This page is intended as a resource for immigrant communities during the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. This page will be continually updated as the situation evolves and as new resources and programs become available. The objective of this page is to provide a description of resources, information, and programs that are available to assist immigrant communities with addressing challenges and issues cause by the Covid-19 pandemic. These include: public health information; economic assistance, jobs, and unemployment; education, including managing changes brought about by the shift to virtual programs for grade school and university students; mental and emotional health; Covid-19 and language access; and others.
The pandemic has had profound impacts on both immigrants and the immigration system in the United States. United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) has slowed or stopped processing of visa applications at US embassies around the world, as well as processing of immigration-related applications within the United States. Restrictions of cross-border travel between the United States and its neighbors, Canada and Mexico, have also led to a stark drop in immigrants presenting at the border, including asylum seekers and unaccompanied children. Many asylum seekers are still being denied entry to the United States and instructed to wait in Mexico until the date of their hearing.
Although immigration enforcement in the interior of the country has been curtailed to some extent due to the pandemic, tens of thousands of non-citizens are still in US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prisons, jails, and detention centers, many of which are overcrowded and do not properly protect the detained from risk of Covid-19 infection. Additionally, immigrants have been left out of federal economic relief packages approved by Congress, leading to a greater level of economic precarity in many immigrant communities.
Resources and Programs
A number of resources are available to assist immigrants with their legal needs during the pandemic. These include:
The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest worldwide economic crisis in a generation. Millions of employees have been furloughed or laid off as businesses have been forced to close and cut back on spending in the face of plummeting revenues. Additionally, prices for goods and services have been increasing in many communities around the world as supply chains are interrupted by restrictions on free movement of people and goods.
In the United States, the economic crisis has hit undocumented immigrants especially hard, as the government has determined them to be ineligible for stimulus packages, unemployment assistance, and other forms of economic aid.
The economic stimulus package, or the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, provided financial assistance of $1,200 to all US taxpayers who were citizens or legal residents and whose incomes were under a certain threshold; the stimulus was lower for households whose incomes were over the threshold. There was also aid available to business owners, including the Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) as well as economic injury disaster loans. Discussion of a second economic stimulus package is underway in the United States Congress, but no budget has been approved to date. Once this changes, information on how to access economic aid from a second stimulus package will be posted on this site.
Categories of Workers
W2 employees are paid through their employer's payroll, and taxes are withheld from their paychecks throughout the year. 1099 employees are paid as independent contractors, which means that they are responsible for paying the self-employment tax on any earnings. Independent contractors can also deduct expenses related to their business operations from their taxable income, including travel, phone bills, technology and devices used for work purposes, office space, and more.
Seasonal employees work for only part of the year, such as retail workers with seasonal jobs during the end-of-year holiday season or agricultural workers working during the summer. Seasonal employees may receive a W2 or 1099 form (but not both), depending on the nature of their work and the decision of the employer. Small business owners, on the other hand, must pay the self-employment tax along with income tax.
For many undocumented immigrants, the only chance for employment in the United States is to be paid under the table. Employees who work "under the table" are usually paid in cash, and employers often use this as a method for hiring undocumented workers, often paying them low wages, and avoiding paying taxes to the federal, state, and local governments. While working under the table is not a crime, intentionally not declaring income to the IRS is a federal crime under most circumstances.
Understanding Unemployment Benefits
In order to qualify for unemployment benefits, you must meet the eligibility criteria:
- You are unemployed through no fault of your own - this means that you have been separated from your last job due to lack of available work.
- You must meet wage and work requirements for wages earning or time worked during a "base period" (In most states, this is usually the first four out of the last five completed calendar quarters before the time that your claim is filed).
- You may have to meet additional state requirements.
You should apply in the state where you held your last job. Please see instructions for how to apply for unemployment insurance in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts below:
Other Resources Available for New Immigrants
- Massachusetts Training Opportunities Program (TOP)
- Massachusetts: Resources during COVID-19
- Massachusetts Financial Resources for COVID-19
- Massachusetts: COVID-19 Resources Available to Immigrants and Refugees
Access to Health Care
During the pandemic, many healthcare providers have put elective surgeries on hold in order to liberate more space, time, and human resources for treating COVID-19 patients. Additionally, many providers have migrated temporarily to a telehealth model in order to follow social distancing guidelines and reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others at healthcare facilities. COVID-19 tests are available for free to all Boston residents, regardless of symptoms and health insurance. Other cities in the greater Boston area also offer free testing programs, either with or without appointments. Treatment for COVID-19 is available for all, whether insured or uninsured. Treatment for uninsured patients is reimbursed by the federal government through the CARES Act.
Access to Insurance
During the pandemic, uninsured and underinsured individuals continue to face many of the same problems regarding access to health care as before the pandemic. Health insurance is still prohibitively expensive for some households and individuals, despite reforms to the health insurance market made by the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, many undocumented immigrants are unable to access health insurance, either directly because of their immigration status or due to lack of official employment that would provide employee benefits such as health insurance.
The Health Resources and Services Administration is a federal US government agency that runs a nationwide network of health clinics for the uninsured and other vulnerable populations.
Understanding of COVID-19
From the World Health Organization:
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.
Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.
The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is to be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads. Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based rub frequently and not touching your face.
The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow).
Information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website on managing emotional health during the pandemic:
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a new disease and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. However, these actions are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Coping with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.
Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can sometimes cause the following:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on.
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
- Worsening of chronic health problems.
- Worsening of mental health conditions.
- Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances.
Get help during a crisis:
- Call 911
- Disaster Distress Helpline: CALL or TEXT 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish).
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish, or Lifeline Crisis Chat.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
- National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453) or text 1-800-422-4453
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or Online Chat
- The Eldercare Locator: 1-800-677-1116 TTY Instructions
- Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Crisis Chat or text: 8388255
Staying Healthy/ Access to Food
COVID -19 Q&A around precautions we need to take to avoid being contaminated
What to do if you are contaminated?
Other resources available
Transportation and Housing
Access to the Internet
Access to Laptops
Where to go to find resources
First email listed these categories:
COVID 19- Resources
Food Services- Where and How
Important Phone numbers to call
School resources- Online/virtual academy
Insurance/Health: What you can do? How to take care of yourself while at home
COVID 19 Updates- Where are we today and how to protect yourself
Information from the Governor- Updates
Information from the Mayor- Press Release- Updates
Information from the Superintendent
Stimulus plan: What you should know
Income Tax- What you should know?
Parents Corner: What you can do now that the children are home?
Self Care? How to care for yourself while at home- How to maintain a certain level of sanity?
Grants for non profits/small businesses and individuals\
What's out there?