COVID-19 Government Assistance Guide
We created a comprehensive guide to help you find and navigate state and federal resources that are available in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Families and individuals that have been impacted can find information about:
- Paid Family Leave
- Paid Sick Leave
- Unemployment Benefits
- Health Insurance
- Education, Student Meals, and Childcare
- Public Benefit Renewals
- Housing Protections
- Utility Services
- Vulnerable Populations
- Student Loans
- Retirement Accounts
Paid Family Leave
The Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides 12 weeks of paid leave for employees who must care for a child whose school or childcare facility is closed. California’s Paid Family Leave guarantees six weeks of family leave, increasing to eight weeks on July 1st, for employees caring for a family member with a serious health condition. Submit a claim on the California Employment Development Department’s page.
California enacted a law requiring companies with at least 5 employees to guarantee staff their jobs back after they take paid family leave, extending that guarantee beyond workers in larger companies.
Paid Sick Leave
The Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act entitles full-time employees to 2 weeks of emergency paid sick leave in addition to existing paid sick leave. Part-time workers receive the amount equivalent to their average hours worked in a two-week period. Emergency paid sick leave is available to employees who are sick, caring for someone who is ill, or caring for a child whose school or childcare is closed.
California has taken action to expand this 80-hour emergency paid sick leave benefit to food sector workers at companies with more than 500 employees, including farmworkers, agricultural workers, grocery store employees, fast food chain staff, and delivery drivers. Visit the California Department of Industrial Relations’ page for FAQs about California sick leave in relation to COVID-19.
A number of federal programs provided additional unemployment benefits of $600, $300, and $100, as well as extending unemployment to individuals not typically covered, including self-employed workers, independent contractors, and individuals with limited work history. These programs combined to provide benefits for a period of 57 additional weeks.
Visit the California Employment Development Department’s page to submit a claim for unemployment benefits.
Self-employed workers and independent contractors can also find more information about State Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave.
The Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires private health insurers to cover testing for COVID-19 and associated provider, urgent care, or emergency room charges at no cost to the individual.
Medi-Cal benefits provide for all necessary treatment and testing services for adults and children as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Medi-Cal, Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and CHIP customers have any applicable cost-sharing requirements waived for treatment related to COVID-19. There are no limitations on the Medi-Cal enrollment period, and services are retroactively covered for 3 months prior to the date of application. Apply for Medi-Cal.
Uninsured individuals can apply for Covered CA (the state healthcare exchange) during a Special Enrollment Period that has been extended to the end of 2020. To have medical questions answered and receive remote assistance, uninsured individuals and Medi-Cal patients without a health plan (fee for service) can call 1-877-409-9052 to access the Medi-Nurse line.
Education, Student Meals, and Childcare
K-12 schools are required to use their state funds to provide non-congregate meals to students. Parents should contact their child’s school for more guidance on where to access non-congregate meals for children. Download the CA Meals for Kids mobile application for a listing of Emergency Meal Sites.
Visit the California Department of Education’s page for information about where families can find childcare and student supervision.
Visit the California Department of Education’s page for resources that parents and teachers can use to help with virtual learning for students with disabilities.
Public Benefit Renewals
Eligibility redeterminations for Medi-Cal have been suspended indefinitely—clients will continue to receive benefits uninterrupted. In addition, CalWORKs benefits are exempt from being counted toward the 48-month time limit, for the period lasting March 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021 or the termination of the State of Emergency, whichever comes first.
California has passed a statewide eviction moratorium protecting renters who are unable to pay some or all of their rent due to a COVID-related reason. Tenants cannot be evicted until February 2021 for rent payments missed between March and August 2020, but these tenants must pay 25% of their rent between September 2020 and January 2021. Tenants are still legally liable for all missed rent, and landlords can pursue missed payments in small claims court starting in March 2021.
Homeowners with federally-backed mortgages are entitled to payment forbearance of up to 180 days from their lender if they are unable to make payments due to impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, and mortgage servicers are required to extend the forbearance an additional 180 days upon the borrower’s request.
Tenants and landlords can learn more by visiting HousingIsKey.com, and can access THIS mobile and web-based app that includes a personalized, downloadable report explaining what protections or obligations apply in each individual’s unique circumstance.
The State of California has required utilities to continue providing service to customers who are unable to pay their bills because of the COVID-19 outbreak. This applies to municipal utilities; community choice aggregators; and energy, water, sewer, and communications companies.
The Federal Government has provided additional funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Visit this page for California LIHEAP contact info.
Federal funds were allocated in December 2020 to provide up to $50 per month for low-income families’ monthly internet bills. As of the end of 2020, administration of the program had not been set up – once this occurs, individuals will likely apply via their internet service provider.
Comcast provides 2 months of free internet service to low-income residents through the end of 2020, after which the rate is $9.95 monthly.
Californians struggling with mental health challenges can call the state’s CalHOPE Warm Line at (833) 317-4673 for emotional support and coping strategies, individual and group crisis counseling and support, community networking and support, and connections to other resources.
The State of California has set up a Friendship Line to provide isolated seniors with emotional and other support. Trained staff also help seniors navigate a variety of issues, including making referrals to other agencies for services and support. The Friendship Line is (800) 971-0016.
California has expanded “text-to-911” capability throughout the state, allowing individuals to text ‘911’ for emergency services. California is also working on rolling out “text from 911” across the state, allowing 911 dispatchers to text a caller back if their call is disconnected.
To support victims of domestic violence, California is partnering with the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (CPEDV), Airbnb, and Uber to provide victims with free accommodation and transportation.
To support undocumented immigrants, California has set up a fund to provide grants of $500 per adult, up to $1,000 per household, to deal with a variety of financial hardships resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Federal CARES Act states that federal student loan borrowers are eligible for temporary relief during the COVID-19 outbreak by requesting administrative forbearance from their loan servicer through the end of 2020. Interest is also waived until the end of 2020 on all federally-held student loans. All collection actions on defaulted student loans are suspended until the end of 2020, including wage garnishments, withholdings from federal tax refunds, and other federal payments.
Contact your loan servicer to request forbearance and explore your options. If you’re unsure who your loan servicer is, log in to your FAFSA account or call (800) 433-3243. Visit the U.S. Department of Education’s student loan COVID-19 page for more information.
The Federal CARES Act eliminates the 10% early withdrawal penalty for those who must withdraw money from their retirement savings to deal with immediate financial hardship due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Eligible retirement accounts include IRAs, 401Ks, other qualified trusts, certain deferred compensation plans, and qualified annuities. This accommodation applies to withdrawals taken between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020.
*New developments occur frequently, and this guide will be updated as additional governmental resources and funding become available. Updated December 27, 2020.