In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions placed on workplace environments, many families and/or individuals may find themselves without work, food, or the monetary means to support themselves and their loved ones.
There are a plethora of benefits, assistance opportunities and even tens of thousands of new jobs now available and accessible by a simple web search.
The United States is currently working to alleviate some of the COVID-19 financial strains such as delaying tax filings until July 15 and a short-term expansion of sick leave. There is also a proposed stimulus package on the table which would send an approximate $1,200 dollars in aid to U.S. citizens.
Additionally, if you are interested in Indian Country Today’s continued coverage of COVID-19, please feel free to access our continually updated Coronavirus syllabus.
(See related: Indian Country's COVID-19 syllabus)
If you are working from home and the process is an unfamiliar one, see last week’s #NativeNerd column on the topic.
What services are available?
Though some individuals might be aware of services offered by their prospective tribes and states, others finding themself in an unfamiliar situation may not be aware they qualify for several benefits offered by human/social services and unemployment services.
It is worth noting that the majority of social services websites in each state now have a COVID-19 warning on their landing pages, warning people not to come to social and human services locations in person. With this in mind, these services should be completed online only. Some states have — in addition to their online applications — telephone numbers applicants can call to have a representative that can fill out the application for you over the phone.
Such benefits include, but are not limited to:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) - Formerly known as food stamps
- Food banks
- The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
- Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)
- Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Childcare assistance
- Housing assistance
- Programs for persons with disabilities, or are homeless, seniors, veterans and/or in the military
- Unemployment compensation
Where to begin?
After extensive research, the most comprehensive and user-friendly website for finding assistance from a multitude of programs is arguably Benefits.gov.
Upon entering the site, you can fill out a comprehensive questionnaire titled the “Benefit Finder” that will help you find a list of potential qualifying benefits in such categories as disaster relief, American Indian status, unemployment, healthcare and more.
In addition to the questionnaire, visitors to the site can also click the “More Benefit Categories” button underneath the questionnaire to find assistance in several categories.
The benefits are not limited to individuals. Tribal representatives interested in creating programs for their tribes can also find information on grants, federal agencies on which they can connect with and more.
American Indian and Alaska Native benefits on benefits.gov
Currently, there are 39 available benefit categories for American Indian and Alaska Natives. Be mindful that when searching by category, you will be looking at benefits that might be for individuals and/or tribal entities.
One thing to consider is that if your tribe does not offer a service listed on this site, contact your tribe about possibly initiating any of the programs offered. Your research can prove to be a potentially valuable asset for your community.
You can feel empowered knowing that just because your tribal community may not have a program in place, doesn’t mean you can’t help to get it started. So share your findings with your tribe.
For further information, you can also visit the federal Department of Health and Human Services and Indian Health Services websites
Both the Department of Health and Human Services and Indian Health Services have websites to research programs or services that might be of assistance to you and your family.
Indian Health Service page (partnerships, find jobs, and getting services)
Though these sites might not have direct connections to the applications processes, there are a lot of services listed that can assist your online search for benefits information.
Employment benefits by state from the U.S. Department of Labor - and a call for new employees from many companies
Last week, a record number of people, 3.2 million according to the New York Times, filed unemployment benefits. So the time to file your paperwork is now. Unemployment benefits are included in a new $2 trillion economic stimulus plan that will expand coverage to part-time and self-employed individuals. Unemployment benefits cover roughly 45 percent of your pay, but the stimulus plan will add to that amount, an amount that varies by state.
Unemployment benefits are administered by the Department of Labor, they are not obtained through human/social services in each state. It is a separate process. Some states have links to apply for unemployment benefits on their social services pages, some do not.
Currently, the Department of Labor has a comprehensive list of benefits by all fifty states which include applying for unemployment, veteran’s employment benefits, worker’s compensation, disability offices and much more.
Find all of the Department of Labor and ways to apply for unemployment benefits by each state here: https://www.dol.gov/general/location.
It is also important to note that the Department of Labor’s unemployment division is not just a resource for unemployment compensation, but they also have resources to find jobs in your region. Make sure to take advantage of your region’s unemployment potential job openings.
New jobs available now
In the midst of the COVID-19, many employers such as Hilton, Walgreens, Wal*Mart and others are offering and listing new jobs in a recent push to cover a need during this time.
Though some jobs are not virtual, most employers are asserting best practices in social distancing. Some employers are also incorporating ‘hazard pay’ in work environments that include any sort of human interaction, such as retail environments.
Currently, the National Retail Federation has over 70 retail corporations such as Walgreens, Zoom, UPS, FedEx, the U.S.Census, Slack, Sheetz, The Home Depot, Dollar Tree, Amazon and many more for such positions as delivery drivers, cashiers, customer service, warehouse workers, personal shoppers, janitorial, mangers and much more.
Visit the National Retail Federation job openings website for workers displaced by COVID-19 here: https://nrf.com/resources/job-opportunities-workers-displaced-covid-19.
The website is also putting out a call for companies looking for employees and contact information is available on the site.
There is also a great article on Business Insider worth looking into. Amazon and Walmart are ramping up hiring to add 250,000 new jobs. Here's how to apply and whether you can expect an interview.
Where to apply online for social services benefits?
It is important to note: the majority of state agencies are not open to the public at this time due to COVID-19 concerns. Apply online only for benefits.
In each of the states below, you can find direct links to the human/social services programs and unemployment programs. For tribe-specific programs, contact your tribe and ask what is available.
Human/social services programs cover most levels of assistance such as TANF, SNAP, Medicaid, food bank programs, WIC, Section 8, energy assistance and more.
If any of the links below are no longer working (updated as of March 2020) a simple web search with the state’s name and “human services” should get you to the correct place.
List of social/human services by state
Arkansas - https://humanservices.arkansas.gov/
California - https://www.chhs.ca.gov/
Colorado - https://www.colorado.gov/cdhs
Connecticut - https://portal.ct.gov/dss
Delaware - https://www.dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/
Florida - https://www.myflfamilies.com/
Georgia - https://dhs.georgia.gov/portal/site/DHR/
Hawaii - http://humanservices.hawaii.gov/
Illinois - http://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?
Indiana - https://www.in.gov/fssa/
Iowa - https://dhs.iowa.gov/
Kentucky - https://chfs.ky.gov/Pages/index.aspx
Louisiana - http://www.dss.state.la.us/
Maryland - http://dhs.maryland.gov/
Massachusetts - https://www.mass.gov/
Michigan - https://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs
Minnesota - https://mn.gov/dhs/
Mississippi - https://www.mdhs.ms.gov/
Missouri - https://dss.mo.gov/
Montana - https://dphhs.mt.gov/
Nebraska - http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/default.aspx
Nevada - http://dhhs.nv.gov/
New Hampshire - https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/
New Jersey - https://www.nj.gov/humanservices/
New Mexico - https://www.hsd.state.nm.us/
New York - https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dss/index.page
North Carolina - https://www.ncdhhs.gov/
North Dakota - http://www.nd.gov/dhs/
Ohio - http://jfs.ohio.gov/
Oklahoma - http://www.okdhs.org/Pages/default.aspx
Pennsylvania - https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx
Rhode Island - http://www.dhs.ri.gov/
South Carolina - https://dss.sc.gov/
South Dakota - https://dss.sd.gov/
Tennessee - https://www.tn.gov/humanservices
Texas - https://hhs.texas.gov/
Utah - https://hs.utah.gov/
Vermont - https://humanservices.vermont.gov/
Virginia - https://www.dss.virginia.gov/
Washington - https://www.dshs.wa.gov/
West Virginia - https://dhhr.wv.gov/Pages/default.aspx
Wisconsin - https://access.wisconsin.gov/access/
Wyoming - https://dfs.wyo.gov/
Additional resources for freelance artists
In addition to social services, four individuals from the community artEquity, Hannah Fenlon, Abigail Vega, Ann Marie Lonsdale, and Nicole Brewer — whose values are “deeply based in anti-racist, anti-oppression practice that visions a new, equitable future for workers, artists, BIPOC, and queer folks” — put out a call for a list of resources for artists and freelancers who were losing work due to COVID-19.
In just over a week, their WordPress site received 500,000 views and 350,000 unique visits to the site.
“We did this to support our community, and to build solidarity with other artists and freelancers who were feeling the impact of this crisis exponentially.”
The website is available here
(See related: ‘Native artists are resilient. We’ll get through this’)