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 will 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
HOUSING: Commonly Asked Questions
Has the Governor of California stopped all evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic?
No. The Governor of California has not stopped evictions in the state. Many renters in California can still be evicted, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you can pay your rent, you should. This is the best way to protect yourself against eviction.
If you get a notice from your landlord or eviction court papers, you should call us for legal advice about what to do next and now to respond. If you do nothing, you may be evicted.
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 the 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 at the bottom of this page.
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, you must respond to the papers. If you don’t respond, you may be evicted. Call our office for legal advice about when and how to respond.
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
On March 18th, 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.
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.
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.
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, you must have filed either your 2018 or 2019 taxes, or receive a SSA-1099 annual form. SSA-1099 is a tax form that recipients of Social Security receive each year. If you have not filed taxes for the last two years and do not have a SSA-1099, please file now to avoid missing out on this benefit.
PUBLIC BENEFITS: CalWORKs and CalFresh:
California Department of Social Services issued guidance to counties in light of the Governor’s declaration of an emergency due to COVID-19. The guidance covered the following:
- 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.
The Public Utility Commission confirmed that local utility companies will not turn off services due to non-payment during the COVID-19 state of emergency. The order is retroactive back to March 4, 2020.
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.
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.