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Resources for Californians Affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges not only to California, but to the country as a whole. Everyone’s life changed in what seemed like a moment’s notice. Initially, schools were temporarily closed and the government encouraged everyone to follow social distancing protocol. Soon after, schools closed for the remainder of the year, non-essential businesses and government operations were shut down; and finally, everyone was ordered to stay at home unless leaving for a specified reason.

COVID-19 poses very serious safety risks for many Californians. And the government’s responses to mitigate against the risk, while necessary, have inevitably taken their toll on employees, families and business owners. The challenges presented by the pandemic cannot be overstated. The United States unemployment rate has reached levels not seen since the Great Depression. For those who are fortunate to have steady work, they must either risk their safety by leaving the home or are stuck at home all day behind a computer. In short, the virus has impacted the life of every Californian.

At Strong Advocates, we want to help you and your family through this undoubtedly difficult time in any way we can. We understand that we cannot solve every problem facing Californians, however, as experienced Los Angeles employment lawyers, we can help California workers who have been adversely impacted by an employer’s decision. While these are challenging times, employers must still follow state and federal laws, and when they do not, Strong Advocates is here to hold them accountable.

In an effort to provide a little help to those who are doing their best to deal with the pandemic, but need some guidance or assistance, we have compiled a list of COVID-19 resources.

General COVID-19 Information

The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a very contagious respiratory disease that is spread through the air. The disease is easily spread through small, invisible droplets that are released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. COVID-19 can also spread when someone touches an infected surface and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.

  • The Symptoms of COVID-19

COVID-19 symptoms of the disease are similar to the flu, including a dry cough, low-grade fever and difficulty breathing. Some patients have reported a loss of smell, general aches and pains, nasal congestion, a runny nose, sore throat and diarrhea. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should isolate themselves from others and immediately reach out to a healthcare professional to determine whether they should be tested.

  • At-Risk Populations

Most of those who are young and healthy will recover within a few weeks. However, even healthy individuals may need to be hospitalized for a few days to a week before recovering. The primary concern presented by the virus is that it presents an increased risk of complication for those over 60 years of age, the immunocompromised, as well as individuals with certain pre-existing health conditions, including:

  • Chronic lung conditions
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • HIV
  • Serious heart conditions
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Staying Safe and Staying Well

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that, to combat the spread of the disease, everyone:

  • Stay at home and self-isolate if they are feeling unwell;
  • Cover their nose and mouth with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing;
  • Wash their hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with liquid soap and water;
  • Follow social distancing protocol by avoiding close contact (within six feet) with those who may have the virus; and
  • Wear a mask to prevent the spread of the virus, even if you do not have symptoms.
  • California’s Response to COVID-19

The decision of how to handle school and business closures was left up to the governors of each state. Governor Newsom has signed a series of executive orders relating to the COVID-19 crisis, which can be found here. Below is a list of links to various websites tracking COVID-19 and the state’s response:

  • COVID-19 Statistics in California

The COVID-19 crisis evolves daily, and so do the suggestions on how to best mitigate against its spread. To stay on top of all updates, occasionally visit the following links:

General California Government Information

Many California government activities have been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the most part, California courts are only hearing emergency matters. The California Judicial Branch maintains a website dedicated to providing participants with updates on court closures, and what matters the court is currently hearing. For example, currently, courts are not hearing eviction or foreclosure proceedings, but will hear a petition for a restraining order. Below is a list of additional resources related to the California court system:

The state government has also created various pages to help Californians understand the pandemic, how to prevent its spread, and how to comply with the state’s stay-at-home order. Below is a list of a few resources:

Resources for California Families:

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone across the state in various ways. Regardless of the specific challenges you are facing, you are not alone. Below is a list of resources for families dealing with the coronavirus crisis:

  • Student Loan Information:

Under recently-passed federal laws, many student loan borrowers are eligible to have their interest rate reduced to zero and some will have their loans placed into an emergency forbearance for the next several months. For those who qualify, payments will not need to be made. However, these benefits only apply to federally-held loans, and private lenders are not required to waive interest. That said, private student loan lenders may be willing to work with those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about student loan relief by the Federal Student Aid webpage or by contacting your loan provider.

  • Stimulus Check Information:

Starting in the middle of April, the United States Treasury began issuing stimulus checks to qualifying Americans. Each qualifying individual will receive $1,200, and those with children under 16 years of age will receive $500 per child. Couples can receive up to $2,400 plus $500 per child. However, there are income limits, and individuals and families that make over a certain amount may not qualify, or may qualify for a reduced stimulus check. By mid-May many individuals and families should have received their stimulus check, provided the IRS has their bank account information. To learn more about the stimulus checks, visit the I.R.S. website. On April 15, 2020, the I.R.S. created a website where individuals can check the status of their stimulus check.

  • Public Benefits and Food-Security Information:

The state government has implemented some important changes in how it administers public benefits. For example, the WIC program can now be accessed online and by phone and CalFresh benefits (food stamps) can also be applied for online. The Employment Development Department maintains a website with additional resources for low-income families and individuals.

For those experiencing homelessness during the pandemic as well as those on the brink of homelessness, the California government has set up a website that can help needy individuals obtain food and housing.

The California Association of Food Banks remains open during the COVID-19 crisis, and provides food to those who need it. The organization has multiple locations across the state. Those in need of assistance can visit the Association’s website.

  • For Victims of Domestic Violence

As a result of Governor Newsom’s stay-at-home order, families are spending more time together. For most, this may be a good thing. However, for those involved in an abusive or otherwise destructive relationship, the stay-at-home order can put them in a dangerous place. The California judiciary has a website dedicated to the victims of domestic violence, with guidance on how to find shelter and file a restraining order. The state’s domestic violence hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-7233. Those who are in immediate danger should not wait until the crisis passes, and should call 911 and report the abuse to the police immediately.

The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence has also set up a webpage to address a few frequently asked questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those leaving abusive relationships may find additional assistance in locating a shelter or additional services by visiting the Partnership’s map tool.

Resources for California Workers

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in millions of Californians being laid off, furloughed or having their hours reduced. While many employers were truly left with no choice but to reduce the number of employees, not all California employers did so in an appropriate manner.

Employment problems can easily lead to financial concerns and will add to the stress and anxiety many Californians are already experiencing. Both state and federal lawmakers have implemented a series of measures to help employees through these employment challenges.

The federal government passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which requires covered employers offer paid leave to employees who are affected by COVID-19. The California Employment Development Department provides more information on the additional unemployment benefits that are made available through the CARES Act. The Department has a dedicated website to those seeking unemployment benefits during the pandemic. In addition, the Department has a list of FAQs for both employers and employers to help guide them through these unprecedented times.

It is also important to keep in mind that, while businesses large and small are facing difficult times, that is no excuse for a business to engage in illegal or unfair labor practices. For example, business must still pay overtime to qualifying essential, and employers who need to lay off employees must do so within the confines of the law and cannot discriminate when doing so.

Below are a few additional resources for employees, or those who have recently been laid off and are looking for employment:

Resources for California Business Owners:

The stay-at-home order has resulted in most businesses being closed for an extended period of time. Indeed, small business owners across California face some of the harshest business conditions the country has ever seen. In response to this reality, lawmakers have passed a series of bills that provide much-needed assistance to California business owners. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by Congress in March 2020, is the most notable. The CARES Act has several components, a description of a few of the more important provisions are below:

  • Finding Help Paying Employees During the Crisis

It can be devastating for a business owner to tell loyal employees that they will no longer have a job. If not done according to state and federal law, it can also result in an employer being held liable for wrongful termination or discrimination. Lay-offs can also jeopardize the future of a small business, as business owners may have a difficult time attracting the same caliber of employee. Thus, one of the most important part of the CARES Act for small businesses is the paycheck protection program (PPP). The PPP offers employers loans to cover payroll during the crisis. If employers are able to maintain payroll throughout the crisis, the loan may be forgiven. Learn more about the PPP here.

  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans

Lawmakers understand the difficulties that small business owners face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, under the CARES Act, the restrictions to obtain an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) have been loosened. These low-interest loans are up to $2 million, and most small business types are eligible, including sole proprietorships, limited liability corporations, independent contractors and cooperative or employee-owned businesses. To learn more about EIDLs, visit the Small Business Association’s website on EIDLs.

  • Other Support for Small Businesses

Aside from the PPP and EIDLs, the CARES Act provides additional help to business owners. To learn more about what options small business owners have, visit the SBA’s website on the CARES Act.

  • Best Practices

As businesses start to reopen, it will be crucial that establishments closely follow best practices to reduce the spread of the virus. The California government has assembled a list of guidelines for various industries:

  • The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act

Business owners should also be aware of the requirements imposed by the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (Families First Act). Under the Families First Act, covered employers must provide paid sick leave to certain employees who must take time off either because they are quarantined, caring for someone who has been quarantined, or caring for a child whose school or child-care provider is closed. Details about the Families First Act can be found on the Department of Labor’s webpage.

Experienced Southern California Employment Lawyers Representing Essential and Non-Essential Employees

At Strong Advocates, we are committed to protecting employees’ rights and are here to help you navigate the employment challenges you are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While California employers undoubtedly are suffering as a result of the crisis, that is no excuse to treat employees unfairly. Whether you are an essential worker or non-essential worker, we can help you determine if your employer violated state or federal law and, if so, how to pursue a claim for compensation. At Strong Advocates, we only represent employees, and have extensive experience handling all types of California discrimination claims, wrongful termination claims and other employment law disputes. To learn more, call 800-260-1495 to schedule a free consultation.

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