBT.  See description here. Doing this does NOT require a USDA waiver.  We urge folks to contact local supermarkets, grocers and farmers markets (many of whom have mobile EBT POS devices) to ask if they are offering phone or on-line ordering and then curbside pick up/pay options.

There is a relevant SNAP information including updates on DTA’s SNAP processing policies and issuance of benefits updated on a google doc HERE.

DTA has significantly changed their operations to contend with the crisis and ensure households can get on and keep benefits. These changes includes extending certification periods (delaying due dates for Interim Reports and Recertifications), significantly reducing verification requests, halting reductions and terminations, and more. In terms of staffing, DTA case managers have been assigned to rotating shifts to comply with social distancing recommendations. Some overtime has also been authorized to respond to a significant increase in applications.

For very important updates about DTA processing, read their policy letter (it is very clear and lists current DTA procedures and what ): https://www.masslegalservices.org/system/files/library/OLGT%202020-27A%20COVID-19.pdfDTA

Benefits and Services:

Families First Coronavirus Response Act H.R. 6201 signed - important SNAP/federal nutrition elements!

The President signed H.R 6201 last night (the second of major legislation to address COVID-19). This will include:

·         Emergency SNAP allotments to households on SNAP, up to the max monthly SNAP benefit amount for the household size (eg. $194 for 1 person, $355 for 2 people, etc).

Two forms of supplemental benefits for kids who qualify for free and reduced-price meals:
A) Allows states to provide supplemental SNAP benefits (at the value of the school meals) for students who get free school meal status - likely paid to families on their SNAP EBT cards.

B) Allows states to provide EBT issuances to low-income households with school aged children who are not already on SNAP, such as kids directly certified for free meals because Medicaid.  We do not know how the Baker Admin will be identifying and assisting this second group of kids, but will keep you posted.

Gives USDA authority to give states permission to extend SNAP certification periods, waive reporting rules and other administrative rules, and to change application and reporting rules during the crisis. We hope that DTA will take every federal option available here.
We do not have any information yet about when USDA will get information to states or from DTA about implementing these provisions. 

Families applying for TAFDC cash assistance can now apply over the phone.

DTA's website directs TAFDC or EAEDC applicants to call their local DTA office by phone to start an application for cash assistance.  Here is a link to the local DTA offices phone numbers.  Please let Sara know if you hear of issues or local DTA phones are not being answered.DTA is closed to the public. No walk-ins and no appointments. No face-to-face meetings. Call them, or use the DTA Connect App. Food stamp applications are taken online, cash applications are not accepted. There is a hold on closing cash cases for various requirements. If you have a client that needs immediate assistance, contact Sara and she will coordinate with DTA supervisors.

Food Stamps:

  • Fully operational
  • New food stamp applications are being taken online only

Cash:

  • No new applications are being taken right now because cash apps require a face to face meeting
  • Cheryl bets they are putting something online as soon as they can
  • DTA is waiving work requirements
  • If clients have appointments, they are canceled or will be moved to phone

Scheduling and other DTA news

  • DTA workers have moved to an every-other-day schedule. If you can’t reach a worker today, try the next day because it may be their day off.
  • Cheryl is standing by to help us and JFS clients. If you have something that you need assistance with, please let me know and I’ll liaise with Cheryl.
  • Cheryl is working today and Friday this week, and Tuesday and Thursday of next week. When she is not in, I have her supervisor Melissa’s contact.
  • Supervisors are in a meeting now to decide what requirements will be waived, they will share more news when they have it.

In person DTA Orientations are canceled as are outreach activities. DTA Assistance Line (877) 382-2363 www.DTAconnect.com. 

PUBLIC SCHOOLS

State Level Schools:

The state of MA has moved the date at which schools can reopen to May 4. Governor Baker said this gives teachers more time to ensure students have access to educational materials and can complete their coursework. https://www.masslive.com/coronavirus/2020/03/coronavirus-gov-charlie-bak...

The Governor submitted a bill to the legislature today which provides the Commissioner of Education the ability to waive certain statutory requirements.

Proposes to allow Commissioner to extend the Student Opportunity Act funding
Proposes to allow Commissioner to waive MCAS HS Competency Determination (CD) requirement for seniors.
Proposes to allow Commissioner to waive all other MCAS requirements.
Allows Regional school districts- suspend statutory- required vote and allow DESE to certify an amount sufficient for the operation of the district until a budget can be adopted.
Allows for districts to use retirees beyond 960 hours

Local Level Schools:

SPRINGFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS: ELL Online Simplified Resource Hub: The ELL Director created a simplified “padlet” (online learning hub of resources) that is easy to navigate and translated into Nepali, Somali, Arabic, Vietnamese, and Spanish. Please share with our families! Here is the link:  https://padlet.com/martinsk1/hw0f9jc9ebxu

Springfield Public Schools is making laptops available for students for remote learning. FAMILIES MUST REGISTER BY WEDNESDAY to receive a laptop for a student. Laptops are available for students K-12. Pre-k students are not eligible. Laptops will be passed out during the week of April 6th and April 13th. Families without a car will have the laptops delivered to them. Also available at the time of pick up are books and lesson plans for English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities in Middle and High School. Here is the link to register for a laptop at SPS: bit.ly/SpringfieldK12Laptops

West Springfield School Superintendent, Timothy Connor, convened a meeting yesterday with the Administrative Team and instructed the building principals to begin/continue to hold grade level or content specific virtual meetings for the purpose of gathering voice from the teachers on what virtual or extend learning might look like at each level. The goal is to focus on standards not yet taught with the understanding that should we need to go this root, replicating the day to day classroom will not be realized. 

Parents with a student(s) who have a 504  plan or an Individual Education Plan should know that Commissioner Riley and Senior Associate Commissioner for Special Education, Russell Johnston are developing guidance for school districts. Social Security Administration:  Closed to the public for in-person service beginning Tuesday, March 17th.  Only offering phone services effective March 17th

www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices
1-800-772-1213

Baystate Medical Center: (413) 794-0000 

  • NO VISITORS IN THE HOSPITAL. Exceptions are as follows and are at the discretion of Baystate Health:
  • One parent or guardian for a patient under the age of 18
  • One birthing partner for a woman in labor
  • One person at a time for a hospice or end of life patient
  • One clergy member for an end of life patient
  • One caretaker for a completely dependent patient

Mercy Hospital: (413) 748-9000  

Mercy Medical Center, Providence Behavioral Health Hospital, and Weldon Rehabilitation Hospital will be closed to visitors, with the exception of compassionate visits, with a limit of one visitor per patient. Compassionate visits include:

  • Labor & Delivery
  • Hospice Care
  • Pediatric Care

A companion for outpatient surgeries, procedures, and facilitation of careIn order to protect colleagues and people they serve, Mercy Hospital is doing the following: Encouraging those who are ill with fever, cough or shortness of breath to call ahead to our care sites; Following CDC guidelines for use of personal protective equipment; Restricting visitors; Signage at entry points; and Developing alternative locations for ill patients, among others.

Caring Health Center:  http://caringhealth.org/visitor-policy-update.html. 

  • All patients must be triaged by phone prior to entering Caring Health Center.
  • PLEASE CALL 413.739.1100 (15) minutes prior to your scheduled appointment or pharmacy pick-up.
  • Regular dental appointments are cancelled until Friday, April 10, 2020.
  • Dental Emergencies, Mon-Fri 8:30am to 5pm no appointment necessary

Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, patients should come to appointments alone or be accompanied by just one person, if required.  Once a visitor is approved, they will undergo a temperature screening.  Any visitors experiencing symptoms of fever and/or cough should not accompany patients to their appointment.  Effective March 21, 2020 all locations will be closed on Saturdays until further notice.  All regular dental appointments are canceled until Friday, April 10, 2020.  All new and current patients will be directed to Main Street location for all services. 

New England Farm Workers (413) 272-2200
Monday - Friday 9am-5pm  Closed to public, call to speak to staff http://www.partnersforcommunity.org/default/index.cfm/about-pfc/affiliat...

FOOD ASSISTANCE

SNAP supplemental emergency benefits USDA has given approval to MA and a few other states (that made early requests) to issue emergency supplemental SNAP benefits in March (and April). This is one of the nutrition provisions in the Families First Act, signed March 18th. IMPORTANT NOTE: These supplemental SNAP benefits will “top off” the SNAP benefits for current households, up to the maximum SNAP benefit for the household size.  (USDA told states  that households that get the max SNAP will not get a supplement.) 

The March supplemental SNAP benefits have NOT been issued yet. We know that the approved states, including MA, are actively working out the logistics to issue the benefits ASAP, as well as minimize any hiccups around issuance. Once DTA officially announces how and when the supplemental SNAP benefits are to be issued, we will notify you.  We also do NOT have information yet on the additional pandemic EBT (P-EBT benefit), which will be distributed to both SNAP and all free/reduced-price status children to replace K-12 school meals, but will keep you posted.

New Program, SNAP COVID-19 Family Assistance – Expensify.org: Expensify.org is going to temporarily redirect all of its charitable funds to Expensify.org/hunger. We're devoting everything to a new program: matching SNAP grocery purchases up to $50 per family. It works like this:

1.Purchase food as normal with your SNAP card
2.Download Expensify on iOS or Android, for free
3.Join the Expensify.org/hunger policy
4.SmartScan the receipt, which will tell us how much you paid and show that it was paid for with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card
5.Submit it to volunteer@expensify.org
6.Set up your bank account to receive the funds
7.So long as we have funds available, we will reimburse up to $50 per family (one time), the very next day.

Food Source Hotline: 1-800-645-8333 (SNAP info. and other information on where to find food resources in MA. 160 languages available)

Parish Cupboard: 1023 Main Street, hours are from: 9:00 - 11:00. Groceries can be picked up 1x monthly. If they are new families they need to bring mail with their name and address post dated within the last month.

FireHouse Hot Dogs - Union Station, Springfield - 11am-12pm (free hot dog/chips/drink for students)

Margaret’s Pantry Holyoke - Open 10-12:30 M-F but will be extending hours. Must be one person at a time. Will need ID, mail and SS for all children. Please do not come if sick.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors Holyoke Wednesdays 12:30-3:30 6:30-7:30 30 Carew Street 413-437-7593

Open Pantry:  administrative offices, Open Door Social Services Program and The Peoples Center (287 State Street - Springfield) will be closed for the next two weeks.

Loaves & Fishes Kitchen—meals to go at noon and 5pm

Emergency Food Pantry from 11-2 (M, T, W and F) with a limited number of people allowed into the pantry at one time. If you have any questions please call (413) 737-5354  www.openpantry.org

Teen Parent Program—no visitors

Westfield Food Pantry is closed at 101 Meadow Street location the week of March 23-27. Check after the 27th for updates. During the week of March 23-27 they will be piloting a food drop program for households with an immediate need for food. If you are at risk of running out of food contact Rebecca Hart directly at director@westfieldfoodpantry.org

Public Schools are offering free breakfast/lunch grab-n-go meals. Any student under the age of 18 years old, Monday-Friday 11am-1pm until school resumes.

This is not available at all schools.  Click here for more information on Springfield locations (or see list below): https://www.homegrownspringfield.org/emergency-feeding-sites
Children 18 and under may go to any school listed to pick up meals.  If Parents/Guardians pick up the meals for the children, the children must accompany them.  They do not need to go to the school providing the meals or even attend Springfield schools. 

Click here for more information on the West Springfield Program  (or see list below):
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1MFr8ApVCxOKs-RL7Gqz3wHI5TM_aWlhO/view

FUEL/UTILITY ASSISTANCE: 

On Tuesday 3/24 Governor Baker issued a directive banning utility shutoffs (gas and electric) for the duration of the state of emergency. Utilities who violate the ban liable for $1 million fine.

  • Eversource is suspending disconnections statewide for two months.
  • Columbia gas is suspending shutoffs for nonpayment. Late payment charges are suspended until May 1 and they will have payment plans available if you cite COVID-19.

FREE INTERNET:

  • Internet Essentials: “New Internet Essentials customers will receive two free months of Internet service, which is available to all qualified low-income households for $9.95/month plus tax. Apply by April 30, 2020.”
  • Charter Spectrum: 1-844-488-8395 free Wifi and installation for new student households

HEALTHCARE:

Testing and Treatment: The state is requiring health insurers to cover the full cost of testing, counseling, and treatment; no copayments or deductibles for these services will be applied.

  • Governor Baker’s Order on Telehealth Services state that there is no prior authorization needed on any medically necessary doctor’s visits. 
  • Masshealth has also made it possible to obtain 90 days of medications without authorization (see MassHealth updates under Policy Updates below)

JOB LOSS/UNEMPLOYMENT:

Unemployment Insurance: CARES Act and State Instruction Templates: Please see attached document in Staff Update 3.27.20 Fact Sheet for information on the additional unemployment insurance provisions included in the CARES Act. The Act includes a temporary boost to unemployment compensation, emergency assistance to reach workers typically left out, and short-term compensation provisions.

Who is eligible

To be eligible for unemployment benefits, you must:

Have earned at least:

  • $5,100 during the last 4 completed calendar quarters, and 30 times the weekly benefit amount you would be eligible to collect
  • Be legally authorized to work in the U.S.
  • Be unemployed, or working significantly reduced hours, through no fault of your own
  • Be able and willing to begin suitable work without delay when offered

EOLWD and DUA are also filing emergency regulations that will allow people impacted by COVID-19 to collect unemployment in the following circumstances:

  • The workplace is shut down and expects to reopen in four or fewer weeks.
  • Workers must remain in contact with their employer and be available for any work their employer may have for them that they are able to do, but do not otherwise need to be looking for work.
  • An employer may extend the period of the shut-down to eight weeks, and the employees will remain eligible for the longer period under the same conditions described above.
  • If necessary, DUA may extend these time periods.

 COVID-19 is a reason for unemployment – and this will expedite claims!

  • Clients do not need to wait a week to apply as they have in the past.
  • In-person services at the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) are no longer available.
  • Tatyana can help get you anything you need from employers – send me a text or email. Email Sara or Alda if you need supporting ID documents.

LEGAL SERVICES:

Springfield courts are closed because a court officer tested positive Monday afternoon, March 23. They were holding video courts previously but now it’s officially shut down till the 30th. All court dates have been postponed for next month.-USCIS has suspended all in-person services, until at least April 1.

-EOIR has closed some immigration courts for the next few weeks.

-EOIR has also cancelled all hearings for those not currently in detention for the next few weeks.

LIBRARIES:

Valuable resources available through the Storrs Library. Linked to their website is information about accessing e-Resources like databases, e-books, and e-audiobooks. There is also information on obtaining a Boston Public Library e-Card (see description below), signing up for an Instant Digital Card, as well as free and fun Boredom Buster sites.

PARENTING SUPPORT:

EEC Emergency Child Care: Governor Baker closed all child care sites, except for Emergency Child Care.  Priority must be given to people including but are not limited to health care workers, essential state and human service workers, COVID-19 health workers, grocery store employees, emergency response personnel, law enforcement, transportation and infrastructure workers, sanitation workers, DCF-involved families, and families living in shelters. To slow the spread of the coronavirus, all families should keep children out of group care settings to the greatest extent possible. Emergency Child Care Programs are for when all other non-group-care settings have been exhausted and families have no other options. This is a list of Emergency Day Care Centers: https://eeclead.force.com/resource/1584913293000/EEC_EmergencyProviderList

  • Parental Stress Line: 1-800-632-8188 24/7 Interpretation available
  • Community and Family Engagement West Springfield 413-495-1863
  • VOC/WIC Diaper Bank must have a referral form. Contact: Rebecca Burgos, CFCE Coordinator 413-495-1863 Email: rburgos@wsps.org  

Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus):

A Parent Resource: Translations in English, Spanish, Amharic, Chinese, Korean, French and Vietnamese

https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podc...(coronavirus)-a-parent-resource

POLICY UPDATES:

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. These provisions will apply from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.  

Small Business Loan Fund: Yesterday, the Baker-Polito Administration announced economic support for small businesses with a $10 million loan fund to provide financial relief to those that have been affected by COVID-19. Learn more and see the application here: EmpoweringSmallBusiness.org.

USCIS Updates: As of March 27th: Electronic Signatures Allowed Temporarily

  1.      Normally, USCIS requires USCIS forms contain original or "wet" ink signatures when submitted to USCIS. Due to the unprecedented situation of telecommuting and numerous jurisdictions with sheltering in place orders, USCIS announced on Friday, March 20, that forms may be submitted with copies of original signatures until further notice.
  2.      USCIS announced today that it will consider responses received within 60 days after the original deadline for any Requests for Evidence and Notices of Intent to Deny dated between March 1 and May 1, 2020. This means that a client who received a request for further documents will have 60 additional days following the deadline in the request to submit a response as long as the request is dated between March 1 and May 1, 2020.
  3.      USCIS announced, that in person services are suspended for an additional week, with planned reopening on April 7 "unless the public closures are extended further."  USCIS has suspended all in-person services, until at least April 1.

USCIS has set up a page for COVID-19 related updates, and instructions on requesting that an appointment be rescheduled if you have recent travel, exposure, or are experiencing symptoms.  The Massachusetts District Court issued an order yesterday suspending all citizenship oath ceremonies for March and April, though nothing has been updated on the USCIS website as of this morning.   Supplementary documentation can be submitted by fax or email if it is less than 10 pages or by mail if longer.

Immigration Court Updates: EOIR has closed some immigration courts for the next few weeks. EOIR has also cancelled all hearings for those not currently in detention for the next few weeks.

Master calendar hearings (preliminary status hearings) for non-detained individuals are currently being cancelled and rescheduled. Individual hearings (the hearings at which the merits of the case are presented with evidence, witnesses, etc.) as well as all hearings for detained individuals are moving forward as scheduled as of right now.  Hearing notices will say if a hearing is a "master" or an "individual," as will the information on the EOIR hotline (1-800-898-7180) and Case Information website. For up-to-date information on immigration court operations, see here

IOM Loan Deferrals: IOM will allow “hardship deferrals” for a total of 6 months, upon request. In order to request this deferral, call Preet at 301-844-7247 or email the Travel Loans Department at travelloans@hias.org. VERY IMPORTANT: Advise clients not just to skip payments without contacting HIAS as it could impact their credit score. Contact HIAS first before missing any payments related to Coronavirus

MassHealth Update: MassHealth coverage will be protected throughout the COVID-19 outbreak national emergency. If coverage extends through at least March 18, 2020, coverage is protected and will not be terminated during the COVID-19 outbreak national emergency and for one month after the emergency period ends. Clients do not need to send in any additional paperwork to keep your coverage.

A special open enrollment period is under way on the Health Connector until April 25, to enable anyone who wants to get individual coverage during the COVID-19 crisis. Details here. As explained by Vicky Poulos of MLRI, this is helpful for anyone who is uninsured but especially relevant for two groups of immigrants:

1) People who've had their green cards for less than 5 years and are thus ineligible for MassHealth, but they *can* get ConnectorCare.
2) Undocumented immigrants who don't qualify for subsidies under the Connector, but can still sign up for a plan and pay the full cost if they can afford it.

- Sign up directly at http://www.mahealthconnector.org

- Get info on MassHealth and the Connector in the COVID-19 context here.

Social Security Offices Update: SSA will arrange for face to face interviews only for cases in "dire need." Please notify Sara if you have a case in dire need for a face to face interview/application with the Social Security Administration and she will work with you and SSA according to the need.