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

  • A federal COVID-19 Relief was passed and signed into law that includes one-time payments to eligible individuals and families, an eviction moratorium extension, SNAP benefits increases, and pandemic unemployment compensation extensions. The law contains many other provisions.

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: RI remains in Phase III of its reopening plan.

 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 10am, January 12, 2021

The Basics:

Key Resource

Emergency Orders from Governor Raimondo

Rising COVID-19 cases have prompted restrictions both at the state and municipal level. Rhode Islanders are still urged to work from home. Social distancing and gathering rules are in effect. People must wear face coverings. 

The Breakdown:

RI remains in a state of emergency and is in Phase III of its reopening plan.

Currently effective, Rhode Island's current restrictions include, but are not limited to:

  • Social gatherings are limited to those in a person's household. If a person lives alone they may gather with one other household.
  • Most college and university courses have switched to online learning.
  • Restaurant opening hours have been curtailed and box stores have capacity limits.

Quarantine requirements are in place for anyone who has been in close contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive. 

Health and Medical:

  • Vaccinations began in December 2020. Final decisions about the roll-out phases have not yet been made. More information here
  • Visits to nursing homes are restricted. Nursing home visitation guidance can be found here (revised, December 28, 2020).
  • 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.
  • Individuals who need a place to quarantine can check out rihavens.com, which lists local hotel availability with discounted rates.

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.
    Menu



Court System

Headline: Evictions have resumed. Non-payment of rent evictions covered by the National Eviction Moratorium can be filed and heard, but eviction execution orders will not be issued until the moratorium expires. 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 10am, January 12, 2021

The Basics for all courts:

  • 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:

General information about court operations here

  • Remote matters are encouraged and parties can request a remote hearing/conference using these instructions. Public remote access information here. Access specific case information here.
  • Self-representation information here.
  • The family court has launched a virtual clerk's office that allows the public to speak "face to face" with a clerk using remote technology. More information here. Access the virtual clerk office here.

NoteSmall claims cases are continued until February 1, 2021.

Federal court: 

The United States District Court of Rhode Island, the federal court, remains closed to the public per this court order. Pandemic-related operational changes are in place, including heightened use of videoconferencing and in some case types continuances until 2021. Check here for the latest. 

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. 

    Menu



CSI

Headline: COVID-19 vaccinations began at the Adult Correctional Institute (ACI).

 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 10am, January 12, 2021

The Basics:

  • Some criminal matters are still being heard, while others are delayed until May 2021. More information here
  • COVID case numbers at the ACI are on the rise. 
  • 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 December 5, 2020, the criminal court will continue to hear priority matters (such as capital offense and domestic abuse), but delay others until April 5, 2021 (most misdemeanor charges) or May 3, 2021 (e.g. civil violations and misdemeanor license offenses. More information here.
  • Expungements can be filed

Department of Corrections (DOC):

  • There is a significant COVID outbreak among staff and those incarcerated at the Adult Correctional Institute (ACI). As of December 15, 2020, video visitations have resumed. More information can be found here and at the RI DOC Facebook Page or friends and family can call (401) 414-2871 for updates.
  • The RI Parole Board is still hearing cases.

Wyatt Detention Center (federal)

  • All detainee visitation with families is suspended until further notice with reassessment set for late January. More details here, including general safety protocols and contact information for scheduling an inmate visit.

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: The federal student loan payment suspension has been extended by the ED. This means that people with federal student loans will be excused from making payments until January 31, 2021.   

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 10am, January 12, 2021

The Basics:

Elementary and secondary schools (K-12) are open with in-person learning resuming between January 7 and January 15 to allow students times to obtain COVID-19 tests, self-isolate and/or quarantine. Check with individual districts for full details. 

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 extended by the US Department of Education to January 31, 2021.

The Breakdown:

Elementary and Secondary Schools:

Key Resources:

Rhode Island Dept. of Education (RIDE)

School districts may elect to stagger the return of students from the holiday break. Check with the updated statewide school calendar for full details.    
  • As of January 4, 2021, some organized school sports are permitted. More information here.
  • Digital/Internet access resources are here.
  • Testing is available for school age children. More information here.
  • Municipal and school COVID-19 case information here.

Note: IEP and 504 Plan rights have not been suspended. The Department of Education has issued this FAQ (updated September 28, 2020) to help schools support children with disabilities.

Resources for Parents and Students: 

Early childhood resources:

  • RI’s Early Head Start and Head Start programs are offering distance learning and virtual visits. Programs are delivering formula, diapers, and food to families along with books and learning materials to use at home.
  • Rhode Island’s Early Intervention system is open and accepting referrals. Virtual visits are offered. EI FAQ here.
  • Additional information can be found here.

University and Federal Student loans:

  • People with federal student loans will be excused from making payments until January 31, 2021. 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.
    Menu


Childcare

Headline: Childcare may continue to operate in small stable groups.

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 10am, January 12, 2021

 

The Basics:

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

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)       

  • Employment benefit options guidance for caregivers here (updated November 2020)

The Bottom Line

  • Daycare is available in Rhode Island.
    Menu



Employment

Headline: Pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) benefits have been extended to March 14, 2021. A UI boost of an extra $300 began the week of January 3, 2021.


Last-reviewed Timestamp
: 10am, January 12, 2021

The Basics: 

Key Resources

1. RI Department of Labor and Training 

2. Economic Progress Institute

The federal government has passed a new COVID-19 relief package that includes expanded UI benefits including a $300/week boost for all UI recipients and the extension of pandemic related assistance programs.

There has been a significant uptick in cases of stolen state unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. DLT is investigating hundreds of fraud claims resulting in the temporary suspension of some people’s unemployment benefits.

  • DLT has created this Fact Sheet in English and Spanish on UI Imposter Fraud (last updated May 8, 2020).
  • To protect against scams, use this resource guidance issued from the RI Attorney General’s Office.
Note: Information about workplace safety here (ESP) (updated July 2020).
  • RI DLT launched BacktoWorkRI, a platform that connects jobseekers to employment and training opportunities.
  • Employ RI is a website for job-seekers.

The Breakdown: 

Congress passed a federal stimulus package that includes (in part) the following employment benefits:

  • Supplemental unemployment benefits at $300/week for 11 weeks. This "boost" will be automatically added to UI benefits and starts the week of January 3, 2021.
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) has been expanded from 39 weeks to 50 weeks, which also provides continued UI benefits for gig economy workers. Existing PUA recipients will automatically have their PUA claim continued by RI DLT.
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) has been extended through April 10, 2021
RI DLT has more information here

RI Benefits:

JOB LOSS:

If someone has...
  • Lost their job, then apply immediately for Unemployment Insurance (UI) here. (in ASL)

--For independent contractors, members of the “gig economy” and hair stylists, applications are available.
--UI certification information here (ESP) (updated August 2020)

  • 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 extends UI benefits. Many UI benefits offered in this package are automatically applied to existing UI recipients.
  • 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: P-EBT benefits have not yet been issued.

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 11am, January 12, 2021

The Basics:

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.

Starting in January, eligible SNAP recipients will receive an 15% increase in their benefit allotments. Households can expect the benefits to be issued on January 15th. These additional SNAP benefits will end in June 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

  • Rhode Island Community Food Bank and their member agencies acknowledge the challenges of maintaining social distancing, especially in the colder months. Many member agencies lack space for large groups inside and are working to avoid long lines outside. 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 but closed to in-person appointments. WIC is currently following the WIC State of Emergency policy that lists pre-approved substitutions for milk and food.

-- Updated information about WIC programming as well as a list of WIC offices.
-- 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. RI was approved to receive this benefit, but funds are not expected to be issued until the end of January. Benefits will cover October, November, and December 2020.
  • Families can still continue to access “Grab and Go” meals.   

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 stimulus payment of $600 to individuals who make less than $75,000/year and couples who make less than $150,000/year will receive $1,200. Families will also receive $600 per child.

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 11am, January 12, 2021

 

The Basics:

Key Resource

RI Dept. of Human Services

  • New federal aid includes a one-time economic payment to eligible individuals and families. 
  • 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 federal stimulus aid includes a one-time payment to eligible individuals and families. Individuals who make less than $75,000/year will receive $600 and couples who make less than $150,000/year will receive $1,200. Families will also receive $600 per child.

 

  • Payments will be either directly deposited or by a mailed check. Direct deposits began on December 29, 2020. More information here
  • The IRS has this stimulus payment tracker.
  • Stimulus Payment Calculator here

COVID-related program waivers

-- Telephonic interviews to complete RI Works applications and employment plans.
-- 
Telephonic signatures to allow for the completion of RI Works applications.
-- Recertification deadlines are extended for 6 months.
-- Employment plans that need signatures will be mailed and returned either through pre-paid envelopes or can be uploaded through the customer portal.
-- “Good cause” exemptions will be granted to families whose job or training programs are closed.
-- Apply here for cash assistance.

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:

  • Federal economic stimulus payments are being issued.
  • 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.
  • RI Work recipients are eligible for gas and electric shut-off protection.

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Gov ID

Headline: All extensions to expiration dates have ended.


Last-reviewed Timestamp
: 2pm, January 11, 2021

The Basics:

Key Resources

1. RI Division of Motor Vehicles

2. AAA

  • 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.
  • AAA has reopened many of their storefronts. Roadside assistance remains available.

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. 

The Bottom Line

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

Headline: Open enrollment ends January 23, 2021.

 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 2pm, January 12, 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).

The Breakdown:

  • Open enrollment ends January 23, 2021.
  • 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 expires January 31, 2021

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 2pm, January 12, 2021

The Basics for...

Tenants and Landlords

  • The national moratorium was extended through January 31, 2021.
  • Eligible tenants need to submit the CDC sworn statement to their landlords.
  • RI state courts will continue to hear evictions either (a) not covered by this moratorium or (b) because tenants failed to give their landlord the declaration.

-- For example, landlords who wish to renovate their property can issue a tenancy termination notice and if the tenant overstays, the landlord would be able to file for an eviction against the tenant, even if the tenant was current with their rent.

  • RI state courts are accepting evictions based on non-payment of rent, but executions (eviction authorizations) will not be issued until the national moratorium expires. More information here
  • 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.

Note: The City of Cranston has voted to ban rental discrimination based on income source.

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.
  • Homeowners should individually contact their mortgage companies to learn whether they are eligible for relief. 
  • If a person needs mortgage counseling, contact RI Housing.

The Breakdown for...

Tenants and Landlords:

Key Resources

1. Tenants - Rhode Island Landlord Tenant Handbook

2. Homeowners - RI Housing 

The new federal stimulus package extended the current eviction moratorium through January 31, 2021.  At-risk renters, must give a sworn 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.

More information is here. Eviction moratorium fact sheets in multiple languages here. 

RI Legal Services CDC Eviction Moratorium hotline is (401) 633-9124.

Suffolk University has this CDC Eviction Moratorium assist to help tenants assess whether they are covered.

Note: Evictions based on reasons other than non-payment can still be filed! Renters who have not experienced a financial loss due to COVID-19, such as those who receive fixed governmental benefits such as SSI or SSDI, may not be included in this moratorium protection.

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.

Note: Evictions based on non-payment of rent can be filed and heard during the eviction moratorium. Execution orders (eviction authorizations) for cases involving non-payment of rent cannot be issued until the eviction moratorium has expired.

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

  • Landlord-tenant resources:

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

-- RI Center for Justice

  • Accessing free legal services can be challenging. Here are few resources renters and landlords can use during this time:

-- 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.

Additional funds are expected courtesy of the new stimulus package. Details will be forthcoming once the new program opens. 

Landlord Incentives: 

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:

  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have extended their foreclosure moratorium through February 28, 2021. Homeowners should check if their mortgage is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. More information here.  

-- The foreclosure moratorium applies to Enterprise-backed, single-family mortgages only.
-- The 
REO eviction moratorium applies to properties that have been acquired by an Enterprise through foreclosure or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure transactions.

  • 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:  
  • A national eviction moratorium has been extended through January 31, 2021. The eviction moratorium does not prevent all types of evictions. 
  • Emergency rental assistance funds are scarce.

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: Shelters are open, but capacity has diminished due to COVID-related restrictions. 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 2pm, January 12, 2021

 

The Basics:

Key Resource

RI Coalition for the Homeless

  • Shelters are open, but capacity has been reduced in order to comply with COVID restrictions. (e.g., the number of year round beds declined from 486 to 325.) 
  • 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.

The Bottom Line:

Menu

 


Immigration

Headline: First time DACA applicants can apply!

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 2pm, January 12, 2021

The Basics:

Key Resources

1. National Immigration Law Center

2. United States Citizenship and Immigrant Services (USCIS)

  • USCIS offices are open.
  • The naturalization test has become more rigorous.
  • A recent court challenge requires USCIS to accept applications and renewals for DACA. (DACA is a program that provides employment authorization and protection from detention and deportation for undocumented people brought to the US as children by their parents--sometimes referred to as "Dreamers").
 The Breakdown

--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.

-- The number of study questions will increase from 100 to 128.
-- Applicants must answer 12 out of 20 questions correctly, an increase from the 6 out of 10.

  • Effective December 7, 2020, eligible applicants for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) can submit first-time and/or renew existing applications. More information here
Resources

 The Bottom Line

  • 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 likely have processing delays. Menu


 

Public Charge

Headline: On November 4, 2020, USCIS was granted permission to reinstate its new public charge rule during litigation.

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 3pm, January 12, 2021

 The Basics:

Key Resource

Protecting Immigrant Families Coalition

  • The public charge test can be used again.
  • Concerns for public charge will likely persist, but in addition to the court injunctions, the federal government had already 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. 

The Breakdown: 

On November 4, 2020, an appeals court stayed a lower court's nationwide injunction on the implementation of the new public charge rule. More information here.

USCIS has made it clear that the new public charge rule would 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. 

The Bottom Line:

The public charge test can be used. Additional court challenges may be filed, and monitoring is recommended. 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 Timestamp: 3pm, January 12, 2021

The Basics:

Key Resources:

1. RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence  (RICADV)

2. RI Office of Healthy Aging (OHA)

  • There has been a spike in IPV reports throughout the pandemic. Organizations are open to support individuals and families who need to engage in safety planning.
  • Restraining orders are available, but not all courts are currently open. 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 Timestamp
: 3pm, January 12, 2021

The Basics:

  • Rhode Islanders can access behavioural 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, Megan Clingham.
  • NAMI Family Support Groups also exist for family members, caregivers, and loved ones of individuals living with mental illness.
  • The Rhode Island Prevention Resource Center (RIPRC) provides 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:

  • Individuals who need help with general behavioral health support and finding a behavioral healthcare provider can contact BH Link at (401) 414-LINK (5465).
  • The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available at 1-800-273-8255.
  • For individuals with moderate to severe opioid use disorder (OUD), Rhode Island has introduced a Buprenorphine Hotline offering 24-hour telehealth access for patients.

-- Individuals can receive a health assessment, a prescription for buprenorphine if appropriate, and linkage to a Rhode Island Center of Excellence for maintenance treatment.

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 Timestamp
: 3pm, January 12, 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 April 15, 2021.


Last-reviewed Timestamp
: 3pm, January 12, 2021

The Basics:

Electric and Gas:

Key Resources

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

2. George Wiley Center

  • Eligible low-income gas and utility customers are protected from shut-off through April 2021
  • Other customers types may be eligible for shut-off protection based on reasons related to health, employment status, intimate partner violence/DV, or age protections. More information here.
  • The LIHEAP 2020 season is open and includes new LIHEAP income guidelines. The anticipated average LIHEAP grant per household is in the range of $720.00 
  • 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 lasts until April 15, 2021 with extensions permitted based on weather conditions. Effectively, low-income customers cannot have their utilities terminated any earlier than April 15, 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.
  • Other shut-off protections are available based on household member’s health, age, employment status, or family stability (IPV/DV or divorce). These protections must be asserted by the customer. 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 April 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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