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COVID-19 News for Community Partners from Legal Aid

Posted April 6, 2020
11:00 am

Dear Community Partner: Please see important updates related to COVID-19 in the message below–

  • Legal Aid continues serving clients during the COID-19 pandemic and provides updates on evolving policies related to COVID-19.
  • See Local updates on county building, county info, utility info, food assistance, mental health services, housing and financial assistance.
  • See Ohio updates on benefits, unemployment compensation, special education, small business loans, and public utilities.
  • See National updates on Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Social Security Administration, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, and the “public charge” rule.

Questions? Contact Anne Sweeney, Managing Attorney for Community Engagement, at


Legal Aid Updates:

The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland will continue to serve clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Legal Aid intake is available online 24/7 or by phone during regular phone intake hours at 888.817.3777. Offices in Cleveland, Elyria, Painesville, and Jefferson are closed, and walk-in intake is suspended until further notice. All Legal Aid staff are working remotely to help our clients.

Legal Aid is sharing information about the evolving benefits, policies and practices related to COVID-19 online and via social media.  For more information and resources related to COVID-19, visit Legal Aid’s COVID-19 webpage.  Follow Legal Aid on Twitter and Facebook for the most current updates.

Tenants with questions about their housing rights during the pandemic should continue to call the Tenant Information Line at 216.861.5955 or 440.210.4533.

Workers with questions about employment benefits and unemployment compensation (UC) should contact Legal Aid.  Information about the new UC rules is available here.  Workers should contact intake to apply for help with current employment related problems.  A Worker Information Line to help answer questions about employment and unemployment benefits and worker rights is coming soon!

 Local Updates:

County Buildings

All Cuyahoga County buildings are currently closed to the public. Visit their online services page for resources and information. Cuyahoga County Justice Center, Juvenile Justice Center, the Old Courthouse and Board of Elections remain open for essential functions.

All Lake County offices are adjusting to an alternative service model and have suspended public interface in county owned facilities. For a list of Lake County amended operations by department, click here.

Lorain, Geauga and Ashtabula County agencies all have temporarily modified operations.  Please call county agencies before visiting to learn about those changes.

County Benefits

Cuyahoga Job and Family Services (CJFS) will continue to attempt to verify eligibility requirements such as income and resources through an electronic data source whenever possible.  When CJFS is unable to verify income or resources through an electronic data source, the individual will be requested to provide necessary documentation.  Documents may still be dropped off at several locations. While the lobbies are closed to the public, a locked document drop off box is still available at several locations.  Community Medicaid (Non-Long Term Care) case verifications may be scanned and emailed to, and Long Term Care case verifications may be scanned and emailed to Verifications may also be mailed to the Agency. Postage paid envelopes can be mailed to applicants upon their request.

Cuyahoga County has suspended assessments and on-site visits related to work activity requirements for people who receive food stamps and cash assistance. All county assessments and on-site visits related to work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) are suspended until further notice. For more information about TANF call 216.987.8656 and 216.987.6820 for SNAP.

Utility Info

Cleveland Water and Cleveland Public Power (CPP) have temporarily stopped disconnection of residential services for non-payment. If you have recently been disconnected for non-payment, please call Cleveland Water at 216.664.3130 or CPP at 216.664.4600.

Ashtabula County Community Action Agency announces changes to the application process for their Energy Assistance programs during the state of emergency. Ashtabula County Residents who are enrolling in the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) for the first time, applying for the Home Energy Assistance Winter Crisis Program, or with incomes at or below 30% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, are no longer required to visit the Ashtabula County Community Action Agency in order to complete an application. In person appointments have been suspended but clients must still call to make their appointments at 440.997.5957 or 866.223.1471. Clients may submit their documentation online here or by dropping documents off at 6920 Austinburg Road, Ashtabula, Ohio 44004. For more information, visit ACCAA’s website.

Free and low-cost internet access is available from Charter Communications and Comcast.  Households with school-aged children are eligible for free services.  To enroll in free internet during the COVID 19 pandemic, call 1-844-488-8395.  Other households may qualify for low-cost service.  For more information, visit Spectrum Internet Assist.

Food Assistance

The Greater Cleveland Food Bank continues to provide food assistance to families in need throughout northeast Ohio.  Call the Help Center at 216.738.2067 if you need food assistance, Monday – Friday, 7 am – 6 pm.

Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) will continue meal service to all students during the shutdown of Ohio schools. Meals are free for all children in the city of Cleveland 18 and younger. Click here for a flyer with school meal pickup sites and shuttle information.

Aramark will provide emergency meals for Lorain City School District (LCSD) Monday through Friday at various sites.  For more information and to see a list of the meal sites, visit the Lorain City School District website.

Many other school districts continue distributing free meals to families.  Visit your district’s website for information about times and locations to pick up meals.

Mental Health Services

The ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County has provided resources to support mental health during this stressful time. If you are experiencing stress or anxiety, you can call the Cuyahoga County Warmline at 440.886.5950 to talk with a peer. The warmline operates daily from 9am-1am. You can also text “4hope” to 741741, the Crisis Test Line. If you are in crisis, please call the 24-hour Suicide Prevention, Mental Health/Addiction Crisis, Information and Referral Hotline at 216.623.6888.

Signature Health is providing telemedicine services for mental and behavioral health to patients on Medicare, Medicaid and those without any health insurance. New patients of Signature Health can call 440.578.8200 to schedule a telemedicine appointment.  For more information regarding telehealth services at Signature Health, click here.


Lorain Metropolitan Housing Authority’s Housing Choice Voucher Program waiting list is closed. LMHA will not be accepting applications until further notice. For more information or to see this announcement in Spanish visit LMHA’s website.

Financial Assistance

Hebrew Free Loan Association of Northeast Ohio is offering emergency, interest-free loans to people affected by the coronavirus. Loans of up to $1,500 are available for purposes including, but not limited to, lost wages, childcare costs due to school closures, and medical costs. Learn more and apply here, or call  216.378.9042.

 Ohio Updates:

 ODJFS extended benefits and deadlines for cash and food stamp benefits.  SNAP benefits for households scheduled to expire in March, April and May 2020, are extended 6 months until September, October, and November 2020. Assistance groups with Interim Reports due in March, April or May 2020 will have due dates extended until after May 2020. Additionally, ODJFS has established the temporary procedure for county Jobs and Family Service agencies to accept verbal signatures over the telephone.

The Ohio Department of Medicaid suspended Medicaid renewals for a period of 180 days. Medicaid coverage will not be lost because the renewal process was not able to be completed. For more information and resources, visit the Disaster Response Toolkit. Individuals affected by these temporary changes to procedure will be notified by mail. New applications for SNAP, OWF, and Medicaid can be submitted online at or by calling the Eligibility Contact Center at 1.844.640.6446.

Unemployment eligibility has expanded during COVID-19. Workers who lose employment as a result of COVID 19 may qualify for benefits immediately.  See details about the expanded eligibility at here.  You can apply online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at

The Ohio Department of Education has released a document to help school districts provide special education services to students with disabilities. The document addresses specific requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and speaks to the most frequently asked questions that have emerged during the state’s ordered school-building closure. The document can be found here.

Ohio now qualifies for the Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. This program provides low-interest loans for small businesses and non-profits up to $2 million in order to help businesses overcome the temporary loss of revenue during the state of emergency. More information about the SBA disaster assistance in response to COVID-19 is available here.  Additional information, including the online application, is available at

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) extended its winter reconnect order through May 1, 2020. The Winter Reconnect Order helps Ohioans reconnect or maintain electric and natural gas service during the heating season between October 14, 2019 and May 1, 2020. The Commission also noted that PUCO-regulated utilities should review their policies and identify where it may be prudent to suspend, the duration of the emergency, any policies that would impose a service restoration hardship or create an unnecessary risk of human contact. Utility customers who have questions or concerns regarding their utility service are encouraged to contact the PUCO online.

 National Updates:

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act goes into effect on April 2, 2020 and ends on December 31, 2020. The act includes an Emergency Expansion of the Family Medical Leave Act (EEFMLA), Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act, and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (PSLA). To read a summary of the key provisions, click here. To read the full act, click here. Visit Legal Aid’s COVID-19 webpage for FAQs on this legislation (coming soon).

The Social Security Administration offices are closed to the public. SSA is also extending deadlines for filing whenever possible. If you have questions about what Social Security is doing during the COVID-19 pandemic, how to get help, deadline extensions and more, visit or call your local office.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has developed a toolkit to help you stay informed on CMS and HHS materials available about COVID-19. For more information or to view the toolkit, click here.

USCIS has released information related to the Public Charge rule during the COVID-19 pandemic. USCIS will not consider testing, treatment, or preventative care (including a vaccine, if one becomes available) related to COVID-19 as part of a public charge inadmissibility determination (for immigrants seeking Permanent Residence status), even if such testing, treatment or preventative care is paid for by a public benefit, including Medicaid. Testing, treatment and prevention related to COVID-19 will also not be considered related to the public benefits condition applicable to certain nonimmigrants seeking an extension of stay or change of status.

In August of 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued its new “Public Charge Rule.” The new rules did not go into effect until February 24, 2020, because of legal challenges to the rule.  The Public Charge Rule allows immigration officials to deny a person’s application to enter the U.S. or stay in the country permanently if it is determined the applicant is likely to be a “public charge.” Under the new rule, a public charge is defined as someone who is more likely than not to receive one or more public benefits for more than 1 year (in total) in any 3-year period. The new rule has already scared eligible immigrants away from valuable public benefits that could improve their health and increase their financial stability.  It is very important to note that the public charge rule does NOT apply to all immigrants. Additionally, any public benefits received before 2/24/2020 CANNOT count against the immigrant. If you are unsure whether the Public Charge Rule applies to a particular immigrant please consult with an immigration attorney and/or a legal advocate. Click here for more information about the new Public Charge Rule.

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