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Before the coronavirus pandemic, California was already a place where millions of workers struggled to make ends meet each month. Now, shelter-in-place orders have effectively left many more workers without jobs, unable to pay rent, feed their families or pay their bills. In other words, California’s safety net just got a lot more crowded.

Fortunately, the state offers a lot of financial help, but it’s not always easy or straightforward. 

To help you navigate the patchwork of resources available, CalMatters income inequality reporter Jackie Botts spoke to three experts about how Californians can get help. The experts also discuss how people can help the less fortunate.

The panelists include:

  • Jessica Bartholow, policy advocate at Western Center on Law and Poverty
  • Cathy Senderling-McDonald, deputy executive director of the County Welfare Directors Association of California
  • Armando Hernandez, community programs director at The Unity Council in Oakland

Below is a list resources discussed during the webinar:

Where to start

California coronavirus response.

Quick links for applying for food, healthcare and financial resources.

Federal, state, and local resources can also be accessed by texting COVID19 to 211 211, or calling 211.

Workers rights & unemployment

California has created a tool to match unemployed people with jobs.

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programs offer job training and, in some places, direct cash assistance. Look for programs near you.

Fact sheet on applying for unemployment, disability, and paid family leave.  

Workers’ rights during the coronavirus. (Español)

Food Assistance

Find a food bank near you

CalFresh is California’s food stamps (SNAP) program, providing up to $194 a month per household member on an EBT card. Apply here.

A new program authorizing CalFresh purchases for some online food retailers.

CalFresh “Emergency Allotment” that raises benefit amount for March and April to maximum for family size.

List of school districts and locations offering meals for students while schools are closed. 

App to find meals for kids distributed near you.

Cash aid

CalWorks provides cash aid and services, including childcare and job training, to eligible families with children in the home. Apply here

Recipients of safety net programs (CalWORKs, CalFresh, In-Home Supportive Services, Medi-Cal, and Cash Assistance for Immigrants) need not renew during the pandemic and will continue receiving their benefits uninterrupted.

Contact your county social services agency to apply for the General Assistance or General Relief (GA/GR) Program for very low-income adults.

Renters and homeowners 

California Court ruling suspending most evictions.

Video explainer on eviction protections. (Español)

These financial institutions will offer mortgage payment forbearances of up to 90 days for homeowners affected by COVID-19, which allow you to reduce or delay your monthly mortgage payment. 

Stimulus Check

IRS to register for the stimulus check if you don’t usually file taxes.

Free help filing taxes to get stimulus check, as well as tax refunds you may be eligible for.

FAQ for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients.

Resources for undocumented people

Migrant-focused COVID19 resource list.

Unity Council’s list of resources for undocumented Californians.

Database of relief funds for undocumented workers across the state.

Find or give help in your community

National Database of Localized Resources During COVID 19 Outbreak. This includes links to 27 Mutual Aid networks in California, where people can find help and give help to neighbors. It also includes lists of resources for seniors, kids, healthcare workers, and trans and queer people.

Pledge to donate your stimulus check to undocumented families.

National farmworkers’ COVID-19 relief fund.

To support undocumented farmworkers, also consider reaching out to the United Farmworkers or Teamsters branch or Community Rural Legal Assistance office in your area to learn about local efforts.

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact CalMatters with any commentary questions:

Jackie covered income inequity and economic survival for the The California Divide collaboration from 2019 through 2021. She was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting in 2021 for a Reuters...