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)
HOUSING: Commonly Asked Questions
Has the State of California stopped all evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic?
As of April 6, 2020, there is a new court rule that temporarily pauses most court evictions in California until 90 days after the Governor lifts the COVID-19 emergency declaration. This means that most landlords will not be able to remove renters from their homes until after the COVID-19 emergency declaration ends.
However, Landlords can still give renters eviction notices and may file an eviction court case during the COVID-19 pandemic. After the COVID-19 emergency declaration is over, landlords may be able to evict renters based on these notices. For example, if a renter does not pay rent now the landlord can give the renter a notice to pay rent. If the tenant does not pay rent, the landlord may be able to evict the tenant in court after the emergency declaration.
If you get a notice from your landlord or eviction court papers, you should call us right away for legal advice about what to do next, including when and how to respond. If you do nothing, you may be evicted. If you can pay your rent, you should. This is the best way to protect yourself against eviction.
Are there any protections against evictions for renters who lost income due to COVID-19?
Yes. The Governor has an order that applies to all California renters who cannot pay rent right now because of COVID-19. This order may delay some evictions, but only if renters take certain steps. Keep reading to learn more about these steps.
Also, some cities and counties have passed local laws that temporarily stop landlords from evicting tenants who cannot pay rent because they lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Renters are only protected by these laws if they live in a city or area that the law applies to. You should call our office for advice about whether any of the new laws apply to you.
Who is protected by the new eviction rules and laws?
Each law is a little different. But, generally the laws protect renters who cannot pay rent because they have lost income for one of the following reasons:
- The tenant is sick with COVID-19 or has to care for a member of the household who has COVID-19;
- The tenant experienced a lay-off, loss of hours, or other income reduction due to COVID-19;
- The tenant complied with a recommendation from a government agency to stay at home, self-quarantine, or avoid congregating with others; or
- The tenant had to miss work to care for a home-bound school-age child.
Some local laws and the Governor’s order also apply to renters who cannot pay rent because they have new expenses due to COVID-19, such as out-of-pocket expenses.
If I cannot pay my rent because of COVID-19, do I have to tell my landlord?
Yes. To be protected by the new local eviction laws and the Governor’s order, you must tell your landlord in writing that you cannot pay your rent.
Many of the local laws require that you tell your landlord before rent is due. If you were not able to tell your landlord before rent was due, write to your landlord as soon as you can. The Governor’s order says you must write to your landlord within 7 days of rent was due.
Give your landlord a letter, or send your landlord an email or text. You should explain to your landlord why you cannot pay your rent. You can find a sample letter to your landlord here.
What else do I need to do if I cannot pay my rent due to COVID-19?
You also need to give your landlord proof of the reason you cannot pay rent, as soon as you can. This might include: job termination notices, pay checks, pay stubs, bank statements, medical bills, or letters from your employer explaining why you lost income.
Many of the local laws also require that you pay as much rent as you can afford now.
If I can’t pay all of the rent now, will I have to pay rent back to my landlord after the COVID-19 pandemic ends?
Yes. Even if you live in a city or area with a law that temporarily stops evictions for renters who cannot pay because of COVID-19, you will have to pay back all of the rent after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
What should I do if I get an eviction notice or court papers?
Even if you tell your landlord in writing that you cannot pay your full rent right now, your landlord may give you a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit. If you get this and you can pay the rent, pay it. If you cannot pay the rent, write to your landlord and explain why you cannot pay the rent.
If you get served court papers for an eviction, call our office for legal advice about when and how to respond. We will explain how the new court rule applies to you. If you ignore the court papers, you may be evicted.
Will my utilities shut off if I cannot pay?
Water companies cannot shut off water service during the COVID-19 emergency declaration. SMUD will not disconnect services for nonpayment through May 31. PG&E has also announced that it will temporarily suspend shutoffs for nonpayment. You still owe for services at this time, but will not face a shutoff.
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.
For parents with school aged children, your family might see another increase because you no longer have access to school lunches (Pandemic EBT). For most eligible families, you will receive $365 mailed on a separate EBT card. Families that receive CalWORKs, CalFresh, Medi-Cal or foster care will get this automatically sometime between May 8th and May 22nd. Families that had to apply for free or reduced meals at their school must apply online to receive the benefit between May 22nd and June 30th.
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 June 30, 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 90 days 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.