Public Benefits During the COVID-19 Emergency

Emergency Public Benefits

[Updated 8/4/2021 @ 1:10 pm]

Breaking News

Types of Emergency Aid
[This section is also available for download as a PDF.]


COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments

Please see our dedicated resource page for basic information on Economic Impact Payments (sometimes called “stimulus payments”), along with links to resource, fraud alerts, and a list of frequently asked questions and answers.

Immediate Need

For CalWORKs applicants who can’t pay for basic needs (rent, utilities, etc.), if you qualify, you will:

  • Get up to $200 within 3 days.
  • If you have an eviction notice, get your full CalWORKS check in 3 days.
  • Get your CalWORKS application processed in 15 working days (instead of 45).
  • To qualify, you must seem eligible for CalWORKS based on your application, and:
    • Have less than $100; or
    • Have an emergency such as a lack of food, housing, or other essentials such as clothing or diapers; or
    • Are facing a pending eviction.
  • Welfare to Work requirements can be modified or waived in the event of an emergency or disaster
Emergency CalFresh

Receive CalFresh in 3 days if:

  • Your rent and utilities are more than your income or resources can cover, or
  • You have less than $150 in income and less than $100 in resources.
  • If you are required to work to receive CalFresh, your work requirements may be waived in the event of an emergency or disaster
Homeless Assistance

CalWORKs eligible families and pregnant women can get:

  • $85/day for a motel ($15/per person extra if more than 4 people) for up to 16 days if you:
    • Have less than $100 in cash.
    • Are homeless and looking for permanent housing
    • Have not gotten CalWORKs Homeless Assistance in the last 12 months.
      • You can get help again if you are now homeless because of domestic violence, physical or mental illness, or your home was condemned or damaged by a fire/natural disaster.
  • Back rent
    • You can get up to two months rent to prevent an eviction. You must provide the “pay rent or quit” notice.
  • Move-in Costs
    • Money for last month’s rent, security, utility, & cleaning deposits.
      • You must prove you found a place to rent (commercial landlords only).
      • Your share of the rent must be below 80% of your household income.
      • If you qualify, the county must give you the motel money the same day, or find shelter for you; it must pay the move-in money by the next day.
      • You turn in a written rental agreement.
Household Emergency

If you receive CalWORKs, you may receive payments for things lost/destroyed by an emergency. It must be a “sudden and unusual” situation beyond your control.

  • You must have less than $100 in resources.
  • You can get help with:
    • Repair or replace clothing or household equipment (beds, clothing, stoves, etc.)
    • Help fix damages to the home
    • Pay for interim shelter (home destroyed, made uninhabitable or inaccessible) – if not eligible for Homeless Assistance.
  • The county can give you donations or used goods, instead of a payment.
  • The maximum for all needs is $600, but each need has its own payment cap.


Emergency Medi-Cal
  • Medi-Cal covers emergency services regardless of immigration status. An emergency medical condition is when you are pregnant, or your health would be at serious risk if you didn’t get immediate medical attention. Labor and delivery and kidney dialysis treatment are emergency conditions.
  • If you are low-income, County health will cover all or part of your medical costs, including emergency care.
  • You can also get screening and treatment for breast and cervical cancers if you are low-income and qualify.
  • If you are pregnant, many health care providers can give you immediate pregnancy services under “Presumptive Eligibility for Pregnant Women” program, even before you apply for Medi-Cal.
  • Medi-Cal’s Hospital Presumptive Eligibility Program (HPE) gives eligible individuals immediate access to temporary, free Medi-Cal while waiting for permanent Medi-Cal approval through qualified HPE providers.
Solving Problems
  • Most proof of eligibility can be done later, to avoid delays in issuing the emergency benefits.
  • Certain proof is required:
    • Eviction notice for back-rent help
    • Pregnancy verification for immediate need, if no other children in house
  • Proof of immigration status for immediate need
  • If denied emergency benefits, ask to speak to the worker’s supervisor. If that doesn’t work and you still need help, ask for an expedited hearing.
    • Call the state hearing office, (800) 743-8525, and tell them you need an expedited hearing.
  • If you can, bring as much paperwork as you can, to avoid another trip to the office and for faster processing of your regular benefits.
    • Proof of age of children
    • Proof of residence
    • Your identification papers
    • Social Security Numbers
    • Proof of relation to the child
    • Proof of income and resources
    • If no other children, proof of pregnancy with expected due date
    • Proof of immigration status


Public Agency Updates: Rules, Procedures, and Office Closures/Restrictions


Social Security COVID-19 Updates
  • To stay updated about what the Social Security Administration (SSA) is doing during the COVID-19 pandemic, go to: (updated daily).
  • CARES Act economic impact payments:
    • Supplemental Security Income Recipients Will Receive Automatic COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments directly, but SSI recipients with dependent children should still use the “Non-Filers Enter Info Here” portal on IRS.Gov to provide their information. (updated 04/15/20)
    • Those who have filed 2018 or 2019 tax returns, or who received SSDI and have received a 1099, should also receive payments automatically by check or direct deposit.
    • For information on the CARES Act economic impact payments, SSA directs to IRS site below (“Please do not call us about economic impact payments. Instead, for the latest information, please visit”). (as of 04/01/20)
    • Economic impact payments will not count toward SSI income and resource limits.
    • Other “non-filers” can apply for economic impact payments using the IRS non-filer portal:
    • From  (as of 8/4/21):
      • SSA states: “We recently changed our rules about what financial assistance can affect your eligibility for SSI or your monthly SSI payment amount. Specifically, we no longer count the financial assistance listed below against your eligibility or payment amount. We are reviewing SSI claims and other SSI records going back to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to restore SSI payments for people whose SSI was affected by receiving any of the assistance listed below.”
      • Financial assistance now no longer counted against income eligibility for SSI includes both Economic Impact Payments and most state stimulus payments.
      • Please check the SSA page (link above) frequently for further details.
    • Go to IRS sites for more information about economic impact payments:
      • (“Do not call. Check back for updates.”);
      • (“No action needed by most people at this time.”) (as of 04/01/20)
        • “The distribution of economic impact payments will begin in the next three weeks and will be distributed automatically, with no action required for most people. Social Security beneficiaries who are not typically required to file tax returns will not need to file to receive a payment. Instead, payments will be automatically deposited into their bank accounts. However, some people who typically do not file returns will need to submit a simple tax return to receive the economic impact payment. When more specific details become available, we will update this page.” (as of 04/07/20);
      • (“Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here) (04/10/20)
  • Social Security disability benefits payments, including SSI, will continue, although local offices are closed to the public. To sign up for direct deposit, go to:
  • Local offices are closed to the public, but are still operating and can be contacted by phone. You can find the local office number by entering your zip code here:
    • Note that if you use the Field Office Locator to find the number for your local office, it will show the national 800 number in the “Phone” field at the top. Go down to the bottom in the “Hide Additional Office information” section to see the direct number for the field office.
    • Most business with SSA can be done online, at, or by phone at either 1-800-772-1213 (wait time may be significant) or by calling the local office. If you have an open case you can contact your local SSA poffice and or your representative for updated information.
    • If you are represented by Bay Area Legal Aid please be assured that your attorney is still working on your case remotely, we are available by phone and email, and please keep us updated of any change to your address, phone number, work activity, health or treatment.
    • If your case is at hearing you may be asked if you will agree to conduct the hearing by phone. If you want an in-person hearing it will be postponed until they are able to have in-person hearings. If you have a hearing upcoming, please discuss these options with your attorney.
    • If you are scheduled for a consultative exam, you can contact the disability analyst, whose name and phone number should be on the notice of the appointment, and if you have a representative, please contact your representative.
  • SSA has issued a recent fraud warning:
    • (SSA Inspector General Warns Public About New Social Security Benefit Suspension Scam): “Social Security will never: threaten you with benefit suspension, arrest, or other legal action unless you pay a fine or fee; promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment; require payment by retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency, or prepaid debit card; demand secrecy from you in handling a Social Security-related problem; or send official letters or reports containing personally identifiable information via email.”
  • How can SSA help me by phone?
    • During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are dedicating available staff to serve people in most critical need of our services. Please read below before deciding whether to contact your local Field Office inquiry line or our National 800 Number. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. It may take you up to 90 minutes or more to reach an agent, so we encourage you to try our online services before calling us.
    • We realize you have questions about possible economic stimulus payments, but please do not call us with related questions at this time. We will update our webpage as we learn more.
    • When to call the local Field Office:
      • Field office employees can help you with the following issues:
        • Taking disability and survivor applications for the most severe disabilities, including:
          • If you have a terminal illness; o If you are a Wounded Warrior ( ) ;
          • If you may qualify for an immediate Supplemental Security Income payment based certain severe disabilities, including presumptive disability, emergency advance payment, immediate need payment or expedited reinstatement ( ); and
          • If your disability qualifies for our Compassionate Allowance ( ) or Quick Disability Determination ( ) processes.
        • Resolving payment-related issues:
          • If you did not receive your monthly payment;
          • If you are currently homeless or at risk of becoming homeless;
          • If you received an overpayment letter and need to request a reduced repayment schedule or request a waiver; or
          • If your benefits were suspended and can now be reinstated.
      • You can find your local field office inquiry line by accessing our Field Office Locator, above.
    • When to call the National 800 Number: Our 800# agents can assist with limited transactions and are focused on helping those people most in need. During the pandemic, if your request can be processed online, our agents will redirect you to use our online services. We also offer several automated telephone services that you can do without speaking with an 800# agent.
      • Our 800# agents can assist with the following limited transactions:
        • If you are not receiving benefits:
          • Scheduling a telephone appointment to apply for disability and survivor benefits
          • If you have a terminal illness;
          • If you are a Wounded Warrior;
          • If you may qualify for an immediate Supplemental Security Income payment based certain severe disabilities;
          • If your disability qualifies for our Compassionate Allowance or Quick Disability Determination processes; and
          • Other applications for benefits including retirement, survivors, Social Security disability, Medicare, and Supplemental Security Income claims.
        • If you are receiving benefits:
          • Resolving payment-related issues including:
            • Change of Address;
            • Direct Deposit Change;
            • Death Reports;
            • Requests to reinstate benefits; and
            • Reports of non-receipt of payment. (Note: If you are reporting a non-receipt of payment, we will investigate and send payments by mail, or we will schedule an appointment for you to visit the office for pickup.)
          • Other critical actions such as taking Medicare and Medicaid applications necessary for health-care coverage.
          • Handling Representative Payee and other changes that ensure you continue to receive benefits.
      • To the extent possible, we will complete all other applications for Retirement, Survivor, Disability, or Supplemental Security Income benefits. We encourage individuals applying for routine retirement and disability benefits to apply online.
    • Important Note: If you already have a scheduled appointment, we will attempt to contact you by phone and/or reschedule for a telephone appointment. Our call may come from a PRIVATE number and not from a U.S. Government phone. We know that some scammers are trying to take advantage of this situation. SSA employees should never threaten you or ask for any form of immediate payment.

Additional Resources

Economic Impact / CARES Act Payments