By Lauren Steele
The coronavirus doesn’t discriminate who it infects—from world leaders like Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and celebrities to our neighbors and family members. And although everyone is at risk for infection, the toll that the pandemic is taking financially and socially is far from equal. Low-income families and minorities are bearing the biggest burden of all.
We wanted to provide a guide that can help you through this difficult time. Resources and assistance programs are in place to help keep stability in your life during this exceptionally unstable time. That’s why we rounded up the resources you need to know about to stay healthy right now.
Call 211. Dialing 211 works a lot like calling 911, but for social services instead of emergencies. In fact, 211 is the most comprehensive source of social services in the United States. A simple call will connect you to a professional in your area and help you find and access resources in your community like food pantries, meal delivery services, and public benefits like SNAP and WIC. In fact, 211 receives more than 2 million requests for assistance with food and hunger each year. When you call, they connect you with programs that can help you pay your mortgage, rent, utilities, tax bills, medical bills, and more. The United Way—a longtime partner of FamilyWize—provides funding for more than 70% of 211 centers in the U.S., which are available to 95% of Americans. All calls are completely confidential and 180 different languages are available.
Currently, there is no cost to be tested for COVID-19—no matter where, no matter what. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act guarantees all Americans can receive free coronavirus testing. This includes those with private insurance, government insurance (Medicare, Medicare Advantage, HUSKY [Medicaid & CHIP], VA, FEHBP, and TRICARE), and those who are not insured. Many states are also waiving fees for treatment of COVID-19. Additionally, undocumented individuals can seek medical care and testing for COVID-19 without fear of public charge—these services will not be considered when making public charge determinations.
But it can be more complicated to find a testing site, since COVID-19 testing differs by location. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and want to get tested, call your medical provider first. You can also find testing sites and medical providers in your state health department directory or local external health department directory for the most up-to-date information.
Medicaid and CHIP offer free or low-cost health insurance for kids and teens. Select your state on this webpage to find information on health insurance programs in your state. If you prefer to talk to someone about qualifying, you can call 1-877-KIDS-NOW.
Whether you have kids who need access to the Internet for homeschooling and logging in to online classes, you’re working remotely from home and need Internet access, or you simply need the Internet to research and connect with assistance resources (like filing for unemployment), having a connection is vital. Lifeline is a federal program that provides a $9.25 monthly subsidy for broadband services that you can apply and qualify for now. And to make it easier during the pandemic, the FCC has temporarily waived Lifeline usage requirements and general de-enrollment procedures until May 29, 2020.
If you are qualified for any of the below federal assistance programs, you may automatically qualify for Lifeline:
Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
Some Tribal assistance programs may also qualify you for Lifeline, including:
Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
Head Start (if income eligibility criteria are met)
Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
If you don’t qualify for Lifeline, many Internet service providers offer low-income Internet packages:
AT&T – Up to 10 Mbps for $5/mo. or $10/mo.
Cox – Up to 15 Mbps for $9.95/mo.
Mediacom – Up to 10 Mbps for $9.95/mo.
Spectrum – Up to 30 Mbps for $14.99/mo.
Xfinity – Up to 15 Mbps for $9.95/mo.
Check out All Connect’s affordable internet guide for program details and other available options.
If you need to find low-cost computers for your students at home or to be able to work from home, InterConnection offers computers for low-income individuals and families through their ConnectAll program. Additionally, PCs for People offer no-cost computers, computer repair, internet service, and learning resources for individuals and families below the 200% poverty level or currently enrolled in an income-based government assistance program.
Well, you’ve come to the right place. FamilyWize provides individuals with access to more affordable prescription medication through our savings cards. There are no fees or eligibility requirements to receive a FamilyWize savings card, which is accepted in most pharmacies across the U.S. and can save you money on your prescriptions regardless of your insurance status. Simply start by typing your medication into our Price Lookup Tool and see how much you can save.
The isolation and stress of this time is paramount, and that’s why the Centers for Disease Control is offering a list of resources and guides for managing stress, anxiety, and how to cope through the COVID-19 pandemic. But if you need immediate help for the emotional pain you are feeling, free 24/7 crisis support is available by texting The Crisis Text Line at 741-741.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Distress Helpline also provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to disasters such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 and you will be connected with a trained crisis counselor.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has compiled this guide for Emotional Wellbeing During the COVID-19 Outbreak. Additionally, most states and insurance providers are waiving copays and deductibles for teletherapy—which is therapy and counseling that is provided via phone or video conferencing. So if you already have a therapist you are working with, your counseling may qualify to be completely free during this time.
If you need support for addiction, Tempest is also offering free virtual support meetings to help people maintain or continue their path to sobriety while socially isolating. They have also launched a COVID-19 scholarship for their Recovery at Home program.
If you need help because you are experiencing domestic violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline has posted a “Staying Safe During Covid-19” guide for survivors and their families. Trained counselors are also available by phone 24 hours a day at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) and by chat at thehotline.org.
It is hard to be active and stay healthy right now when you belong to the at-risk population of folks who are over the age of 65. That’s why the National Institute on Aging, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, is providing low-impact workout videos specifically designed for seniors for free.
Additionally, the National Council on Aging has a hub for everything older adults need to know in order to stay in-the-know during the pandemic, including information about coronavirus scams and how to get benefits assistance. Or if you are feeling isolated or lonely, you can call the Institute on Aging’s toll-free friendship line to get support, advice, or just someone to talk to.
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program provides a monthly package of healthy food for seniors. To apply, call 1-866-348-6479 to find your state contact, or find the closest commodity food distribution contact online.
First thing’s first, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is the largest government assistance program solely dedicated to helping people access food for their families at a lower cost. To find out if you are eligible and to apply for SNAP, find your local agency in this state directory.
And even though the Families First Coronavirus Response Act allows states raise SNAP benefits to the maximum household amount, it’s not enough. That’s why states can use a new temporary program—Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT)—to help get food to the nearly 30 million children in low-income families who can’t access their free or reduced-price school meals because of school closures. Currently Arizona, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, and Rhode Island have submitted plans. The USDA approved the first yesterday, allowing Michigan to launch its P-EBT program. To issue its benefits, Michigan will match SNAP data against data from its education department’s list of students receiving free or reduced-price meals, so families with SNAP benefits will get P-EBT benefits on their SNAP EBT cards. Other students will get P-EBT cards in the mail along with instructions on how to use them.
If you need immediate food aid, you can call the USDA National Hunger Hotline, which operates Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET. Call 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273). Information is available in English and Spanish.
There is also a wonderful resource made available by Feeding America, which helps you find the nearest Food Bank and feeding programs in your community through this directory.
No matter what, there are ways to get help. If you have any other questions or need access to resources that aren’t covered here, please call 211. Calls are routed by the local telephone company to a local or regional calling center, so the referral specialist you reach will be able to give you information specific to your area.
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