Benefits for Undocumented Individuals in Relation to COVID-19
Undocumented individuals now have access to all the benefits that they are eligible for in one place.
Immigrant Justice – POLICY REFORM
Undocumented individuals can now find all the benefits that they are eligible for in one place. Our resource guide includes benefits that have been developed due to COVID-19, such as rental assistance. It also includes information on Alien Emergency Medical which has been expanded to cover COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, the guide answers your questions as to whether receiving these benefits will affect your ability to pass the Public Charge test.
Coming soon rule making litigation.
Coronavirus: Benefits Information for People without Immigration Status
You don’t have a Social Security Number. You don’t have health care. You have to take time off work or you are laid off because of the coronavirus. You can’t get unemployment benefits. What benefits can you or your family get? Worried that if you or your family get benefits it will keep you from passing the Public Charge test if you apply for a green card? Here are the facts.
If you are low-income, the state government will pay:
- a clinic or hospital to test you for the coronavirus, and
- if you need treatment, pay for your treatment.
You have to ask the state for this help. Ask the clinic or hospital to help you apply. The name of the program that can help is Alien Emergency Medical or AEM. You do not have to wait to see if you are eligible for AEM to get tested or treated for the coronavirus. AEM can also pay for other kinds of emergency medical treatment you get in the hospital.
Does getting AEM affect my ability to get permanent residency (“green card”) under the new Public Charge test?
No. Getting AEM help to get tested and treated for the coronavirus and getting other kinds of emergency hospital care will not count for the Public Charge test.
What is Charity Care? Every Washington hospital has to provide free care for low-income people who:
- don’t have insurance, or
- whose insurance doesn’t cover all the hospital bills.
Free or reduced cost care is called Charity Care. Even if you have more money, some hospitals will reduce the cost of medical care for people who are not able to pay for their care.
The hospital will ask you to apply for AEM. You can apply for both AEM and Charity Care at the same time. Ask the hospital to give you a Charity Care application.
You do NOT need a Social Security Number to get AEM or Charity Care. You do NOT need to put a Social Security Number on the application for AEM or Charity Care.
Does getting charity care affect my ability to get a green card under the Public Charge test?
Charity Care does not count for the Public Charge test. This is true for all hospital care paid for by Charity Care. And, Charity Care applies to hospital care, not just care for the coronavirus.
If I need medical assistance, where can I go?
You can call your health care provider, if you have one, or your local community health clinic, if you need medical care.
Will going to a community health clinic count against me in the Public Charge test?
If I am undocumented, do I have any right to take paid time off in connection with the coronavirus?
Yes. All of the benefits listed below are available to you no matter what your immigration status is.
Can I get paid time off if I get sick with the coronavirus or if a family member does and I have to take care of them?
Yes. There is a new federal law just for the coronavirus crisis that gives you up to 80 hours of paid sick time starting on April 1, 2020, fewer if you are a part-time employee. You can use this benefit if:
- you have symptoms of the coronavirus and take time off to consult a doctor;
- you are quarantined by the government or your doctor because you have the coronavirus; or
- you are taking care of someone who is quarantined because they have the coronavirus (paid at two-thirds your regular pay).
You can use this new sick time before using any other sick time you have built up at work. After this new sick time runs out, you can use the sick time you get under Washington law. The amount of sick time that you can get under Washington law depends on how long you have worked for your current employer. Your employer must tell you on your pay stub how much sick time you have earned.
What if I or my family member gets sick but are not diagnosed with the coronavirus?
You can use the Washington sick time that you have earned for any kind of sickness.
What if my workplace is closed and I can’t work from home?
You can use your Washington sick time if your workplace is closed by a government order. If you work in Seattle, there is also a local law that allows you to use your sick time if your workplace is closed for any health-related reason (no government order required).
What if my children’s school or place of care closes or my child’s care provider isn’t available because of the coronavirus?
You have several options:
- You can take your 80 hours of federal sick time (paid at two-thirds your regular pay).
- Under another federal law, if you have worked for your employer for 30 days, you can take up to 12 weeks partially paid leave because your children’s school or daycare closes. Under that law, your job will be protected during your time off if your employer has at least 25 employees.
- If your child’s school or place of care has been closed by a public official you can receive the following benefits, which are not available if your care provider (like your child’s grandma) is unavailable:
- You can use whatever Washington paid sick time you have earned.
- If you work in Seattle, you can use your paid sick time to care for any family member whose school or place of care is shut down for any reason.
How do I take paid sick time?
If you feel sick, just give your employer notice right away and stay home. If you know that you will need time off, for example if you have a scheduled appointment, give your employer as much notice as you can. If you want to use your federal sick time before your Washington sick time, tell your employer so.
Your employer will be required to pay you for the time you are out sick (up to the number of hours you are allowed under federal law or have earned under Washington law). The pay rate will be your regular rate, except that under the federal law, you only get 2/3 your regular rate of pay for providing childcare or caring for a sick family member. If your employer doesn’t allow you to take time off or doesn’t pay you for your sick time, contact the Washington Department of Labor & Industries at 360-902-5316.
What if I or someone in my family gets really sick with the coronavirus?
The Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave program will provide you with up to 12 weeks paid time off if the illness is “serious.” This time off is available if you have worked 820 hours in the same year in Washington. You can combine hours from multiple jobs to reach the required number of hours.
If you are undocumented and want to apply, print a Spanish application from the website https://paidleave.wa.gov/es/apply-now/ (the application download button is found at the bottom of the website) or if you can’t print or you need an application in any language other than Spanish, call 833-717-2273 for an application to be mailed to you. If you do not have a valid social security number, do NOT put a social security number or ITIN on the application. Once your application has been sent in, someone at the paid leave program will contact you to make sure they have the information they need to calculate your hours worked.
If you have called the number above and cannot get through to someone, or you have a problem getting or submitting an application, call the ombudsperson’s office at 844-395-6697.
Can I get workers’ compensation (Industrial Insurance, L&I) if I get the coronavirus at work?
If you are a medical professional or first responder who is quarantined because you were exposed to the coronavirus, you are automatically eligible to receive this benefit.
If you are not a medical professional or first responder, you have to show that you got sick with the coronavirus because of your work, which is very difficult to do. A social security number is NOT required to file an application for workers’ compensation. For help with a workers’ compensation claim, contact the Department of Labor & Industries at 360-902-5800.
What if I want to isolate myself because I am afraid of the coronavirus, but my workplace is still open?
You are not covered by any paid leave laws unless a doctor or the government has ordered you to quarantine yourself.
Will using the federal sick time, Washington sick time, and applying for workers’ compensation benefits make it harder for me to apply for a green card?
No. None of these employment benefits would count against you on the Public Charge test if you apply for a green card.
If I am undocumented, can I apply for unemployment benefits if my employment is closed because of the coronavirus?
No. You need a valid social security number to apply for this benefit.
Can I get help for paying my rent if I am laid off of work?
If you live in Seattle, you can request assistance to help pay your rent from https://www.gofundme.com/f/rent-fund-for-undocumented-people-covid19. You do NOT need to provide a social security number or private information, just your contact information.
If you live in King County, you can request assistance to help pay your rent from United Way by calling 211 or at https://www.uwkc.org/renthelp/. If you have any questions regarding this rental assistance, please call 211.
Will receiving rent assistance affect my ability to pass the public charge test?
Can I get other help from the government if I am undocumented? If you are low-income, you may be able to get:
- AEM—see information about AEM above,
- Medical care for pregnant women and new mothers,
- Immunizations for communicable diseases,
- Women, Infants, and Children or WIC,
- Breakfast and school lunches for children (check with your local school district),
- Health care for children up to 21 years of age, and
- Once per year cash for emergencies called CEAP, and
- Once per year emergency cash called Disaster Cash Assistance Program (DCAP). You do not need to have kids to qualify for DCAP.
Will using these benefits affect my ability to pass the Public Charge test?
No. Getting any of these benefits doesn’t count for the Public Charge test.
Where can I apply for these benefits?
You apply for WIC at local clinics. To find a clinic, call 800-322-2588. Each person on WIC gets $50 per month. WIC helps you buy certain foods if you are pregnant and for you and your children up to age 5.
You apply for AEM, medical care for pregnant women, new mothers, and children under 21, along with CEAP and DCAP by calling 877-501-2233.
Is there other assistance for undocumented individuals during the Governor’s order to stay home to stay healthy?
Yes. You can apply for the “Covid-19 Relief Fund for WA Undocumented Folks” at https://www.scholarshipjunkies.org/relief#aid.
Does receiving the assistance from the “Covid-19 Relief Fund for WA Undocumented Folks” count against the Public Charge test?
No. Receiving this assistance will not count against the Public Charge test.
Where can I get legal help?
- If you do not live in King County: You can contact CLEAR, Washington’s toll-free advice and referral service for low-income people seeking free legal assistance with civil legal problems by calling 888-201-1014.
- If you live in King County: You can call 211 for information and referral to an appropriate legal services provider.
This publication provides general information on the benefits available to individuals without immigration status. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice. This information is current as of April 21, 2020.
© 2020 Columbia Legal Services
(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial purposes only.)