*Please note: the following information is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Open Door Legal.
COVID-19 Legal Issue Directory
Below is a comprehensive guide to any legal issues that may have arisen due to COVID-19. We are monitoring the situation and will continually update this guide as well as our social media with any changes.
Open Door Legal’s Services
At this time, we are providing all of our legal services virtually. Our three offices (Bayview, Excelsior, and Western Addition) are closed until further notice. If you need legal advice, please call (415) 735-4124 or complete our online screening form at https://opendoorlegal.org/start.
Many people working secure jobs have been unexpectedly laid off or are simply unable to work due to the shelter-in-place order. There has also been an uptick in race-based and national origin-based discrimination and violence toward individuals of Asian descent and other countries disparately affected by coronavirus.
In addition, the federal government has passed new leave laws to protect workers who have fallen ill from coronavirus or are taking care of a family member infected with COVID-19. If you have any questions related to unemployment, cut hours, sick leave, etc, view our frequently asked employment questions here.
Issues our office may be able to help you with during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- If you or someone you know has been laid off and has not been paid complete final wages.
- If you have specific leave law questions and want to know your rights regarding school closures, caring for a sick loved one, or caring for yourself while sick.
- If you have been treated differently than other employees based on your race or national origin.
If you were working for a small business or are a small business owner, this website may be useful to you as it contains San Francisco-specific information for small businesses.
Congress recently passed a stimulus package that expanded unemployment benefits to include people furloughed, gig workers and freelancers. We’ve updated our FAQ document to include the new regulations, but to see the most to date news visit this page.
As a result of changes to employment or illness due to COVID-19, we understand that it will be difficult for many households to make their rent payments in the coming months. Eviction lawsuits have been halted throughout California, unless the eviction case is necessary to protect public health and safety. This policy is in place until 90 days after Governor Newsom lifts the state of emergency. In San Francisco, most lawsuits that were filed prior to COVID-19 are on hold and are being delayed on a rolling basis. The San Francisco Sheriff’s Office is not performing lockouts until further notice. The San Francisco Housing Authority is also not seeking to evict tenants at this time, except for situations involving serious violence or health hazards.
Mayor Breed has also ordered an Eviction Moratorium that gives San Francisco residents extra time to pay their rent if they have been financially impacted by COVID-19. Please note that the rent you would normally owe will still become due at some point; if you have the ability to pay rent, you should. Please be aware that it is still illegal for landlords to change the locks or to use any other self-help methods. All other tenant protections still apply. Find more information on the San Francisco Eviction Moratorium here.
To qualify for protection under the San Francisco Eviction Moratorium, you must immediately notify your landlord (ideally in writing) that you cannot pay your rent because of COVID-19, no later than 30 days after your rent becomes due. See sample fillable letter linked here. You must do this for each month that your income is affected by COVID-19. You must also provide documentation that proves you are financially impacted by COVID-19, within 7 days of notifying your landlord that you cannot pay your rent. This documentation should be in the form of a separate letter from your employer (verifying one’s change in employment and citing COVID-19 as the reason for the change) or a separate letter from your doctor (verifying that you or a family member has been infected by COVID-19). A letter from you stating specific facts regarding why you cannot pay the rent will suffice if a document from your employer or doctor is not available.
The San Francisco Rent Board is not presently holding mediations and arbitrations. All Rent Board petitions are currently on hold.
The San Francisco Housing Authority is open at their 1815 Egbert Ave. office during normal business hours for mandatory functions such as recertifications, inspections, and changes in status. However, response times are slower than normal.
Housing law rules & resources in San Francisco and statewide are likely to change frequently. For the most up to date resources, visit the Eviction Defense Collaborative’s website here. The Eviction Defense Collaborative (EDC) has resources and sample letters on their site in multiple languages. The San Francisco Housing Rights Committee is still providing tenant counseling over the phone at (415) 703- 8644 (Mon-Thurs, 1-5pm.)
If you are a current housing client, please call your Open Door Legal attorney to check in. If you are not a current client but have housing-related legal issues, please call (415) 735-4124 to schedule a remote intake, or schedule one online here.
The Public Utility Commission confirmed that during the Covid-19 state of emergency, local utility companies will not turn off services due to non-payment. The order is retroactive back to March 4, 2020.
The Immigration Courts and USCIS have announced numerous changes to daily operations in response to the COVID-19 crisis. In the midst of the confusion, it is critical to remember that everyone, regardless of immigration status, is eligible for free testing and treatment of COVID-19. You should not avoid seeking medical care because you fear civil immigration enforcement. ICE has publicly stated that the government “will not carry out enforcement operations at or near health care facilities, such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, accredited health clinics, and emergent or urgent care facilities, except in the most extraordinary of circumstances.” See ICE’s statement here.
Other important updates:
- Public charge. COVID-19 testing and treatment is not considered a negative factor in the public charge analysis, even if Medi-Cal pays for the testing and treatment. See USCIS’ statement here.
- Immigration Court hearings. All non-detained hearings before the Immigration Court at 100 Montgomery and 630 Sansome have been cancelled and will be rescheduled by mail. Hearings for detained individuals are proceeding as scheduled.
- ICE/ISAP check-ins. In-person ICE check-ins and ISAP check-ins are cancelled until further notice. ICE/ISAP will call individuals to reschedule the check-in, which might be conducted telephonically for the time being.
- USCIS appointments. All USCIS field offices, asylum offices, and Application Support Centers (ASCs) will not provide in-person services (including interviews, naturalization ceremonies, and biometric collection appointments) until at least April 7, 2020. USCIS field offices will send rescheduling notices when USCIS resumes normal operations.
For resources available to undocumented individuals during the COVID-19 crisis (in English and Spanish), visit this page.
For a more detailed immigration update, please see below:
Families are facing many challenges during this time. If you have any questions or issues around custody and visitation, child support, guardianship, divorce or domestic violence, please seek help by calling Open Door Legal to schedule an appointment or submitting an online intake form.
If you need immediate support with any domestic violence concerns, you can text or call Casa de las Madres at (877) 503-1850, text them at (415) 200-3575, or visit their website here. For help filing, you can contact the Cooperative Restraining Order Clinic (CROC) 24-hour support line at (415) 864-4722 or (877) 384-3578 (toll free) and call (415) 969-6711 to make an appointment or visit their website. Domestic violence shelters are still open during this time as well.
At this time, family law hearings are being continued or vacated. Court remains open for ex parte requests, temporary restraining orders, child abduction due process hearings, and domestic restraining orders where visitation or custody is an issue. The Clerk’s Office in Room 402 and mediation services will be closed through at least April 15, 2020. The ACCESS Center (self-help) will also be closed through at least April 15, 2020, and all of the Center’s in-person and telephone services are suspended as well. If you are a current ODL family law client please contact your ODL attorney for updates on your specific case.
Right now, the top priority of our elder law department is keeping our elderly clients safe. Please let ODL know if you need connection to services and help right now. Most Safeways, Whole Foods, and Targets are opening an hour early just for vulnerable seniors. Call your local store to ask about their policies. Meals on Wheels is still delivering meals and groceries. You can apply on their website here.
Please note that Open Door Legal staff will not be able to meet with clients in person or execute/notarize estate planning documents for the foreseeable future. All in-person visits related to guardianship and conservatorship cases are suspended until May 15, 2020.
If you are a probate litigation client, please be advised that all trust, estate, guardianship, and probate conservatorship matters on calendar through June 22, 2020 will be continued for 12 weeks subject to further continuances as required. New filings will be given dates to accommodate future calendars. Temporary letters will be extended to the continued hearing date on presentation of an order from counsel. All motions calendared through June 22, 2020 will be continued to dates set by the Court. The court will still be open for ex parte matters where there is a risk of immediate or irreparable injury. If you have any questions about your ODL case, please contact your attorney.
General Court Updates
The San Francisco Superior Court has drastically reduced their services and cut back on its operations. With a few exceptions, if you have an upcoming hearing or trial in civil court, it very likely has been postponed. Please refer to the court’s website here for their most up to date and specific information. If you have an open ODL case, please contact your attorney to get more specific information about the status of your case.
Healthcare and Public Benefits
Check out this update from Legal Services from Northern California on health care coverage and public benefits.
SF’s Human Services Agency, where you can apply for Medi-Cal, CalFresh, and the county’s financial assistance programs, is still operational online and over phone although their physical office is closed. Visit their website here for more information.
Taxes/Getting your $1,200 stimulus checks
Stimulus Payment Update
The government’s coronavirus economic relief package includes stimulus payments to a majority
of US taxpayers. The total amount of your stimulus check will be based on your adjusted gross
income, or AGI, from your 2019 federal tax filing or — if you haven’t filed this year — your 2018
For some who already filed their 2019 taxes and do not qualify, if your income suddenly drops
this year due to unemployment, or much lower hours or gigs than you worked the year prior,
you’ll be able to claim the stimulus on your 2020 tax return.
The IRS said if you haven’t filed your 2018 federal taxes, theat could affect your stimulus check
and urges anyone who hasn’t filed a 2018 tax return to file now. Be sure to include direct deposit
banking information on the return.
Many who normally are not required to file a tax return — including senior citizens, Social
Security, and railroad retirees — will not need to file a simple tax return to receive the payment,
the IRS said. The Social Security Administration said it is working the Treasury Department for
payments for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients.
If the IRS does not have your bank information then in the coming weeks, the Treasury plans to
develop a web-based portal for individuals to provide their banking information to the IRS
online, so that individuals can receive payments immediately as opposed to checks in the mail.
To learn more, see the IRS what you need to know site.
The state and federal tax filing date has been moved to July 15, 2020. The IRS has extended the filing deadline and federal tax payments regardless of amount owed. You can read more from the IRS here, or from the California Franchise Tax Board here.
Important Alert: The San Francisco Superior Court has reported a telephone scam in which the caller purports to be a member of law enforcement who threatens the person with a bench warrant for missed grand jury duty. If anyone calls you saying they are from the court or law enforcement, this is a scam. The Court and law enforcement do not communicate by telephone or by email. Please do not give them any of your information or money. Read more here.
Scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding the coronavirus by selling everything from treatments to vaccines to work-from-home schemes. To understand what they are doing and how to prevent yourself from being scammed, please read this helpful link.
Mental Health Resource
In this stressful time, please make sure to take care of yourself and your family. If you need anyone to talk to you can call or text the California Peer-Run Warm Line at 1-855-845-7415. This is a non-emergency resource for anyone in California seeking emotional support for COVID-19 concerns or any concerns at all. Some concerns that callers commonly share are challenges with anxiety, panic, interpersonal relationships, anxiety, financial uncertainty, depression, and alcohol and drug use.
For more information and the latest health updates, please visit the CDC’s website here.