Welcome to MLPB's COVID-19 Digital Digest. Our team has created this open-access tool to help workforce colleagues navigate law and policy changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is intended to provide guidance and problem-solving strategies to address a range of key HRSN needs.  

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.

Some guidelines to help you get the most out of this tool: 

  • The Bulletin = pressing, need to know information, often with upcoming deadlines.
  • The Basics = MLPB's curation of key developments in law and policy.
  • The Breakdown = MLPB's translation of these developments into plain language interpretations of what these changes mean for areas of HRSN need.
  • The Bottom Line = Based on MLPB’s expertise, the essential takeaways needed to navigate the HRSN domain of interest
  • Last-reviewed Timestamps = MLPB routinely reviews content and updates information as appropriate. 
  • Feedback: Please get in touch! Email Administrative Manager Meg Baker at mbaker@mlpboston.org.

Exclaim This information is for educational purposes only; nothing in it should be construed as legal advice. 

© 2020 MLPB, a fiscally sponsored program of TSNE MissionWorks

The Bulletin

  • The CDC extended the eviction moratorium to June 30, 2021. Read the full order. Updated CDC Declaration form here.

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   Interpersonal Safety   Mental Health  Transportation Needs-1 Utility Needs WTD


Best SourcesBest Sources (1) 

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:


General Orders

Headline: COVID-19 restrictions have been eased. Vaccine eligibility has expanded to include people 50 and older.

Last-reviewed: 1pm, April 6, 2021

The Basics:

Key Resource

Emergency Orders from the Rhode Island Governor

Per this order, RI's disaster declaration has been extended through April 14, 2021

Rhode Islanders are still urged to work from home. Social distancing and gathering rules are in effect. People must wear face coverings at work and while shopping. Current social distancing and COVID-related restrictions here. 

The Breakdown:

RI remains in a state of emergency. Per this order, amended social distancing rules were implemented on March 19, 2021. Social gatherings are limited to 15 people and up to 50 people outside. Full guidance here (updated March 26, 2021). 

  • Self-isolation requirements are in place for people coming to RI who have traveled internationally or who have traveled domestically in areas with high community spread rates.
  • While retail business and restaurants still have capacity limits, easing on certain restrictions have occurred. More information here and business guidance here.

Face coverings remain required through April 21, 2021 per this order

Health and Medical:

  • Vaccines are being offered to Rhode Islanders who meet certain eligibility criteria.

-- The latest on general availability here. To find a vaccine clinic, visit RIDOH.

  • Per this order, quarantine requirements are in place for people with positive COVID-19 diagnoses or self-quarantine rules for those who have been in close contact. 
  • Nursing homes are open. Visitation restrictions are only permitted if there is a "clinical or safety cause." Designated caregivers may be permitted to visit under special RIDOH issued standards. Check with individual nursing homes for the latest visitation policy. Nursing home visitation guidance can be found here (revised, March 16, 2021).
  • Visits to Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) and Department of Children, Youth and Family (DCYF) congregate care settings guidance here (updated June 6, 2020).
  • Check with individual health care systems for the latest on hospital visits.

For the latest health updates, visit the RI Department of Health's COVID-19 alerts.

 The Bottom Line

  • COVID-19 related restrictions remain in place. Testing is widely available. Vaccine rollout continues.
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Court System

Headline: Superior court is preparing to resume jury trials. Courts are generally open.

Last-reviewed: 1pm, April 6, 2021

The Basics for all courts:

  • Courts have issued administrative orders that impact court operations such as scheduling. New administrative orders can be found here
  • Many municipal, state, and federal courts are open, but may be operating with amended schedules or hearing cases (when possible) using remote web-based technologies.
  • People with pending cases will experience a delay in receiving a court decision. Many cases can be filed online.

Key Resource

1. RI Judiciary

The Breakdown:  

State Courts:

This District Court civil administrative order is effective immediately. Key highlights include changes to default hearings, attorney fee award, and suspension of body attachments. It does not include matters impacting evictions. More information on housing here

General information about court operations here

  • Remote access is available but may need to be requested for some matters (e.g., evictions). Contact District Court to request remote access to a pending case. Superior Court instructions here. Family court instructions here. Public remote access information here. Access specific case information here.
  • Self-representation information here.
  • Translated forms in Spanish and Portuguese here
  • Information on the family court's virtual clerk office here. Access the virtual clerk office here.

Municipal courts:

COVID has impacted town and city court operations. Each municipality maintains their own court schedules. Check with individual city halls for the latest information.

The Bottom Line

  • Courts are generally open and will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 to determine how courts will operate. 

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CSI

Headline: A new District Court administrative order is in effect.

 

Last-reviewed: 3pm, April 6, 2021

The Basics:

  • A new District Court administrative order became effective on March 15, 2021. Example matters impacted include arraignments and pre-trials 
  • Probationers and Parolees with specific questions should contact their PO for further instructions.

Key Resources:

1. RI Judiciary

2. RI Department of Corrections (DOC)

3. The DOC Facebook page

The Breakdown: 

Court matters: 

  • Effective March 15, 2021, arraignments will continue to be scheduled based on priority.

-- Some misdemeanor charges (except license charges) will be scheduled after July 12, 2021.
-- Certain license charges will be heard after August 1, 2021.
-- More information here or call the District Court clerk

  • Expungements can be filed and scheduled, but in person events are postponed. Expungement information here and court-related information here

Department of Corrections (DOC):

  • Visitation and COVID-19 transmission information among those incarcerated here and at the RI DOC Facebook Page. Friends and family can call (401) 414-2871 for updates.
  • The RI Parole Board is still hearing cases.

Federal (Wyatt Detention Center)

  • Family visitations with detainees remains suspended until further notice. More information here.

The Bottom Line:

  • The pandemic has disrupted routine court processes. COVID spread among people who are incarcerated and/or detained is significant. 
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Education_Childcare

Headline: Vaccines for educators and childcare workers are available. Summer camps will be permitted to open.

Last-reviewed: 3pm, April 6, 2021

The Basics:

Teachers, school staff and childcare workers are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines. More information here.

Some schools are offering rapid testing to students and staff. Check with individual school districts or here for general information. 

Rights to education have not been suspended during the pandemic, but it may be more challenging for parents to advocate.

The federal student loan payment suspension has been paused through September 30, 2021.

Universities may conduct in-person learning and must conduct surveillance testing for COVID-19 for all students. 

Summer camps are permitted to open. More details are forthcoming.

The Breakdown:

Elementary and Secondary Schools:

Key Resources:

Rhode Island Dept. of Education (RIDE)

Pre-K through 8th grade students are encouraged to continue in-person learning. Limited opening plans may be used for high schools. Check with the updated statewide school calendar for full details.    

Resources for Parents and Students: 

University and Federal Student loans:
  • Universities in RI may reopen to in-person learning. Universities must conduct surveillance testing and provide isolation housing to students who have tested positive. More information here
  • Through September 30, 2021, federal student loan repayments are paused by this federal Executive rder. The US Department of Education has this information. During this time, the loans will have a 0% interest rate and qualifying non-payments will count toward the income-driven repayment plan. The suspension does not apply to private loans and it will not reduce the overall balance owed.

The Bottom Line

  • Schools remain open.
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Childcare

Headline: Childcare stabilization grants are available.

Last-reviewed: 3pm, April 6, 2021

 

The Basics:

Licensed childcare providers who lost revenue during the spring 2020 COVID-related lockdown may apply for grants. Application deadline is May 7, 2021. More information here.

Daycares are open but must follow state reopening guidelines. Check with individual daycare providers for specific opening information.

Childcare workers are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. More information here

Rhode Islanders with child-care vouchers should not lose their vouchers due to daycare closures but do need to comply with all recertification and income eligibility requirements.

 The Breakdown:

Key Resource

RI Dept. of Human Services

--DHS will continue to reimburse CCAP subsidies based on enrollment, not attendance
--Waive the allowable absence policy for CCAP families
--Waive all family copays (DHS to cover the cost of these copays in provider payments)       

The Bottom Line

  • Daycare is available in Rhode Island.
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Employment

Headline: Both federal and RI state tax filing deadlines have been extended to May 17, 2021

Last-reviewed: 3pm, April 6, 2021

The Basics: 

Key Resources

1. RI Department of Labor and Training 

2. Economic Progress Institute

Federal and RI State tax filing deadlines have been extended to May 17, 2021. More information about RI tax deadlines here

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan of 2021, a stimulus package that includes unemployment insurance extensions and boosts. RI DLT has the latest updates here

On March 28, 2021, RI's Department of Revenue and Division of Taxation issued this guidance to RI workers receiving unemployment benefits. Importantly, Rhode Islanders can deduct up to $10,200 on their federal taxes but will have to include that same amount as income on their state tax return

RI's DLT continues to receive hundreds of UI fraud complaints weekly. More information here.

The Breakdown: 

On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan of 2021 was signed into law. It includes (in part) the following employment benefits:

  • Supplemental unemployment benefits at $300/week through September 4, 2021
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) was expanded from 39 weeks to 79 weeks, and provided continued UI benefits for gig economy workers. If PUA benefits were exhausted, certification for the extended PUA benefits will begin March 21, 2021
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) was extended through September 4, 2021. UI benefits can be exhausted before this date

More details here

Unemployment benefits are generally subject to both federal and RI personal income tax. Federal legislation passed in March 2021 would exclude for some taxpayers up to $10,200 from income on their federal income tax return. The same is not true for state income tax returns. Under RI state law, unemployment compensation will be included as income.

  • Free tax services are available for eligible filers through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly program are open. VITA and TCE site lookup tool here. DLT has this tax-related information.

RI Benefits:

JOB LOSS:

If someone has...
  • Lost their job, then apply immediately for Unemployment Insurance (UI) here. (in ASL)
  • UI benefits stopped due to fraud, DLT account verification here
If someone believes...

RI PAID LEAVE:

RI offers workers several options for paid leave that can be used in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Rhode Island Sick and Safe Leave:

  • 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.
  • More information here (ESP).
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.

Note: For COVID-19-related claims, DLT will waive the seven-day minimum amount of time that claimants must be out of work to qualify for TDI/TCI benefits.

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.

The Bottom Line:

  • A new federal stimulus package was passed and signed into law that extends UI benefits. 
  • RI has several paid leave programs for working Rhode Islanders impacted by COVID-19, including TDI and Unemployment Insurance.

Spotlight on non-discrimination:

  • Employment discrimination based on national original or race, or the perception of a disability, is illegal. If a person believes they have experienced employment discrimination for these reasons, they can file a complaint with the RI Commission for Human Rights, which is currently providing services telephonically or electronically. Email employment-related questions to: RICHR.Info@richr.ri.gov.
  • 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 Insecurity

Headline: The new stimulus bill extends the 15% SNAP benefit increase to September 30, 2021.


Last-reviewed
: 3pm, April 6, 2021

The Basics:

  • The American Rescue Plan of 2021 increases SNAP benefits by 15% through September 30, 2021. Information here and more details are forthcoming. 
  • P-EBT benefits are currently being issued to both SNAP and non-SNAP households with children who receive free or reduced-price meals through school.
  • 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

The Breakdown:

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.

In January 2021, eligible SNAP recipients received an 15% increase in their benefit allotments. The latest federal stimulus package extended these benefits through September 2021.

Online SNAP purchasing

  • SNAP participants can select and pay for their typical groceries online via EBT payment at Amazon, participating Walmart, and Aldi stores.

Note: SNAP benefits cannot be used to cover the cost of delivery at this time (Walmart delivery costs range from $7.95 -$9.95; free shipping on Amazon orders over $35)

Bonus Bucks

Food Pantries

  • Check individual food bank websites for updates on services.
  • More local Pantry information, including an interactive Emergency and Supplemental Food Map, can be found here.

WIC

  • Women, Infants and Children (WIC) offices are open to remote services. 

-- Updated information about WIC programming as well as a list of WIC offices.
-- The WIC Shopper App can be downloaded to help locate WIC vendors and offices, the WIC food guide, and a scanning tool to help check if a food is on the approved list. 
-- The Economic Progress has this one-pager on WIC (ESP) (updated April 2020.)

School lunch programs

  • P-EBT is a pandemic related federally funded program that gives eligible families additional funds to purchase food that would otherwise be available through school meal programs. 

-- Benefits will be added to existing SNAP households to their EBT card or current P-EBT card. Newly eligible students, a P-EBT card will be mailed.
-- Households may receive different amounts depending on whether they are attending school in a hybrid schedule versus a full virtual one.
-- UnitedWay 211 can answer P-EBT related questions. More information here

Meals on Wheels

  • Meals on Wheels is currently performing home deliveries, but some dining sites in Providence have been suspended. 
  • For the latest on operations, visit Meals on Wheels COVID-19 response page.

RI Delivers

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

The Bottom Line

  • Food insecurity has risen due to COVID. Food benefits, programs, and pantries are available.
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Rhode Island Works (cash assistance)

Headline: The new federal stimulus package includes a new economic income payment (EIP) for eligible households. 

Last-reviewed: 3pm, April 6, 2021

 

The Basics:

Key Resource

RI Dept. of Human Services (DHS)

  • A third stimulus check, called an economic income payment (EIP), is currently being distributed. EIP calculator here and tracker here.  
    • Note: For SSI recipients, EIP will not be counted as income for 12 months. Careful documentation of expenditures is recommended. 
  • DHS has instituted a number of emergency procedures in response to the pandemic. 
  • General information about RI Works here and here
  • Application supports and program requirements are being adjusted, often with waivers and good cause exemptions applied.
  • Families receiving RI Works should continue to receive RI Works even if they can't complete their work plans. 

 

The Breakdown:

The IRS will distribute direct economic income payments of $1,400 for individuals, $2,800 for couples, and $1,400 for dependants.

  • The full payment will go to individuals with a 2019 or 2020 taxable income of $75,000 or less and couples with a joint taxable income of $150,000 or less.
  • EIP will be issued to SSA and SSI recipients who do not normally file taxes starting March 30, 2021.

-- For SSi recipients, EIP received as a direct payment (as opposed to one received through a tax return) will not be counted as income for the first 12 months. Careful documentation of how the EIP was spent is recommended. More information here.

The 2021 Child Tax Credit will include $3,600 for every child under 6 and $3,000 for every child from 6 to 17.

  • From July 2021 to December 2021, families will receive part of that credit in direct payments of $300 (children under 6) or $250 (children 6-17). 
  • Families will need to file their 2021 taxes to receive the remainder of that benefit. The income and dependency requirements are similar to the stimulus check requirements.

People who have not received the first or second EIP issued in 2020 may be able to claim a Recovery Rebate Credit on their 2020 tax return. Claims for the check may be requested with 2020 tax returns are filed using the Recovery Rebate Credit. See the IRS for more information. See also this one-pager in ENG and ESP

COVID-related program waivers

Online purchasing

  • RI Works recipients can use benefits to make online food and other purchases at participating Walmarts. Delivery fees will still apply. 

Note: RI Work recipients can qualify for utility shut-off protection

The Bottom Line:

  • Sharing reliable, up-to-date information about the changing resource landscape with families is key to optimizing household income. 
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Gov ID

Headline: COVID-19 related operation changes remain in place.


Last-reviewed
: 10am, April 7, 2021

The Basics:

Key Resource

1. RI Division of Motor Vehicles

  • Extensions for license expirations have ended.
  • The Cranston, Middletown, Wakefield and Woonsocket DMVs are open by reservation only. Some satellite DMVs remain temporarily closed.
  • A full list of DMV services available online or by mail here.
  • The City of Providence offers its own municipal identification card. 

The Breakdown

  • Driver license and learner permit services are available, as well as other services.
  • 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. 
  • Providence residents are eligible for the Providence Municipal ID program. Municipal IDs are generally not accepted as substitutes for government issued IDs (e.g. driver's licenses, passports, etc.) More information here

The Bottom Line

  • DMV services are offered by appointment. State (and Providence municipal) IDs are available. 
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Health Insurance

Headline: A special federal enrollment opened on February 15, 2021. COVID-19 vaccines are free of charge for the person receiving the vaccine. 

Last-reviewed: 10am, April 7, 2021

The Basics:

Key Resources

1. Office of the Health Commissioner

2. HealthSourceRI

Health Insurance Enrollment:

Note: Uninsured Rhode Islanders eligible for Medicaid can apply at any time.
  • Information about immigrant-specific eligibility can be found here (ESP).
  • COVID-19 vaccines are free to the person receiving the vaccines, although insurance may be charged a fee. Uninsured or undocumented Rhode Islanders can receive the vaccine for free. More information here

The Breakdown:

  • In response to the pandemic, President Biden issued this Executive Order creating a new federal enrollment that opened February 15, 2021 and runs through May 15, 2021. RI is participating. More information here

-- For coverage to begin May 1, 2021, plans must be selected and paid for by April 23, 2021.
-- May 15, 2021 is the last day to select and pay for coverage under this enrollment.
-- More information here

  • 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.

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.

--OHIC and the Department of Business Regulations FAQ here. Insurers also must cover treatment for those infected by COVID-19, retroactively if necessary.

Testing:

  • Rhode Islanders with symptoms or who are asymptomatic but fit a special category can be tested. Uninsured Rhode Islanders are eligible for free testing. More information on testing here.

The Bottom Line

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

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Housing Instability

Headline: The federal eviction moratorium was extended to June 30, 2021. A new rental assistance program is open!

Last-reviewed: 6pm, April 6, 2021

The Basics for...

Tenants and Landlords

  • The national moratorium has been extended to June, 2021. The full order here
  • Evictions are currently permitted if the tenant was (a) not covered by the moratorium or (b) because the tenant failed to give their landlord this sworn declaration.
  • Evictions based on non-payment of rent can be scheduled, but executions (eviction authorizations) will not be issued until the national moratorium expires. More information here

A new rental assistance program through RI Housing is open! More information here. One pager here.  

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

Homeowners: 

  • Some homeowners may be protected from foreclosure under a federal moratorium, while others may be eligible for financial assistance or a forbearance on their mortgage payments.

The Breakdown for...
Tenants and Landlords:

Key Resources

1. Tenants - Rhode Island Landlord Tenant Handbook

2. Homeowners - RI Housing 

The current eviction moratorium expires June 30, 2021. At-risk renters must submit a declaration to their landlord that says the following:

  1. They used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;
  2. They either
    1. expect to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return)
    2. was not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or
    3. received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check)
  3. They are unable to pay the full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a lay-off, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
  4. They used best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other nondiscretionary expenses; and
  5. They would likely be homeless— or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting— because the individual has no other available housing options.

Example Declarations can be found here.

  • Suffolk University has this CDC Eviction Moratorium assist to help tenants assess whether they are covered. 
  • RI Legal Services CDC Eviction Moratorium hotline is 401-633-9124.
  • More general information here

Note: Tenants who have already supplied the CDC Declaration are not required to resubmit the Declaration again. Newly eligible tenants will still need to submit the CDC sworn statement to their landlords. 

Note: RI state courts have made it clear that a tenant can submit their declaration not only before an eviction, but also after an eviction for non-payment has been filed. The RI Court has further clarified that the declaration can be submitted as post-judgement phases of an eviction. More information here.

CDC guidance has clarified further that landlords can:

  • challenge tenant declarations and,
  • initiate evictions based on non-payment of rent before the expiration of the moratorium, but cannot actually evict until the moratorium has lifted.

Effective March 15, 2021, limited court challenges in RI will be permitted to determine whether a tenant (a) had a loss of income, (b) applied to a rental assistance program, or (c) made good faith efforts to communicate with the landlord and to make partial rental payments. More information here

Note: Tenants covered by the CDC Moratorium whose rights have been violated by their landlords can submit complaints to the RI office of the US Attorney General by emailing or calling (401) 709-5010. More information here

Reminder: Only a judge can order a tenant to be evicted. Self-help evictions, where landlords circumvent the required court process, are illegal. Accessing free legal services can be challenging. Here are a few resources renters and landlords can use during this time:

-- RI Bar Association (referral service)
-- RI Legal Services

-- RI Center for Justice
-- The RI Landlord-Tenant Handbook explains the basic eviction process. 
-- 
The RI Attorney General’s Office has put out this Guidance for Law Enforcement Officers on Landlord-Tenant disputes.

Rental assistance is scare right now.

  • RentReliefRI is open to new applications. Applicants with questions can ask the Call Center at 1-855-608-8756. One-page flyer here. To be eligible tenants must be:

-- income eligible.
-- qualified for UI or experienced a reduction in income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due directly OR indirectly to COVID-19; AND 
-- must be at risk of becoming homeless or loss of housing.

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.

Homeowners:

  • Homeowners with federally backed mortgages are protected from foreclosure through June 30, 2021. The full announcement can be found here and here
  • Assistance for homeowners experiencing financial loss due can be found here.
  • RI Housing has this homeowner’s guidance detailing assistance programs and recommendations.
  • A number of mortgage forbearance plans have been made available by mortgage companies. Contact RIHousing for specific questions about homeownership.
The Bottom Line:  
  • The national eviction moratorium was extended to June 30, 2021. The eviction moratorium does not prevent all types of evictions.
  • Emergency rental assistance funds are scarce, but new funds are available.
  • Some federally backed mortgages are temporarily protected from foreclosure.
  • Remember: a moratorium is not debt protection! Unpaid rent or mortgages accrue arrearages that remain owed to the landlord or lender.

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

Headline: People experiencing homelessness are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Last-reviewed: 6pm, April 6, 2021

 

The Basics:

Key Resource

RI Coalition for the Homeless

  • People experiencing homelessness are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Information about which groups are eligible here. General vaccine clinic information here
  • Shelters are open, but capacity has been reduced in order to comply with COVID restrictions. 
  • People experiencing homelessness can call the State Coordinated Entry System (CES) hotline (401) 277-4316 for diversion and shelter resources. Shelters have new requirements related to COVID-19 screening.

    Exception: Families seeking shelter must call (401) 277-4316 to go through a Diversion Assessment to be placed on the family shelter waitlist. The average wait for a family to obtain a shelter placement is ~15 days.

  • Warming center locations and information here.

The Breakdown for people experiencing homelessness in RI:

In RI, shelter is not guaranteed. People experiencing homelessness or at risk must call the Coordinated Entry System (CES) hotline to access shelter. The CES is staffed by Help Center agents who will conduct an assessment and provide referrals and assistance as needed.

Shelters are open but have reduced capacity due to COVID protocols.

RIDOH has issued these COVID-19 related guidelines. (updated December 21, 2020)

The Bottom Line:

  • People experiencing homelessness are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • This information can change rapidly. Check with the RI Coalition for the Homeless for more information on other individual shelters.

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Immigration

Headline: On February 1, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a statement to the public stating that it will not conduct enforcement operations at or near COVID-19 vaccination distribution sites or clinics. 

Last-reviewed: 6pm, April 6, 2021

The Basics:

Key Resources

1. National Immigration Law Center

2. United States Citizenship and Immigrant Services (USCIS)

  • President Biden has signed a number of presidential actions making changes to immigration policy set during the last administration. These changes impact policy tone, require executive agencies to review internal immigration policies, lift the discriminatory travel ban, expands the number of refugees permitted to enter the US. Text of the Presidential actions here
  • Generally, USCIS offices are open.
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has issued this statement that it will not conduct enforcement activities at COVID-19 vaccine sites. ICE already has an existing general commitment not to engage in enforcement activities near "sensitive locations" such as hospitals or clinics. 
  • As of March 1, 2021, the naturalization test will revert to the 2008 version. 
 The Breakdown
  • President Biden has issued a number of new executive orders, setting a new tone for immigration policy and enforcement.  As with any executive order, they can be challenged in the courts.
  • DHS announced that they are extending the validity of Temporary Protected Status (TPS)-related documentations for beneficiaries for six countries through October 4, 2021, including employment-related documentation. 
  • On January 20, 2021 President Biden signed several executive orders repealing executive orders from the previous administration. Among the newest executive orders is an order banning discriminatory travel bans into the United States. 
  • USCIS field offices are open to non-emergency customer-facing activities.

--UCIS has this visitor policy.

  • Immigration Court operational status can be found here.

-- Boston Immigration Court reopened for all matters. Case information is available online with a 9-digit alien registration number (A-#########) or, the Executive Office of Administration Review hotline (1-800-898-7180) is also open for requests to update information.

Resources

 The Bottom Line

  • The Biden administration is establishing new immigration policies and priorities that will take time to implement.
  • Federal immigration services are open.
  • RI has limited immigration-related resources. 
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Public Charge

Headline: The Trump administration public charge test will no longer be used for applicants seeking permanent residency (greencards).

Last-reviewed: 6pm, April 6, 2021

 The Basics:

Key Resource

Protecting Immigrant Families Coalition

  • The Trump administration's public charge test is no longer in effect. More information here.
  • The 1999 version of the public charge test still stands, but applies to only a very narrow group of applicants who have been in the receipt of SSI, cash assistance, or institutionalization for long-term care at the government expense. Reminder- due to eligibility requirements that include immigration status, most immigrants applying for permanent residency are ineligible for these programs. More information here and one-pager here.  

The Breakdown: 

  • The public charge test is a test of "inadmissibility" used when an applicant seeks to become a permanent resident (aka a "greencard"). Between 1999 and 2019 the public charge test could only be used under very narrow grounds. 
  • The Trump administration sought to broaden the test through a "rule-making" process. This process was long and created confusion for many immigrants who disenrolled from necessary benefit programs fearing that it would negatively impact their immigration-related applications. Nine court cases were launched by immigration advocates challenging the new public charge rule. The federal government under the Trump administration defended against these challenges.
  • In February 2021, the Biden administration issued an executive order aimed at reviewing the public charge test.
  • On March 9, 2021, the Biden administration announced that it would no longer defend the public charge court challenges. Without this defense, one of the lower court rulings finding that the new public charge test was in violation of existing law and therefore must be vacated became the final ruling. This effectively ended the use of the new public charge test. More information here. 
  • The 1999 version of the public charge test remains in effect but only applies in very narrow circumstances.

Concerns for public charge will likely persist. Care teams can help demystify the changes by sharing resources such as the Protecting Immigrant Family Coalition update

The Bottom Line:

The new public charge test can no longer be used. While concerns may persist, families with questions about public charge should connect with immigration experts to have their specific questions and needs evaluated. 
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Interpersonal Safety

Headline: More physical distancing from the outside world has meant less physical distancing between intimate partner violence survivors and perpetrators. Safety planning resources offer vital online chat options to address this COVID-19 barrier to outreach.

Last-reviewed: 8am, April 7, 2021

The Basics:

Key Resources:

Intimate Partner Violence: RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence  (RICADV)

Elder Abuse: RI Office of Healthy Aging (OHA)

  • Organizations are open to support individuals and families who need to engage in safety planning.
  • Restraining orders are available. RICADV has this resource for individuals seeking restraining orders.
  • The RI State Police launched an awareness program called Safe at Home to raise awareness of the threat of increased violence during this pandemic.
  • Outreach directly to agencies to learn of new resources and evolving best practices.

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.
  • The Family Violence Option Advocacy Program (ESP) assists DHS clients who are IPV survivors navigate state benefits programs and resources.
Elder Abuse:
  • Elder abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation reports can be made here.

The Breakdown:

  • 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.
  • Being an ally to someone in an abusive situation can look like helping the person stay safe by listening, expressing concern without judgment, and asking them if there is anything you can do for them. More on safety planning and resources here.

The Bottom Line:

  • Local community-based organizations are addressing the pandemic related challenges by maintaining protective services for current clients, and initiating new investigations relating to suspicion of neglect or abuse.
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Mental Health

Headline: Resources are available for Rhode Islanders.


Last-reviewed
: 9am, April 7, 2021

The Basics:

  • Rhode Islanders can access behavioral health supports through telemedicine.

The Breakdown:

Online Resources for Adults:

Key Resources:

1. BH Link

2. Kids Link

3. RI Dept. Of Behavioral Healthcare, Dev. Disabilities & Hospitals

 

  • 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. 
  • SAMHSA also created this flyer to help individuals better understand how to take care of their mental health during a pandemic.
  • Some employers may offer special support programs such as Employment Assistance Programs. Check with individual employers for more information.
  • The Mental Health Association of RI (MHARI) provides a list of resources for individuals struggling with mental health conditions, including substance use disorders, domestic violence support, and general resources.
  • Individuals seeking legal services relating to mental health conditions can contact the Rhode Island Mental Health Advocate at 401-462-2003.
  • NAMI Family Support Groups also exist for family members, caregivers, and loved ones of individuals living with mental illness.
  • Here is a list of prevention resources for caregivers, community members, youth, and prevention providers and educators.
  • The Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) provides a list of resources for individuals struggling with substance use disorders, including Safe Stations and other treatment options.
  • Project Weber/RENEW is an organization that provides a full range of harm reduction, recovery, and basic needs services to men and women, including the transgender community. More information about locations here.

Hotline Help:

  •  

For Children:

  • Parents can contact Kids Link RI or call 1-855-543-5465 for 24/7 access to behavioral health triage services and referral network.
  • RIDE has developed a resource page for students struggling with their mental health during COVID-19.

For Older Adults:

The Bottom Line: 

  • It is understandable and normative to struggle with the new routines and processes created by the pandemic, to say nothing of the difficulties created by the virus itself. Resources remain available to help anyone having difficulty with this challenging time. 
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Transportation Needs-1

Headline: Mailed renewal applications for reduced or No Fare Bus passes are accepted.


Last-reviewed
: 9am, April 7, 2021

The Basics:

Public transportation is still available in RI as is NEMT for Medicaid patients who need to keep their essential medical appointments.

The Breakdown for public transportation…

Key Resources

1. RIPTA COVID-19 Response - Public transportation

2. MTM - Non-emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT)

-- RIPTA is limiting the number of passengers on buses for fixed routes. No more than 20 people will be permitted on the bus.
--
RIPTA is asking passengers to wear cloth face masks.

The Breakdown for non-emergency medical transportation…

  • MTM, the state vendor for NEMT for Medicaid patients, continues to provide transportation for essential medical appointments. 
  • 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.

The Breakdown 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.  
 The Bottom Line: 
  • Public transportation is still available in RI as is NEMT for Medicaid patients who need to keep their essential medical appointments.
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Utility Needs

Headline: Low-income customers are protected from utility shut-off through June 25, 2021. RentReliefRI will offer some limited utility assistance to eligible applicants when the program opens. 


Last-reviewed
: 9am, April 7, 2021

The Basics:

Electric and Gas:

Key Resources

1. RI Public Utilities Commission and Division of Carriers (PUC)

2. George Wiley Center

  • The RI Public Utilities Commission extended the utility moratorium for eligible low-income gas and utility customers through June 25, 2021.
  • Other customer types may be eligible for shut-off protection based on reasons related to health, employment status, intimate partner violence/DV, or age protections. 
  • RentReliefRI is a new rental assistance program that also offers some limited utility assistance. Applicants do not have to be in rental arrears in order to qualify for utility assistance. More information here
  • The Good Neighbor Energy Fund provides additional utility assistance, including for those who would generally not qualify for LIHEAP. The maximum grant for those not receiving LIHEAP for gas is $500 and electricity is $600. Assistance grants are also available for people who use oil, wood/wood byproducts or kerosene. 
  • For advocacy assistance or more information, visit the George Wiley Center.

Water:

Water shut-off protection is not included in this moratorium. Shut-off protection for water varies across the state. 

The Breakdown:

Gas and Electric:

  • The winter moratorium has been extended through June 25, 2021. Effectively, low-income customers cannot have their utilities terminated any earlier than June 25, 2021.
    • Customers must affirmatively obtain the protected status on their account. Contact National Grid or a local Community Action Program for assistance.
    • 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.
    • More information here.

Water:

  • To date, there is no statewide moratorium on water shut-offs. Some water authorities are offering shut-off protection, while others are not.

The Bottom Line

  • Low-income utility customers are protected from utility shut-off through June 25, 2021. Additional protections are available.

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Internet

The Basics:

  • For resources for accessing the Internet in-home during COVID-19, check the RI Office of Innovation.
  • The National Digital Inclusion Alliance has this nationwide resource list.
  • EveryoneOn has a tool to search for low-cost internet service and computers in areas near you.

The Breakdown: 

  • Some providers may continue to offer reduced-cost plans.

The Bottom Line:

  • Limited low-cost Internet services are available.
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WTD

The Breakdown: 

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

The Bottom Line

  • 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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