COVID-19 Resources

Resources and Supports for Families During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota shares the concerns of Minnesota families as we face this crisis created by COVID-19. The federal and state government along with the non-profit and business communities are working together to bring additional resources and supports to children and families as quickly as possible. We recognize that not only is this a pubilic health crisis but it is also a financial crisis for many familes as their job situations and security changes. Information is being updated daily as new resources and guidelines are made available. To help communicate this ever-evolving body of information to the public, CDF-MN will begin using the Bridge to Benefits website as a Bulletin Board to list resources and supports to help Minnesota families through the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, as families face employment changes and financial challenges brought on by this crisis, Bridge to Benefits can still be used to help assess eligibility for a wide array of public programs such as SNAP, Medical Assistance, Child Care Assistance, Energy Assistance, Early Learning Scholarships, School Meals and WIC. Click Start at left to begin a screen to see if you may be eligible for any or all of these programs. To learn more about resources and supports offered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, click on one of the issue areas below:
  1. Emergency Modifications to Public Programs
  2. Financial Resources
  3. Child Care
  4. Health Care
  5. Nutrition
Emergency Modifications to Public Programs

The Minnesota Department of Human Services has issued the following modifications to public programs to help Minnesotans during the COVID-19 emergency. These modifications will remain in effect for the duration of the emergency or for other lengths of time if specified  For more information, visit COVID-19

Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare:

Current enrollees will retain benefits for this quarter without reapplying

Quarterly reassessments of services for older adults and people with disabilities will be done on the phone instead of in-person.

The prescription drug limits on maintenance medications for certain therapeutic drug classes have been increased from 34 days to 90 days for all Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare enrollees. 

SNAP:

Online Grocery Shopping Allowed: SNAP participants can now use their EBT cards to more safely purchase groceries online starting May 28, 2020. For now, Walmart and Amazon are the only online retailers that have been approved for SNAP purchases in Minnesota. However, more retailers are being encouraged to seek federal approval to allow Minnesota SNAP participants more options. For more informations, click here.

Other SNAP Modifications:

The USDA just approved the Minnesota Department of Human Services' request for additional funds to help some individuals and families on SNAP during the COVID-19 crisis. Current SNAP enrollees who ARE NOT receiving the maximum SNAP benefit amount for their household size, will begin receiving additional funds soon. Enrollees don’t need to fill out any paperwork or do anything special to begin receiving the additional benefit. It will automatically be added to their current benefit amount. 

Current enrollees will continue to receive benefits without the usual renewal process

For new enrollees, a simplified enrollment process will be created to allow enrollment and interviews over the phone or internet.

Work requirements will be waived for certain SNAP participants.

MFIP, General Assistance, Minnesota Supplement Assistance and GRH:

Current enrollees will continue to receive benefits without the usual renewal process.

For new enrollees, a simplified enrollment process will be created to allow enrollment, assessments and interviews to be conducted over the phone or internet and waiving certain verification processes.

Certain sanctions for MFIP and DWP will be waived so that participants will NOT be sanctioned or disqualified from receiving benefits for failing to attend meetings, submit paperwork or comply with other specific requirements.

Policies that require face-to-face meetings and/or documentation from third-parties will be suspended during the COVID-19 emergency. This includes not enforcing work requirements for participants or school attendance requirements for teen parents, not imposing sanctions for not cooperating with child support, and not discontinuing assistance to any family reaching the 60-month lifetime limit or being due for a review of their extension status.

Energy Assistance:

The Energy Assistance Program has been granted additional emergency funding and has put some program modifications into effect including:

* Application deadline has been extended to July 1 so families in need of assistance can still submit an application.

* You do not need a shut-off notice to apply. A heat or electric bill with a past due amount will count.

* For more information, call 1-800-657-3710.

Mental Health Services:

A range of mental health services will be conducted on the phone instead of in-person.

Child Care Assistance Program:

The limits on absent days will be lifted.

Redetermination due dates have been extended by three months on cases with redeterminations due on or before June 30, 2020.

New Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) Program Replaces the Cost of School Meals

Shelter-in-place orders across Minnesota have kept children away from school for nearly two months. This has been particularly difficult for families who receive free and reduced-price meals every day through the National School Lunch Program. In response, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act authorized the implementation of Pandemic EBT (P-EBT), a federal initiative to provide students age 5-18 who currently receive free and reduced price meals with a replacement food benefit to pay for groceries while schools are closed. This new, temporary program provides a one-time $325 per chilld food benefit to families to replace the cost of the school meals they would otherwise have received during the school year.

If you received SNAP or MFIP benefits when schools were closed, you will automatically receive the P-EBT additional benefit on your current EBT card. If you were receiving school meals or your child was attending a Community Eligible Provision school when schools were closed due to COVID-19, you are eligible to apply for P-EBT and if approved will receive an EBT card in the mail, which you can use to purchase food at SNAP authorized grocery stores, Farmer's Markets and other food retailers. 

Applications for P-EBT will be accepted only from June 8 through June 30, 2020. It is a very short online application which can be found online at www.mn.p-ebt.org starting June 8. The Department of Human Services has established a hotline to answer questions about P-EBT. The hotline will operate Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4 pm starting June 1. For questions, call the hotline at 651-431-4050 or 800-657-3698.

 

 

 

Financial Resources

Unemployment Insurance for Minnesotans

If your employment has been affected by COVID-19, you can apply for unemployment benefits. Steps have been taken to make the application process a little simpler for those affected. For example: the nonpayable "waiting" week has been waived and changes have been made to the requirements pertaining to looking for suitable employment.You are encouraged to find additional information online at UIMN.org as the wait to get your questions answered by phone will be lengthy. You can access the online application here.

Unemployment Insurance for Self Employed and Others (PUA)

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is now making Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) payments to people who are self-employed, independent contractors, and other eligibile recipients who are not traditionally eligilible for regular unemployment. PUA was authorized as part of the CARES Act by the federal government and is for workers affected by COVID-19. 

Here's what Minnesotans need to know to apply for PUA:

If you have already applied for regular unemployment benefits, you do not need to do anyting extra to qualify for PUA. DEED will automatically establish a PUA benefit account for you if you are eligible.

If you have not applied for unemployment benefits as of yet, special instructions for self-employed and 1099 workers are available here.These instructions include steps you can take to make your account easily identifiable as potentially eligible for PUA. You must first apply for regular unemployment insurance to be found eligible for PUA. If you applied for unemployment benefits without following these instructions, don't wory. You do not need to change anything. Your account will still be reviewed for PUA eligibility.

DEED expects to be in touch with most people who are eligible for benefits under PUA by the end of April or the first of May. There is no need to call or follow-up. You will hear from DEED if additional information is needed.

You will receive information about PUA benefits in your onlline account, by email and by mail.

Applicants who receive PUA benefits will also receive the $600/week additional payment approved as part of the CARES Act (see below).

PUA benefits will be backdated to the first date of eligibility due to COVID-19.

Go here for more information on COVID-19 information for self-employed.

Additional Unemployment Relief from the Federal Government

Under the federally approved funding package known as the CARES Act, workers who have been laid off due to the COVID-19  pandemic will receive $600 a week in additional compensation to their normal weekly unemployment benefits. For most workers, the combination of the additional benefit and their normal unemployment benefit should be enough to replace most of their lost wages. The additional $600 benefit will be available until the end of July 2020. Unemployment applicants do not need to request this additional benefit. It should come automatically once the applicant is approved for either state or federal PUA benefits. This additional $600 benefit will NOT be counted as income for applying for public health benefits such as Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare. It is not clear at this time if it will be counted as income for tax purposes or for determining eligibility for other public programs such as SNAP and MFIP.

In addition, the CARES Act has extended the length of time workers can receive their normal unemployment benefits by an additional 13 weeks. Also, unemployment insurance called PUA (see above) has been expanded to cover workers who traditionally are not eligible for unemployment. All unemployment applicants should apply first for regular unemployment through their state unemployment office. See instructions above, under Unemployment Insurance for Self-Employed Minnesotans.

For more information on the CARES Act click here. To see if you are eligible for unemployment, start by visiting the Minnesota's Unemployment Insurance UIMN website.

Federal Funding Package Relief for Families

The federal government signed into a law a $2 trillion funding package that will send assistance to Minnesota familes, workers and small businesses to address the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. For families, this means they are eligible for Economic Impact Payments:

*Most households with incomes under $150,000 ($75,000 for singles) will receive $1,200 per adult and $500 per child from the Department of Treasury.

*Payments will phase out for those with higher incomes. Couples whose incomes exceed $198,000 will not be eligible for payments.

*The payments have already begun to arrive automatically via mail or direct deposit to those who filed a tax return for tax years 2018 or 2019. Checks will also arrive automatically for most people on Social Security. Anyone who has not filed a tax return for 2018 or 2019 but plans to, should do so as soon as possible to ensure receipt of their Economic Impact Payment. For those who do not file a tax return, a site has been created to gather the information needed for them to receive their payment.

*No income tax will be owed on these payments.

For the latest information on the Economic Impact Payments, visit the IRS website.

MFIP, General Assistance, Minnesota Supplement Assistance and GRH Modifications

The following modifications have been made to program rules:

Current enrollees will continue to receive benefits without the usual renewal process

For new enrollees, a simplified enrollment process will be created to allow enrollment, assessments and interviews to be conducted over the phone or internet and waiving certain verification processes.

Certain sanctions for MFIP and DWP will be waived so that participants will NOT be sanctioned or disqualified from receiving benefits for failing to attend meetings, submit paperwork or comply with other specific requirements.

For more information visit the Minnesota Department of Human Services website.

Tax Information

The date for filing taxes has been moved from April 15 to July 15, 2020. Many free tax sites are suspending face to face tax preparation assistance during the COVID-19 crisis. If you would like to file online, go to the Minnesota Department of Revenue site for free filing options.

Paid Family Leave Updates

Paid family leave to employees in small and midsize businesses will be available shortly according to provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed on March 18. The act allows small and midsize employers to take advantage of two new refundable payroll tax credits that are designed to immediately and fully reimburse them for the cost of providing Coronavirus-related leave to their employees. This relief will provide employees with paid leave, either for their own health needs or to care for family members. The legislation will enable employers to keep their workers on their payrolls, while at the same time ensuring that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus. The key take-a-way is:

Paid Sick Leave for Workers
For COVID-19 related reasons, employees receive up to 80 hours of paid sick leave (for caring for themselves or family members) and expanded paid child care leave when employees’ children’s schools are closed or child care providers are unavailable.

For more details, visit the Department of Labor website

Protections for Homeowners 

COVID-19 has presented serious challenges to homeowners who have experienced signficant decreases in their income. Some protections that pertain to homeowners include:

The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced that all mortgage loans owned by Federal Home Loan (FHA) Banks (such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, etc.) will offer temporary relief to those impacted by the Cornoavirus. These individuals will be eligilbe to temporarily delay making their monthly mortgage payments and  during the delay no late fees will be incurred, delinquencies will not be report to credit bureaus, and foreclosures and other legal proceedings will be suspended.

Many other private mortgage lenders have also implemented similar protections for consumers affected by the coronavirus. Check with your mortgage lender if you are having difficulty paying your mortgage because of the coronavirus.

To learn more, visit the Minnesota Homeownership Center

Minneapolis Emergency Housing Fund

The City of Minneapolis has created a Gap Fund for Housing and Small Business support in reponse to the economic challenges residents are experiencing as a result of COVID-19. About $3 million in funding will be available for rental housing support. Funding is available for eligible individuals to use to pay rent (including past due rent payments) and utilities. In most cases grants will not exceed $1,500. Additional grant money will be available to expand the existing Stable Homes Stable Schools Housing Stability Fund. Information about the grants and the elibility requirements is available in multiple languages. Individuals may qualify for this support regardless of immigrant status. 

Renters Protection

To protect Minnesota renters during the COVID-19 crisis, the Governor issued an order to suspend rental evictions. However, the order does not reduce or waive rent during this period. Once the suspension ends, owners/landlords can file for evictions and removals can be enforced. Not paying rent on time can still impact credit or cause problems that impact future housing options. If you receive an eviction notice during this peacetime emergency, you may file a complaint with the Minnesota Attorney General's office.

Free Internet

To support distance learning during school closures, Comcast is opening its Xfinity Wi-Fi Network for free nationwide to help connect low-income families. For more information, contact your local Comcast/Xfinity provider.

Emergency Assistance

Minnesota residents who are experiencing a financial crisis that poses a direct threat to their physical health or safety, may be able to get short-term financial aid through their county human services office. The county may provide assistance with emergency temporary shelter; housing costs such as rent payments, damage deposits, home repairs or utility bills; foreclosure prevention; and extra food support for people on special diets. Both families with children and adults without children may qualify. Contact your local county human services office for more information.

 

Child Care

Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) Modifications:

The limits on absent days will be lifted.

Redetermination due dates have been extended by three months for CCAP cases with redeterminations due on or before June 30, 2020.

Child Care Openings and Advice for Child Care Providers

As of today, child care centers are encouraged to remain open. However, many have closed due to decreased enrollment, financial strain or public health needs. Those that remain open are being asked to provide the Department of Human Services (DHS) with a list of openings and to give priority to children of emergency personnel for those openings. If you need child care, especially if you qualify as emergency personnel, you can call the Child Care Aware parent line at 1-888-291-9811 for a list of openings. Child care providers will charge tuition that varies in accordance with their program policies and business practices. If you need financial assistance, you may apply for Child Care Assistance and Early Learning Scholarships. You can use the Bridge to Benefits Screening tool to see if you are eligible.

School districts and charter schools are being directed to provide care to enrolled students age 12 and under who are children of critical workers at no cost. 

DHS has also issued a number of program waivers and modifications that apply to child care providers. For more details on this information, please visit the DHS website.

Childcare Hotline

DHS is operating a Child Care hotline to answer questions for families and providers at 1-888-234-1268.

Health Care

Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare Modifications

The Minnesota Department of Human Services has issued the following modifications to public health care programs to help Minnesotans during the COVID-19 emergency. These modifications will remain in effect for the duration of the emergency or for other lengths of time if specified. For more information, visit COVID-19.

Current health program enrollees will retain benefits for this quarter without reapplying.

The prescription drug limits on maintenance medications for certain therapeutic drug classes have been increased from 34 to 90 days for all Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare enrollees.

Quarterly reassessments of services for older adults and people with disabilities will be done on the phone instead of in-person.

A range of mental health services will be conducted on the phone instead of in-person.

MNsure Update

MNSure is offering a special enrollment period for qualified individuals who are currently without insurance in response to the potential growth of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. This special enrollment period runs Monday, March 23 through Tuesday, April 21. To see if you qualify CLICK HERE.

If you currently purchase insurance through MNsure, make sure to keep your account up-to-date by reporting any changes in income, such as losses due to the coronavirus, to MNsure. You may be eligible for Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare or for additional financial assistance to help pay for your current coverage. Call the MNsure Contact Center at 651-539-2099 (or in greater Minnesota at 855-366-7873). 

Insurance Companies Waive Fees for Coronavirus Treatments

If you purchased your insurance on the MNsure site, COVID-19 diagnostic testing is available at no cost. All four health care insurance companies that sell private health insurance plans on MNsure are waiving co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles related to the coronavirus disease. Learn more.

In addition to those companies that sell insurance through MNSure, other insurance providers are also protecting enrolleees from out-of-pocket costs associated with coronavirus treatments. Cigna, Humana and Aetna have all announced that they will waive fees for some of the costs related to the coronavirus for their enrollees. For more information on which costs are waived, check with your insurance provider.

Latest Information on COVID-19

The MInnesota Department of Health (MDH) is providing a COVID-19 hotline to answer questions about the virus. The hotline is open from 7 am to 7 pm. Call 651-201-3920.

MDH also publishes a list of the clinics in Minnesota that are doing COVID-19 testing. In addition to the names and locations of the clinics, the list includes information that you may need to know before you go to get tested. Click here to see the list.

 

Mental Health Services

State agencies and private organizations in Minnesota are working together to ensure that mental health services are availalble to those who need them including children, youth and adults. Services include telemedicine to replace clinic visits and other well-being supports to help families cope. Mental health services are available here.  In addition, some important emergency Hotlines are listed below:

* National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

* Crisis Text Line Text “MN” to 741741

* Minnesota Mobile Mental Health Crisis Line Call: **CRISIS (**274747). For landlines, see the directory for mental health crisis phone numbers in Minnesota by county.

 

 

Nutrition

SNAP Modifications

Current enrollees will continue to receive benefits without the usual renewal process

For new enrollees, a simplified enrollment process will be created to allow enrollment and interviews over the phone or internet.

Work requirements will be waived for certain SNAP participants.

WIC Modifications

Many WIC clinics will be closed due to COVID-19. However, staff will be available by phone or by internet. To simplify procedures, WIC has made the following modifications:

Height/weight/hemoglobin measurements will be deferred for 90 days at the time of certification (for new enrollees) or at recertification (for current enrollees).

Phone certifications will replace in-person appointments for new enrollees.

During the pandemic, WIC participants are not required to return formula.

Some modifications have been made for providing proof of income for those who have been laid off and have no income.

For more information, contact your local WIC office.

Pandemic EBT Program (P-EBT)

Shelter-in-place orders across Minnesota have kept children away from school for nearly two months. This has been particularly difficult for families who receive free and reduced-price meals every day through the National School Lunch Program. In response, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act authorized the implementation of Pandemic EBT (P-EBT), a federal initiative to provide students age 5-18 who currently receive free and reduced price meals with a replacement food benefit to pay for groceries while schools are closed. This new, temporary program provides a one-time $325 per chilld food benefit to families to replace the cost of the school meals they would otherwise have received during the school year.

If you received SNAP or MFIP benefits when schools were closed, you will automatically receive the P-EBT additional benefit on your current EBT card. If you were receiving school meals or your child was attending a Community Eligible Provision school (or a Provision 2 school) when schools were closed due to COVID-19, you are eligible to apply for P-EBT and if approved will receive an EBT card in the mail, which you can use to purchase food at SNAP authorized grocery stores, Farmer's Markets and other food retailers. 

Applications for P-EBT will be accepted only from June 8 through June 30, 2020. It is a very short online application which can be found online at www.mn.p-ebt.org starting June 8. The Department of Human Services has established a hotline to answer questions about P-EBT. The hotline will operate Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4 pm starting June 1. For questions, call the hotline at 651-431-4050 or 800-657-3698.

School Meal Program:

Schools may continue to serve school meals to students during the COVID-19 school closure period with a non-congregate dining option. Many schools have implemented school meal distribution plans. Check with your school or school district for more information. 

Links to information on how Minneapolis, St. Paul and Richfield school districts are delivering school meals are listed below. Other links will be added as received. 

Minneapolis Public Schools Meals During School Closure LINK HERE

St. Paul Public Schools Meals During School Closure  LINK HERE

Richfield Public Schools Meals During School Closure LINK HERE

Food Shelves:

Many food shelves throughout Minnesota have continued to operate during the COVID-19 crisis and recently received additional fund from the State of Minnesota to replenish their shelves. CLICK HERE to find a food shelf near you.

Restaurants:

Several Minnesota restaurants are serving free meals to children K-12 and to others. For a list of restaurants, CLICK HERE and then click Free Meals for Kids and select Restaurants.

General Information:

Hunger Solutions offers the statewide Minnesota Food HelpLine to help you find food resources for your family. Call 1-888-234-1268.

Summer Eats

As public schools and community meal sites are closed, this site connects kids under the age of 18 to free nutritious meals. Use the site to find more than 400 locations across the state that are providing free meals for kids, or download the mobile app.