Where can I find help during the pandemic? Government assistance FAQs

Share this post

I’m struggling to find a job.

If you are an immigrant or refugee professional, join our free job search program. If you do not qualify for our full program, check out our job search guide for helpful tips and our free online courses.

Government assistance programs are so confusing, how can I tell if my visa type is eligible?

Check out Upwardly Global’s Citizenship Status and Federal Benefits infographic. Keep in mind that there are eligibility requirements beyond visa status. Often, the best way to see if you qualify is to apply. 

I lost my job, or my hours were cut.

You may qualify for federal Unemployment Insurance (UI), a weekly payment from the government to help replace a portion of your paycheck. Due to the pandemic, you can now get UI even if you have a short work history, are a gig worker, or are self-employed.

Immigrants are eligible for UI if they had an EAD while they were employed, at the time of applying for UI, and during the UI assistance period.

Find your state unemployment office

I am struggling to pay rent.

Many states and localities have Emergency Rental Assistance programs that provide qualifying individuals with money while funds last. Use this map to find them.

The good news is that you do not have to move out if you cannot pay rent due to coronavirus, even though you will likely need to pay your rent back in the future. This is because you likely enjoy two levels of eviction protection, local and national. Learn more about protections in your state and nationally.

If you receive anything in writing from your landlord, do not sign or respond to it before getting legal advice. Contact 211 if you need help finding legal assistance in your area for housing issues.

I need help purchasing food.

You may qualify for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps low-income individuals purchase food. SNAP is available to qualified immigrants. Immigrants who are not eligible can apply through eligible household members, including children.

Find your state SNAP office

I need help getting health care.

You may qualify for federal health care for low-income people, known as Medicaid. If you exceed Medicaid income requirements, but have children, your household may qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

If you are a mother who is pregnant or has a child up to the age of 5, you may qualify for Women Infants and Children (WIC) assistance, which helps you with healthcare costs. 

Medicaid and CHIP are available to qualified immigrants. Some states have opted to include more types of immigrants in these assistance programs. WIC is available to anyone, regardless of immigration status.

Find your state Medicaid/CHIP office

Find your state WIC office

I need cash for purchases other than food or health care.

You may qualify for federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This money is to assist you with food, shelter, utilities, and expenses other than health care. TANF is available to qualified immigrants.

Find your state TANF office

I need help paying for home utilities (gas, electric, water, etc.).

If you are already receiving SNAP, TANF, or Social Security benefits (a pension for retirees 62 and older) then you may qualify for the Low Income High Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to reduce the cost of your home utilities.

If you do not qualify for LIHEAP, be aware that utilities companies across the country are assisting customers who cannot pay. Contact your energy provider immediately if you will be unable to pay.

Find your local LIHEAP program

I need help with telephone and internet costs.

If you are receiving SNAP, SSI, Medicaid, or public housing, or if you are at or below the federal poverty line, you may qualify for the FCC Lifeline Program to help pay for telephone and internet costs.

Learn more about the Lifeline Program

Many companies are also offering delayed payments, suspended late fees, and more during the pandemic. Reach out to your provider to learn more about your options. Also be aware of these low/no-cost options:

  • Comcast is offering 2 months of free internet to new “Internet Essentials” customers who are low income through December 31st, 2020. This program is $9.95/month plus tax for returning customers.
  • Spectrum is providing free/low-cost internet to qualifying individuals and families.
  • Xfinity is providing free WiFi hotspots for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak.

I have coronavirus and cannot work, can I get paid sick leave?

If your company does not usually have paid sick leave, you may still be able to collect paid sick leave under the expanded Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Check with your employer to see if they are required to provide paid sick leave under the expanded FMLA. 

If you got sick at work, then you may qualify for Worker’s Compensation depending on your occupation and the state you live in. Worker’s compensation is a type of insurance that covers wage replacement and medical expenses for workers injured on the job. 

There are no restrictions on immigrants’ ability to collect paid sick leave. As for worker’s compensation, many states allow immigrants to collect it regardless of their visa status.

Find your state’s worker’s compensation division

I am worried about “public charge.” If I seek government assistance, will it hurt my immigration case?

The 2019 public charge rule, which impacted a very limited number of immigrants seeking a change of status,  is no longer in effect.

What if I don’t qualify for federal government assistance programs?

You may qualify for state-funded assistance. About half of US states have assistance programs for those who do not qualify for federal assistance, including certain non-citizens. Contact your local social services office to learn more about state-funded benefits.

Can I get non-governmental assistance?

Many grassroots initiatives and nonprofits are working on coronavirus relief nationally and in your area. If you need to find urgent local assistance, call 211.

For a longer list of national and state-level non-governmental assistance, please check out Upwardly Global’s more comprehensive Comprehensive Emergency Resource Guide for Jobseekers & Alumni.

For more information about this guide or Upwardly Global services, contact Tim Workman at outreach@upwardlyglobal.orgThis guide will be updated as new resources come to our attention.

Translate Your Page: