JFS Staff (Covid-19) Resource Page

Updated: May 7, 2020

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, NEWS, UPDATES AND RESOURCES:

 

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/

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. Households can also respond online at any time at 2020census.gov in the following languages: English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. The Census Bureau offers webpages and 2020 Census guides in 59 languages 2020 Census Operational Adjustments Due to COVID-19

UPDATES FROM HIAS:

Update on Filing Taxes/Non-Filer form for Social Security recipients

Social Security retirement, survivors, and disability insurance beneficiaries with dependent children and who did not file 2018 or 2019 taxes need to submit their information through the non-filer form by Wednesday, April 22 at 12pm EDT in order to receive additional payments for their eligible children. Additionally, any new beneficiaries since January 1, 2020, of either Social Security or SSI benefits, who did not file a tax return for 2018 or 2019, will also need to go to the IRS’s Non-Filers website to enter their information as they will not receive automatic payments. If beneficiaries in this group do not provide their information to the IRS soon, their payment at this time will be $1,200. People would then be required to file a tax year 2020 tax return to obtain the additional $500 per eligible child at that time. Please see the full press release from the IRS here.

Additionally, SSI recipients will receive their automatic payments in early May. The IRS said the payment schedule for veterans who receive Compensation and Pension is still being determined. However, given all the uncertainly about the timing of payments, the IRS suggested that it’s best to enter any dependent information now. According to the new guidance, the following group should expect a deadline around the corner: People who receive SSI or Veterans Administration benefits and aren’t required to file a tax return will also have to use the non-filer tool to let the IRS know about any dependent children to receive the $500 stimulus payment per child. According to the IRS: “For those who get SSI and vets benefits, there’s a little more time, but sooner is better. Otherwise, you can get it at the end of the year on your 2020 tax return.”

Those people who fall into any of these groups of beneficiaries -- Social Security, survivor or disability, Railroad Retirement benefits, SSI or veterans -- and do not have dependent children should receive their $1,200 automatically by direct deposit, Direct Express debit card or check, just as they would normally receive their benefits.

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.

Economic Impact Payments: HIAS has received a lot of questions about the Economic Impact Payments (the stimulus payments of $1,200) and whether refugees will be eligible. The answer to that question is fairly complicated. Please see possible client scenarios and whether the clients in these cases would receive the payment in attachement to Daily Staff Update April 6, "2020-April 3 Economic Impact..." word document.

Travel Loans: If your client was unemployed due to COVID-19, they should contact the HIAS Travel Loans Department to defer loan payments. You can expect a response the next day, and likely the same day as you send a request. Email is the best way to contact the Travel Loans Department! Travel Loans Department Contact Information: Preet Chhina: preet.chhina@hias.org; Jaclyn Toma: jaclyn.toma@hias.org. Travel Loans: travelloans@hias.org 

SWITCHBORAD (click here for new Blog Posts):

Switchboard Webinar: Psychological First Aid (PFA) during COVID-19 Response This introductory webinar from Switchboard, the ORR Technical Assistance provider, is designed for refugee service providers in the U.S. whose responsibilities including supporting clients who may experience distress. The training will be most relevant for those who have limited or no experience providing psychological first aid. Refugee service providers who have experience in PFA but who would like suggestions for applying PFA to our current environment may also wish to participate. This webinar is not intended to serve as a comprehensive training on the topic of psychological first aid. When: Tuesday, May 5, 1:00-2:30pm EDT  Register here!

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. 

CARES ACT:

Materials from Webinar: Understanding the CARES Act: COVID-19 Benefits for Refugees and Asylees: On March 27, 2020, Congress passed the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act). To ensure refugees, asylees, and the organizations that serve them understand the available benefits, Refugee Council USA, We Are All America and National Partnership for New Americans hosted a webinar on Tuesday, April 7. In addition to providing direct support to individuals and families, the CARES Act also benefits small businesses and nonprofits. The webinar explained how to apply for a "forgivable loan" (grant), which will help our refugee-owned businesses and refugee-serving nonprofits stay financially stable during the pandemic.

Topics Covered Included:

  • Direct Cash Payments to Individuals
  • Unemployment Insurance During the Pandemic
  • Paid Family / Medical Leave
  • Help for Small Businesses and Nonprofits
  • Additional Resources
  • CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE WEBINAR
  • CLICK HERE TO READ WEBINAR QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
  • DOWNLOAD THE WEBINAR SLIDES | .PDF VERSION | POWERPOINT VERSION (attached to 4.10.20 Staff Update email)

DOWNLOAD A FLYER explaining how the CARES Act (pandemic relief) impacts refugees and asylees 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.

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. New video, 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)

DTA guidance on Unemployment benefits (UI) and DTA: When households apply for SNAP, DTA can verify certain UI information directly with the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) - however, DTA cannot get information from DUA on PUA (UI for gig workers, etc). In situations where DTA cannot get information on UI, they should accept the best proof available - including a verbal or written self declaration. For households who are on SNAP, DTA gets data matches on certain UI benefits (including regular UI and FPUC - the $600/week). DTA does not get data matches on PUA. Note that the data matching doesn't change reporting rules for households. For more information and a copy of DTA policy guidance, see this section of the google doc. Please let us know what you are seeing when it comes to UI and SNAP. 

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 information is posted on our google doc here. (Posted April 21, 2020), updates at https://www.mass.gov/info-details/pandemic-ebt-p-ebt

  • There is likely to be a % and/or dollar increase in the SNAP benefit with the next stimulus package from congress which is currently on recess until at least May. This is not passed yet, so there is no guarantee.
  • DTA is overwhelmed with the volume of new/renew applications; for SNAP​ it's a three times increase, TAFDC it's a four times increase, and a similar increase for EAEDC.  Call volume is enormous and there are longer than normal wait times, (which may result in more benefit inquiries for us to assist with).
  • Anyone who purchased food with SNAP and suffered a power outage of four-plus hours in the storm yesterday, causing their food to spoil, can report a Household Misfortune with the cost of the food lost--it must be reported verbally or in writing within ten days of the household misfortune using DTA Connect app on their cellphone, or if no smartphone or internet, they can send a note to DTA;
  • Anyone who has a Lifeline (low income) phone through DTA--the cap on minutes has been lifted and data is now up to 5GB;
  • Anyone getting a Recovery Rebate under the Cares Act: the money is non-countable for TAFDC, SNAP, EAEDC (and RCA), however Unemployment benefit, including the extension, is countable against public assistance;
  • ​Loss of income for determining/re-determining the SNAP benefit, TAFDC, etc, can be verified using the "Best Available Proof" standard, and written self-verification will be accepted;
  • There's been a 50% increase in food bank utilization so far and it's increasing daily;
  • Available items have been shifting, much like the grocery stores, but food is available;

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.
  • 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. 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

DTA workers have moved to an every-other-day schedule. 

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

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:

MA Schools to remain closed for the rest of the school year. Gov. Baker has ordered that all Massachusetts schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year. “Right now the commonwealth is still in the surge,” Baker said. Remote learning will continue. The state plans to launch a remote learning initiative and an advisory group involving parents, teachers and education officials. Daycares will also remain closed through June 29th. More at https://bit.ly/2xNdg66.

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:

Re: translated & simplified Remote Learning Plan from Sharlene DeSteph, ELL Director : We have translated this document into the 4 primary languages in our district: Russian, Nepali, Arabic, Spanish.  We have translated messages going out to families every couple of days to keep them updated and have sent out a number of messages on the meal distribution.  Also, teachers spent last week reaching out to all families in need of translation to find out who needed a device for remote learning; who needed help installing the internet; and telling parents about meal distribution.   Such as today's message:  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1eOhdedNUSy7ASYwjdEazFK3NojJlLlYdXXambc5Ns34/edit?usp=sharing

Here are the links to the PowerPoints regarding Remote Learning.  We do have to update the Russian and Nepali versions with today's decision to eliminate April vaca and end the school year sooner.  That will be done by tomorrow.

*They are also up on the website:  https://sites.google.com/wsps.org/wsps-learning-portal/home

The district shortened its 15 pages Remote Learning Plan and shortened it down to this 10 slide PowerPoint with all of the most important information.  They are getting the document translated and will share out the translations with the community soon so that you have them if families reach out.

Superintendent, Timothy Connor, met 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

Baystate Health is now hosting two COVID-19 testing sites; 140 High Street Springfield, 298 Carew Street Springfield, 164 High St Greenfield (Baystate Franklin Medical Center), 57 Union Street Westfield, 85 South St Ware (Baystate Mary Lane Outpatient Center) . These testing sites can be used with a referral from a Primary Care Physician and you will need an appointment. You don’t need to be Baystate Health affiliated, and these sites are for any patient over age 12 with COVID-19 symptoms- learn more here.

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

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.

Pandemic EBT is a special food benefit funded under the federal Families First COVID-19 Act (March 2020) for families with children eligible for free or reduced price school meals. Congress authorized the funds to help families whose school age children are missing out on free or reduced price school meals. USDA approved the Massachusetts plan on April 17, 2020.

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

  • ●       There are about 500,000 students in Massachusetts that will be issued this extra benefit.
  • ○        About 228,000 children on SNAP (113,000 SNAP households) - totaling about $45 million in food benefits.
  • ○        About 287,000 children not on SNAP - totalling about $55 million in food benefits.
  • ○        This benefit will supplement the more than 1,300 school meal sites that DESE has worked to set up with local school districts.
  • ●       Amount of P-EBT:
  • ○        Families will get $5.70 per student per day of school closure.
  • ○        This will be delivered in a lump sum amount of about $200 to cover the 35 days that schools have already been closed.
  • ○        If schools are closed past May 1, DTA will be able to issue additional P-EBT benefits.
  • ■        On 4/21 Governor Baker announced schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year. We do not yet know how DTA will handle P-EBT payments for the school days post May 1.
  • ●       How P-EBT works: P-EBT is its own program - it is not SNAP. However, P-EBT functions like SNAP. P-EBT dollars are put on an EBT card and can only be used for food at retailers that accept EBT. P-EBT cannot cannot be used to receive HIP benefits.
  • ●       For families on SNAP, P-EBT benefits will be issued on their normal SNAP EBT card.
  • ●       Families not getting SNAP should get a special P-EBT Food Card in the mail for each child to buy food at local grocers.
  • ○        Eligible families include those approved for National School Lunch Program free or reduced-price meals, and all children in “Community Eligibility Provision” (CEP) schools or school  districts (where all children get free meals).
  • ○        Families will get a notice from DTA explaining P-EBT.
  • ○        In a separate mailing from the notice, families will also get EBT cards in the name of the child and will need to PIN the card with the child’s date of birth.                    
  • ●       DTA is working with DESE, the Shah Family Foundation, and Project Bread to share information about P-EBT with communities.
  • ○        Project Bread’s Food Source Hotline will also handle calls from families who think they should be eligible but who did not get a notice or card in the mail, along with families who need a replacement P-EBT card.
  • ○        More information to come in terms of resources & fliers.

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.

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:

  • 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.