JFS Staff (Covid-19) Resource Page

Updated: November 11, 2020

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

https://www.mass.gov/info-details/frequently-asked-questions-about-covid-19

  • 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.
  • Wear face coverings and cloth masks in public

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, NEWS, UPDATES AND RESOURCES:

Free ESOL Classes at Ludlow Area Adult Learning Center:
Please see two attached flyers: a general flyer promoting all our classes, and specific details about Academic Seminar, an advanced level class to help students develop their academic and professional language skills. These classes are FREE and open to all, regardless of immigration status. Fall classes will be remote, so it is a good time to join if transportation has been a problem. A high school diploma is NOT required. Here are links to the fliers:

Cultural Orientation Activity Bank to learn Health, Hygiene, and US Laws:  Finding activities to keep participants engaged during Cultural Orientation sessions can be time-consuming, but they are essential for adult learners. To aid staff in delivering interactive Cultural Orientation sessions, CORE has created an Activity Bank  where Cultural Orientation providers can explore activities, lesson plans, and additional resources on a variety of Cultural Orientation topics. You can use the activities and other information to create Cultural Orientation sessions that meet the language and literacy needs of your participants while also applying adult-learning principles, student-centered learning, and integrating digital technology.

The Activity Bank currently features the following topics: Health, COVID-19, and U.S. Laws and includes activities that can be used in person or virtually. CORE will continue to add other Cultural Orientation topics in the coming months.

COVID-19 Resources from the Society of Refugee Healthcare Providers: The Society of Refugee Healthcare providers has created a Guide to Assessing Barriers to Following COVID-19 Prevention Guidance Among Resettled Refugees, as well as a very thorough list of COVID-19 resources in numerous languages (in video, print, and online formats). All resources are available here on the SRHP website.

New CDC COVID-19 Resources for Resettlement Service Providers: As some refugee Resettlement Agencies begin to resume or increase operations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has compiled the following resources to help you stay informed and share vital information with refugee clients and partners:

COVID-19 in Newly Resettled Refugee Populations is a one-stop webpage for a variety of service providers working with refugee populations. It includes a link to COVID-19 communication resources in refugee languages. It also includes a NEW link to Resources for Refugee Resettlement Service Providers, a webpage specific to your needs and the resettlement work you do with refugees. It offers a curation of the many resources available from the CDC that will assist you with home visits, classroom environments, health appointments, transportation, school enrollment, and more. From this page, you can also link to Considerations for Community-Based Organizations which can be shared with partner organizations.

The resettlement community plays a vital role in keeping refugees safe and informed as well as promoting best practices in our community during the pandemic. These webpages will be updated regularly with the latest guidance and will help you access and share information quickly and easily. Additional COVID-19 resources to support Cultural Orientation providers and other staff can also be found on the CORE website and the CORE Resettlement Navigator website.

ORI Updates: The Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants has compiled a COVID-19 Resources ​​document--all of the resources have web-links and are organized by topic. ORI has decided to share this document as a google document so that ORI can update it each time they have a new resource. Please refer the Google document for the most up to date information on ORI's COVID-19 Resources document.

Here is the link to request fabric masks for your clients: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/18WumDj0UOWWBQO-Kc4ivKz0SpBFuoQ9qhwFnHkx4IKY/edit?usp=sharing

Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures Enacted! PHIWM is a member of the Emergency Task Force on Coronavirus and Equity, an entity convened by the Mass Public Health Association to rapidly develop policy recommendations in recognition thatCOVID-19 is not impacting all residents equally. Communities that are already facing marginalization are being hardest hit by the virus and its economic repercussions. A moratorium on evictions and foreclosures (one of the Task Force’s initial recommendations) was signed into law on April 20, 2020! This legislation will put a temporary pause on eviction and foreclosure activity to protect both tenants and landlords.

Way Finder's RAFT Program: Way Finders’' Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program is a homelessness prevention program for eligible households of all configurations. New funds have enabled the program to assist eligible households facing housing instability due to COVID-19. For more information on this program click here.

IRC Launches Refugee.Info USA Facebook page:Refugee.Info USA was launched by IRC to help refugees and immigrants in the U.S. to navigate the COVID-19 crisis, providing trustworthy, clear, and relevant information. The Refugee.Info USA Facebook page will offer updates and critical one-on-one support to refugees in the U.S. who need help to access healthcare, secure food, file for unemployment insurance, and understand other benefits for which they may be eligible. From the page, IRC moderators will share content and respond to direct messages within one business day or less. Through direct messaging, the team of moderators hope to serve as virtual information counselors. Posts and responses will be largely in English to start, but the team will be able to share translated handouts, videos, and other resources produced by CORE, CDC, state and local governments, and partners such as USA Hello. While focused on refugees, content shared will be inclusive and relevant for all clients. Please see the attached flyer for more information.

ORR shared a resource guide from HHS regarding virtual case management considerations, which can be found here.

Resource directory with numerous resources in over 30 languages, available here, complied by Washington State's Office of Refugee & Immigrant Assistance. 

Tax Filing Instruction for refugees and immigrants:  “Income Taxes 101” e-Learning module on ORR's technical assistant provider Switchboard’s website, here (see second row).

Sexual and domestic violence in the era of Covid-19, from Jane Doe Inc.: Jane Doe Inc. is asking for your help in letting the public know that services are still available.  ALL rape crisis centers, domestic violence programs, Intimate Partner Abuse Education Programs, and other services are operating. Advocates are answering hotline calls 24/7, providing support to sexual assault victims seeking medical care, offering modified shelter, talking to survivors about safety planning and other needs, and using their creativity and resilience to offer virtual outreach and prevention education services. Programs have rapidly transitioned to providing many of their services remotely, utilizing technology to continue supporting survivors. Please share the following resources on your websites, social email, email and anywhere else you are reaching folks. See attached graphics in JFS Staff Update 4.10.20. Your translations in additional languages are gratefully welcomed!

SAMPLE 1: If you or someone you know is in need of sexual or domestic violence services, Please call 877-785-2020 or visit https://janedoe.org/findhelp
SAMPLE 2: Do you know someone at risk of experiencing sexual or domestic violence?☑️Let them know they are not alone - call, email, text☑️Help connect them with services by calling 877-785-2020 or visiting https://janedoe.org/find_help/

UPDATES FROM HIAS:

HIAS Know Your Rights During Covid-19 document available for clients (available in 6 languages!)

HIAS has created a nationally relevant Know Your Rights document for refugees and asylum-seekers. This was created in tandem with the HIAS Legal Department and with input from HIAS NY and the Public Justice Center in Baltimore. The document provides general information and resources on housing, safety, immigration, employment, healthcare, and travel loans for your clients and newcomer communities. Please distribute it widely! The document is available in Swahili, Arabic, Farsi, Russian, French, and Spanish. You can find the Know Your Rights document here on MS Teams.

SWITCHBORAD (click here for new Blog Posts):

Switchboard has released new blog posts on helping refugee clients cope and helping refugee children and parents cope during the COVID-19 crisis. Resources for Clients:In the absence of in-person language classes due to COVID-19, this online global resource is providing free daily two-week language instruction to participants.

Using Virtual Job Readiness Resources: Tips and Materials for Clients with Online Access:https://switchboardta.org/blog/using-virtual-job-readiness-resources-tips-and-materials-for-clients-with-online-access/?mc_cid=36707565b4&mc_eid=74f53bbd78

Helping Refugee Clients Cope During the COVID-19 Crisis: This blog post offers tips on how to help your clients cope during the COVID-19 crisis, including suggestions for sharing information in a trauma-informed way and supporting clients’ mental health and wellbeing. The information in this post was adapted from materials by the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Psychology Today, Psychological First Aid, and the IRC’s Program Quality and Innovation unit and Duty of Care team.

Helping Refugee Children and Parents Cope During the COVID-19 Crisis This blog post offers tips on how to help families cope during the COVID-19 crisis. Helping children begin to develop coping skills in response to COVID-19 stressors can not only help them get through this volatile time, but also positively manage feelings during uncertain times in the future.

Helping Your Clients Navigate Economic Hardship During the COVID-19 Crisis
Making Remote Work Successful: Tips for Employees Working Remotely
Making Remote Work Successful: Tips for Managing Remote Workers & Teams

Visit Switchboard's Blog for more updates: click here.

UPDATES FROM MIRA:

RE: Expired Green Card: Lawful permanent resident status doesn't expire, even if the card does. Therefore, individuals who are lawful permanent residents should be eligible to apply for unemployment (if they meet the other requirements) even if their card has expired. Renewing the green card can often be a good idea, but certainly will not be fast enough to fix this issue. Advocates are aware of this issue and are actively working on it. The GBLS Employment Unit has been working on trouble shooting this issue (and hopefully there will be a systemic fix soon - will keep everyone posted).  For individual community members that are encountering this problem, here is the information from the GBLS website on how to reach them that I was encouraged to share: For assistance with filing an online Unemployment Insurance claim, call (617) 603-1530 (Spanish) or (617) 603-1639 (all other languages).- 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 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. 

CORE (Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange) COVID-19 resources:

Visit CORE’s Resettlement Navigator website where there is also a webpage providing links to additional refugee-facing COVID-19 resources, including important videos and fact sheets translated into multiple languages. Links to the video, as well as the webpage of additional COVID-19 resources, can be sent to refugees to access on their own or can be used by cultural orientation and other resettlement staff in meetings with refugee clients.

  1. Coronavirus (COVID-19): How to protect yourself and stop the spread of the virus: CORE has created a new animated video about COVID-19 translated into Arabic, Burmese, Dari, Kinyarwanda, Russian, Spanish, and Swahili. Using plain language and informative images, the short video is intended for refugees with limited literacy and highlights the main symptoms of the disease, prevention tips, and steps to take if the viewer feels sick.
  2. Other COVID-19 Information for Refugees: In addition to the video, there is a page on the CORE Resettlement Navigator website listing other important videos and fact sheets translated into multiple languages. The link to this page can be shared with refugees who can access it on their own, or can be used by Cultural Orientation and other resettlement staff in check-in meetings with refugee clients. In addition to this direct link, site visitors will see a COVID-19 alert button on the top bar of the website directing them to this information.
  3. COVID-19 Resources for Providers: English language COVID-19 resources to support Cultural Orientation providers and other staff can be found on the CORE website. CORE will continue to update COVID-19 pages with new resources, so be sure to return to our websites regularly. Below are a couple of items for your consideration:
  • EMBARC Crisis Response website has resources in multiple languages and is being updated regularly with COVID-19 information.
  • The University of Minnesota is offering a "Principles of Disaster Preparedness & Infectious Disease Outbreaks" self-paced online course for free. Register here

DTA AND SNAP UPDATES:(See additional information on P-EBT and SNAP under FOOD ASSISTANCE below)

For more information about SNAP reevaluations, see this Question in the SNAP Advocacy Guide

Learn about the significant trends and new practices on CORE’s website.

All DTA case managers now working remotely! DTA has transitioned all case managers to working from home. Calls made my workers should still show up as from the Comm of MA or the Assistance Line number (877 382 2363). Text messages sent by DTA will show up from “382 674”  This has been a herculean effort by DTA central staff, local office managers, and local office staff to ensure all workers are able to safely work from home. 

For a DTA Q&A on P-EBT visit: Mass.gov/p-ebt 

UPDATES from the Mass Law Reform Institute and SNAP Coalition: There are many updates below and in the google doc .

DTA SNAP Application - Interview waived if all mandatory info provided

DTA shared their guidance to workers on when the application interview should be waived. In brief, if an applicant provides all mandatory proofs, they do not need to have an interview. Learn more at this section of the google doc. Also, click here to see a flow chart created by MLRI based on DTA guidance. We have summarized our understanding of all the guidance for DTA case managers we have from DTA in the google doc. If you want to see the guidance, you can see recent Online Guide Transmittals here

P-EBT updates at https://www.mass.gov/info-details/pandemic-ebt-p-ebt

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

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Mass 2-1-1 Call 2-1-1 for non-emergency information or questions. Visit the website for more information: https://mass211.org/  or their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page concerning COVID-19: https://mass211.org/frequently-asked-questions/ 

Resources for Case Workers, Mentors, & Families from UMass Amherst

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.

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:

Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) The MDPH COVID-19 website is updated daily with new, local information:
https://www.mass.gov/resource/information-on-the-outbreak-of-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19.  The website includes fact sheets in multiple languages with more to come: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-printable-fact-sheetsCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

CDC has committed resources to ensuring wider access to materials in multiple languages, including some languages of recent refugee arrival populations.  For handouts and communication materials tailored to COVID-19, visit the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/communication/factsheets.html

  • Translations (among many more) available in Arabic, Dari, Farsi, Swahili, Ukrainian, Nepali, Pashto, Tigrinya

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

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.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS

State Level Schools:

https://bit.ly/2xNdg66.

Local Level Schools:

SPRINGFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS: 

SPS website at www.springfieldpublicschool.com under the Parent and Community page or by calling 413-787-6959.

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

West Springfield School:

https://sites.google.com/wsps.org/wsps-learning-portal/home

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 

Mercy Hospital: (413) 748-9000  

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

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/affiliates-programs/nefwc/

FOOD ASSISTANCE

Food Bank of Western MA: During the COVID-19 crisis, some member agencies of The Food Bank of Western MA have adjusted their hours or have decided to close. Please refer to this schedule, https://www.foodbankwma.org/get-help/covid-19-food-pantry-meal-program-schedule/to find free meals or a food pantry. This schedule is updated frequently, so please check back regularly.

Overview of P-EBT
For a MLRI flier on P-EBT for community organizations, click here

Note:  P-EBT benefits are available to eligible households regardless of immigration status and are not considered for public charge. See Protecting Immigrant Families resource here. (In general, the vast majority of households eligible for SNAP are not subject to public charge. Resources on SNAP and public charge here).

Timeline of P-EBT issuance

  • ●       For families on SNAP - we expect that P-EBT will be issued very soon (possibly the week of 4/20, but it may be later!). Families will be mailed notices and sent text messages alerting them to the benefit.
  • ●       For families not on SNAP - P-EBT will begin to be issued after P-EBT is issued to SNAP households. We do not have an exact timeline yet. Families not on SNAP will be sent notices and school districts will also be informing families.

For families not on SNAP or already approved for free/reduced price lunch:

  • 1.      We strongly encourage families with children who appear to be SNAP eligible to apply for SNAP benefits. If they are on SNAP, it is easier to get them P-EBT.
  • a.      Note that receiving SNAP on behalf of US Citizen children or other children eligible for SNAP due to their immigration status has no impact on a possible future public charge determination for a parent. See MassLegalServices.org/publiccharge for more information.
  • 2.      Families who do not want to apply for SNAP or who may not be eligible should still get P-EBT benefits if they are low income. (Families ineligible for SNAP include non-citizens with Temporary Protected Status, DACA recipients aka. Dreamers, pending applications for asylum or adjustment or who have no status). Families who have recently lost a job or hours of work have the right to apply for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) free/reduced meal status any time.

A family needs to be approved for one of those two programs to get P-EBT for children. Families should contact local school districts to apply for the NLSP as soon as possible if not already approved for SNAP or NSLP.

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:

  • Free or Discounted Broadband & Cell Phone Resources from MassHealth
  • 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:

If any of your clients are having problems with filing of UI claims online, getting rejected or having other issues, you can contact Community Legal Aid, Inc. and for no charge they will assist. They are working on a flyer to be distributed. Contact: phone 413-781-7814 or online at https://www.communitylegal.org/get-help/how-get-help. They have lots of information about their services, as well as useful general legal information, on their website www.communitylegal.org and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/communitylegal/

Unemployment Assistance (PUA):

Gig economy workers, self employed workers, and others can now file for unemployment in Mass.

The Baker Administration announced on April 20th that workers can now file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) through DUA at Mass.gov/PUA.

Many workers who were not eligible under regular UI ARE eligible for PUA.

For example:

  • Self-employed individuals, including gig workers, freelancers, and independent contractors (eg. uber/lyft drivers)
  • Those seeking part-time employment
  • Those with insufficient work history to qualify for regular UI

All workers who get UI- either through the regular UI program or through PUA - should get $600/week on top of their base UI amount. This $600/week payment will continue until the end of July.

For a guide on UI and to learn more, visit: Masslegalhelp.org/covid-19-unemployment

The website for individuals to apply for PUA, launched today, April 20,2020. If someone is eligible for regular Unemployment Insurance but is having difficulty being approved – they should NOT apply for PUA. Keep trying to get them UI. Encourage clients to be honest.  If clients can answer yes to any of these questions, they should apply for regular unemployment to see if they are eligible and not apply for PUA unless they are rejected:

Your client may be eligible for PUA even if they have never worked before, IF:

  • the client was scheduled to commence employment and does not have a job or are unable to reach the job as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency; OR
  • their job offer was rescinded because of COVID-19; OR
  • they have become the breadwinner or major supporter for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19.

Here is the link to apply: https://ui-cares-act.mass.gov/PUA/_/?_ga=2.233012442.515569936.1587399873-1087315665.1584458701. And the link to get more information: https://www.mass.gov/guides/pandemic-unemployment-assistance-benefits-guide

Reminder about Unemployment Insurance Benefits: If a client is determined eligible, the client (or their case manager) has to log into the Unemployment Insurance system to claim their benefits for the previous week. Please remember to go in ASAP to claim benefits for last week for all clients who were found eligible for Unemployment benefits. The system will ask if they worked in the past week (likely no), if they were able to work (Yes!), and if they were searching for a job (if they were laid off for COVID-19 the answer can be yes or no). If you need help in requesting benefits for any clients, please contact Sara or Tatyana.

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.

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.

Lawyers for Civil Rights is launching a pro bono initiative to connect workers affected by the ongoing crisis with volunteers who can help complete the unemployment application.
In just one hour, our pro bono partners can help a family secure the resources they need to keep a roof over their head and to put food on the table.
Check out our latest unemployment resources and video guides in English and en español. If you need free unemployment support please submit your request here.

LEGAL SERVICES:

Lawyers for Civil Rights is providing free legal support to small businesses affected by the pandemic. Please request support for your small business here:
https://www.covidreliefcoalition.com/en/Forms/Intake-Form-for-Small-Businesses 

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:

New Storybook for Children on Covid-19, “My Hero is You” available in several languages:  https://interagencystandingcommittee.org/iasc-reference-group-mental-health-and-psychosocial-support-emergency-settings/my-hero-you.

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.