Those of us who are not laid off now must report to work every day in an environment that could be dangerous to our health. As essential workers, we are asked to do our part, but the companies must also do their part: they must tell us immediately if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 at our worksites and take immediate steps to protect us. We have already seen multiple cases where employers are slow to tell workers the truth, in one case even pretending that the employee was “on vacation.” As the sick worker in this case put it: “you cannot cover the sun with your thumb”. Our health on the line. Therefore, the union has sent a letter to all of the companies demanding that:
|St. Paul Housing Assistance information|
|If you live in the City of St. Paul, and you have experienced a significant loss of income you might qualify for a one-time housing assistance payment of $1,000 for households impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications open tomorrow, April 8, closing April 19 at 5:00pm. Applications will be evaluated using a randomized lottery process.|
- Workers are informed immediately, with copy to the steward and the union, of any COVID-19 contamination at a worksite. The company must then have a de-contamination team clean the area before workers return.
- Workers are given gloves and masks at all worksites.
- Hazard pay for all workers who are essential in this critical time.
Workers fought for the CARES Act: How can it help me?
On March 27, the CARES Act, a COVID- 19 stimulus package, was signed into law. It includes support for SEIU members & other working people during this crisis: an increase in unemployment insurance benefits, direct cash payments, increased food assistance, & protection from eviction.
Increased Unemployment Assistance –
- What if I’ve been laid off? You should apply for unemployment assistance at www.uimn.org This law adds $600 a week to your regular state unemployment benefit for a period of four months. It also adds 13 weeks of additional unemployment coverage. The additional $600 payment is available to workers laid off between January 27 & December 31, 2020.
- What if my hours were cut? This law provides additional funding to expand benefits & provides incentives so Minnesota can provide partial unemployment for people who work part time or whose hours have been reduced.
Direct Cash Payments
- Who will get a check? To get a check, you must have a Social Security number, not be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax returns, & not be a “nonresident alien” (a noncitizen who does not have a green card or who has not been in the U.S. for at least 31 days this year & 183 days during the previous three years, including this one). Everyone meeting those conditions earning up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income — the income on your tax return–will receive a $1,200 payment. For married couples, both adults receive $1,200. Each child dependent of a taxpayer under 17 will also get $500.
- How do I get a check? The U.S. Treasury will direct deposit the money in your bank if they have that information from your 2018 or 2019 tax return. For everyone else, they will mail a check. If you didn’t file a tax return for 2018 or 2019, your check could be delayed. It might be worthwhile to file your 2019 tax return to ensure the IRS has your latest address & direct deposit information. The U.S. Treasury Secretary says payments should arrive in three weeks (April 20). During this period, beware of scammers. The IRS will not call you or ask you for money.
- What if I didn’t make enough money in 2018 or 2019 to file a tax return? You should file a tax return as soon as possible to ensure that you receive a check. The deadline to file a tax return is now July 15, 2020.
Increased Direct Assistance –
- What if I’m having trouble putting food on the table? The CARES Act does not establish new benefits. It does, however, provide money to support existing benefits, & includes funding for schools to make food available to children, “SNAP” benefits, & community food banks & pantries.
- Housing Assistance – What if I can’t pay my rent? Reach out to your landlord or property management company to ask for an extension. Minnesota has halted evictions due to the coronavirus. The CARES Act includes a provision that prevents evictions for 120 days (until the end of July) for tenants in federally financed housing. A property owner may not evict tenants from federally subsidized housing or from a property with a federally backed mortgage loan for failure to pay rent.
- What if I can’t pay my mortgage? Foreclosures on “federally-backed loans” (two-thirds of all mortgages) are frozen for 60 days. Homeowners with federally backed mortgages can also request up to 180 days (with possible extensions) of forbearance, where payments are suspended & added to the end of the loan, with no additional fees. Many states have also introduced forbearance protections & bans on foreclosures. Check your state. If you’re worried about missing a mortgage payment, contact your lender immediately.
- Childcare – My child’s school is closed. How do I get childcare while I’m working? The bill increases government funding for childcare assistance. States are authorized to use funds to provide childcare assistance to healthcare workers, first responders & other workers who are classified as essential workers. States will decide how to distribute these funds, but it is possible that SEIU members will qualify for this benefit. In many states & localities, service workers such as security officers & janitors have been declared “essential,” which means they could potentially qualify for childcare assistance. Check resources in your state as more information becomes available.
Healthcare – How does the CARES Act impact my healthcare?
Through the CARES Act, private health plans must cover COVID-19 testing free of charge (but not for the uninsured & undocumented).
Airport Workers – I am an airport worker and got laid off?
Because we fought for it, airport contractors will have access to a $3 billion fund designed to keep over 125,000 airport workers on their payroll through September 30. Contractor companies must certify that they will not conduct layoffs or reduce pay or benefits to have access to the fund.
Be Calm, Limit Exposure. We Walk This Long Road Together.
Contact the Member Resource Center, 855-265-6225. Seiu26.org on FB and on the web.