Information Current as of April 1st 2020
The following frequently asked questions were assembled while conducting interviews for the Rikers Island Longitudinal Study. They include questions from respondents who are now confronting the challenges of coronavirus pandemic, and questions we thought relevant to the needs of justice-involved people.
Who should get tested for COVID-19?
Testing should only be used if you are in need of hospitalization for severe symptoms or multiple diagnoses like COVID-19/pneumonia. If you have symptoms like fever, cough, shortness of breath, or a sore throat [not due to preexisting health conditions] that are mild or moderate, then you are to assume you have COVID-19 and stay home as testing is only intended to be used for those who need medical attention. However, if you have a chronic illness or are older than 50-years-old, then consult your doctor - depending on your preexisting condition, you may need monitoring or testing.
If I feel COVID-related symptoms, what should I do?
If you have any of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Sore throat
then you are to assume you have COVID-19 and stay home. Do not leave your home except for essential needs and self-quarantine. Disinfect any shared surfaces and wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds.
Where can I get tested for COVID-19?
- New York state suggests that before in-person testing individuals take a pre-screen assessment, accessible here, to see if you are eligible to be tested based on your symptoms.
- Drive-through testing is also available by appointment only by calling 888-364-3065. The state is prioritizing testing for residents over 60 years of age; those who have a chronic illness; those who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive; or first responders such as nurses, doctors, and nursing home employees.
For more information on New York City, visit https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/home and for updates from the Federal Government, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus
Is there a rent freeze in New York City?
As of April 1st, there is no rent freeze. Mayor Bill De Blasio is currently pushing to enact a rent freeze on the city’s rent-regulated apartments, but no such emergency legislation has passed.
What should I do if I can’t pay rent?
A memo that went into effect March 16th declared that until further notice, landlords cannot sue tenants and all courts that hear eviction cases are closed. You cannot be evicted at this time. However, you are still responsible for paying rent, and can be sued or issued an eviction warrant after the moratorium ends in mid-June.
How does the “Eviction Moratorium” impact me?
- Until mid-June, no one living in New York State can be evicted, including if your case was previously ongoing when the moratorium went into effect.
- If a city marshal tries to evict you anyway, report the activity to the City’s Department of Investigation (DOI) Bureau of City Marshals at 212-825-5953.
- If you had an upcoming court date for your eviction case, the case will be postponed and you will be mailed a notice for your new court date.
- If you live outside New York City, but in the state of New York, call the agency listed on your warrant to make sure they know the moratorium is in effect (they should already know this).
If you need more information, you can call 833-503-0447. This statewide hotline is open 24/7 and has interpreters for all common languages.
3. Court Related Issues
I have an ongoing court case, where should I get information about my case?
You can contact the New York State Court System’s coronavirus hotline: 833-503-0447.
Has court been closed?
Call the New York State Court System Coronavirus hotline first: 833-503-0447 , then contact your lawyer as they will have the most up to date information regarding the status of your case. If you are represented by a Public Defender, you can call the following numbers where they can help you get in touch with your lawyer or receive more information.
Bronx Defenders: 718-838-7878
Legal Aid Society: 212-577-3300
Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem: 212-876-5500
Brooklyn Defender Services: 718-254-0700
I have a court case in the coming days/weeks, should I go?
Court is only open for emergencies and arraignments. It is important that you be in touch with your attorney and follow their instruction.
I have a family court emergency:
If you have an emergency related to family court, please contact 619-630-8936, and contact your attorney,
I am in a Supervised Release Program (SRP), what should I do?
If you are under supervised release, you still have to fulfill any/all court mandated orders, including regular check ins with your casework/case manager. Most in person check ins have been cancelled due to Supervised Release Program offices being closed due to COVID-19. Be in touch with your caseworker/case manager. Below is contact information for Supervised Release in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn.
Bronx Community Solutions: (718) 618-2490
Manhattan - CASES program: (212) 553-6606
Brooklyn Justice Initiative: (347) 404-9960
I recently lost my job due to COVID-19, do I qualify for unemployment benefits?
Almost all workers, including the self-employed or those who work in the gig economy, qualify for unemployment, so long as unemployment occurs through no fault of the worker’s own. To apply for unemployment, file a claim online through your state’s website.
Where can I apply for social assistance (food benefits, etc.)?
To apply for family assistance (FA), you must be a NY resident, have no or low income, be pregnant or the main caretaker of a child under 18 who attends school regularly. Use this tool to check eligibility. If you are eligible, file this application at your Local Department of Social Services, the location of which you can search for here.
If you are not eligible for FA, you may still be eligible for Safety Net Assistance (SNA). This is for single adults, childless couples, or families of those with behavioral diagnoses like drug addiction. To be eligible for SNA, you must also work if you are able. The SNA application process is the same for that of FA: submit this application to your local Social Services.
You will be interviewed before approval within 7 days of either application. If it is an emergency, you will be interviewed the same day you apply - emergency circumstances are listed here.
5. Government Stimulus Package
Do I qualify for the $1,200.00 aid check in the stimulus package?
- If you filed your taxes for 2018 or 2019 as single, you are eligible for the full $1,200 as long as your adjusted gross income is less than $75,000. Reduced checks will go out to individuals making up to $99,000 a year.
- If you filed your taxes for 2018 or 2019 as a married couple, the couple is eligible for the full $2,400 check as long as your gross income is under $150,000. Reduced checks will go to couples who earn up to $198,000 annually. Couples will also receive an extra $500 for each child under 17.
- If you filed your taxes for 2018 or 2019 as head of household, you will receive a full $1,200 check if your adjusted gross income is up to $112,500 annually. Reduced checks are available for heads of household making up to $136,500. Heads of household will also receive an extra $500 for each child under 17.
- If you did not file taxes in 2018 or 2019, do not have reportable income in those years, and do not receive Social Security, SSI, or SSDI, you are still eligible to receive the stimulus check by filing a federal 2019 tax return and reporting $0 income. You can file using a free electronic file option https://apps.irs.gov/app/freeFile/ such as TurboTax https://turbotax.intuit.com/stimulus-check/
If you are uncertain of your eligibility for the full amount, this calculator is a helpful tool.
Do I qualify for assistance if I -
- Receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? Yes. Anyone receiving Social Security retirement or disability income will get a stimulus payment.
- Pay (owe) child support? If you are up to date on your child support payments, you will receive the stimulus payment in full. If you owe child support, what you owe may be deducted from your payment.
- Did not file taxes last year? If you did not make enough last year to file a tax return or only receive income from SSDI, SSI, or VA benefits, then you can still qualify for a stimulus payment, so long as you file a tax return so the government may identify you.
6. Daily Immediate Resources
Where can I get daily meals for myself and my children?
As of April 3, 2020, 3 free meals will be available for all New Yorkers in more than 400 Meal Hubs between 7:30 am and1:30 pm, Monday through Friday. Find a free meal location here.
The Department of Education (DOE) in New York City is providing 3 free meals for every NYC child, including breakfast. Meals are available between 7:30 AM and 1:30 PM, Monday through Friday, for pickup at one of 400 locations across New York City. You can pick up all three meals at the same time, no registration or ID is required, and parents and guardians may pick up meals for their children. You can search for a location here.
New York City provides a GetFoodNYC Food Delivery Program for those who cannot go out and buy groceries and do not already receive services from Meals on Wheels, God’s Love We Deliver, or a similar service. Taxi drivers will deliver up to 3 boxes per household and each box has enough food for 1 person to eat for 2 days. You can sign up here.
In addition, you can use this Food Bank of New York City link to search for food pantries and soup kitchens near you.
Lastly, the Bowery Mission will dispense pantry goods Monday through Friday from 9:30 AM to 11:30 AM, located at 227 Bowery, New York, NY 10002. You can also contact Bowery Mission at 212-674-3456.
Where can I find a diaper/toiletry dispensary?
Catholic Charities runs a diaper dispensary; call 888-744-7900 for assistance.
In addition, many food pantries provide toiletries. Check this link to find a food pantry near you.
Do I need to still check in with my PO in-person?
The NYC Department of Probation has cancelled all in-person meetings until further notice. Clients will be called or text to arrange alternate reporting arrangements.
In addition, New York State has suspended all in-person reporting for individuals under state supervision until April 17, 2020. The Department is considering extending this suspension dependent on the pandemic’s development.
Parolees in all counties will maintain contact with their POs through calls, texts, videoconferencing, etc.instead of in-person visits and will be informed of their new reporting standards.
For more information, visit https://www1.nyc.gov/site/probation/index.page
8. Domestic Violence
I currently live with an abusive partner, what can I do?
You can always call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233, or chat confidentially with someone on their website. The Sanctuary For Families hotline is also available from 9 AM to 5 PM from Monday through Friday; call 212-349-6009. Safe Horizons also works with people experiencing domestic violence; call 1-800-621-4673. Lastly, NYC operates a hotline 24/7; call 1-800-621-4673.
In addition, the chief administrative judge of New York State has issued an order of extension for all temporary protection orders.