Consistent with the Governor's order, Legal Services of Northern California closed all of its local offices to walk-in clients to protect our clients, applicants for services, and our employees from the possible spread of COVID-19. We understand that this is an evolving issue. We will make decisions based on current public health recommendations. We continue to accept new clients and process current client cases through telephone and email communication. If you are a current client with an open case, please contact your advocate for instructions. Applicants for services should visit our local office webpage to get updated information on how to contact our offices for help.
COVID-19 DISASTER RESOURCES
Know Your Rights Eviction Information (Animated Videos)
I can’t pay my rent now. Can I be evicted?
If you have not been able to pay rent for any time since March 1, 2020, your landlord must give you a 15-day notice. This new notice must give you 15 days to pay rent or to tell the landlord you cannot pay because of COVID-19. Your landlord must give you a form called a “Declaration” with the 15-day notice.
If you cannot pay your rent because of COVID-19, you must sign and give the Declaration to your landlord. You must do this within 15 business days. If you do this, your landlord cannot evict you for not paying the rent right now.
Keep reading to learn what steps you should take to protect yourself.
If you couldn’t pay your rent between March 1, 2020 – August 31, 2020:
You can never be evicted for rent you couldn’t pay between March 1, 2020 and August 31, 2020 if you:
- Couldn’t pay rent for COVID-19 reasons AND
- Sign and return the form called “Declaration of COVID-19 Related Financial Distress” your landlord has to give you.
You MUST sign the declaration form and give it to your landlord in the way they tell you to within FIFTEEN DAYS of getting it.
You don’t have to wait for your landlord to give you the declaration form. You can sign the declaration form and give it to your landlord. Even if you give your landlord a signed declaration form, your landlord might give you another one to sign. If that happens, you must sign and return that declaration form too.
If you send it to your landlord in the mail, send it in a way that you can track it. You can go to your local Post Office to mail it with a “Certificate of Mailing.” Mailing the declaration with a “Certificate of Mailing” gives you proof you mailed it. If you need help, ask a Post Office employee for their help.
If you can’t pay your rent between September 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021:
You can never be evicted for rent you couldn’t pay between September 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021 if you:
- Couldn’t pay rent for COVID-19 reasons AND
- Sign and return the form called “Declaration of COVID-19 Related Financial Distress” every time your landlord asks you to AND
- Pay at least 25% of your September – January total rent by January 31, 2021. Total rent means your rent and any charges you pay your landlord, such as utilities.
Example: if your total rent is $1000 each month, 25% of that is $250. There are five months of rent between September 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021. That means you would have to pay your landlord $1,250 by January 31, 2021 to have the full protections under the new law.
Tell your landlord what month your rent payment is for. You should write on the check or money order that the rent payment is for the current month of rent. You should also write a letter telling the landlord to apply your rent to the current month. Give this letter to your landlord at the same time you give them your rent.
You can find the Declaration and a sample rent designation letter on our website at www.LSNC.net/coronavirus-covid-19.
Starting February 1, 2021:
These new protections only last until January 31, 2021. On February 1, 2021 you have to pay your full monthly rent on time. Unless California extends this new law, these protections end January 31, 2021.
I can’t pay 25% of my September 2020 – January 2021 rent by January 31, 2021. What happens then?
You should still sign the declaration form every time your landlord asks you to. If you do, your landlord can’t file an eviction case for unpaid rent until February 1, 2021.
If you can’t pay 25% of your September 2020 – January 2021 rent by January 31, 2021, your landlord can file an eviction case on or after February 1, 2021. If you get court eviction papers, you should seek legal advice.
Do I still owe the rent I couldn’t pay between March 1, 2020 – January 31, 2021?
Yes, you still owe your landlord this rent money. Your landlord can try to collect this past due rent from you. Your landlord may also sue you in small claims court on or after March 1, 2021 for any rent debt you have not paid.
Remember to sign and return the declaration within fifteen days. If you do, your landlord cannot evict you or force you to move out for not paying this rent.
I didn’t lose income from the pandemic. But my monthly bills have gone up because of COVID-19. Do I have the same protections?
Yes. If your monthly bills have gone up for reasons related to the pandemic, you are likely protected. You should read the “Declaration of COVID-19 Related Financial Distress.” Make sure your reason fits into one of the reasons on the declaration form.
My landlord has given me a lot of notices lately. What do they mean?
You might get three new notices from your landlord.
- A notice that explains the new protections.
- A fifteen-day notice for rent you could not pay between March 1, 2020 and August 31, 2020. Your landlord has to give you the declaration form with this fifteen-day notice. The declaration form is called “Declaration of COVID-19 Related Financial Distress.”
- A new fifteen-day notice for rent you can’t pay each month between September 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021. Your landlord has to give you the declaration form with every fifteen-day notice.
Every time your landlord gives you a fifteen-day notice, they also have to give you the declaration form. If you don’t get this form, you should seek legal advice.
I got an eviction notice but my landlord didn’t tell me why they’re evicting me. What should I do?
The new law says a renter can’t be evicted without a reason if the notice expires between March 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021. This means that any eviction notice or notice to move out that you get must say why the landlord wants you to move out.
The new law also says the landlord can only evict you for certain reasons. For example, in most cases a landlord cannot evict you right now because they want to remodel the home you rent.
If you have a notice telling you to move out, you should seek legal advice.
What should I do if I get court papers? Who can help me?
If you get eviction court papers, you should seek legal advice right away. If you live in a Northern California county, you can call your local Legal Services of Northern California Office. Our office can give you free legal advice about when and how to respond. We will explain how the new law applies to you. If you ignore the court papers, you may be evicted.
You can also find the legal services office closest to you by visiting www.LawHelpCA.org.
There are other federal, state, and local laws that may also protect you.
Call us for free legal advice. We can help you find out what laws apply to you.
FEDERAL STIMULUS FUNDS: CARES ACT: One-Time Payment from the Federal Government
The CARES Act authorizes the government to pay a one-time payment of up to $1,200 for an individual or $2,400 for a married couple, plus an additional $500 per child. The payments will be available for incomes up to $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for married couples. This is true even for those who have no income, as well as those whose income comes entirely from means-tested benefit programs, such as Social Security. To be eligible for a one-time payment without any action, you must have:
- Filed either your 2018 or 2019 taxes
- Received a SSA-1099 annual form. SSA-1099 is a tax form that recipients of Social Security receive each year. If you are a Social Security recipient you want to claim any dependents and receive an additional $500 per child, you must file your taxes your 2020 taxes in 2021 if you did not fill out the Non-Filer form online by April 22.
- Received SSI benefits. SSI beneficiaries will automatically receive $1200 in federal stimulus payments. If an SSI recipient wants to claim dependents, you must file your 2020 taxes in 2021 if you did not fill out the Non-Filers Form online by May 5th.
- If you normally get your SSI benefits via a Direct Express card, you will get a stimulus check. If you have direct deposit into a bank account, you will receive your stimulus money directly into your bank account.
If you do not fall into the categories above, please complete a Non-Filers Form online to access your stimulus check. To complete the online form, you must do the following:
- provide an email address
- basic identification verification
- income information
- dependent information
We created a stimulus flyer. You can download it here.
LOST WAGE REPLACEMENT: Unemployment and State Disability Benefits
EDD issued a statement on its website about benefits eligibility for people impacted by COVID-19. People certified by a medical professional as unable to work due to having or being exposed to COVID-19 are eligible for State Disability Insurance.
People unable to work due to a child’s school closure forcing you to miss work to care for them may be eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits. Eligibility considerations include if you have no other care options and if you are unable to continue working your normal hours remotely.
People unable to work because they are caring for an ill or quarantined family member with COVID-19, as certified by a medical professional, are eligible for Paid Family Leave, which is up to 6 weeks of benefits.
People who have reduced work hours because the employer has reduced operating hours or shut down operations due to COVID-19, can file for Unemployment Insurance benefits.
Congress approved three new programs or supplements that increase the time and amount of Unemployment benefits that you would normally receive from the state.
1. Pandemic Unemployment Compensation - Pays an extra $600 per week to unemployment benefits recipients through July 31st.
2. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation - Provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits. This allows filers to receive a total of 39 weeks of benefits.
3. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance - Expands benefits to people who are normally ineligible for unemployment benefits -- workers who are self-employed, independent contractors, freelancers, workers seeking part-time work, and workers who do not have a long-enough work history to qualify for regular state unemployment.
We created an unemployment flyer. You can download it here.
PUBLIC BENEFITS: CalWORKs and CalFresh:
CalFresh (Food Stamps): Due to COVID-19, the state agreed to issue emergency food stamps. Emergency food stamps increases everyone’s food stamp grant to the maximum limit allowed by law. If you think you are eligible for CalFresh, you should apply right away. You do not have to do an in-person interview. You can sign your application online or over the telephone. CalFresh is now accepted at many online grocery retailers.
Here are some change that make it easier for you to get and keep your benefits:
- CalWORKs: The County can waive the rules regarding homeless assistance, including granting it more than once in a twelve month period.
- CalWORKs: Eligibility for diversion payments even if a family member has “timed out”
- CalWORKs and CalFresh: Counties can relax certain application requirements, including requiring proof of residency, identification, and allowing you to reasonably estimate your income.
- Welfare-to-Work: Counties can waive requirements if you are unable to meet your hours due to the COVID-19 emergency.
PUBLIC BENEFITS: Social Security: All Social Security offices are closed for in-person service. Social Security will remain open for business online and by telephone. Social Security should not be processing new disability terminations or forcing you to go see their doctors. All pending hearings are by telephone. If you prefer an in-person hearing, you can ask for one. It will not be scheduled until our stay at home order is lifted.
HEALTH: I’m worried about COVID-19, but I don’t have health insurance. What are my options for getting covered?
You can call your local hospital or clinic and ask if they can enroll you in Medi-Cal’s special “presumptive eligibility” program. That will cover screening, testing, and treatment for COVID-19 at no cost to you. There are no income, resource, immigration, or other requirements to qualify. Presumptive Eligibility COVID-19 is available to California residents with no insurance or private insurance that does not cover diagnostic testing, testing-related services, and treatment service, including all medically necessary care as a result of COVID-19 and are a California resident. For help finding a provider that can enroll you in this program, call the Medi-Cal nurse helpline at: (877) 409-9052.
You can also apply for comprehensive health coverage through Covered California, which has opened a special enrollment period through July 31, 2020 so people who don’t have coverage or have recently lost their job-based health insurance can apply for coverage. Based on your income, you may qualify for financial assistance to purchase a health plan through Covered California. If you are low-income, your application will automatically be screened for no-cost Medi-Cal. You can apply online.
HEALTH: Does my insurance have to cover COVID-19 testing and treatment?
For Medi-Cal patients:
Medi-Cal provides no-cost care to Medi-Cal beneficiaries seeking testing, screening, and treatment for COVID-19. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) issued guidance to Medi-Cal health plans to ensure access to medically necessary services in a timely manner. This guidance included:
- Covering all medically necessary emergency care without prior authorization, whether that care is provided by an in-network or out-of-network provider.
- Waiving prior authorization requests for services, including screening and testing, related to COVID-19.
- Offering access to out-of-network services where appropriate and required, as more COVID-19 cases emerge in California.
- Ensuring members are not liable for balance bills from providers, including balance bills related to testing of COVID-19.
- Offering members and providers the option to utilize telehealth services to deliver care when medically appropriate, as a means to limit members’ exposure to others who may be infected with COVID-19.
- Approving transportation requests in a timely manner.
You can also find some special policies for accessing medication for fee-for-service (FFS) Medi-Cal beneficiaries here.
DHCS also issued guidance to pharmacy providers regarding access to prescription medications for fee-for-service Medi-Cal beneficiaries. This guidance included instructions on how to process waivers of certain utilization limits on quantity, frequency, and duration of medications dispensed.
For Medicare patients:
- Medicare covers the lab tests for COVID-19. You pay no out-of-pocket costs .
- Medicare covers all medically necessary hospitalizations. This includes if you're diagnosed with COVID-19 and might otherwise have been discharged from the hospital after an inpatient stay, but instead you need to stay in the hospital under quarantine.
- At this time, there's no vaccine for COVID-19. However, if one becomes available, it will be covered by all Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (Part D).
- If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, you have access to these same benefits. Medicare allows these plans to waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 lab tests. Many plans offer additional telehealth benefits beyond the ones described below. Check with your plan about your coverage and costs.
Covered California and Private Insurance Patients:
For commercial plans regulated by the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) or the California Department of Insurance (CDI), both departments issued guidance directing California health plans to:
- Eliminate out-of-pocket expenses for all COVID-19 testing and screening;
- Waive prior authorization requirements for services related to COVID-19 testing, screening, and treatment;
- Waive prescription drug prior authorization requirements and lift quantity limits; and
- Allow out-of-network access to medical care and prescription drugs.
County Redeterminations Decisions on Hold to Allow Uninterrupted Benefits
Governor Newsom issued an emergency declaration waiving eligibility redeterminations for 150 days (until August 17th) for the following programs: Medi-Cal, CalFresh (food stamps), CalWORKs (cash aid), In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) and Cash Assistance for Immigrants (CAPI). This change allows current recipients to continue to receive benefits without interruption even if you are unable to submit redetermination paperwork.
Will getting COVID-19 testing or treatment harm my immigration status?
On March 13, the federal government confirmed that the new public charge rule will not consider treatment and testing for COVID-19 (even if Medi-Cal pays for the testing and treatment).
“The Public Charge rule does not restrict access to testing, screening, or treatment of communicable diseases, including COVID-19. In addition, the rule does not restrict access to vaccines for children or adults to prevent vaccine-preventable diseases." For more information on social programs for immigrants, please visit CRLAF's site.
HEALTH: I received the $1,200 economic impact stimulus payment. Will that affect my Medi-Cal eligibility? What if I’m getting the extra $600 per week pandemic unemployment compensation (PUC) benefit?
Medi-Cal will not count the $1,200 economic impact payment (also known as the “stimulus checks”) or the extra Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) benefits as income, so they should not affect your Medi-Cal eligibility. However, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) do count as income for Medi-Cal.
Additional Health Resource:
Legal Services of Northern California is part of The Health Consumer Alliance (HCA). The HCA will be regularly updating a COVID-19 page resource page on its website.
Please call your local LSNC office if you are having problems securing benefits, getting supportive services, and accessing the health care that you need.
For more information on COVID-19, please see California's COVID-19 information page or visit your county's public health page.