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Have you lost your job? Are you unable to work? Find out if you can get government help and what to do if you do not qualify.
What if I lose my job?
Many businesses are closed across the country because of the coronavirus. Many people have lost their jobs. Other people are not working because they are sick or because someone they know is sick. There are some ways to get help and money if you are not working because of the coronavirus.
Every state has an unemployment insurance program that gives people money if they have lost their job. The amount of money and number of weeks of help is different in every state. Find your state unemployment insurance office.
Learn more about unemployment insurance during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- To qualify for unemployment insurance, you have to have work authorization in the USA. This includes US citizens, refugees, asylees, green card holders and anyone else with employment authorization.
- You must have been working, with authorization, and have lost your job through no fault of your own. You must also be able and willing to work now if you got a new job.
- If your employment authorization has an expiration date, you cannot get unemployment help after that date.
- To qualify, you may have to be at your job for a certain number of weeks before you lose your job. You can find information about your state with this state-by-state guide.
Maybe you are very new to the USA, or maybe you work part-time or as an independent contractor – for example as a Lyft or Uber driver. You may get help from Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
The best place to start is your state unemployment office. The office can tell you if you qualify or not and how much you will get.
If you are not authorized to work in the USA, you cannot file for unemployment insurance or other government cash benefits. You can still get medical treatment and testing for COVID-19.
Here are some emergency programs to help undocumented people:
- The Mission Asset Fund has started an Immigrant Families Fund to give $500 to families who cannot get emergency government help. Apply now.
- The Betancourt Macias Family Scholarship Foundation has an emergency fund. You can apply on their website or call (360) 524-3664 to speak to someone in English or Spanish.
- The National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) has a fund for members of its organization to provide emergency assistance for home care workers, nannies and house cleaners.
- The Immigrant Worker Safety Net Fund provides direct assistance to migrant workers.
- The One FairWage Emergency Fund will give cash help to restaurant workers.
- Here is a list of COVID relief funds across the USA.
What else is the government doing to help?
In December 2020, Congress passed the second coronavirus relief package that includes a payment to some people in the USA. This payment is $600 per individual or $1,200 per couple and $600 for each child. Unlike the last coronavirus relief package, families who have an undocumented family member will qualify to receive the help. To be eligible to receive this payment:
- You must have a social security number. If a member of the family does not have a social security number, that person will not receive the aid. Everyone in the family who has a social security number will receive the payment.
- You must be a US citizen or have a green card or otherwise meet the IRS residency requirements.
You do not need to do anything to get this check as long as you have filed 2018 or 2019 taxes OR if or you have an active social security benefit. If you have not yet filed your 2019 taxes, you can do it now. You should file your tax return even if you do not usually earn enough to file, so that you can get the payment.
If you receive tax refunds or social security payments right into your bank account, you will be getting your payment automatically. The government started disbursing the fund in late December 2020 with more payments in January 2021.
If the government does not have your bank account information, you will be paid by check. The check may take 3 to 4 weeks to arrive.
- If you are sick and you think it might be COVID-19, you should not go to work. Call your employer and tell them by phone so that you do not infect any other people. Learn how to get help if you are sick.
- Many companies are providing paid time off if you are sick from COVID-19 or if you have to miss work to care for a family member who has the virus.
- Under the CARES Act, most companies with fewer than 500 employees will pay two weeks of sick pay. There is additional help for people who cannot work because of caring for their children. Ask your company if they have paid sick leave for the coronavirus so you know what to expect.
- Know your rights about paid sick leave during the coronavirus emergency.
- Businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees in the USA can apply for a program called the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) under the CARES Act to get help for their business.
- If you are an independent contractor or your business is just you, you can still apply.
- With this program, a bank will give you a loan that is equal to 2.5 times your average monthly payroll and as long as you spend the loan money on payroll expenses, rent payments and utilities you do not have to pay the loan back. The program is supposed to keep people working, so if you reduce the size of your staff during that time, you have to pay more back.
- To apply for this program you should call your current bank to find out if they are a lender for this program. If they are not lending with this program, you can find a lender.
- The Small Business Association has more information about the CARES Act program and other help for your business.
- Gusto has a list of all federal, state, and local small business help in the USA.
- La Cocina also has a good list of small business programs in California and across the USA.
Some cities and states are helping undocumented workers and other non-citizens who do not qualify for federal benefits.
- Find state-by-state information from Informed Immigrant.
- The City of Chicago is making its programs available to everyone in Chicago, whatever their birth country or citizenship status. Find information about all City of Chicago resources during the coronavirus emergency.
- The City of Boston has services for Boston residents affected by COVID-19, regardless of immigration status. Find out how to get services for immigrants in Boston.
- The City of Seattle says that everyone is eligible for its services, regardless of immigration status. Find COVID-19 programs and services in the City of Seattle.
Other types of help
Do you need help with food for yourself and your family?
- Check to see if you are eligible for food programs like WIC and SNAP.
- Food banks and food pantries are local organizations that provide people with groceries. Find your local food bank.
- Many schools and child and adult care centers are serving free meals to their communities. You can also read about the emergency child food programs. Contact your local school or local food bank to learn how to get help from your local program.
A moratorium is a period when something is stopped for a while. The US government agency CDC has declared an eviction moratorium starting September 4, 2020, and continuing until December 31, 2020. The moratorium means that people cannot be evicted (made to leave their homes) if they are unable to pay their rent because of COVID-19. The CDC says this moratorium is to keep people safe in their homes during the pandemic.
How can I get protected from eviction?
To qualify for protection from eviction, all adults who are named on a lease must make a written statement and give it to their landlord. The statement says:
- you have suffered income loss or health expenses;
- you are trying hard to pay your rent;
- you will be homeless or have to move into a crowded home if you are evicted.
You can view or download and print the statement to use.
The eviction moratorium delays eviction, but it does not cover the rent. You will still owe all the rent for the months you have not paid.
Some states have other help for renters.
Most federal student loan payments (not private or Perkins loans) can be delayed until September 30, 2020, with no penalties or interest. Find more information about student loan relief.
You will NOT be penalized under the public charge rule for use of any unemployment insurance, credits, or healthcare services related to COVID-19.
The public charge rule says that if people who are applying for a change of status, a green card, or visa extension receive public benefits from their state, they may not be allowed to become permanent residents. Other benefits, such as school lunches and children’s health insurance, do not count. Read more about the public charge rule.
You can find more good information about how to get help if you lose your job:
- State by state information from Informed Immigrant
- Information about public programs from Protecting Immigrant Families
- Legal Aid at Work has information about undocumented workers’ employment rights in English, Spanish and Chinese. Some of the information is nationwide, and some is only for California.
This guide, created by HIAS, offers information to refugees, asylum seekers, asylees and other immigrants about your rights during this uncertain time.
This information comes from trusted sources, such as the United States Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service. USAHello does not give legal advice or medical advice, nor are any of our materials intended to be taken as legal or medical advice.