If you need assistance in Massachusetts, call 2-1-1 or visit mass211.org. Available 24/7.
Boston residents should call 3-1-1.

Information, updates, and guidance from:

IMPORTANT! Getting tested or treated for the virus will NOT count as a public charge for immigrants.

Donate to EMPath’s Crisis Response Fund

Please note, this information is continuously changing, so keep checking back.

Health care and virus testing

  • If you have MassHealth, you’re FULLY COVERED for COVID-19 testing and treatment.
  • If you’re uninsured, you can apply through April 25 for MassHealth or Connector plans.
  • DO NOT avoid testing or treatment for lack of coverage!
  • The MA Department of Public Health has ordered all commercial insurers and the Group Insurance Commission to cover medically necessary telehealth services in the same manner they cover in-person services. Insurers must do this without requiring cost-sharing of any kind – such as co-pays and coinsurance. Read the full order here.
  • MassHealth patients are able to pick up 90-day prescription refills. There will also be leniency around picking up the prescription early.
  • Click here for more information.

Housing

Shelter:

Housing assistance:

  • A new special fund under the RAFT (Residential Assistance for Families in Transition) program has been set up for eligible households (families and individuals) who may face eviction, foreclosure, loss of utilities, and other housing emergencies. Click here for info.

Rent adjustments:

  • Folks in subsidized housing/public housing/vouchers who have lost income or jobs should contact their rental manager. This may be difficult as offices are closed; keep a log if you cannot reach anyone. Keep paystubs, layoff notices, etc. These will be essential is obtaining rent adjustments.
  • NOTE: Anyone living in BHA public housing must see their property manager to report income changes.

Evictions:

  • Boston Mayor Marty Walsh along with several major landlords and real estate groups in Boston have agreed to halt most evictions. Click here for more information.
  • See the “Courts” section below for more information regarding evictions.

Housing in Boston:

  • BHA is limiting in-person contact, but continues to be available on-site and by phone and email. Click here for more information.
  • BHA has postponed evictions unrelated to public health or safety until further notice.
  • For help with rental assistance and arrears, contact the Office of Housing Stability at (617) 635-4200 or housingstability@boston.gov.

Vouchers:

  • DHCD is moving to temporarily suspend terminations of federal and state rental vouchers, including assistance provided under the Section 8 (DHCD portfolio only), Massachusetts Rental Voucher and Alternative Housing Voucher programs, in all cases other than those involving violent or drug-related criminal activity that seriously affects the health and safety of other residents.

Residential leasing/showing:

  • Click here for guidance from EMPath’s housing attorney.

Click here for more info on housing assistance, evictions, and vouchers.

Food assistance

  • Hotline: MA residents can contact Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333 (TTY 1-800-377-1292) or gettingsnap.org for resources in their community and help signing up for SNAP (“food stamps”), WIC (Women, Infants, & Children). Available in 160 languages and for those who are hearing impaired.
  • Find food pantries and community meal programs: Click here.
  • Stores: Gov. Charlie Baker ordered grocery stores and pharmacies to provide at least one hour a day of shopping time for adults over 60 years old. Some have designated more than one hour. Check stores’ websites for details.

SNAP (food stamps)

  • If you lost your job or work hours because of COVID-19, you can apply for SNAP at any time. You do not have to wait to file an application.
  • MA Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) requires applicants to provide the “best available proof” for verifications during application for all benefits. DTA recognizes that some documents might not be available at this time. A self-declaration letter might be the best available document to provide and is acceptable.
  • SNAP recipients who are due to re-certify will have their benefits extended for 6 months. No one receiving benefits will lose their benefits during this time.
  • New SNAP recipients will receive their EBT card by mail only and it may take 5-10 days to receive your new card. People experiencing homelessness can use a shelter address to receive their card.
  • The SNAP work requirement rule for adults without dependents will has been suspended.
  • Reminder: households can give permission to friends, family, or other trusted people to use their EBT card on their behalf, with no need for formal documentation or written paperwork. This may be helpful for seniors, persons with disabilities, and other populations who are particularly vulnerable and at risk from COVID-19, and who may need to ask others to go shopping on their behalf.
  • Expensify.org is matching SNAP grocery purchases up to $50 per family.
  • Click here for more information from MLRI and see the DTA section below.

WIC (Women, Infants, & Children)

  • All WIC Programs are providing all services by phone: (800) 942-1007. Hours are Monday-Friday 9 a.m.–5 p.m. If you hear a recording, leave a message with your name and telephone number.
  • People who use WIC should plan to arrive at the grocery store first thing before things are cleared out for the day. You can call the store and find out what days they are restocking certain items.
  • Contact your local WIC office with any questions about breastfeeding, nutrition or shopping.
  • Click here for more information and updates.

Cash assistance and MA Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA)

Cash assistance

  • Hotline: If you’re in Boston and have questions about cash assistance (TAFDC or EAEDC), SNAP, or child care, call Greater Boston Legal Services’’s Welfare Law Unit at (617) 603-1806. Make sure to leave a voicemail with your name and number to get a call back.
  • Cash assistance (TAFDC or EAEDC): Call your local DTA office to start an application. Find your local DTA office here.
  • DTA is stopping all negative cash assistance case actions (for TAFDC and EAEDC only). This means that, prospectively, no one should be terminated or reduced for any reason - including sanctions, failure to verify information, reaching the time limit, etc.
  • Capital Good Fund is providing low-interest crisis relief loans.
  • See the “Additional resources” section for more emergency relief funds.

DTA Offices

  • DTA local offices have been closed to in-person visits until further notice. You can still call the DTA Assistance Line at (877) 382-2363, visit DTAConnect.com, and download the DTA Connect mobile app.
  • Click here for more information.

Unemployment

If you have been laid off, terminated, or have experienced a significant decrease in hours, you may be eligible to receive unemployment assistance.

  • Apply for unemployment assistance by calling at (617) 626-6800 or (877) 626-6800 or visiting this website.
  • Click here for instructions on how to apply, or, if you have questions and need assistance, click here for more information, call (617) 603-1530 (español) or (617) 603-1639 (all other languages), or fill out this short form and someone from Greater Boston Legal Services will contact you.
  • You can also sign up here for one of the MA Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA)’s daily town halls leading applicants through a step-by-step process of a successful unemployment claim.
  • If you’ve already submitted a claim and need to get in touch with someone from DUA, fill out this form and someone will call you.
  • Click here for FAQ from Attorney General Maura Healey’s office on employee rights and employer obligations.

Some changes have been made to unemployment assistance:

  • DUA will now pay workers who are ordered to quarantine themselves or leave work because of risk, exposure, or infection will be paid.
  • People will also be paid if leaving work to care for a family member.
  • While employees are still asked to work when able, they will not need to provide any medical documentation for their leave.
  • Some requirements around current unemployment claims have been relaxed, allowing many workers who are affected by closures to get some relief faster.
  • The one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits has been waived as of March 18, effective immediately, allowing new unemployment claims to be paid more quickly.

Click here for more information.

If you are currently receiving public benefits, such as SNAP, and have lost hours at work, let the overseeing agency, such as DTA, know that you have experienced a decrease in income.

  • If you previously did not qualify for public assistance, but have lost wages, you may now be eligible. Feel free to apply!

Most employers have needed to close or cut hours, so the likelihood of being hired at this time is slim. If you need work and are able to do so, the best places to look are:

  • Grocery Stores
  • Pharmacies
  • Takeout/fast food restaurants
  • Health care
  • If you are a native English speaker and have a Bachelor’s degree, you may want to consider teaching English online. Try Qkids or DaDa.
  • Newmarket Jobs Initiative (for job seekers 18-40 years old living in, or originally from, Roxbury, Dorchester or Mattapan)

Domestic violence

Local sexual and domestic violence organizations are still operating and working diligently to respond to all inquiries. Please continue to reach out to them to talk about your situation and discuss your options. Click here to find help.

School meals

Free meals to all youth and teens (this information is continuously changing, so keep checking back if you don’t find meals in your community):

Child care

  • As 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, March 22, all child care programs in MA must be closed.
  • This will remain in effect until May 4, 2020 and may be extended as needed.
  • Emergency childcare programs are still open, FREE of charge. Click here for a list of these programs.
  • Priority access to emergency child care is being given to vulnerable children, and the children of families designated as “COVID-19 Essential Workforces,” with emphasis on those in the health care, public health, and human services and law enforcement, public safety, and first responder fields.
  • Anyone with a child care subsidy now will keep their subsidy once child care centers reopen across the state.
  • Click here for more information.

Immigration

  • Getting tested or treated for the COVID-19 will NOT count as a public charge for immigrants.
  • Emergency funds for undocumented folks: Click here.
  • Click here for resources from MIRA Coalition in multiple languages.
  • For immigrants without access to benefits (undocumented, TPS, DACA, etc.) such as SNAP, unemployment, disability, and cash assistance, click here for assistance in your neighborhood and call 211 to ask for information on the United Way’s COVID-19 Family Support Fund.

School closures

  • K-12: All MA public and private K-12 schools are closed (except residential and day schools that serve students with disabilities) until at least May 4. Click here for more information.
  • Laptops: Boston Public Schools is providing Chromebooks to students who do not have consistent access to a computer at home. If your child needs a laptop, click here.
  • Boston-area colleges: Click here for info.
  • For information on child care centers, see the “Child care” section above.

Student loan debt

This section contains information compiled from StudentAid.gov regarding what is currently available for student loan borrowers seeking financial relief during this time. (Policies and terms may continue to change, so make sure to check with your loan servicer regularly for the most accurate information.)

What is the new policy regarding student loan interest during COVID-19?

On March 13, the president announced that interest would be waived on all federally held student loans. Which loans are covered by the announcement?

  • All loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will have interest waived. That includes Direct Loans, as well as Federal Perkins Loans and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans held by ED.
  • Please note that some FFEL Program loans are owned by commercial lenders, and some Perkins Loans are held by the institution you attended. These loans are not eligible for this benefit at this time.

Who can tell me if my loans will have their interest rate reduced?

  • Contact your loan servicer online or by phone to determine if your loans are eligible. Your servicer is the entity to which you make your monthly payment.
  • If you do not know who your servicer is or how to contact them, visit StudentAid.gov/login or call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243; TTY for the deaf or hearing-impaired 1-800-730-8913) for assistance.

Are private student loans eligible for this benefit?

  • No. ED does not have legal authority over private student loans, so they are not covered by the president’s forbearance announcement.
  • Contact your private loan lender to see if they have any options such as lowering interest rates.

What should I do if I can’t afford my student loan payments at this time?

On March 20, the president said I can suspend payments on my loans. What do I need to do to suspend my payments?

  • You can ask for an administrative forbearance by calling your loan servicer. Being in an administrative forbearance means that you can temporarily stop making your federal student loan payments without becoming delinquent. Because interest is being waived during this national emergency, interest will not accrue (accumulate) while you are in forbearance. If you request an administrative forbearance, you will not have any payments due for as long as the administrative forbearance lasts.

If I want an administrative forbearance, do I have to request it, or will I get one automatically?

  • If you want to request an administrative forbearance, you should request one by contacting your loan servicer.
  • If you do not know who your servicer is or how to contact them, visit StudentAid.gov/login or call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243; TTY for the deaf or hearing-impaired 1-800-730-8913) for assistance.
  • Note: If you’re at least 31 days behind on your payment as of March 13, 2020, or become more than 31 days delinquent after that date, you’ll automatically be placed in the administrative forbearance to give you a safety net during the national emergency.

How to access emergency forbearance for the following loan servicers:

Other FAQs

Will my monthly payment go down because interest is being waived?

No. Your monthly payment will remain the same, but the full amount of the payment will be applied to already accrued interest and/or outstanding principal. This means that you are likely to pay your balance down more quickly during this zero-interest period.

How long will interest be waived?

Interest will not accrue on federally held student loans for at least 60 days, beginning on March 13, 2020. ED may extend that period, depending on the status of the national emergency.

What if I am already more than 31 days past due on my payments?

If you’re at least 31 days behind on your payments as of March 13, 2020, or become more than 31 days delinquent after that date, you’ll automatically be placed in an administrative forbearance to give you a safety net during the national emergency.

Are private student loans eligible for this benefit?

No. ED does not have legal authority over private student loans, so they are not covered by the president’s forbearance announcement.

How long will the administrative forbearance last?

The administrative forbearance will last for at least 60 days from March 13, 2020. ED may extend that period, depending on the status of the national emergency. If the option for an administrative forbearance is extended, your loan servicer will communicate information about the extension to you.

Is there any reason why I would not want to suspend my payments?

If you are pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness or Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) forgiveness, you may not want to go into an administrative forbearance because the time spent in an administrative forbearance does not count toward the required payments. However, if your income has changed, you may qualify for a lower monthly payment in an IDR plan — a payment that could be as low as zero dollars. A zero-dollar IDR payment counts toward the required 120 payments. If you are on an IDR plan and your income has changed significantly, you can update your information and get a new payment amount. To do so, visit StudentAid.gov/idr, click on “Apply Now,” and then start the application by clicking on the button next to “Recalculate my monthly payment.”

What if my loan is already in forbearance?

If your loan is already in forbearance, it will stop accruing interest starting on March 13, 2020, for at least 60 days. However, when your loan goes back into repayment, any interest that accrued during the forbearance period prior to March 13, 2020, will capitalize, which means that any outstanding interest will be added to your principal balance.

Click here to read more FAQs about student loans and the COVID-19 crisis.

Utilities

  • Utility assistance: Click here.
  • The MA Department of Public Utilities is extending the state’s moratorium on electric and gas service shutoffs for the duration of the state of emergency in MA.

Transportation

  • The MBTA is reducing service on some lines, with some high-demand lines retaining normal service. Click here for updates.
  • The MA Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) has switched to an appointment-only reservation system for necessary and required in-person transactions, including certain CDL license transactions and some new registrations. Click here to make an appointment.
  • The RMV is now conducting suspension hearings over the phone. You will still need to visit the RMV to apply for and initiate a suspension hearing.
  • The RMV is suspending the issuance of new REAL IDs and non-commercial learner’s permit exams until April 7.
  • Click here for more RMV information.

Internet

Free and low-cost internet offers

  • Comcast is offering 60 days of free service to new Internet Essentials customers who apply by April 30, and free remote installation. It’s also increasing service speeds for new and existing customers and has made Xfinity WiFi hotspots free for all to use.
  • Starry is offering free service until the end of May to all current Starry Connect subscribers and anyone who signs up for Starry Connect before the end of May. You must live in a building that is currently served by the Starry Connect program.
  • Verizon announced two months of waived Internet and voice service charges for current Lifeline customers. The company also has new, affordable Internet options for low-income households.
  • PCs for People offers low-cost WiFi hotspots and computers to qualifying households. They now accept Pell Grant documentation for eligibility for higher education students impacted by COVID-19-related school closures.
  • Click here for more free and low-cost internet programs.

Other resources

Libraries

  • Most municipal libraries have closed or modified services. Contact your local library for more information. Click here for an updated list of public library closings and service changes.
  • All Boston Public Library locations are closed, all events have been cancelled, and due dates are extended.
  • Massachusetts libraries have many e-books, audiobooks, and other resources available online.

Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF)

  • All BCYF community center pools, gyms, and fitness centers are closed, and all programming has been suspended.
  • Only select centers will be open for youth meal distribution throughout the Boston Public Schools closure.

Mental health

For children:

Physical health

Courts

  • Massachusetts Trial Courts will be closed to the public, except for emergency matters, from March 18 through at least April 6.
  • If you have questions about a court hearing, you can call Rosie’s Place Legal Program at (617) 318-0280 (note: Rosie’s Place serves women only).

Housing Court:

  • Many eviction cases will not be heard until after April 21 in Housing Courts and May 4 in District Courts. However, some eviction cases and emergency situations will be heard before then.
  • Click here to learn more about evictions.

Small Claims Court:

  • All pending Small Claims cases are postponed until no earlier than May 4. Click here to learn more about small claims and debt collection.

Managing finances

NOTE: The deadline to file and pay both federal and MA state taxes has been moved to July 15.

How Do I Manage My Finances During COVID-19?

From EMPath’s Financial Specialist

Communication is key

  • The most important advice in managing debt during ANY financial hardship is regular communication with your financial institution such as your bank, creditor, or student loan servicer.
  • Always alert your financial institution immediately when you are beginning to experience financial hardship and inquire about options they can provide such as lower interest payments, changing the bill due date, temporary relief, etc.
  • It is understandable that taking the time to call and have those conversations can be difficult emotionally. Keep in mind that financial hardships often happen at no fault of your own. Speaking with your bank as soon as possible can save you money in the long-run, such as reduced interest payments or preventing a debt to go into collections.
  • Be prepared to explain your situation to your bank/creditor. You may want to write down your story prior to the call to help you better explain your situation to the customer representative. This may include important dates related to your employment and a list of other debts/accounts/medical expenses you have financial obligations to at this time and having difficulty paying due to reduced income or employment.

What steps can I take?

  • Contact your bank or financial institution immediately via the customer service phone number on the back of your credit card to inquire about financial help during the pandemic.
  • You may also be able to contact your financial institution via online support through their website or online chat support. Take notes as you speak with your financial institution and request for documentation of any agreed upon terms or changes to your credit card/bank etc.
  • Utilize online banking or mobile apps to manage your payments or fund transfers to decrease in-person contact at financial institutions.

Additional information and resources:

At-home learning

  • If your child is facing barriers to their education, including children with IEP and disabilities, please call Mass Advocates For Children at 617-357-8431 ext. 3224 (English) or 617-357-8431 ext. 3237 (español)
  • Click here for additional education and child-related resources.
  • See “Internet” section above for more.

Avoid this being a time where kids zone out on movies and TV for the whole day.

  • MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: Free online educational resources for parents and students.
  • Libraries: Massachusetts libraries have many e-books, audiobooks, and other resources available online.
  • Children’s Museum: Boston Children’s Museum has free online learning resources.
  • Audible is offering free stories for kids to stream.
  • Amazon: Amazon has dropped the paywall for all their child-related videos and is offering children’s programming for free.
  • Aquarium: New England Aquarium is posting educational animal videos online.
  • Museums: Free virtual museums
  • WGBH: WGBH’s Distance Learning Center has lots of resources for students, educators, families and more. WGBH’s public TV station will also be televising educational content between noon and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • Puppet shows: Joshua Smith, Student Wholeness Specialist at Baltimore Public Schools, is live-streaming social-emotional learning puppet shows on his Facebook page to help kids cope with the crisis, every weekday morning from 10-10:30am.

Many e-learning companies are opening their platforms to the public:

  • ABCmouse, educational activities for children ages 2-8 (use code: AOFLUNICEF)
  • Adventure Academy, for older kids (code: SCHOOL7771)
  • ReadingIQ, thousands of books for children 12 and under (use code: AOFLUNICEF)
  • Codecademy is 10,000 offering scholarships to Codecademy Pro for free to high school and college students across the world for the rest of the school year.

Playgrounds and parks

Working from home

Additional resources and mutual aid