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Up-to-date COVID-19 information

OVERVIEW

FINANCIAL SECURITY

  • Several provisions of the Executive Order (EO) issued by Governor Newsom following the declaration of disaster due to the COVID-19 Emergency, which allowed recipients of safety net programs (CalWORKs, CalFresh, In-Home Supportive Services, Medi-Cal, and Cash Assistance for Immigrants) to continue receiving them without interruption or need for re-certification, expired in June. However, several others, like the stop in CalWORKs time clocks and the waiver of interview requirements, will continue as a result of a separate EO issued in June. For a comprehensive summary of that EO, click here.
  • Water and other utility shutoffs for homes and small businesses are suspended while the state responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, at least until April 2021.
  • Here is a Distance Learning Student Resource Guide from the California Department of Social Services. The guide includes information on free or low-cost internet, English language learning, adult education and workforce skills, video conferencing resources, and more.

FOOD

  • SNAP (CalFresh) Emergency Allotments for August will be issued on August 16th.
  • Restaurant delivery service is available for older Californians. Information and sign-up details for interested participants and restaurants are available here.
  • The California Department of Education has posted a list of all school districts and locations offering grab-and-go meals during the COVID-19 school closure. They’ve also created an app to help families locate meals.
  • California households receiving SNAP food stamp benefits (CalFresh) can now purchase groceries online through a USDA pilot program.

HEALTH

  • Testing (when available) and screening for COVID-19 is covered at no cost for all Californians. Find a testing site at the state’s “COVID-19 Testing Sites” website.
  • If you have Medi-Cal (even emergency or restricted scope), COVID-19 testing, screening, and treatment is free. Testing, screening and treatment for COVID-19 will not be used against anyone in a Public Charge analysis.
  • The Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) has a new Medi-Cal program for those who are uninsured and need COVID-19 testing and treatment, open to anyone not otherwise eligible for full-scope Medi-Cal. Apply directly in a community clinic or hospital.
  • Find your nearest provider at this link — you can search by your address. Any of the clinics, hospitals, and doctor offices should enroll you in the COVID-19 “presumptive eligibility” program. You can also call the Medi-Cal nurse helpline at: (877) 409-9052.
  • Applications for Medi-Cal will be accepted without written proof of income documentation during the COVID-19 crisis. If you cannot find paper proof, you can submit the information by phone. Find your local county phone number at this link.
  • If you had Medi-Cal in mid-March, it will stay active until the end of the current public health emergency. Your Medi-Cal will not be cut off if you are unable to provide renewal paperwork right now.

HOUSING

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More on Financial Security

Several provisions of the Executive Order (EO) issued by Governor Newsom following the declaration of disaster due to the COVID-19 Emergency, which allowed recipients of safety net programs (CalWORKs, CalFresh, In-Home Supportive Services, Medi-Cal, and Cash Assistance for Immigrants) to continue receiving them without interruption or need for re-certification, expired in June. However, several others, like the stop in CalWORKs time clocks and the waiver of interview requirements, will continue as a result of a separate EO issued in June. For a comprehensive summary of that EO, click here.

Water and other utility shutoffs for homes and small businesses are suspended while the state responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, at least until April 2021. To ensure households keep essential Lifeline wireless and home phone service, the California Public Utilities Commission has suspended its rule requiring people with low-incomes to re-enroll in the Lifeline program, also until April 2021.

In March, the President signed the $2 trillion CARES Act, the Coronavirus relief package. It includes some direct payments, expanded unemployment benefits, and additional help for low-income communities and the organizations that serve them,  but it was passed without important benefits and considerations raised to address concerns for the poorest Americans, especially those who are living in deep poverty, people who are disabled or advanced in age, and people who are undocumented. The bill invests significantly more government aid for corporate America than it does for the people hit hardest by the crisis. We are hopeful that the fourth aid package includes the more robust and long-lasting supports included in the HEROES Act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in May.

Many low-income Americans are still struggling to get their Economic Impact Payments authorized by the CARES Act. Western Center and Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles created an FAQ for COVID-19 Stimulus Checks. (Espanol).

Governor Newsom announced an executive order requiring the exemption of federal, state, or local government financial assistance from debt collection and garnishments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To address the fact that undocumented Californians impacted by COVID-19 are ineligible for unemployment benefits and disaster relief, including the CARES Act, due to immigration status, California set aside $75 million for grants of $500-$1,000 in Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants (DRAI) and June 30, 2020 was the last day to apply for this assistance.

The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) has suspended collection on debt imposed by state and local governments, including the juvenile and criminal legal systems and superior courts (traffic violations, infractions). This policy is in effect until July 15, 2020 and, at this point, there is no indication about whether it will continue after that point.

Governor Newsom issued an Executive Order to expand child care for essential workers, and help prevent child hunger by taking steps to ensure a broad take-up of Pandemic EBT authorized by the federal Families First Act.

California Child Support Services is temporarily stopping the automatic placement of bank liens and suspension of drivers’ licenses, effective on March 17, 2020. Note that there may be instances where actions were already in the process and you will need to contact the agency handling your case. Additional resources and instructions for child support and child support collections during the COVID-19 Crisis can be found here.

California Courts issued new rules that set bail for people accused of a misdemeanor or low-level felony at $0 during the emergency, but this rule has since been rescinded.

If an employee’s hours are reduced or their employer shuts down, Unemployment Insurance is available, and if a medical professional says someone is unable to work due to the virus, Disability Insurance is available.

More on Food Security

You can apply for CalFresh online here.

California households receiving SNAP food stamp benefits (CalFresh) are now able to purchase groceries online through a USDA pilot program.

Families with children who receive free meals at school when school is in session can apply for Pandemic EBT to receive food benefits. The application is open until July 15, 2020 at this site.

More on Health Care

Medi-Cal covers all testing and treatment for the virus. For those with private insurance, current policy directives from the state of California say COVID-19 tests will be covered free of cost under all health plans regulated by the state. California DHCS has a new Medi-Cal program for those who are uninsured and need COVID-19 testing and treatment, open to anyone not otherwise eligible for Medi-Cal. Apply directly in a community clinic or hospital

For care related to COVID-19, you should CALL your health plan for instructions. If you do not have a health plan, contact a local community clinic, or the Health Consumer Alliance hotline at 888‑804‑3536.

If you need health coverage right away, you can apply for Medi-Cal online at Covered California, and learn about more coverage options here. To receive information on options for testing and screening for the COVID-19, contact county public health departments and the Medi-Cal nurse helpline at: (877) 409-9052.

Applications for Medi-Cal will be accepted without proof of income documentation during the COVID-19 crisis. If you have documentation, you should provide it, but it is not mandatory at this time. This is also true for those needing to renew existing coverage – your Medi-Cal will not be cut off if you are unable to provide paperwork. 

Everyone is encouraged to seek care if they are sick, regardless of income or immigration status.

For more information about your right to health care, visit the Health Consumer Alliance’s COVID-19 information site.

More on Housing

California Courts have issued rules that suspend most evictions during shelter-in-place.

The new rules include procedural protections for tenants that will achieve the priorities expressed by the Governor’s March 27th Executive Order, which states that a public health crisis is not the time to proceed with evictions. The rule suspends tenants’ obligation to quickly file a response to eviction cases, states that no default judgments for eviction will be issued against tenants during shelter-in-place, and suspends trials for eviction cases. Our summary of the rules on evictions and foreclosures can be found here.

Additionally, many local leaders have recognized the particular threat this crisis poses to low-income households, and have responded with local moratoria on evictions.

Here are a few helpful resources from our partners:

In the video below, Western Center attorney Madeline Howard speaks with Health Leads to give an update on tenant protections afforded by the state and local government. Madeline helps us understand the state-wide “eviction moratorium,” how to understand and leverage stronger local protections, and what may come next as leases turn over, and we prepare for the Shelter in Place to be lifted.

You can find more Information for Renters and Homeowners About Their Protections and Resources, from the California Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency.

Additional Resources:

**IMPORTANT: In this time of increased race-based discrimination in work, school, housing and community, and with reports of hostility directed toward people of Asian descent due to COVID-19, we call on our leaders to condemn hate speech and action, and to dispel myths about the relationship between race and the virus. State and local leaders, as well as public agencies, have a responsibility to correct the misinformation that people of Asian descent are more likely to transmit COVID-19. For an example of leadership in this area, see this letter issued by the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

 

 

 

Rent is coming due in California: ‘Two weeks to avoid complete catastrophe’

“Tenant advocates prefer Chiu’s uniform statewide plan, which would protect residents regardless of what local regulations exist or whether their landlord is willing to enter an agreement. Anya Lawler, who lobbies on behalf of the Western Center on Law & Poverty, said the bill’s mortgage protections for landlords could help the state avoid a foreclosure crisis such as the one during the last recession.”

Read More

 

 

Eviction ban to end in California. And a crisis looms if lawmakers don’t act

“But Madeline Howard, a senior attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, says SB 1410 doesn’t go far enough. Tenants who for any reason don’t come to an agreement with their landlord could still face eviction and homelessness. Policy advocates are proposing an amendment to the bill which they say would close its loopholes and keep vulnerable tenants safe.”

Read More

 

A COVID-induced eviction “tidal wave” in California can be prevented, but it will require the Governor, Legislature, and Courts to coordinate and act quickly.

The California Judicial Council, the head of the state’s court system, recently announced its intention to repeal the temporary COVID-emergency rule pausing eviction proceedings as soon as August 14th. This comes after months of back and forth about how the state can best prevent Californians from being forced into homelessness because of their inability to pay rent in the midst of a pandemic. The Council delayed a vote to repeal the rule once, in June, but stated that the rule was only meant as a temporary stop-gap until lawmakers come up with a more permanent solution.

The Council is right—the rule is not a permanent fix; the Legislature and Governor must act swiftly to establish a longer-term solution to protect tenants and small landlords. The fate of hundreds of thousands of Californians is in the hands of the Governor and Legislature; in the meantime, ending the Judicial Council rule now with only weeks’ notice and allowing a flood of evictions just as COVID cases are spiking will cause needless and substantial harm to Californians who cannot pay rent.

Several bills are currently before the Legislature to protect renters and mobile home park residents from eviction for being unable to pay rent during the pandemic, provide economic relief to landlords and affordable housing providers through mortgage forbearance and financial assistance, and provide a moratorium on all evictions for the duration of the COVID emergency. However, the timing of the legislative process means that it is nearly impossible for any of these measures to be enacted before August 14th. It is crucial that the Legislature be thoughtful and deliberative to get the details right and not rush to meet an arbitrary deadline.

We need the Legislature to deliver and the Governor to sign legislation that provides the strongest eviction protections in the short term so that people can continue to shelter at home to control the spread of the virus, and meaningful long-term relief for tenants, small landlords, and affordable housing providers. 

We see three options that will protect renters and small landlords right now:

  1. The Judicial Council can keep the rule in place a little longer, instead of pulling the plug before the end of the legislative session.
  2. The Governor can issue an Executive Order to extend the Judicial Council rule until a legislative solution is enacted.
  3. The Legislature can pass an urgency bill to extend the rule until they have time to enact a permanent fix.

One of the above options MUST happen by August 14th. Doing nothing will be a disaster for tenants and for the public health of the state.

The Judicial Council acted responsibly and in line with the urgency of the moment when it enacted its emergency eviction rule. Now the Governor and Legislature need to push the legislative process. If courts reopen for evictions as usual, even for a brief period, the impacts will be profound due to the number of cases already filed and the number of default judgments that will move forward on California’s extremely swift eviction timeline.

California leaders are not at the whim of forces beyond their control, but California renters are at the whim of our leaders’ ability to rise to the moment. If a wave of evictions happens in California in the wake of COVID, it will be because of inadequate action by the Governor and Legislature, and a lack of coordination with legislative deadlines by the Judicial Council.

Thousands of Californians Face Homelessness With Eviction Freeze Set to End

“Nisha Vyas, Senior Attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, spoke at a press conference held by Ethnic Media Services. In her presentation she detailed some mechanics of the Judicial Council’s rules, and she explained how its rescission would hurt California renters.

“We’re extremely concerned about this, as the Legislature and Governor have not yet acted to put something in place that will prevent the massive wave of evictions that will begin when this rule is lifted”

Thousands of Californians Face Homelessness With Eviction Freeze Set to End

Vote planned to end California’s eviction ban

“It still leaves many Californians with no local protections,” said Madeline Howard, a fair housing and eviction defense attorney with the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

Since Gov. Newsom’s eviction ban expired on May 31, the Judicial Council rule is the only statewide eviction ban in California.

“The Judicial Council rule is the only thing that is stopping a massive number of evictions from happening,” she said. “It’s a really scary prospect.”

Vote planned to end California’s eviction ban

Housing Advocates Condemn Trump Administration Racist Attack on Fair Housing, Call on California Policymakers to Implement New State Fair Housing Law


Statement from California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Housing California, Public Advocates, Western Center

Last week, in a transparently racist political move, the Trump Administration announced the intention to bury the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act. The Act is a core victory of the Civil Rights era that requires the federal government, as well as states, cities, and housing agencies receiving HUD funding, to actively dismantle segregation and housing inequality. It is an anti-racist law meant to help undo the role the federal government has played in housing segregation. Recognizing the looming threat to this longstanding federal civil rights law, California added a rigorous Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing mandate to state law in 2018.

Housing inequality is a plague on California and the rest of the country, and it is a result of generations of intentional government and corporate policy and disinvestment. True housing justice in the United States can only be achieved when all levels of government and private sector actors devote as much energy and as many resources toward dismantling racist housing systems as they put into creating them.

Practically, the federal Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing requirement means that all government entities receiving HUD funding must analyze patterns of racial segregation and unequal access to housing for people of color, immigrants, people with disabilities, and other protected groups and take proactive steps to dismantle inequality. President Trump’s new policy would remove accountability for officials and policymakers who make decisions that could further segregate our communities.

Civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and thousands more dedicated their lives to promote the enactment of the Fair Housing Act to dismantle segregation. In 2015, the Obama administration implemented new Fair Housing regulations requiring even stronger action from local governments to promote racial justice through housing policies. Now, as a new generation fights for progress, the Trump Administration attempts to go backwards. This proposal would move the country even further away from the goals of equity that millions of Americans are demanding right now.

The urgent need for fair housing couldn’t be more clear. A person’s zip code can mean a difference of 20 years’ life expectancy – Black and Brown lives are literally cut short because of racist housing policies. Many schools are more segregated now than they were before Brown v. Board of Education, largely because of segregated housing patterns.

Neighborhoods that people of color call home continue to be denied a fair share of public investment, while corporate real estate speculators force long-time residents from their homes; and wealthy suburbs continue to claim a disproportionate amount of public dollars as they exclude people of color.

Fortunately for the people of California, advocates fought for and won a new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing requirement in 2018. Assembly Bill 686, authored by Miguel Santiago, adopts and expands federal Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulations in state law-requiring all state agencies, cities, counties, and housing authorities in California to analyze housing inequality and undertake steps to undo it in all activities relating to housing and community development.

We are committed to tearing down our own state’s racist housing systems and we call on our leaders in Congress to use their Congressional Review Act responsibilities to reject Trump’s rule and direct HUD to get back to the work of tearing down barriers to equity nationwide. These disheartening federal actions also make it all the more urgent for officials at all levels of government in California to vigorously implement the state’s requirement to affirmatively further fair housing.

Click here for a PDF version of this statement