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COVID-19 Assistance and Public Charge FAQ for Immigrants

The information on this page does not, and is not intended to, constitute as legal advice. Instead, all content below is provided for general informational purposes only.

Image of a Coronavirus

This is a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) information guide for immigrants who want to know more about how the issue of public charge might affect their ability to access healthcare and other services during this COVID-19 outbreak. The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs will continue updating this site as developments occur. We plan on translating this page once the information becomes more permanent. If you are bilingual, please consider helping communicate the below information to your immigrant and refugee neighbors and friends.

Special thanks to El Comite and Northwest Immigrant Rights Project for their help compiling this information.

Please email Joaquin Uy at [email protected] for further questions.


Jump to a question:

  1. I suspect I have a COVID-19 infection, what should I do?
  2. Do hospitals and clinics share citizenship or immigration status information with ICE?
  3. Will getting tested for COVID-19 or accessing charity care or discounted care at a hospital or clinic threaten my ability to apply for a green card or citizenship under the new public charge rules?
  4. What local community clinics or hospitals have charity or discounted care that I can go to?
  5. I am undocumented and have been financially affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. What programs and services can I apply for and access without showing my documentation?
  6. I just became unemployed because of the outbreak. Do I qualify for unemployment insurance?
  7. Will receiving an unemployment benefit threaten my ability to apply for a green card or citizenship under the new public charge rules?
  8. I am missing work because I am sick, or because a family member is sick or needs to go to the doctor. Do I qualify for Paid Sick and Safe Time (PSST)?
  9. I am missing work because I am sick or I am caring for someone who is sick. Do I qualify for Washington State Paid Family and Medical Leave?
  10. What if I am in danger of being laid off or I have to quit because myself or a loved one is sick?
  11. I am a small business owner experiencing a decrease in business because of the outbreak. Do I qualify for financial assistance?
  12. I lead a nonprofit experiencing a decrease in fundraising because of the outbreak. Do we qualify for financial assistance?
  13. Resources for more information:

 

1. I suspect I have a COVID-19 infection, what should I do?

If you have
symptoms of COVID-19 or questions, you can call:

  • King County Novel Coronavirus Call Center,
    (206) 477-3977. This helpline is open from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. every day.
  • Washington State Novel Coronavirus Call
    Center
    , (800) 525-0127 and press #. This helpline is open from 6 a.m. – 10
    p.m. every day.

The operators are able to connect with a third-party interpreter.
Los operadores pueden comunicarle con un intérprete externo.
接線生可以聯繫口譯員。
Nhân viên tổng đài có thể kết nối quý vị với người thông dịch.
ኦፕሬተሮቹ ከሶስተኛ ወገን አስተርጓሚ ጋር ማገናኘት ይችላሉ።
Hawl wadeenaha ka hawlgala khadka cawinta waxay awoodaan inay kugu xiriiriyaan turjubaan.

Visit Public
Health – Seattle & King County
for more information.

 

2. Do hospitals and clinics share citizenship or immigration status information with ICE?

No. The
federal law known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
(HIPAA)
generally prohibits the use or disclosure of patient information
without the patient’s consent. Additionally, health care providers are not
legally required to report to federal immigration authorities about a patient’s
immigration status.

 

3. Will getting tested for COVID-19 or accessing charity care or discounted care at a hospital or clinic threaten my ability to apply for a green card or citizenship under the new public charge rules?

No. Getting
tested for COVID-19 and accessing charity or discounted medical care will not affect
your ability to apply for a green card or citizenship. Local healthcare
discounted care programs are not listed as a public benefit under the current
public charge rule. To make this even clearer, U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services issued this statement
clarifying that “treatment or
preventive services” related to the COVID-19 outbreak will not be considered
for public charge purposes.

The public
charge rule only considers the use of the following types of public assistance
in its analysis:

  • Means-tested cash benefits like SSI
    (Supplemental Security Income)
    , TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy
    Families)
    , and state means-tested cash benefits like GAU (General Assistance
    Unemployable).
  • Government-sponsored long-term institutional
    care (like a nursing home or mental health facility usually covered by
    Medicaid)
    .
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
    (SNAP)
    , formerly called “Food Stamps.”
  • Subsidized Housing such as: a) federal
    rental housing assistance, b) Section 8 housing vouchers, c) housing funded by
    Project-based Section 8.

For more information about public charge, visit: seattle.gov/OIRA/publiccharge.

 

4. What local community clinics or hospitals have charity or discounted care that I can go to?

  • Lahai Health (formerly Puget Sound Christian Clinic)
    lahai.org
    (206) 363-4105

 

5. I am undocumented and have been financially affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. What programs and services can I apply for and access without showing my documentation?

  • Residential evictions for non-payment of rent
    are temporarily halted in the city of Seattle.
    This is effective
    immediately and will last for 30 days or until Seattle’s coronavirus emergency
    ends, pending the council’s approval. 
  • Utilities will not be shut off during this outbreak. Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and Seattle City Light (SCL) will keep utility services on during the COVID-19 Civil Emergency in Seattle. This is effective immediately. SPU and SCL customers who have been financially impacted by COVID-19, regardless of background or immigration status, can request a deferred payment plan with the utilities by calling (206) 684-3000 or sending an email anytime at seattle.gov/utilities/about-us/email-question.
  • The City of Seattle has launched this COVID-19: Resources for Community page that is updated daily. It features information and links for City of Seattle programs and services that may be helpful for residents significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these community resources do not require citizenship or immigration status information. Please visit: seattle.gov/covid-19.

 

6. I just became unemployed because of the outbreak. Do I qualify for unemployment insurance?

It depends. The Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) administers programs designed to help workers impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, including unemployment benefits. You do need a valid social security number to apply.

ESD also has
an easy-to-read
comparison guide
listing some of the most common scenarios that may occur
and benefits that may apply. More information for workers and businesses here: esd.wa.gov/newsroom/covid-19

 

7. Will receiving an unemployment benefit threaten my ability to apply for a green card or citizenship under the new public charge rules?

No. U.S.
Citizenship and Immigration Services has specifically stated that unemployment
insurance benefits paid to an immigrant worker are not considered in the public
charge determination
. Washington state administers the unemployment benefit
insurance program, which is funded primarily through local sources.

More
information for workers here: esd.wa.gov/newsroom/covid-19

 

8. I am missing work because I am sick or because a family member is sick or needs to go to the doctor. Do I qualify for Paid Sick and Safe Time (PSST)?

It
depends.
Both Seattle and Washington State’s paid sick and safe leave laws
require employers to provide paid time off to care for their own or a family
member’s illness or health condition or when their place of business, child’s
school, or child’s place of care has been closed due to a health-related reason,
like COVID-19.   

Seattle’s PSST law applies to all employees working in Seattle, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. The Seattle Office of Labor Standards (OLS) oversees this law. Per City of Seattle policy, OLS investigates complaints without regard to an individual’s immigration status. To its ability under the law, OLS protects the name and identifying information of a complaining individual from public disclosure. OLS provides free language interpretation. Click here to file a complaint online and to learn more about OLS worker resources. For more information on the Seattle PSST Ordinance, please call the Seattle Office of Labor Standards at (206) 256-5297, or visit Office of Labor Standards PSST page here.

Washington state’s PSST law applies to hourly employees working in the state, regardless of immigration status. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries oversees this law. For more information, visit lni.wa.gov.

 

9. I am missing work because I am sick, or I am caring for someone who is sick. Do I qualify for Washington State Paid Family and Medical Leave?

It depends. Workers who give birth to, or foster or adopt a child, or who need time off to take care of themselves or someone else are able to apply for Washington state’s Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits. The Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) oversees this law. You are not required to provide a valid social security number to apply. However, you will also likely not receive financial aid right away.

A
healthcare provider must certify that you are unable to work due to a “serious health
condition.”
Quarantine is not a qualifying event under this program. But,
if someone is sick with COVID-19 and can get medical certification, they can
apply for the program. If you or your family member is not able to go into the
doctor, the Employment Security Department will accept an electronic medical
certification from your healthcare provider. The City of Seattle is currently
working to determine if ESD will accept a positive COVID-19 test result without
certification from a healthcare provider.
Please check back here for updates.

ESD has also
prepared two COVID-19 Worker FAQs: this one is an easy-to-read
comparison guide
listing some of the most common scenarios that may occur
and benefits that may apply.  This one is
in a more traditional FAQ
format
. More information for workers is here: paidleave.wa.gov.

Also, employees
working in Seattle can use their accrued paid sick and safe time (PSST)
to care for a personal or family member’s illness. Family members are
children of any age, spouse including registered domestic partners, parents and
parents-in-law, siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren. (See the previous
question.)

 

10. What if I am in danger of being laid off or I have to quit because myself or a loved one is sick?

You can request “standby” from your employer and you may be eligible for temporary unemployment benefits. The Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) administers programs designed to help workers impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, including unemployment benefits. You do need a valid social security number to apply.

An ESD case manager determines eligibility: esd.wa.gov/newsroom/covid-19.

 

11. I am a small business owner experiencing a decrease in business because of the outbreak. Do I qualify for financial assistance?

  • Effective immediately, the City of Seattle Department
    of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS)
    will defer business and
    occupation (B&O) tax collections for businesses that have annual taxable
    incomes of $5 million or less and that pay city taxes quarterly. This will
    allow small business owners increased flexibility during a period of financial
    duress caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. This is available to all small
    business owners regardless of their citizenship or immigration status. If
    you have questions, please call (206) 684-8484 or email: [email protected].
  • The Washington State Employment Security
    Department
    has programs designed to help individuals and employers impacted
    by the COVID-19 outbreak. They have an easy-to-read
    comparison guide
    listing some of the most common scenarios that may occur
    and benefits that may apply. More information for workers and businesses here: esd.wa.gov/newsroom/covid-19.
  • More assistance is likely forthcoming.
    Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has established the Small
    Business Recovery Task Force
    , which will advise on long-term policy
    recommendations and provide technical assistance and outreach for small
    businesses impacted by this outbreak.

 

12. I lead a nonprofit experiencing a decrease in fundraising because of the outbreak. Do we qualify for financial assistance?

Hosted by Seattle
Foundation
, the COVID-19 Response Fund will provide flexible resources
to organizations in our region working with communities who are disproportionately
impacted by coronavirus and the economic consequences of this outbreak. To
apply for funding, please email: [email protected].

 

13. Resources for more information:

  • The City of Seattle has launched this COVID-19: Resources for Community page that is updated daily. It features information and links for City of Seattle programs and services that may be helpful for residents significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these community resources do not require citizenship or immigration status information.
    http://www.seattle.gov/covid-19