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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.

 

 

 

OC agrees not to collect $18.5 million from families whose children were locked in juvenile hall

“Los Angeles County recently dissolved $89.2 million in juvenile debt, according to the Western Center on Law and Poverty. San Bernardino County forgave $16.6 million, Riverside County dissolved $4.1 million and San Diego County forgave $58.8 million, the law center said.”

OC agrees not to collect $18.5 million from families whose children were locked in juvenile hall

Orange county ends racially discriminatory wealth extraction from thousands of families amid COVID-19 crisis

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SANTA ANA – Today the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to end collection and discharge $18.5 million in fees charged to families with children in the juvenile system prior to 2018. The Board’s bipartisan vote follows closely on the heels of decisions made by San Diego, Riverside, and Stanislaus counties to end the collection of more than $55 million in outstanding juvenile fees earlier this year, citing the harm to county residents under COVID-19 and research about fees undermining rehabilitation and increasing recidivism.

“Thank you, Orange County, for your action on juvenile fees,” said Oscar Villeda, a local father who will benefit from today’s vote. “Families like mine are working hard day in and day out to pay for our basic necessities, some even working weekends so that we earn enough and can try to live a better life. The elimination of these fees is a great relief, allowing us to sleep better at night, especially in the economic crisis caused by COVID-19.”

Senate Bill 190, which went into effect on January 1, 2018, prohibited counties from charging new juvenile fees, but it did not require counties to end collection of previously assessed fees, much of which is decades old. According to the Orange County Probation Department, they will eliminate the outstanding fees immediately by filing necessary legal documents, notifying affected families, and returning any payments made after today’s decision.

“With Orange County’s action, 42 of California’s 58 counties have relieved hundreds of thousands of families of approximately $350 million in juvenile fees, which our research has shown to be regressive, racially discriminatory, and harmful to youth well-being,” said Stephanie Campos-Bui, Deputy Director of the Policy Advocacy Clinic at UC Berkeley School of Law.

“This decision by the county’s Board of Supervisors will be a great relief to the families carrying this tremendous burden for too long,” said Michael Harris, Senior Director, Juvenile Justice and Legal Advocacy at the National Center for Youth Law. “It was one that was disproportionately born by families of color and will help Orange County become a more equitable and just community.”

Orange County made headlines after driving a single mother to sell her home and eventually to file for bankruptcy after she was unable to pay over $16,000 in juvenile fees for her son’s public defender and his detention in a juvenile facility. Another family, featured in a May 2020 story in the Orange County Register, has struggled to pay over $8,000 that they were charged for their son’s detention nearly a decade ago. The County threatened to garnish their wages and intercept their tax return after they were unable to make a recent payment.

“After years of organizing by families, youth and community members, we are relieved to see Orange County has ended the unjust practice of doubly taxing families to fund probation and the courts,” said Crystal Anthony and Suzanne Campbell, Co-Executive Directors for Underground GRIT. “This is especially important to alleviate the burden this policy has created for our youth and families.”

Although today’s action will bring immense financial and emotional relief to Orange County families, 16 counties continue to pursue approximately $15 million in outstanding juvenile fees. Tulare County is collecting nearly three-quarters of the remaining fees statewide with a balance of almost $11 million, according to this interactive map maintained by the Berkeley researchers.

“With all the growing momentum across the state, it is time for us to pass Senate Bill 1290 and end the collection of these fees once-and-for all in California,” said Jessica Bartholow, of the Western Center on Law and Poverty. SB 1290, co-authored by Senators Maria Elena Durazo and Holly J. Mitchell, passed out of the Senate with bipartisan support and will be heard in the Assembly when the legislature reconvenes.

“These fees are harmful no matter what side of the county line you live on,” said Bartholow. “We commend the Orange County Board of Supervisors for voting to end their collection and urge the remaining counties and state to follow suit as soon as possible. California should be a national beacon of debt-free justice.”

CONTACTS:

Jessica Bartholow, Policy Advocate Western Center on Law & Poverty, (916) 282-5119, Jbartholow[at]wclp.org
Michael Harris, Senior Director National Center for Youth Law, (510) 277-5452, mharris[at]youthlaw.org
Stephanie Campos-Bui, Deputy Director Policy Advocacy Clinic, (909) 568-7410, scamposbui[at]law.berkeley.edu

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Virginia Is the First Southern US State to Ban Hair Discrimination in the Workplace

“Western Center on Law and Poverty is also thrilled about Virginia’s decision. Ending hair discrimination is one step toward achieving racial justice in the US, said Courtney McKinney, the center’s communications director. Hair discrimination has caused economic, social, and psychological harm to Black people in the country for decades, she explained.

“People are rising up across the world, specifically calling for this country to look its white supremacist roots in the eye in order to eradicate it,” McKinney told Global Citizen.”

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New Executive Director of Western Center On Law & Poverty named

“After a nationwide search, the Board of Directors of Western Center on Law & Poverty has chosen Crystal D. Crawford to be its next Executive Director. Crawford is currently a program director at The California Wellness Foundation, a position she has held since 2012. Crawford will be the first Black woman or woman of color to serve as the organization’s Executive Director.”

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