Under any conditions, the health of individuals, families and communities hinges substantially on stable access to safe, healthy, and affordable housing; to reliable heat, lights, water, internet and phone service; to nutritious food; to transportation resources; to protection from violence, abuse, and exploitation; and much more. In typical times, the systems that exist to help people meet those needs have been under-resourced and hard-to-navigate for individuals and families. The COVID-19 pandemic has made what was already a difficult landscape an extraordinarily challenging – even impossible – one to traverse.

Against this backdrop, MLPB has launched this open-access Digital Digest at the intersection of COVID-19 lawmaking and HRSN problem-solving.

This tool:

  • Distills major federal (nation-wide) themes in resources, benefits and legal protections
  • Curates high-level, evolving information and identifies expert resources in key domains of HRSN, through the lens of two states – MA and RI – where MLPB does extensive work.

RI resources and guidance have been divided into three general sections:

  • What is happening: MLPB has curated key developments in law and policy.
  • What this means: MLPB has translated these developments into plain language interpretations of what these changes mean for areas of HRSN need.
  • What may happen next: Based on MLPB’s expertise, we indicate, when appropriate, how things might change in the future.

IMPORTANT: While MLPB will routinely update this content,Exclaim Digest readers should note the last-reviewed timestamp and click on the hyperlinks to access the most current information. In addition,this information is for educational purposes only; nothing in it should be construed as legal advice. 

 

Feedback? Always welcome.

Just contact Content Lead Franny Zhang at fzhang@mlpboston.org.

© 2020 MLPB, a fiscally sponsored program of TSNE MissionWorks


Click below to navigate to a topic of interest!   

Best Sources General Orders

Court SystemCSIEducation_Childcare   Employment   Food_Income Insecurity  Gov ID Health Insurance Housing Instability  Immigration   IPV   Mental Health  Transportation Needs-1 Utility Needs WTD


Best ResourcesBest Sources 

It can be tempting to follow the news cycle for information about COVID-19, but we recommend using one of the following trusted sites for updates:

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General Orders

General Orders

Key state Resource: Emergency Orders from Governor Raimondo

Last-Reviewed Timestamp: 9am, May 20, 2020

 

What is happening: 

On May 8, 2020, the Governor’s stay-home order was lifted and RI entered Phase 1 of its reopening plan. Under this new order, people can expect the following:

  • Some non-critical businesses are open. Stores must follow capacity guidelines as outlined in the Governor’s reopening plan.
  • Social distance rules will still apply.
  • Cloth masks must be worn in public (with exceptions for children under 2 and people whose health would be damaged if they work a mask)
  • Contactless payments methods will be encouraged
  • People able to work from home should continue.
  • Some parks and beaches previously closed will reopen.
  • Movie theaters, gyms, and hair salons will remain closed.
  • People over 65 years of age are “strongly advised” to stay at home unless they must go to work, attend medical appointments or access other health services, or to purchase other necessities such as groceries, medications, or gas.
  • Starting May 18, 2020, outdoor dining will be permitted with strict capacity requirements. Reservations are required. Here is guidance in ENG and ESP.
  • Starting June 29, 2020, summer camps will be permitted to reopen with restrictions.
  • For the latest updates on RI’s reopening, visit RI’s Reopening Plan or the RI Department of Health’s COVID-19 alerts.

Until June 5, 2020:

  • Anyone coming to RI from outside of the United States must self-quarantine for 14 days.
  • Anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 (by a lab test or doctor) must isolate until cleared.
  • Anyone who has been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 must quarantine for 14 days.
  • Health insurers must continue to cover telehealth appointments for primary care, specialty care, mental and behavioral health care.
  • Certain regulations around prior authorizations are relaxed.

 Health and Medical:

  • RIDOH has been authorized through the Governor’s executive authority to issue fines for Rhode Islanders violating their quarantine.
  • No visitors are permitted at nursing homes or hospitals until further notice.
  • No visitors are permitted at nursing homes, hospitals or the ACI until further notice.
  • Individuals who need a place to quarantine can check out rihavens.com, which lists local hotel availability with discounted rates.

 Parks and Recreation

 What this means:

  • COVID-19 remains a public health threat. However, the Governor announced that RI has met certain benchmarks for reopening, such as declining trends in new cases and hospitalizations. Based on this data, the Governor is authorizing the state to slowly reopen its economy.
  • Social distancing rules will continue to be in effect.
  • People will need to wear masks.
  • Customers may need to wait in lines before entering stores. Some stores will remain closed.

 What may happen next

  • Transmission rates will be closely monitored to assess whether RI will continue to move more deeply into Phase 1 or to return to earlier pandemic orders. Menu

Court System

Court Systems

Key resource: RI Judiciary

Last-Reviewed Timestamp: 9am, May 21, 2020

 

Menu

What is happening:

State Courts: 

RI State Courts are closed for in-person hearings until June 1, 2020. This is an extension of a previous order that expire last week. A new advisory has been issued. Emergency matters (such as restraining orders, drug screening, appointments, ex parte motions) will be heard in certain courts. For more information, the Judiciary has this information related to COVID-19.

Note:  The Murray Judicial Complex (Newport County) and McGrath Judicial Complex (Washington County) are closed and will reopen September 8, 2020. The Judiciary is increasingly hearing cases remotely. Here are the instructions to request a remote hearing/conference. The public can remotely access some hearings. Access information can be found here.

Note: Certain court related deadlines have been extended:

  • Payment deadlines:
    • Courts may reinstate payment deadlines with notice to parties.
  • Filing deadlines:
    • All filing deadlines that would have expired between March 17, 2020 and May 17, 2020 have been extended to May 29, 2020. Extensions for deadlines that occur after May 17, 2020 must be requested by motion.
  • Statutes of limitations:
    • Due to the availability of the electronic filing system, statutes of limitations are not tolled and shall continue to run.
  • Evictions cannot be filed until after June 1, 2020.

Note: Some courts have specific court administrative orders:

  • The Family Court has extended its 2020-02 order indefinitely regarding remote hearings and the suspension of certain calendars. The Family Court will not hear any matter in-person, except for these emergency matters:
    • restraining order hearings;
    • all emergency motions;
    • ex parte motions;
    • probable cause hearings; and,
    • drug screenings appointments.
  • Other courts have new administrative orders, such as:

Note: Those who need to enter the courthouse can expect:

  • A COVID-19 screening
  • Must wear a mask
  • Engage in social distancing

Federal court: 

The United States District Court of Rhode Island, the federal court, remains open with restrictions. Check the US District Court homepage for specific orders.

What this means for state courts:  

  • Routine court operations will remain suspended. Due to court closures, court access is generally restricted.
  • Emergency matters are being heard at the Garrahy Judicial Complex in Providence and at the Kent County courthouse.
  • Some courts are hearing cases remotely using web-based technologies.
  • People with pending cases will experience a delay in receiving a court decision. New cases generally can still be filed online, but these cases will be scheduled for after June 1, 2020. (New evictions cannot be filed until after June 1, 2020. See MLPB’s Housing section for more details).
  • People looking to enforce an existing court order through a court process should also expect scheduling delays. 

What this means for federal courts:  

  • The federal District Court of RI is operational even though public access to the court is restricted. A number of changes have been made to daily operations that can be found here (click on the “news and announcements” section). 

What may happen next

  • The RI Judiciary and US District Court of RI will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 to determine whether courts should remain closed. Expect additional administrative orders to be issued by specific courts. Menu

CSI

Criminal System Involvement

Key Resource: RI Judiciary; the Department of Corrections Facebook

Last-Reviewed Timestamp: 9am, May 21, 2020

 

Court matters: 

  • Courts are generally closed through June 1, 2020 per this order.
  • Criminal trials scheduled to begin after March 16, 2020 will happen no earlier than August 1, 2020.
  • Adult Drug Court and Diversion calendars will resume on a limited basis the week of June 15, 2020.
  • RI State Courts will continue to hear certain criminal matters, such as warrant cancellations and Rule 5A Bail Petitions. A full list can be found
  • Some criminal matters will be heard through WebEx, the digital platform used by the RI Judiciary.
  • Expungements can be filed, but parties should not appear in court. Decisions will be mailed to relevant parties.

Department of Corrections (DOC):

  • The RI DOC has indefinitely suspended all visitations to the Adult Correctional Institute (ACI).
    • In person deposits to Inmate Accounts. Deposits can be made online at Access Corrections.
    • RI DOC is issuing a daily “transparency report” that can be found at the RI DOC Facebook page.
    • RI DOC is issuing a daily transparency report that can be found at the RI DOC Facebook page.
    • Under this order, prisoners with less than 90 days left in their sentence were released and then quarantined for 14 days.
    • The RI Parole Board is still hearing cases.
    • Some decarceration efforts were made. Under this order, some prisoners with less than 90 days remaining in their sentences were released with conditions.

Wyatt Detention Center (federal)

What this means: 

  • There is concern of rapid spread through the ACI. Both the ACI and the Wyatt have reported positive COVID-19 cases among the incarcerated population.
    • There have been DOC and Wyatt Detention employees who have tested positive. Some incarcerated people have been released early, and additional efforts may arise as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve.
  • The Center for Prisoner Health offers additional information about the health of incarcerated people.
  • The Parole Board is taking steps to reduce the RI’s population of incarcerated people.
    • Probationers and Parolees with questions should contact their PO for further instructions. Menu

Education_Childcare

Education   

Key resource: Rhode Island Department of Education

Last-Reviewed Timestamp: 9am, May 19, 2020

 

What is happening:

Resources for Parents and Students: 

  • RIDE has developed this resource page for special education. RIDE’s Special Education Call Center (401-222-8999) is available to assist with questions related to special education matters.
  • RIPIN’s call center (401-270-0101) is open to answer questions related to special education as well as other matters.
  • Students struggling with distancing learning can call the RI Distance Learning Helpline at 904-414-4927 or contact the Highlander Institute.
  • The Parent Support Network is offering Virtual COVID-19 Mutual Aid and Support Meetings.
  • The Autism Project offers a special 1:1 program and resources called Family Offerings. Information about this new service can be found

What this means:

  • Schools are open, at least virtually. RI was the first state to offer distance learning to its students.
  • The State is continually monitoring to assess the strength of the online curricula and student attendance.
  • Many school-based activities, such as sports or dances, have been canceled for the year.
  • Rights to education have not been suspended during the pandemic, but it may be more challenging for parents to advocate. Schools are open and parents can call their child’s school to discuss distance learning, special education, as well as other school matters.

What may happen next

  • Summer learning details are still being finalized. Expect throughout the summer continued discussion whether schools will maintain distance learning protocol for the fall. Menu

Childcare

 Key Resource: RI Department of Human Services

Last-Reviewed Timestamp: 9am, May 21, 2020

What is happening:

What this means:

  • The earliest daycares may open is June 1, 2020, but that date is flexible depending on RI’s COVID-19 data. In the meantime, daycare providers will be required to submit COVID-19 reopening plans.
  • Rhode Islanders with child-care vouchers should not lose their vouchers due to day-care closures but do need to comply with all recertification requirements.
  • Critical frontline workers (such as hospital and grocery employees) seeking childcare should visit DHS and Care.com for resources.
  • Many Rhode Islanders must still either rely on family and community to provide childcare or not go to work.

What may happen next

  • It is unclear how the state will proceed with daycare reopening and continued monitoring is required. Families who rely on summer camps for childcare may also face challenges as many camps may only be permitted to offer virtual camps. Menu

Employment

Employment

Key Resource: RI Department of Labor and Training (ESP); Economic Progress Institute

Last-Reviewed Timestamp: 9am, May 18, 2020

 

 

What is happening: 

  • COVID-19 has disrupted much of the nation’s economy, with historic number of unemployed. Both the federal government and the state have taken steps to help people currently unemployed or unable to work due to COVID-19 illness or related caregiving needs.
Note: There has been a significant uptick in cases of stolen state unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. DLT has created this Fact Sheet in English and Spanish on UI Imposter Fraud (last updated May 8, 2020). Fraud can be reported by sending an email here. To protect against scams, use this resource guidance issued from the RI Attorney General’s Office.

Federal:

  • In March 2020, Congress passed several acts to help workers impacted by COVID-19.
  • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) (in part) created a fund to require covered employers to provide paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave to certain employees. See MLPB digest for more information.
  • Congress also passed the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”), a stimulus bill to support individual Americans as well as businesses. See MLPB digest for more information.

State:

  • In April, Employ RI launched a new website for job-seekers. The RI Department of Labor and Training also offers the following employment benefit programs (described below).

RI Benefits:

JOB LOSS:

  • If someone has...
    • lost their job, then apply immediately for Unemployment Insurance through the online portal.
      • DLT is processing a historically high volume of UI applications.
      • For independent contractor, members of the “gig economy” and hair stylists, applications are available as of April 7, 2020.
      • DLT has this FAQ on UI (updated April 22, 2020) and this UI Fact Sheet (updated April 22, 2020).
    • believe they have been discriminated against, then considering filing a complaint with the RI Commission for Human Rights.
    • believe they have been a victim of fraud, then consider filing a report with the DLT.
PAID LEAVE:
RI offers workers several options for paid leave that can be used in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. . DLT has this FAQ (updated on April 22, 2020) in English and Español describing how TDI, TCI and Unemployment can be used during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Sick and Safe Leave (FAQ)
    • With some exceptions most part-time, full-time, seasonal, temporary or other employees who work primarily in Rhode Island can earn one paid hour off for every 35 hours worked. 
  • Temporary Disability Insurance
    • Provides up to 30 weeks of benefits for employees who have been injured or become ill
    • Offers up to 60% of wages (plus dependent benefits)
    • If under quarantine, DLT has waived the required medical certification, and instead will allow temporary qualification via self-attestation of quarantine due to COVID-19.
    • File TDI here.
  • Temporary Caregivers Insurance
    • Provides 4 weeks of paid leave for people providing caregiving to a seriously ill family member (or to bond with an infant or foster child placed within the last 12 months)
    • File TCI here.

TEMPORARY FUND:

  • Congregate Care Workforce Stabilization Fund
    • Certain private nursing home and group home providers will be eligible for a temporary pay increase for one month.
      • The increase will be available to low-wage frontline workers at eligible Medicaid-funded residential facilities.
      • Qualifying employees will be eligible for up to a $200 increase each week from May 4, 2020 to June 1, 2020.

UNPAID LEAVE: 

  • Under Federal and State Family Medical Leave Acts (FMLA), RI workers can receive unpaid leave to address their own illness or to provide caregiving duties. 
  • This FMLA booklet provides basic information about the leave.

What this means:

  • RI has several paid leave programs for working Rhode Islanders impacted by COVID-19, including TDI and Unemployment Insurance.
    1. Not sure whether to take Paid Leave or Unemployment? Check out the Economic Progress Institute’s great FAQ on employment benefits available in both Español and English.
    2. Senator Jack Reed’s Office also has this additional employment information found here.
    3.  
  • Over 200,000 Rhode Islanders have filed for UI and other state benefits. This means that while applications can be filed online, DLT website is under strain and may load slowly.
    1. Not sure if an UI application was received in full? UI applicants will receive 2 emails – the first is a confirmation email, the second is a pin number to access the UI account.
  • The CARES Act impact on unemployment:
    1. Extends the length of UI from 26 to 39 weeks.
    2. Laid-off workers will receive an extra $600 per week through July. Rhode Islanders have started to receive these payments.
    3. Workers typically excluded from RI’s traditional paid leave and UI programs may be eligible for UI benefits.
  • The FFRCA Act can provide certain employees with paid leave either because:
    • they are required to quarantine or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking a medical diagnosis, OR
    • to provide caregiving either to a family member with COVID-19 or to care for a child home due to school or daycare closures

What may happen next:

  • As RI begins its reopening process, employees returning to work may have questions, especially those who are providing caregiving to family members. The DLT has this Returning to Work FAQ that helps explain when employees can use “good cause” to continue receiving UI even if their employer has reopened.

Spotlight on non-discrimination:

  • Employment discrimination based on national original or race, or the perception of a disability, is illegal.
  • If experiencing employment discrimination for these reasons, a complaint can be filed with the RI Commission for Human Rights, which is currently providing services telephonically or electronically.
  • The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has this publication on the workplace and the American’s with Disabilities Act, updated with COVID-19 related information. Menu

Food_Income InsecurityFood Insecurity

Key Resources: RI Department of Human Services;  RI Food Bank COVID-19 Response; RI Food Policy Council

Last-Reviewed Timestamp:  9am, May 21, 2020

 

 

What is happening: 

SNAP:

  • DHS offices have suspended their customer-facing services. State benefit applications can still be submitted online or be dropped off at a DHS office.
  • DHS has made changes to the recertification process, increased benefits and relaxed some requirements. A summary of SNAP (as well as other benefit program) changes can be found here. Highlights include:
    • Recertification deadlines have been extended for SNAP benefits. SNAP recipients will have up to 6 months to recertify.
    • For May, if a family does not receive the maximum SNAP amount for their household size, they may see an increase in their SNAP benefits.
    • Important for “able-bodied adults without dependents” (ABAWD) – New rules that would have restricted SNAP access to ABAWD has been suspended due to a court injunction. This means that an ABAWD can still receive SNAP benefits.
    • Apply here for SNAP.
  • New Pandemic- EBT (P-EBT) benefits are available to existing SNAP recipients AND households whose children have temporarily lost access to reduced or free school lunches due to school closures. The Economic Progress Institute has this additional information (updated May 20, 2020)(ESP)
    • For SNAP recipients, the extra benefit will be added to the SNAP EBT card.
    • For eligible households without EBT cards, a P-EBT card will be mailed directly with a pin number to access the benefit. Per eligible child, families will receive $198.30. P-EBT benefits will be next issued May 15, 2020 and then again on June 15, 2020.
  • (updated April 27, 2020)(ESP)
  • (updated April 27, 2020)(ESP)

Food Pantries:

  • Demand for food pantry resources is up. The RI Food bank continues to work with partner agencies.
    • Local Pantry information can be found here
    • An interactive Emergency and Supplemental Food Site Map can be found here.
    • Updates to the RI Food Bank can be found here.

WIC

  • Women, Infants and Children (WIC) offices are open to services but closed to in-person appointments. WIC is currently following the WIC State of Emergency policy that lists pre-approve substitutions for milk and food.
    • RIDOH has submitted waivers that would permit for changes in regulations and foods so that WIC recipients can better access the program’s benefits.
    • For updated information about WIC programing as well as a list of WIC offices, visit this DHS page.
    • The Economic Progress has this one-pager on WIC (ESP) (updated April 2020).
    • Families unable to leave their home due to quarantine or isolation requirements can designate another person to make purchases on behalf of a WIC recipient. A proxy letter is required and samples can be found here

School lunch programs

  • Through June 30, 2020, free and reduced Lunch programs are available. Parents can pick up the lunches. Here is the RIDOH list of participating schools and food pick-up times
Meals on Wheels
  • Meals on Wheels is currently delivering to older adults, but some dining sites in Providence have been suspended.
  • For the latest on operations, visit Meals on Wheels COVID-19 response page.

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP)

  •  CFAP is a food assistance program that will allow 500 boxes of food to be delivered to food insecure families. The Rhode Island Food Bank and FarmFreshRI will begin distributing food boxes sourced with local food products by the end of the month.

RI Delivers

  •  RI launched RI Delivers to help connect people in quarantine or isolation to food delivery services.

 

What this means:

  • People can still access SNAP benefits, food pantries, WIC services, and Meals on Wheels but are encouraged to check routinely with the various agencies to confirm hours and access protocols.

SNAP:

  • Some SNAP households will receive an additional benefit if they don’t already receive the maximum amount for their household size.
  • SNAP recipients who were required to recertify in March, April or May will have up to 6 months to complete the recertification process. SNAP benefits will be maintained through September, October and November respectively.
    • While this deadline has been extended, SNAP recipients should recertify to avoid a disruption of their benefits.
  • P-EBT increases the amount of SNAP benefits for existing SNAP recipients and for eligible households with one or more children who are enrolled in reduced/free school lunch programs. Here is additional guidance (ESP) for families.
  • Currently, SNAP online purchasing is not yet available, and most food delivery services are not equipped to take EBT card payments at the time of the delivery. This means some SNAP recipients that are housebound may need to designate another person to purchase groceries.

WIC:

  • Families who use WIC services should ask if formula can be mailed directly to their home address.

School Lunches:

  • Typically parents would not be permitted to pick up lunches designated for school-age children. However, RI asked the federal government for a waiver on this rule, which it received.
  • Note: Each school district has its own times and procedures for pick-up.

Food Pantries:

  • Pantries have continued to offer food to families, but staff and volunteers are now operating under social distancing protocols that may create additional challenges for pantries to meet the need.

CFAP:

  • For the next several weeks, the two community-based organizations (the RI Food Bank and FarmFresh) will work to roll out the food box distribution process. Meal distribution is expected to start the week of May 25, 2020.

What may happen next:

  • Food access challenges will likely persist as social distancing rules are extended, and jobless rates continue to increase. Households with SNAP benefits who are housebound have limited options to purchase food. More advocacy is needed to address these challenges.
  • As the state begins to take steps toward lifting COVID-19 related orders, waivers related certification or document production may also be lifted.
  • SNAP recipients should continue to monitor DHS’ requests for information and to comply with certification requests to ensure that benefits are issued in a timely manner.

What may happen next

  • Food access challenges will likely persist as social distancing rules are extended, and jobless rates continue to increase. Households with SNAP benefits who are housebound have limited options to purchase food. More advocacy is needed to address these challenges.
  • As the state begins to take steps toward lifting COVID-19 related orders, waivers related certification or document production may also be lifted.
  • SNAP recipients should continue to monitor DHS’ requests for information and to comply with certification requests to ensure that benefits are issued in a timely manner.
  • The State has submitted an additional waiver for free and reduced lunch to extend past June 30, 2020. The decision is pending. Menu

Rhode Island Works (cash assistance)

Key resource: DHS and Community Action Programs (full list can be found here.)

Last-Reviewed Timestamp: 9am, May 21, 2020

What is happening:

  • RI Works typically requires applicants to comply with a variety of requirements, such as creating work plans or participating in job programs. In response to COVID-19, DHS has created new policy and procedures, some of which are possible only with aid from the federal government. The planned changes for RI Works include:
    • Recertification deadline extensions
    • Employment plans that need signatures will be mailed and returned either through pre-paid envelopes or can be uploaded through the customer portal.
    • Job training programs have “remote engagement” options for families.
    • “Good cause” exemptions will be granted to families whose job or training programs are closed.
    • Apply here for cash assistance.

What this means:

  • RI works is still available for eligible Rhode Islanders.
  • RI Works recipients required to recertify in March, April, and May, will have 6 months to complete the process and will have their benefit maintained through September, October and November respectively.
  • Application supports and program requirements are being adjusted, often with waivers and good cause exemptions be applied.
  • Families receiving RI Works should continue to receive RI Works even if they can’t complete their work plans.
  • Contact DHS for more information or connect with your CAP agency for customer portal help.

What may happen next:

  • As the state begins to take steps toward lifting COVID-19 related orders, waivers related certification or work requirements may also be lifted.
  • RI Works recipients should continue to monitor DHS’ requests for information and to comply with program requirements to ensure that there are no disruptions to program enrollment. Menu

Gov ID

Government Identification

Key Resources: RI Division of Motor Vehicles and AAA

Last-Reviewed Timestamp: 9am, May 21, 2020

 

 

What is happening:

  • DMV satellite offices remain closed. Starting May 18, 2020, the Middletown DMV will reopen by appointment only. All road tests are canceled through May 29, 2020.
  • The RI Division of Motor Vehicles has extended for 90 days the expiration dates for:
    • driver’s licenses,
    • IDs,
    • registrations,
    • inspection stickers,
    • CPLs,
    • CDLs,
    • learner permits,
    • disability placards.
  • The Cranston DMV is open and providing limited services. Reservations must be made are only available one week in advance of the requested reservation (with exception for those matters related to adjudication).
  • AAA has reopened some of their storefronts. Use this branch locator to find an open AAA. Registry services will be by appointment only. Roadside assistance remains available.

What this means

  • Driver license and learner permit services are available at the Cranston DMV by appointment only.
  • AAA is slowly reopening its storefront services to customers.
  • If a person’s license is set to expire in the month of April, it will now expire at the end of July. If a license was set to expire in May, it will now expire in August.
  • Obtaining an appointment with the DMV can be challenging as call volume is high. Expect wait-times and be prepared to try calling the DMV at different times of the day. 

What may happen next

  • The DMV and AAA may resume more customer-facing activities with social distance rules and policies. Menu

Health Insurance

Health Insurance

Key resource: : Office of the Health Commissioner; HealthSourceRIRIPIN

Last-Reviewed Timestamp: 9am, May 21, 2020

 

 

What is happening:

Health Insurance Enrollment:

  • The COVID-19 open enrollment has ended. Eligible uninsured Rhode Islanders may still be able to apply for insurance through a “special enrollment period” if there has been:
    • Job loss
    • The employer changed the employee’s coverage
    • The household size has changed
    • A recent move to RI
    • A change to immigration status
    • A young adult who can no longer covered by their parent’s insurance due to aging out
    • Loss of a government provided coverage.
  • Uninsured Rhode Islanders eligible for Medicaid can apply at any time.

Coverage Changes:

Temporary changes have been made in response to COVID-19. This FAQ (ESP) (updated April 15, 2020) summarizes the following changes:

  • Medicaid renewals and recertification deadlines have been extended, and terminations are on hold.
  • RI’s health insurance commissioner has ordered all health insurers in Rhode Island, including Medicaid, to cover testing for COVID-19 with no copays.
    • Insurers also must cover treatment for those infected by COVID-19, retroactively if necessary.
  • Telemedicine restrictions have been relaxed, but providers are not required to offer telemedicine. The State has issued this guidance on telemedicine changes. The State has issued this provider FAQ (updated April 15, 2020) on telemedicine changes. 
    • Phones can be used for telemedicine appointments for those fully insured or with Medicaid. For Medicare, both audio and video capabilities are needed for telemedicine appointments. Contact providers directly or RIPIN’s call center for additional information about how plans impact access to telemedicine.
    • Telemedicine will be available across RI and MA state lines.
    • Some Early Intervention services will be covered.
  • Insured patients will not be charged for COVID-19 related testing or treatment. OHIC and the Department of Business Regulation has this additional FAQ.
  • An executive order signed on April 27, 2020 created temporary rules suspending certain regulations for providers and limiting certain insurer restrictions. A full list of the changes can be found here, but include easing requirements by insurers for specialty referrals, eliminating pre-authorizations for COVID-19 related testing and treatment, and preventing insurers from raising certain out-of-pocket patient costs.

Testing:

  • Uninsured Rhode Islanders are eligible for free testing if:
    • Patients call their providers to get an order for COVID-19 testing at one of the drive-up sites at the University of RI (South Kingstown), Community College of RI (Warwick) or Rhode Island College (Providence) OR
    • Go online to be pre-screened for testing and to get an appointment. 
    • RI Free Clinic is offering free COVID-19 tests to Providence residents that are uninsured. (401) 92-COVID to make an appointment.
  • For the latest on testing, visit RIDOH’s COVID-19 testing resource page.

What this means:

  • Rhode Islanders may still be able to apply for health insurance if they are either Medicaid eligible or meet one of the special enrollment conditions.
  • Uninsured Rhode Islanders may be able to receive free or reduced fee care from these providers.
  • During the state’s COVID-19 emergency response, no one currently receiving Medicaid will be terminated.
  • For telemedicine, insurance type matters inform the technical requirements needed.
  • Patients should contact their provider for more information about scheduling telemedicine appointments.
  • Patients who live in MA but receive care in RI can avail themselves to telemedicine appointments if their provider offers telemedicine.

What may happen next

  • Additional changes might be forthcoming related to insurance access, recertifications, and terminations. Menu

Housing Instability

Housing Instability

Key Resource: Tenants - HomesRI

                             Homeowners - RI Housing

Last-Reviewed Timestamp: 9am, May 21, 2020

 

What is happening:

The district court has issued a new administrative order outlining how evictions will be handled starting June 2, 2020.  Remote access will be provided to all parties, including parties without legal representation. Request for remote hearings can be emailed to amedina@courts.ri.gov and soliver@courts.ri.gov.

Starting June 2, 2020:

  • Eviction matters heard before March 17, 2020, but did not have Requests for Execution issued:
    • These Requests for Eviction may be issued starting on June 2, 2020 provided that the Landlord submits the requisite affidavit. (Executions are the orders hat permit a landlord to proceed with an eviction, which includes moving out the tenant and their belongings).

Starting in June 2020 - Phase 1:

  • The Court has created a phased process that prioritizes the scheduling of all other case types. In Phase 1, these case types will be heard:
    • Cases filed before March 17, 2020 for non-payment of rent based upon a public safety violation.
    • Any matter that has a Stipulation (an agreement made by the parties that resolves the eviction matter).

Start Date TBD – Phase 2

  • New evictions can be filed, with priority given based on the length of arrearage (i.e. how old is the back rent). Priority assignment will be given to:
    • New eviction claims involving arrearage of 90 days or more
    • New eviction claims involving arrearage of 60 days or more

First Note: New eviction claims involving arrearage of 30 days or more and other Evictions (those based on reasons other than non-payment of rent) will be scheduled when calendar space permits.

Second Note: Eviction in rentals covered by VAWA (e.g. public housing, Section 8) are covered by a federal moratorium that extends through the end of July 2020.

Rental assistance is now available for a limited time!

  • The HomeSafe rental assistance fund is open. The Housing Network of RI and NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley have a common application found here. (Applicants will have to create an account and select the “HomeSafe” option). This is a one-time grant of financial assistance for families experiencing housing insecurity. To be eligible, households must have a qualifying short-term housing emergency, have lived in RI since May 1, 2019 and meet income eligibility (at or below 50% Area Median Income).
  • HousingHelpRI is a statewide emergency rental assistance program for low-income renters. Use this screening tool to confirm eligibility and to begin the application. To be eligible, renters must be income-eligible RI residents who have:
    • experienced a loss of income due of the COVID-19 emergency,
    • lack the resources to avoid homelessness, and
    • meet one of the conditions listed

Note: This fund has received over 2400 applications as of May 7, 2020. Applicants may be placed on a waitlist.

  • For Central Falls residents, the Family Relief Fund has been created to help undocumented families.
    • Community organizations, such as Progreso Latino, are administering the funds. Call 401-727-7474 for assistance.
    • Individuals can also apply

Conditions of Disrepair:

Tenants have the right to safe and habitable apartments that comply with RI housing code laws. Tenants living with conditions of disrepair should first notify their landlord in writing. The tenant can also file a complaint with their town/city hall code inspection department.

  • Towns and cities are responsible for enforcing Minimum Housing Standards. For more information, contact the specific town/city hall code inspection department.
  • In certain limited conditions, the RI Department of Health is responsible for conducting lead inspections. These inspections are temporarily suspended. Families concerned about lead exposure can contact:
    • Their local city code inspector
    • The RI Department of Health lead program
    • The Childhood Lead Action Project at 401- 785-1310.

Homeowners:

  • FHAFreddie Macand Fannie Mae have announced measures to protect homeowners from foreclosures. Contact RIHousing for specific questions about homeownership.
    • Note: Not all mortgage companies have made the same commitments.

What this means for...

Tenants and Landlords

RI has not had an eviction moratorium, but rather a court closure. Once the court reopens, evictions will be filed and will be ordered. Starting June 2, 2020, orders to evict may be issued to those landlords whose eviction matters were heard before March 17, 2020. Until then:

  • Private rentals - Landlords CANNOT file new evictions any earlier than June 1, 2020. Tenants CANNOT be evicted without a judicial order.
    • First Note: Eviction cases cannot be heard until technical components of the eviction process have been met, such as notice and service. Due to technical components of eviction filings, such as notice and service, tenants can expect court dates to be scheduled minimally 9 days after June 1, 2020.
    • Second Note: Constables have been directed by the state not to serve eviction notes. If a constable does serve an eviction notice then the tenant can file a complaint by filling out this form and emailing to LeeAnn Desiletsit here.
    • Third Note: There is a slight possibility that landlords have signed orders to evict that predate the court closure. In that case, an eviction may still take place.
  • After June 2, 2020 the court will prioritize the scheduling of evictions that involve lengthy arrearages. If a tenant owes more than 3 months rent, their case will receive scheduling priority. Tenants who are only 1 month behind on rent will not have their case heard until the district court moves into Phase2.
    • If possible, tenants should make every effort to pay back rent.
    • Tenants who are housing insecure should apply immediately for the HousingHelpRI The fund is expected to be exhausted quickly.

IPV (DV) survivors may have specific housing rights covered by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The National Housing Law Project has this guidance.

  • VAWA-covered housing (such as public housing, Section 8, HOPWA) cannot be evicted until late June with some exceptions. See this guidance (updated April 28, 2020) for more information.

Reminder: Only a judge can order a tenant to be evicted. Self-help evictions, where landlords circumvent the required court process, are also illegal.

Homeowners: 

  • Some homeowners may be eligible for a forbearance on their mortgage payments and some might be able to delay an impending foreclosure for weeks.
    • Here is a list of mortgage companies pledging:
      • To provide 90-day grace period for all mortgage payments
      • avoid negative impacts on credit on resulting relief
      • a 60-day moratorium on initiating foreclosure or evictions
      • waive of certain fees or charges for 90 days
    • Homeowners should individually contact their mortgage companies to learn whether they are eligible for relief. 
    • If a person needs mortgage counseling, contact RI Housing.
    • HomesRI has a FAQ (ENG and ESP).

What may happen next:  

  • This information can change rapidly. As the District Court reopening date (June 2, 2020) approaches, expect additional information about eviction procedure to be issued.
  • Emergency rental assistance funds are scarce. The proposed HEROES Act includes emergency rental assistance. It has passed the House and is making its way through the Senate.

Spotlight on non-discrimination:

  • Housing discrimination based on Race, Color, National, Religion, Family Status (having children under 18), Mental or Physical Disability, Marital Status, Sex, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, Age (18+), or Status as a Victim of Domestic Violence is illegal.
  • If a person believes they have experienced housing discrimination for these reasons, they can file a complaint with the RI Commission for Human Rights, telephonically or electronically. Email housing-related questions to: Info@richr.ri.gov.

Shelter

Key Resource: RI Coalition for the Homeless

Last-Reviewed Timestamp: 9am, May 20, 2020

What is happening:

  • Effective April 15, 2020, the State Coordinated Entry System (CES) remains paused. The CES hotline remains open for diversion and shelter resources. Shelters have new requirements related to CES data and assessment entry. Individuals experiencing homelessness can access shelters before the shelter assessment is completed. Assessments will still be conducted.
    • Exception: Families seeking shelter must call (401) 277-4316 to go through a Diversion Assessment to be placed the family shelter waitlist.
  • The COVID Homeless Response Team is working to reduce the number of people in congregate shelters by:
    • Prioritizing people who are 60+ years old and/or medically compromised into housing via the Coordinated Entry System
    • Triaging Veterans aged 60+ who are SSVF eligible into hotels and housing
    • Implementing an isolation (pending COVID test results) and quarantine (tested positive for COVID) hotel for people experiencing homelessness to recovery safely in Moving some clients from our larger congregate shelters into a hotel
    • Providing tents for three of our largest shelter sites, to encourage safe social distancing
On May 31, 2020, Crossroads and Amos non-congregate shelter hotels will close.

What this means for people experiencing homelessness in RI:

  • Shelters are open! People who need shelter should contact individual shelters for assistance. Shelters are using a screening tool to assess for COVID-19 related systems.

What may happen next:

  • This information can change rapidly. Check with individual shelters or the RI Coalition for the homeless.Menu

ImmigrationImmigration Status

Key Resource: National Immigration Law CenterUnited States Citizenship and Immigrant Services (USCIS)

Last-Reviewed Timestamp: 9am, May 20, 2020

 

What is happening:

What this means

  • Finding support for RI’s immigrant community may be even more challenging than usual.
  • Community based organizations have closed their offices to public facing activities.
  • Access to supports for RI’s immigrant community may be increasingly limited
  • USCIS applications will like have processing delays. Menu

Public Charge

Key Resource: Protecting Immigrant Families Coalition

 What is happening: 

  • USCIS has made it clear that the new public charge rule will not apply to:
  • Testing, treatment or preventative care for COVID-19
  • WIC, school lunch programs, food pantries
  • Disaster relief

Remember: the public charge rule does not apply to naturalized citizens, legal permanent residents (“green card holders”), asylum seekers, refugees, VAWA recipients, U-Visa holders, T-Visa holders, or those with Temporary Protected Status. 

What this means: 

  • Concerns for public charge will likely persist, but the federal government has made it clear that immigrants who need COVID-19 testing and related treatment will not be subject to the test. Eligible immigrants should continue to use WIC, school lunch programs and pantries. 

What may happen next:

  • USCIS offices remain close and it’s not clear whether there will be new guidance issued in response to pandemic-related benefits. Continued monitoring is required. For now, families with questions about public charge should connect with immigration experts to have their specific questions and needs evaluated. Menu

IPV

Interpersonal Violence (IPV)

Key Resource, IPV: RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV)

Key Resource, Elder Abuse: RI Office of Healthy Aging (OHA)

Last-Reviewed Timestamp: 9am, May 20, 2020

 

 What is happening: 

  • There has been a spike in IPV reports. Organizations are open to support individuals and families who need to engage in safety planning.
  • Remember that even when courts are closed, safeguards are in place to ensure that emergency orders can be issued. Domestic violence, elder neglect or abuse, child neglect or abuse, and the neglect or abuse of persons with disabilities are considered emergencies.
  • The RI State Police has recently launched its awareness program called Safe at Home.

IPV/DV

  • For help from a IPV/DV organization, check RICADV’s website or check with individual community- based organizations for resources and support.
  • The 24/7 statewide helpline is 1-800-494-8100. In case of emergency, call 911. 
  • IPV survivors may have specific housing rights covered by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The National Housing Law Project has this guidance.
Elder Abuse:
  • Elder abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation reports can be made here.

What this means:

  • It is important to acknowledge the reality that social/physical distancing limitations controls IPV survivors' movement in ways that may be triggering and endangering. Essential safety services through police and courts are functioning.
  • However, for many survivors these resources may not be good or safe options, for a variety of reasons. For those individuals, it's important to note that the above referenced helplines are available and the National DV hotline offers a chat option.
    • Access to community-based resources has always been challenging for IPV and elder abuse survivors but even more so during this health crisis.
    • Offer IPV survivors safety planning resources with the addition of expectation management that acknowledges the current limitations of what community IPV organizations can provide. Menu

Mental Health

Mental Health

Key Resource: BH Link;  Kids Link

Last-Reviewed Timestamp: 9am, May 20, 2020

 

 

What is happening for Adults:

  • People who need help with behavioral health supports can contact BH Link at (401) 414-LINK (5465).
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes that the COVID-19 outbreak has had an impact on the mental health of many Americans. For recommendations on how to cope, visit the CDC website
  • Some employers may offer special support programs such as Employment Assistance Programs. Check with individual employers for more information.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available at 1-800-273-8255.
  • The Mental Health Association of RI (MHARI) is offering throughout the month of May a series of virtual workshops. A full list of workshop topics and dates can be found here.

What is happening for Children:

  • Parents can contact Kids Link or call 1-855-543-5465 for 24/7 access to behavioral health triage services and referral network.

What is happening for Older Adults:

  • The Office of Healthy Aging has created Project Hello to help isolated older adults connect to volunteer. For more information, visit the OHA’s website.

What this means: 

  • Rhode Islanders can access behavioral health supports through telemedicine. Menu 

Transportation Needs-1Transportation Needs

Key Resource: Public transportation- RIPTA COVID-19 Response

                          Non-emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) - MTM

Last-Reviewed Timestamp: 9am, May 20, 2020


What is happening for public transportation…
  • The Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority (RIPTA) is running bus and Paratransit services throughout RI. However, there are changes.
  • Certain transit centers, such as Kennedy Plaza, are closed. Check here for a current list.
  • To see the latest detours and schedule changes, check here.
  • RIPTA had instituted new rules for riders.
  • RIPTA is limiting the number of passengers on buses for fixed routes. No more than 15 people will be permitted on the bus.
  • RIPTA is asking passengers to wear cloth face masks.
  • Expirations for Reduced Fare and No Fare Bus passes have been extended
through June 30, 2020.
  • To find out where to buy bus tickets, check here.

What is happening for non-emergency medical transportation…

  • MTM, the state vendor for NEMT for Medicaid patients, will continue to provide transportation for essential medical appointments. Contact MTM for more information.
  • RIPIN can also offer support for NEMT-related questions.
  • MTM will also continue to offer reimbursements for caregivers providing transportation for Medicaid patients.
  • Transportation to COVID-19 testing sites: MTM has policies and procedures in place to transport Medicaid and those individuals who qualify for the Elderly Transportation Program (ETP)
  • This transportation is available only if there is no other means of transport, and other eligibility criteria has been met. Eligible individuals can call: 1-855-330-9131.
  • Check with the RI DOH for more information.

What is happening for private transportation companies…

  • Private ride-share companies continue to operate in RI but check with individual companies for the latest information. Check with individual cab companies for updated ride information.  
 What this means: 
  • Public transportation is still available in RI as is NEMT for Medicaid patients who need to keep their essential medical appointments. Menu

 Utility NeedsUtility Needs

Key Resources: Public Utilities Commission and Division of CarriersGeorge Wiley Center

Last-Reviewed Timestamp: 9am, May 20, 2020

 

What is happening:

  • Through May 31, 2020, the PUC has ordered (No.23826):
    • Utility terminations for non-payment (gas, electric, water, and wastewater) to be suspended.
    • Collection activities to be suspended.
  • The Low-Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has been extended until May 31, 2020.

What this means:

  • Typically, only protected status customers (e.g. those with LIHEAP) would be safe from utility terminations under RI’s normal winter moratorium (that typically ends on April 15, 2020). Now, through May 31, 2020, all residential utility customers will be safe from utility terminations. A moratorium is not forgiveness. Customers will continue to be charged for their utility usage.
    • To avoid a future utility termination or debt collection matters, customers can continue making utility payments if possible. Payment plans remain available.
  • Customers who have not yet applied for LIHEAP may still do so until May 31, 2020. Applications are available through CAP programs.

What may happen next

  • The DPUC may not extend the moratorium beyond May 31, 2020. In that case, many Rhode Islanders could experience utility terminations. Check with the George Wiley Center for advocacy updates or the PUCMenu

Internet

What is happening:

  • Phone and internet providers have signed onto the Keep Americans Connected Pledge which promises for 60 days to:
  • not terminate service for residential or small business customers
  • waive any late fees incurred due to COVID-19
  • open access to public Wi-Fi hotspots to “any American who needs them”
  • Customers may need to notify their carrier if they are unable to pay their bills due to COVID-19.
  • Note:  Verizon, Comcast and AT&T have extended this pledge until June 30, 2020.

Free/Reduced Cost programs:

  • Comcast is now offering free and reduced-cost programs to ensure access to WiFi.
  • Cox is offering for new customers who sign up between March13 and May 15, free Connect2Compete service, available through July 15, 2020. After that, it will cost the customer $9.95/month. For a full explanation of the services visit Cox.
  • Free WiFi will be available to Rhode Islanders with cell service provided by Verizon, AT & T, T-Mobile and Sprint, so long as they have smartphones with “hot spot” features. There will be no activation, usage or overage fees. Most companies are offering this through May 13, 2020.

What this means: 

  • Households without internet access can sign up for free, but time limited, programs. Most of the major phone and internet providers have signed a pledge halting connection terminations (including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Comcast, Cox).
  • Most people with internet, but unable to afford their bills, will not have their phone and internet disconnected through mid-May. Some customers may have this protection extended through June if they have Verizon, Comcast or AT&T. 

What may happen next:

  • Internet providers are being encouraged to extend their pledge through the month of May. So far, Cox, Comcast and AT&T have done so. Other providers may follow suit. Continued monitoring is required. Menu

WTD

MLPB's What You Can Do When There's Nothing to Do
Use the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) COVID-19 Resource Guide to find suggestions for self care.
Support those who rely on benefits by purchasing groceries after the 14th day of the month and avoiding items that are labeled WIC-approved.
Make sure to be counted! Complete the S. Census.
If eligible, register to vote.
If able, support organizations that are helping others like RI Food Bank.
Find an organization like the Prison Policy Initiative and join their cause.
Take time to relax by virtually touring a Smithsonian Museum or watching a YMCA 360 fitness video.

What this means: 

The future progression of COVID-19 is unknown. In this time of stress and uncertainty, self-care is highly important.

What may happen next

As the situation unfolds, more advocacy may be needed to address further inequities that arise as a result of the pandemic.

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