COVID-19 Resources in California
The COVID-19 crisis almost instantly changed life for every American. In late February and into early March, everyone was going to work and living their lives as they always do. Then, within a few days, everything changed. First, schools were temporarily closed as the government suggested everyone follow social distancing protocol. Not long after that, 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.
The challenges posed by the pandemic, as well as the government’s necessary response to prevent its spread, cannot be overstated. Across the United States, over 25 million workers have filed for unemployment after being laid off, and millions more are furloughed or working reduced hours. Workers fortunate enough to still have employment and are able enough to work from home face another set of challenges while trying to acclimate to their new workplace. And, of course, essential employees and healthcare workers who still must go into work face the very real safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. In short, the virus has impacted the life of every Californian.
At the Erlich Law Firm, we are here to help you and your family through the COVID-19 crisis in any way we can. As Bay Area employment lawyers, we know that we may not be able to address every issue that you are dealing with. However, for those who have questions about how their employer handled staffing decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are here to help. In addition, we have assembled a list of resources for Californians who are doing their best to get through the coronavirus crisis, but could use some assistance.
COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, is an infectious disease that is spread through the air. Primarily, the disease is spread 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.
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 reach isolate themselves from others and immediately reach out to a healthcare professional to determine whether they should be tested.
Many who contract the novel coronavirus will recover. However, they may need to be hospitalized. The disease presents an increased risk for those over 60 years of age as well as individuals with certain pre-existing health conditions, including:
- Serious heart conditions
- Chronic lung conditions
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
Those who are immunocompromised – due to other conditions or medications – are also at a greater risk of suffering severe illness if they become infected.
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;
- Wear a mask to prevent the spread of the virus, even if you do not have symptoms;
- Wash their hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with liquid soap and water; and
- Follow social distancing protocol by avoiding close contact (within six feet) with those who may have the virus.
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:
California has more than ten million more residents than any other state. For the country’s most populated state, some could say that California has done very well at limiting the spread of COVID-19. Below are the state’s most recent COVID-19 statistics:
- Total number of cases: 43,464
- Total number of deaths: 1,755
- Total number of tests administered: 553,409
- 0 to 17: 1,085 cases
- 18 to 49: 21,028 cases
- 50 to 64: 11,442 cases
- 65 and older: 9,824 cases
- Los Angeles County: 19,570 cases
- Riverside County: 3,301 cases
- San Diego County: 3,045 cases
- Orange County: 2,124 cases
- Santa Clara County: 2,097
- San Bernardino County: 1,681
- Los Angeles County: 913 deaths
- Riverside County: 131 deaths
- San Diego County: 123 deaths
- Santa Clara County: 102 deaths
- San Bernardino County: 82 deaths
- Alameda County: 56 deaths
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
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many California government activities have been suspended. For the most part, California courts are not hearing non-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:
- California Supreme Court case search
- California appellate court case search
- A list of all county courthouses, their locations and contact information
The state government has created various webpages 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 certainly affected everyone across the state. Yet, it can affect everyone differently. 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:
Under the recently-passed relief acts, many student loan borrowers will have their interest rate reduced to zero and some will have their loans placed into an emergency forbearance for the next few months. For those who qualify, payments will not need to be made. Learn more about student loan relief by the Federal Student Aid webpage or by contacting your loan provider.
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. 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.
As a result of Governor Newsom’s stay-at-home order, couples are spending more time together. For some couples, this may be a good thing. But for those involved in an abusive or otherwise dangerous relationship, a home can begin to feel like a prison. 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.
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.
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 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 individuals in need obtain food and housing.
Resources for California Workers
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in millions of Californians being laid off, furloughed or having their hours reduced. Employment problems can easily lead to financial concerns and only add to the stress and anxiety many are already experiencing. Both state and federal lawmakers have implemented a series of measures to help employees through these employment challenges.
For example, the federal government passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which requires many 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 a website to those seeking unemployment benefits during the pandemic. In addition, the Department has a list of FAQs for both employees 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 employees, 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:
- California Labor and Workforce Development Agency COVID-19 website
- Summary chart of available benefits for those affected by COVID-19
- Paid sick leave information from the Department of Industrial Relations
- Pandemic unemployment benefits FAQs
- FAQs regarding California workers’ rights during the COVID-19 pandemic
- FAQs for essential and non-essential workers in California
- A comparison between California State leave and federal leave
Resources for California Small Businesses:
With most businesses being forced to close their doors during the COVID-19 pandemic, 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. Perhaps the most important assistance comes through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by Congress in March 2020. The CARES Act has several components, a description of a few of the more important provisions are below:
Small business owners often consider their employees as family, and it can be devastating for a business owner to tell loyal employees that they will no longer have a job. 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 parts 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.
Lawmakers understand that difficulty that the coronavirus pandemic has on small business owners due to no fault of their own. Under the CARES Act, Congress has loosened the restrictions to obtain an Economic injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). These low-interest loans can be up to $2 million, and may be forgiven, in part or in whole, depending on the circumstances. 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.
While the PPP and EIDL programs are perhaps the most helpful programs for many small businesses, the CARES Act provides additional help. To learn more about what options small business owners have, visit the SBA’s website on the CARES Act.
- The Employment Development Department’s website on COVID-19
- Work-sharing FAQs
- Additional resources for small businesses from the Employment Development Department
- Information of paid-leave requirements
- Coronavirus tax relief for business and non-profit organizations
- Small business guidance and loan resources
- Small business self-employed tax center
Dedicated California Employment Lawyers Here to Help During the COVID-19 Pandemic
At the Erlich Law Firm, we understand the difficulties facing California residents and businesses, and we are here to help in any way we can. While businesses face many challenges during this time, they still must follow state and federal law when they make crucial employment decisions that impact their employees. As experienced employment law attorneys, we represent employees and independent contractors in all types of claims against employers, including wage and hour disputes, discrimination claims, FMLA claims and wrongful terminations. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to speak with an attorney about your situation, call (510) 390-9140.
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