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 Content Lead Franny Zhang at fzhang@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

  • Phase III of RI’s reopening plan is extended through August 28, 2020.

Click below to navigate to a topic of interest!   

Best Sources General Orders

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


Best ResourcesBest Sources 

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

Menu

General Orders

Headline: Phase III is extended through August 28, 2020.

 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 9:00am, July 30, 2020

The Basics:

Key Resource

Gov. Raimondo's Emergency Orders

Due to an uptick in positive COVID-19 cases, RI will remain in Phase III through August 28, 2020. Social gathering caps have been lowered from 25 people to 15.

The Governor extended several emergency orders through August 3, 2020, including:

  • RI’s state of emergency order
  • Quarantine requirements for individuals with COVID-19 or for those who have been in close contact with someone positive
  • Quarantine or negative test requirements for travelers to RI from states with 5% positive testing rates
  • Quarantine or negative test requirements for Rhode Islanders who have travelers to states with 5% positive testing rates
  • Reimbursement rates for telemedicine expire
  • Requirements for face coverings

RI is in Phase III of the Governor’s reopening plan. Rhode Islanders are required to wear cloth face coverings, to social distance, and can expect an easing on some capacity restrictions for businesses.

For the latest updates on RI’s reopening, visit RI’s Reopening Plan or the RI Department of Health’s COVID-19 alerts.

Health and Medical:

  • Visits to nursing homes are permitted with restrictions. Visits are limited to “to only those essential to the resident's physical and emotional well-being and care.” Visits can last up to 30 minutes and must be scheduled in advance. Nursing home visitation guidance can be found here.
  • Check with individual health care systems for the latest on hospital visits.
  • Individuals who need a place to quarantine can check out com which lists local hotel availability with discounted rates.
  • Additional testing is now available for some asymptomatic Rhode Islanders who work in close-contact businesses, have been in groups of 100+, or have visited a state with a 5% rate of positive COVID-19 tests.

The Breakdown:

  • COVID-19 remains a public health threat. However, RI has met certain benchmarks to move into Phase II of its reopening plan. While more businesses are permitted to open, they do so with strict guidelines. When possible, Rhode Islanders are still urged to work from home. Social distancing rules will continue to be in effect. People will need to wear masks.
  • Visits to long-term care facilities and nursing homes will be permitted with restrictions.

 The Bottom Line

  • RI continues to monitor the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing, face coverings, and testing are encouraged. Menu


Court System

Headline: Courts are generally open.

 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 9:00am, July 28, 2020

The Basics:

Key Resource

RI Judiciary

State Courts:

RI State courts, with some exceptions, are open with restrictions and is limiting in-person hearings to the extent it is possible. The Court is encouraging matters to be conducted remotely. Here are the instructions to request a remote hearing/conference. The public can remotely access these judicial proceedings by YouTube. The public can also access case information here.

Note: The Murray Judicial Complex (Newport County) and McGrath Judicial Complex (Washington County) are closed and will reopen September 8, 2020.

Note: Some courts have specific court administrative orders:

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

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

Federal court: 

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

The Breakdown for state courts:  

  • Courts are generally open. Two courts remain closed. Emergency matters will be heard at the Garrahy Judicial Complex in Providence and at the Kent County courthouse.
  • Courts are hearing cases remotely using web-based technologies.
  • People with pending cases will experience a delay in receiving a court decision. Cases can be filed online.

The Breakdown for federal courts:  

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

The Bottom Line

  • The RI Judiciary and US District Court of RI are open and will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 to determine how courts will operate. Expect additional administrative orders to be issued by specific courts. Additional administrative orders may be issued by specific courts.
    Menu



CSI

Headline: ACI video visitation permitted at RI Department of Corrections as of June 22, 2020.

 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 11:00am, July 27, 2020

The Basics:

Key Resources:

1. RI Judiciary

2. The Department of Corrections Facebook

Court matters: 

  • Most courthouses have reopened with restrictions.
    • All criminal jury selection and trials are continued to September 2020 (no jury selection or trials during July or August 2020).
  • The District Court has this administrative order. No criminal pre-trials or trials are currently being scheduled. 
    • McGrath Judicial Complex and Murray Judicial Complex plan to be closed until Sept. 8.
  • Adult Drug Court and Diversion calendars are resuming on a limited basis.
  • Expungements can be filed, but parties should not appear in court. Decisions will be mailed to relevant parties.

Department of Corrections (DOC):

  • The RI DOC has indefinitely suspended all in-person visitations to the Adult Correctional Institute (ACI),but is now allowing video visitation. Safety rules and protocols for this system, as well as visitation hour schedules, can be found at the RI DOC Facebook Page.
    • Deposits to inmate accounts can be made online at Access Corrections.
    • RI DOC is issuing a daily transparency report that can be found at the RI DOC Facebook page.
    • Reentry identification card expiration dates have been extended for 60 days.
  • The RI Parole Board is still hearing cases.

Wyatt Detention Center (federal)

  • All visitors will need to complete a screening process before entering the facility. See here for more details and general safety protocols.
  • For more information about the Wyatt Detention Center, check their website.

The Breakdown: 

  • Criminal matters are still be heard, with limitations.
  • The DOC will continue to take safety measures and monitor for the emergence of new cases
  • The Parole Board is taking steps to reduce the RI’s population of incarcerated people to effectively curb the rapid spread of COVID-19.
    • ACLU has already influenced Federal RI Judge to release ICE detainees from Wyatt Detention Center.
    • Probationers and Parolees with questions should contact their PO for further instructions. Menu

Education_Childcare

Headline: RIDE is evaluating school district reopening plans.

 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 9:00am, July 30, 2020

The Basics:

Schools:

Key Resources:

1. Rhode Island Dept. of Ed (RIDE)

  • RI schools are expected to reopen in the fall, although it’s not yet clear whether students will return to full in-person, remote or hybrid models of learning.
  • RIDE launched a new website called “Back 2 School Rhode Island” that centralizes information on school reopening plans.
    • RIDE issued this guide for reopening elementary and secondary schools.
    • RIDE ‘s reopening FAQ here (updated July 17, 2020).
  • RI school districts will follow a state-wide calendar starting this fall.
  • RIDE’s regular COVID-19 related updates can be found here.

Libraries:

  • Most libraries are offering curb-side pick-up. Check Ocean State Libraries for the latest information or with individual libraries.

Summer Camps and Summer Learning:

  • Summer camps are open with capacity restrictions and other guidelines. An approved summer camp directory can be found here.

Resources for Parents and Students: 

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

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.

The Breakdown:

  • Rights to education have not been suspended during the pandemic, but it may be more challenging for parents to advocate.
  • Plans for the fall reopening are pending with more information to come later in July.

The Bottom Line

  • Summer camps can open following specific rules.
  • Students can expect to return to school in the fall. Full details about the school return are still being worked out.Menu


Childcare

Headline: Some daycares have reopened.

 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 9:00am, July 28, 2020

 

The Basics:

Key Resource

RI Dept. of Human Services

  • Daycares are permitted to reopen with capacity guidelines and restrictions.
  • DHS has made these commitments regarding the CCAP:
    • 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)
  • For the latest changes to DHS programs, including CCAP, visit the DHS “what’s new” page.

First Note: Households that received the pandemic unemployment compensation (PUC) may be over income for CCAP eligibility. For example, a household of 3 whose income exceeds $925/week would lose eligibility for CCAP. PUC ends this week. Families previously over income may be eligible again starting the week of August 2, 2020.

Second Note: In March, the federal government distributed economic stimulus payments equaling $1200/adult. The stimulus payment DOES NOT impact CCAP eligibility. For more information, see this FAQ (ESP) (updated April 23, 2020).

 The Breakdown:

  • Daycares were permitted to reopen on June 1, 2020 if they had submitted their reopening plans to the state by May 22, 2020. Check with individual daycare providers for specific opening information.
  • Rhode Islanders with child-care vouchers should not lose their vouchers due to day-care closures but do need to comply with all recertification and income eligibility requirements. The extra boost in unemployment insurance may put some families over the CCAP income threshold and they could then lose their voucher.
  • Pandemic unemployment compensation may have put some families over the income threshold making them ineligible for CCAP. While PUC is ending this week, Congress may pass additional legislation to support families with unemployed individuals.

The Bottom Line

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

The Bottom Line

  • Daycare is available in Rhode Island. Menu

Employment

Headline: The final pandemic unemployment compensation ($600/week) will be issued this week.

 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 9:00 am, July 28, 2020

The Basics: 

Key Resources

1. RI Dept. of Labor & Training 

2. Economic Progress Institute

  • COVID-19 has disrupted much of the nation’s economy, with historic number of unemployed. Both the federal government and the state have taken steps to help people currently unemployed or unable to work due to COVID-19 illness or related caregiving needs.

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

Federal:

  • In March 2020, Congress passed several acts to help workers impacted by COVID-19.
  • Through December 31, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires covered employers to provide paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave to certain employees. See MLPB digest for more information.
  • Congress also passed the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”), a stimulus bill to support individual Americans as well as businesses.
    • Note that some, but not all, of the provisions of the CARES Act, including the extra $600/week for unemployment recipients is set to expire by the end of July. See MLPB digest for more information.

State:

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

RI Benefits:

JOB LOSS:

If someone has...
  • lost their job, then apply immediately for Unemployment Insurance through the online portal. (in ASL)
    • DLT is processing a historically high volume of UI applications.
    • For independent contractor, members of the “gig economy” and hair stylists, applications are available.
    • UI has this UI Fact sheet.(updated April 22, 2020)
  • UI benefits stopped due to fraud, verify your account with DLT here.
    • DLT FAQ on UI for applicants and recipients here.
  • If someone believes...
    • they have been a victim of fraud, then consider filing a report with the Attorney General’s office here.
    • they have been discriminated against, then considering filing a complaint with the RI Commission for Human Rights.
PAID LEAVE:
  • RI offers workers several options for paid leave that can be used in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Sick and Safe Leave (FAQ) (updated March 5, 2020)
    • With some exceptions most part-time, full-time, seasonal, temporary or other employees who work primarily in Rhode Island can earn one paid hour off for every 35 hours worked. 
  • Temporary Disability Insurance
    • Provides up to 30 weeks of benefits for employees who have been injured or become ill
    • Offers up to 60% of wages (plus dependent benefits)
    • If under quarantine, DLT has waived the required medical certification, and instead will allow temporary qualification via self-attestation of quarantine due to COVID-19.
    • File TDI here.
Temporary Caregivers Insurance
  • Provides 4 weeks of paid leave for people providing caregiving to a seriously ill family member (or to bond with an infant or foster child placed within the last 12 months)
  • File TCI here.

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 Breakdown:

  • RI has several paid leave programs for working Rhode Islanders impacted by COVID-19, including TDI and Unemployment Insurance.
    1. The Economic Progress Institute’s has an FAQ on employment benefits (ESP).
    2. Senator Jack Reed’s Office also has this additional employment information found here.
  • Since March, 200,000+ Rhode Islanders have filed for UI and other state benefits. This means that while applications can be filed online, DLT website is under strain and may load slowly.
  • The CARES Act impact on unemployment:
    1. Extends the length of UI from 26 to 39 weeks.
    2. Laid-off workers will receive an extra $600 per week through July. July also marks the last month for gig economy employees to receive unemployment benefits.
    3. Workers typically excluded from RI’s traditional paid leave and UI programs may be eligible for UI benefits.
  • The FFRCA Act can provide certain employees with paid leave either because:
    • they are required to quarantine or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking a medical diagnosis, OR
    • to provide caregiving either to a family member with COVID-19 or to care for a child home due to school or daycare closures

The Bottom Line:

  • As RI begins its reopening process, employees returning to work may have questions, especially those who are providing caregiving to family members. The DLT has this Returning to Work FAQ (updated May 12, 2020) that helps explain when employees can use “good cause” to continue receiving UI even if their employer has reopened.
  • Additional unemployment and other work-related benefits may become available if the federal government passes new legislation.

Spotlight on non-discrimination:

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

Food_Income Insecurity

Headline: New SNAP increases for the month of August.

 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 9:00am, July 30, 2020

The Basics:

DHS offices have suspended their customer-facing services. State benefit applications can still be submitted online or be dropped off at a DHS office.

  • DHS has made changes to the recertification process, increased benefits and relaxed some requirements. A summary of SNAP (as well as other benefit program) changes can be found here. Highlights include:
    • Recertification deadlines have been extended for SNAP benefits. SNAP recipients will have up to 6 months to recertify.
    • Important for “able-bodied adults without dependents” (ABAWD) – New rules that would have restricted SNAP access to ABAWD have been suspended due to a court injunction. This means that an ABAWD can still receive SNAP benefits.
    • Apply here for SNAP.

SNAP Increase:

  • SNAP families who receive less than the maximum benefit for their household size will receive an increase starting August 4, 2020 that brings the household to the maximum amount. See this press release for more information.

Online SNAP purchasing

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

  • One pager here (ESP). (updated July 2020)
  • Please visit here for more information regarding Amazon delivery using SNAP EBT, and here for more information regarding Walmart acceptance of SNAP EBT payments.
    • Cranston will be active for online purchasing on August 27th and Warwick and Providence on September 29th, but only for pick-up, not delivery.

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).

Food Pantries:

  • Demand for food pantry resources is up.
  • The RI Community Food Bank continues to work with partner agencies.
    • The Bank is reintroducing its Kids Café Meal Program, which provides a fresh afternoon meal to children and takes place at the Pawtucket YMCA. Individuals can learn more about the program here.
    • More local Pantry information can be found here
    • An interactive Emergency and Supplemental Food Site Map can be found here.
    • Updates to the RI Food Bank can be found here.

WIC

  • Women, Infants and Children (WIC) offices are open to remote services but closed to in-person appointments. WIC is currently following the WIC State of Emergency policy that lists pre-approve substitutions for milk and food.
    • For updated information about WIC programing as well as a list of WIC offices, visit this DHS page.
    • The Economic Progress has this one-pager on WIC (ESP) (updated April 2020).
    • Families unable to leave their home due to quarantine or isolation requirements can designate another person to make purchases on behalf of a WIC recipient through September 30, 2020. A proxy letter is required and samples can be found here

School lunch programs

  • Free and Reduced School lunch programs ended in June. Some cities and community-based organizations have “Grab and Go” programs, and EBT cards can be utilized here. Here is the RIDOH list of participating municipalities.
  • As mentioned above, children can also get a free afternoon meal from the Kids Café Meal Program at Pawtucket YMCA.
Meals on Wheels
  • Meals on Wheels is currently delivering to older adults, but some dining sites in Providence have been suspended.
  • For the latest on operations, visit Meals on Wheels COVID-19 response page.

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP)

  • CFAP has created the Farmers to Families Food Box program for individuals that are food insecure, distributing about 3,750 boxes weekly that are filled with local produce and dairy products. The Rhode Island Food Bank and FarmFreshRI have begun distribution, and a list highlighting which food bank serves you can be found here.
  • CFAP also maintains a program that will provide vital financial assistance for farmers and ranchers taking a large hit from COVID-19. The application process for receiving aid is highlighted here.

RI Delivers

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

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.

SNAP:

  • Although many food delivery services are not equipped to take EBT card payments at this time, Amazon and participating Walmart stores are now accepting SNAP EBT payments.
  • SNAP recipients who were required to recertify in March, April or May will have up to 6 months to complete the recertification process. SNAP benefits will be maintained through September, October and November respectively.
    • While this deadline has been extended, SNAP recipients should recertify to avoid a disruption of their benefits.
  • P-EBT increases the amount of SNAP benefits for existing SNAP recipients and for eligible households with one or more children who are enrolled in reduced/free school lunch programs. Here is additional guidance (ESP) for families. Guidance here (ESP) (updated July 16, 2020).

WIC:

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

Note: In March, the federal government distributed economic stimulus payments equaling $1200/adult. The stimulus payment DOES NOT impact RI Works or WIC eligibility. For more information, see this FAQ.

School Lunches:

  • There are various cities and community-based organizations that offer “Grab and Go” programs where EBT cards can be used. Here is the RIDOH list of participating municipalities.

Food Pantries:

  • Pantries are still operating, just with less volunteers than usual.
  • Many pantries are not accepting food donations, but monetary donations from third parties are still welcome.
  • Parents should check out the Kids Café Meal Program for information about free afternoon meals for children.

CFAP:

  • For the next several weeks, the RI Food Bank and FarmFresh will continue to work to roll out the food box distribution process.

The Bottom Line

  • Food access challenges will likely persist as social distancing rules are extended, and jobless rates continue to increase.
  • As the state begins to take steps toward lifting COVID-19 related orders, waivers related to certification or document production may also be lifted.
  • SNAP recipients should continue to monitor DHS’ requests for information and to comply with certification requests to ensure that benefits are issued in a timely manner.
  • “Grab and Go” meals are available for children throughout the state.
Menu


 

Rhode Island Works (cash assistance)

Headline: RI Works recipients will receive a one-time emergency payment in June. RI Works recipients can now use benefits to make online purchases at participating Walmarts.

 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 9:00am, July 28, 2020

 

The Basics:

Key Resource

RI Dept. of Human Services

Emergency Payment:

  • RI Works recipients will receive a one-time emergency payment to offset expenses incurred during the pandemic.
    • To be eligible, families must have received RI Works either in April or May.
    • The one-time payment is expected to be issued directly to EBT cards on June 19, 2020.
    • To determine the amount of the emergency allotment for qualified families, see this chart (scroll down to access the chart).
    • Once allocated, recipients will have 90 days to spend the benefits.

 On-line purchasing

  • RI Works recipients can use benefits to make online food and other purchases at participating Walmarts.
    • Delivery fees will still apply. Amazon typically offers free delivery for purchases over $35.00.

COVID-related program waivers

  • RI Works typically requires applicants to comply with a variety of requirements, such as creating work plans or participating in job programs. In response to COVID-19, DHS has created these policy and procedures. These include:
    • 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.

Economic Stimulus Payment:

  • In March, the federal government distributed economic stimulus payments equaling $1200/adult. The stimulus payment DOES NOT impact RI Works. For more information, see this FAQ.

The Breakdown:

  • Eligible RI Works recipients will receive one-time additional benefit on their EBT card.
  • RI Works recipients required to recertify in March, April, and May, will have 6 months to complete the process and will have their benefit maintained through September, October and November respectively.
  • Application supports and program requirements are being adjusted, often with waivers and good cause exemptions be applied.
  • Families receiving RI Works should continue to receive RI Works even if they can’t complete their work plans.

The Bottom Line:

  • RI Works recipients should continue to monitor DHS’ requests for information and to comply with program requirements to ensure that there are no disruptions to program enrollment. Menu

Gov ID

Headline: The DMV is open in several locations.

 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 9:00am, July 28, 2020

The Basics:

Key Resources

1. RI Division of Motor Vehicles

2. AAA

  • The Cranston, Middletown, Wakefield and Woonsocket DMVs are open by reservation only. Some satellite DMVs remain closed. Reservations are available two weeks out.
  • Driver’s licenses and IDs that expired in March have been extended for 180 days. For licenses and IDs that expired in April, May, or June have been extended for 90 days.
  • AAA has reopened some of their storefronts. Roadside assistance remains available.

The Breakdown

  • Driver license and learner permit services are available, as well as other services.
  • AAA is slowly reopening its storefront services to customers.
  • If a person’s license is set to expire in the month of May, it will now expire in If the license was sent to expire in June, it will now expire in September.
  • 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 and AAA may resume more customer-facing activities with social distance rules and policies. Menu

Health Insurance

Headline: Special enrollments options may be available to uninsured Rhode Islanders.

 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 9:00am, July 28, 2020

The Basics:

Key Resources

1. Office of the Health Commissioner

2. HealthSourceRI

3. RIPIN

Health Insurance Enrollment:

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

Note: The federal pandemic unemployment compensation (i.e. the extra $600/week) will NOT count towards Medicaid eligibility.

Coverage Changes:

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

  • Medicaid renewals and recertification deadlines have been extended, and terminations are on hold.
  • RI’s health insurance commissioner has ordered all health insurers in Rhode Island, including Medicaid, to cover testing for COVID-19 with no copays.
    • Insurers also must cover treatment for those infected by COVID-19, retroactively if necessary.
  • Telemedicine restrictions have been relaxed through August 3, 2020.
    • Health insurers must cover telemedicine for primary care, specialty care, and mental and behavioral health care conducted over the phone or by videoconference.
      • Phones can be used for telemedicine appointments for those fully insured or with Medicaid.
      • For Medicare, both audio and video capabilities are needed for telemedicine appointments.
    • Telemedicine will be available across RI and MA state lines.
    • Some Early Intervention services will be covered.
  • Insured patients will not be charged for COVID-19 related testing or treatment. OHIC and the Department of Business Regulation has this additional FAQ.
  • An executive order signed on April 27, 2020 created temporary rules suspending certain regulations for providers and limiting certain insurer restrictions.
    • A full list of the changes can be found here, but include easing requirements by insurers for specialty referrals, eliminating pre-authorizations for COVID-19 related testing and treatment, and preventing insurers from raising certain out-of-pocket patient costs.

Testing:

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

The Breakdown:

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

The Bottom Line

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

Housing Instability

Headline: The Federal Eviction Moratorium expired July 24, 2020.

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 10:00am, July 28, 2020

The Basics:

Key Resources

1. HomesRI - For tenants

2. RI Housing - for homeowners

As of July 1, 2020 

  • Evictions can be filed. Due to back logs and court COVID-19 protocols, evictions are being scheduled based on a priority assignment process. Evictions that are based on lengthy arrearages will be scheduled first.
  • Other eviction matters already being heard will continue to be heard. This includes matters involving public safety violations and evictions that were filed before March 17, 2020.

Note: Eviction in rentals covered by VAWA (e.g. public housing, Section 8) are covered by a federal moratorium expired on July 24, 2020.

Eviction defense is available for Providence residents! The City of Providence has $1 million in aid to support Providence residents. RI Legal Services and the RI Center for Justice will offer assistance on a rolling basis.

Rental assistance is available for a limited time! Example programs include:

  • Safe Harbor Housing Program gives tenants a solution outside of the court system by allowing them to create a multi-month payment plan with their landlord intended to ease their financial burden during COVID-19. Any tenant who falls into a low-income criteria and is behind on their rent as a result of COVID-19 is welcome to apply.
  • Tenants will be able to organize their payment plan with landlords, as well as have access to free legal advice/services if needed.
  • To apply, tenants or landlords can visit United Way’s website or call (401) 444-0600 and ask about the “Safe Harbor Housing Program.” Both landlords and tenants must be willing to participate.
  • Visit here for more information.
  • HomeSafe rental assistance fund is open and a common application found here. (Applicants will have to create an account and select the “HomeSafe” option). This is a one-time grant of financial assistance for families experiencing housing insecurity. Eligibility is narrow. Applicants must:
    • have a qualifying short-term housing emergency (e.g. at risk of imminent homelessness)
    • have lived in RI since May 1, 2019, and
    • meet income eligibility (at or below 50% Area Median Income).
  • HousingHelpRI is temporarily closed to new applications.
  • Dorcas International has the weR1 program, which supports those unable to access benefits due to immigration status. Due to demand, applicants are encouraged to apply only once. Program overview here (ESP). (updated July 2020) One-pager here (ESP). (updated July 2020)

New Landlord Incentives: 

  • The state launched a new initiative to incentivize RI landlords to rent to households experiencing homelessness or who have Section 8 vouchers. Participating landlords are eligible for a $2000 signing bonus. Landlords will receive another $500 for every additional unit they rent to a low-income family.

Conditions of Disrepair:

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

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

Homeowners:

  • Homeowners with FHA mortgages and who are facing foreclosure may be protected by a federal moratorium that lasts through August 31, 2020.
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have developed online multifamily property lookup tools to help renters find out if they are protected from evictions during the pandemic.
  • A number of mortgage forbearance plans have been made available by mortgage companies. Contact RIHousing for specific questions about homeownership.

The Breakdown for...

Tenants and Landlords

Once the court reopens, evictions will be filed and will be ordered. Starting June 2, 2020, the court will only hear evictions filed before March 17, 2020 or if the eviction involves a public safety violation. Tenants must receive notice about the cases filed against them and they have a chance to submit their responses (called an “answer”) to these evictions. New evictions will not be processed any earlier than July 1, 2020.  Until then:

  • Private rentals: If a tenant owes more than 3-months rent, their case will receive scheduling priority.
    • If possible, tenants should make every effort to pay back rent.
    • Tenants who are housing insecure should apply immediately for rental assistance.

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

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

Homeowners: 

  • Some homeowners may be eligible for a forbearance on their mortgage payments and some might be able to delay an impending foreclosure for weeks.
  • 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 Bottom Line:  

  • RI will see a spike in evictions in July and August as the court begins to hear non-payment of rent cases.
  • Emergency rental assistance funds are scarce and often have specific eligibility guidelines. The federal government is considering the additional allocation of rental assistance funds to the states.
  • Housing advocates are working to create additional supports for tenants.

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: Some cooling centers are open. 

 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 11:00am, July 28, 2020

 

The Basics:

Key Resource

RI Coalition for the Homeless

  • Shelters are open. People experiencing homelessness can call individual shelters or 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.
  • Emergency cooling centers are only open in limited locations. Check RI Emergency Management Agency for specific city updates or RI Coalition for the Homeless for updates.

The Breakdown for people experiencing homelessness in RI:

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

The Bottom Line:

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

Immigration

Headline: There are updated resources for undocumented and holders of DACA, TPS and DED.

 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 9:00am, July 21, 2020

The Basics:

Key Resources

1. National Immigration Law Center

2. United States Citizenship and Immigrant Services (USCIS)

  • USCIS field offices are open to non-emergency customer-facing activities. Updates here
  • For more information on immigration updates generally visit MLPB’s Federal Digest.
  • Immigration Court operational status can be found here.
    • Boston Immigration Court is open for filings and detainee hearings, but other cases are not and are being rescheduled. 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.
  • ICE has temporarily adjusted its enforcement priorities and will not make any arrests near hospitals, doctor’s offices or medical facilities.
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program that permits some undocumented people who came as children (aka “Dreamers”) to have a lawful presence in the US without fear of deportation AND work authorizations. The Trump administration moved to end DACA, which was challenged in the courts. The US Supreme Court held that the Trump administration termination was done incorrectly. While this ruling does not resolve all questions related to DACA, it does open the door for new DACA applications.

Community Resources

  • Mutual aid and other forms are community are available but in limited supply. Dorcas International has the weR1 program, which supports those unable to access benefits due to immigration status. Application volume is high- expect longer processing times.

 The Breakdown

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

 

Public Charge

Headline: The public charge test implementation is temporarily suspended due to court challenge.

 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 9:00am, July 27, 2020

 The Basics:

Key Resource

Protecting Immigrant Families Coalition

  • On July 29, 2020, a federal court ordered a nationwide temporary injunction blocking the enforcement of the new public charge test while there is a declared national emergency. More information here.
  • USCIS has made it clear that the new public charge rule will not apply to:
    • Testing, treatment or preventative care for COVID-19
    • WIC, school lunch programs, food pantries
    • Disaster relief

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

The Breakdown: 

  • The new public charge test can not be used while there is a national emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 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.
  • Concerns for public charge will likely persist, but the federal government has made it clear that immigrants who need COVID-19 testing and related treatment will not be subject to the test. Eligible immigrants should continue to use WIC, school lunch programs and pantries. 

The Bottom Line:

  • While there is a declared national emergency, the new public charge test cannot be used by USCIS. There are still unanswered questions about how this court injunction will impact applications, and continued monitoring is required. For now, families with questions about public charge should connect with immigration experts to have their specific questions and needs evaluated.

Menu


IPV

Headline: IPV safety planning resources are available. Courts can issue restraining orders.

 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 2:00pm, July 27, 2020

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.

IPV/DV

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

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.
    • Access to community-based resources has always been challenging for IPV and elder abuse survivors but even more so during this health crisis.
    • Offer IPV survivors safety planning resources with the addition of expectation management that acknowledges the current limitations of what community IPV organizations can provide. Menu

Mental Health

Headline: The stresses of COVID-19 may impact mental health. Resources are available for Rhode Islanders.

 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 1:00pm, July 27, 2020

Online Resources for Adults:

Key Resources:

1. BH Link

2. Kids Link

3. RI Dept. Of Behavioral Healthcare

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 Hotlineis 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.
    • Please dial (401) 6060-5456 to reach this Hotline.
  • For certified peer recovery services during COVID-19, there are several community centers that hold available response call lines available from 8AM-8PM.

The Basics for Children:

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

The Basics for Older Adults:

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

The Breakdown: 

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

Transportation Needs-1

Headline: Expirations for Reduced Fare and No Fare Bus passes have been extended through August 1, 2020.

 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 11:00am, July 28, 2020

The Basics 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.
  • Certain transit centers, such as Kennedy Plaza, are closed. Check here for a current list.
  • To see the latest detours and schedule changes, check here.
  • RIPTA had instituted new rules for riders.
    • RIPTA is limiting the number of passengers on buses for fixed routes. No more than 20 people will be permitted on the bus.
    • RIPTA is asking passengers to wear cloth face masks.
  • Expirations for Reduced Fare and No Fare Bus passes have been extended through August 1, 2020.
    • To find out where you can buy bus tickets, check here.
through June 30, 2020.
  • To find out where to buy bus tickets, check here.

The Basics for non-emergency medical transportation…

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

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

Utility Needs

Headline: The utility moratorium for low-income residential customers is extended through November 1, 2020.

 

Last-reviewed Timestamp: 11:00am, July 28, 2020

The Basics:

Key Resources

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

2. George Wiley Center

  • Through November 1, 2020, for low-income residential customers the PUC has ordered:
    • Utility terminations based on non-payment (electric and gas) are suspended.
    • Collection activities to be suspended.
    • Late fees, credit card charges, and interest are suspended.
    • The PUC has also directed utility companies to conduct outreach to utility customers with arrearages to discuss payment plans.
  • Through September 30, 2020, utility terminations for all other residential utility customers are suspended.

The Breakdown:

  • All residential utility customers are protected from shut-off through September 30, 2020. After that, only low-income utility customers are protected through November 1, 2020. November 1 is also the start of RI’s annual winter moratorium that protects certain customers from utility shut-off. The winter moratorium lasts until April 15, 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.

The Bottom Line

  • All utility customers are protected from shut-off through the end of September with additional protections extended to low-income customers through April 2021.Menu

Internet

The Basics:

  • A phone and internet provider pledge that promised not to terminate services, waive late fees incurred due to COVID-19 and open access to public Wi-Fi hotspots expired June 30. No word whether this pledge will be extended.
  • For resources to assist in obtaining phone and Internet access, check the RI Office of Innovation.

Free/Reduced Cost programs:

  • Cox is offering for new customers who sign up between July 21 and September 30, free Connect2Compete service for 2 months. After that, it will cost the customer $9.95/month. For a full explanation of the services visit Cox.

The Breakdown: 

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

The Bottom Line:

  • Disconnections may occur later on this summer if the pledge is not extended further. Continued monitoring is needed. Menu

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.

Menu

 

 

© 2020 MLPB, a fiscally sponsored program of TSNE MissionWorks