Covid-19 IHSS FAQs

On March 4, 2020, Governor Newsom declared a State of Emergency in California as a result of the threat of the COVID-19 virus. Since then, SEIU Local 2015 and our 400,000 members have been working on the frontlines of this crisis to protect our most vulnerable populations; our seniors and those living with disabilities. At Local 2015, we believe that all frontline workers, particularly those in the long term care and health care settings, have RIGHTS:

  • The right to SAFETY through access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) 
  • The right to TRAINING to deal with a global pandemic 
  • The right to FAIR COMPENSATION for the heroic work they are doing
  • The right to ADVOCATE as part of their union for job and community standards
  • The right to KNOW what state and federal policies impact their work, their lives and their communities

During this time of uncertainty, there are many questions being asked. Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions coming to the union from the members of Local 2015. 

1. Will consumers share a positive diagnosis with their provider and vice versa? [Right to Know]

A consumer should share their diagnosis with any close contacts, including people in their house, caregivers as well as people who were within 6 feet of them for more than 10 minutes while they had symptoms. Because these close contacts have been exposed, it is possible that they will get COVID-19. They should self-quarantine even if they feel well because it can take 2– 14 days for them to show symptoms.

2. If a consumer is exhibiting most of the symptoms, will a doctors’ note be provided to ensure they are not affected with the virus? [Right to Know]

The state is working on building up capacity for testing, so tests are currently only being provided to those who are sick, showing symptoms or otherwise in the highest risk categories for contracting COVID-19. If you or your consumer have concerns, please consult with their health care provider about additional steps you may be able to take to protect yourself.

3. If providers are part of the group asked to self-isolate, what should they do? [Safety]

If you have been given a personal medical directive to self-isolate, let your consumer know that you will not be able to report for work. Otherwise, IHSS workers are considered essential employees and may travel for the purposes of their work as providers while shelter-in-place orders are still active.

Consumers are encouraged to hire a back-up provider in advance of a situation where the primary provider has to take time off due to COVID-19.

4. What are the travel protocols for essential personnel? [Safety]

Providers are advised to keep a pay stub with them at all times to show that they are an essential worker and need to be commuting. Providers are allowed to transport their consumers as they normally would for any authorized tasks.

5. If a consumer has tested positive for the virus and is not following the orders, who does the provider contact? [Safety]

If a consumer has tested positive but has not followed the orders there are two things you can do as a care provider:

  1. Contact your county Public Health Officer and protect yourself.
  2. Protect yourself by limiting physical contact as much as possible, wash your hands as often as possible, disinfect areas where the consumer frequently touches, wear personal protective equipment like a mask and gloves, and if at all possible, stay at least six feet away from the consumer.

6. How can a provider get a virus test WITHOUT having any symptoms as a preventative measure to make sure they are not carrying the virus? [Safety]

Unfortunately, because there are shortages in tests across the state, tests are being targeting toward those who are sick and exhibiting symptoms or otherwise in a higher risk category for having contracted COVID-19. Providers are advised to follow the protocol for reducing the risk of contracting or spreading the illness. If you are able to get PPE through your county or facility, wearing a mask will also help. While some specific localities and hospitals may have tests available (you may call ahead and ask) – practicing social distancing and other protective habits is currently best practice. 

For tips on how best to protect yourself and others, as well as ongoing updates about COVID-19 in the state, please visit: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Immunization/ncov2019.aspx

7. How will the state help the counties in obtaining supplies? [Safety]

The Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) is working to make PPE available to the counties. Please note that there are protective equipment shortages and distribution challenges impacting the entire state.

8. How will consumers go about getting their hours increased for more assistance? [Advocacy]

Please reach out to your consumer’s social worker or the local county IHSS office to discuss changes to hours. The state has advised the counties to allow flexibility on behalf of their consumers when assigning weekly hours. The Department will not be issuing violations that providers may incur while providing critical services, until June 30, 2020.

At this time, the counties’ primary work focus will be on activities related to applicants and consumers receiving timely authorization and provision of services.

9. Will assessments and reassessments of IHSS consumers continue to happen during this time? [Advocacy]

Until June 30, 2020, reassessments of consumer hours will be completed by the social worker over the phone, or they will be canceled. Initial assessments will continue to be conducted in-person by the social worker, while practicing safe social distancing and taking the necessary precautions to limit contact with consumers and anyone else in the home. The social worker will also collect as much information as possible over the phone first to minimize the amount of time spent face-to-face with consumers.

During this time, no reductions in hours or termination of services will be permitted to take place before June 30, 2020.

10. What if a provider has a pending appeals case? [Advocacy]

Currently, the counties are focusing their work on activities related to applicants and recipients receiving timely authorization and provision of services. While the decision may be pending for a longer than typical timeframe, no negative decisions (as in, reduction in hours) will be issued until June 30, 2020.

11. How do consumers find a back-up provider if theirs can no longer provider care due to COVID-19? [Advocacy]

The state has directed each county to implement a provider back-up system so that consumers will be able to find the care they need in the event that their regular provider is unable to. Los Angeles County already has a back-up system in place, and every other county is in the process of creating their own. Please continue to check with your local county IHSS office for more details.

12. Is the IHSS timesheet processing center still open, and will checks be paid on their regular schedule? [Right to Know]

The IHSS processing center is open and timesheets and paychecks will continue to be distributed on their normal schedule. Providers are encouraged to use the Electronic Timesheet Portal and Direct Deposit to receive their pay even faster, and to cut down on timesheet errors.

13. How do providers receive assistance with filling out timesheets? [Training]

If you have access to a computer, we first encourage you to go to our website www.seiu2015.org to access training videos. You can also reach out to the Local 2015 Member Action Center at 855-810-2015, your local county IHSS office, or, for general information and instructions there are instructive videos available at:

https://www.cdss.ca.gov/inforesources/ihss/ihss-providers/resources/timesheettraining

14. What do providers do if they do not have access to internet to fill out electronic timesheets? [Training]

Providers may fill out their timesheet over the phone using the Telephonic Timesheet System. Contact the MAC or your local county IHSS office for more information.

15. What if I become ill with COVID-19 and cannot work as provider while infected? [Fair Compensation]

Individuals who are unable to work due to having or being exposed to COVID-19 (certified by a medical professional) can file a Disability Insurance (DI) claim. Disability Insurance provides short-term benefit payments to eligible workers who have full or partial loss of wages due to a non-work-related illness, injury, or pregnancy. Benefit amounts are approximately 60-70 percent of wages (depending on income) and range from $50 – $1,300 a week.

16. Are IHSS providers eligible for unemployment? [Fair Compensation]

Yes

17. How do providers get assistance with filing for Unemployment benefits? [Fair Compensation]

The Employment Development Department (EDD) is providing assistance with unemployment claims. Please visit edd.ca.gov to file a claim or get more information. The state is asking people to apply even if they are in doubt that they might qualify – they will verify your eligibility.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides enhanced unemployment benefits in addition to the state’s benefits, including an additional $600 per week for up to 4 months.

18. Will a provider with multiple clients qualify for Unemployment, if they discontinue working for one of their consumers but not all? [Fair Compensation]

This may qualify as a reduction in hours for purposes of unemployment if the loss of work was due to COVID-19. Please visit edd.ca.gov for more information.

19. How much is the federal stimulus check, and who is eligible? Will Live- In providers who didn’t file taxes in 2018 or 2019 qualify for stimulus checks? [Fair Compensation]

The recovery rebates are being treated as advanced refunds of a 2020 tax credit. Individuals will receive a tax credit of $1200 (joint filers, $2400), plus $500 for each qualifying child. The tax credit begins to phase out for taxpayers with an adjusted gross income above $150,000 for joint filers, $112,500 for head of households, and $75,000 for other individuals.

The recovery rebate is not available to “nonresident aliens,” individuals who are claimed as a dependent by another, estates, and trusts. If the taxpayer has yet to pay 2019 taxes, then the 2018 tax filing will be used for recovery rebate allotment. Those with no income and whose income comes entirely from non-taxable means-tested benefit programs, like IHSS, are also included within this rebate. Live-in providers who don’t file taxes and those on SSI fall under the “income comes entirely from non-taxable means-tested benefit programs.” Their income will be based on information from any of the following: 2019 Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement, Form RRB-1099, or Social Security Equivalent Benefit Statement.

20. What does a provider do if they can’t pay their rent or mortgage during this time? [Advocacy]

You may be eligible for some types of relief if the following applies to you:

Rent: If you are a tenant who has paid rent up until the prior month, and have given at least a week’s notice to your landlord of your inability to pay rent due to loss of work or pay related to COVID-19, verified through documentation, you are subject to a statewide stay on evictions until May 31st. Some localities, on the city or county level, may have longer timelines. Unfortunately, these orders do not waive or reduce any rent that is owed or may be charged.

Mortgage:  If your mortgage is with Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Citibank, and JPMorgan Chase you may reach out to your bank to apply for 90-day forbearance for residential mortgage payments if you’ve been affected by COVID-19. Bank of America has agreed to offer 30 days. Waiving your mortgage payments under these agreements will not negatively impact your credit. Your bank may also offer additional forms of relief under these agreements.

Furthermore, California’s Judicial Council has suspended eviction judgements and foreclosures until 90 days after the Governor lifts the state of emergency. This prevents anyone from being summoned and from a judge issuing a default judgment. Landlords may still file evictions, but it won’t be served and the tenant is not subject to the five-day deadline to respond while these emergency rules are in place. Trials that were initially requested for April are postponed for at least 60 days. The deadlines for exercising any rights in a foreclosure case, including any right of redemption from a foreclosure sale, or petitioning the court concerning such a right are also postponed.

21. How can providers receive assistance with their student loans during this time? [Advocacy]

The federal government is offering assistance to federal student loan borrowers due to the crisis. First, all federal student loans have been reduced to a zero interest rate until September 30, 2020; this was automatically applied to any eligible loans. Second, eligible federal student loans will be automatically placed on temporary forbearance until September 30, 2020. A borrower may request to be removed from forbearance if they wish to continue making payments on their loans during this time. Please visit myfedloan.org for more information.

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