Even as we practice self-isolation and social distancing, the COVID-19 pandemic has also generated ways to bring us together to share comfort, resources and key information.
Hundreds of people, both locally and from as far away as Honolulu, gathered via Zoom Thursday morning to attend “When The Paycheck Stops,” a webinar co-sponsored by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and Labor Community Services.
The two hour webinar included presentations from representatives of seven Los Angeles-area agencies on topics ranging from financial planning to unemployment, from resources available to gather information to food banks and mental health services. Attendees learned about upcoming events including a food drive scheduled for Friday, March 27 at the IBEW Training Center in Commerce) as well as valuable tips for recognizing and coping with depression.
A common message across all of the presenting agencies centers on the need for people to practice patience. In the midst of the health crisis, services are all experiencing significant increases in requests for information and services. Help is available, but it may take some time before you get what you are looking for. In addition, people should always try to call and determine whether an entity is open before trying to access the services in person as many places are closed or are operating by phone or online only.
The following is a summary of some of the information presented. Visit the agency websites for more detailed information.
Labor Community Services
https://lcs-la.org/, (213) 381-5611
Labor Community Services Los Angeles has recently launched a new website, which contains a link to Los Angeles COVID-19 Resources. Individuals can donate to the COVID-19 Relief Fund and learn about upcoming food distribution events. On Friday, March 27, the LA Fed will host the biggest food bank event in its history, from 10 am to 2 pm at IBEW Local 11 Training Center, 6023 Garfield Ave. in Commerce. The event is free for all union members and will continue until 2 pm or until the food runs out.
Other upcoming food drives will be held across the city. Check the LACS website for more information.
California Employment Development Department (EDD)
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a huge toll on the economy both nationally and locally. More than 3 million people have filed for unemployment assistance in the last week obliterating the record set in 1982.
EDD has a Coronavirus Resources section listing support services and guiding users through filing unemployment claims. Online is the best way to open a new claim. The website goes over eligibility requirements and individuals who have lost work or who may work in freelance industries are encouraged to apply for unemployment. The EDD website also contains information about services like sick leave and paid family leave.
People accessing EDD, whether online or by phone, should make themselves available for interviews and provide information when it is requested to expedite the process. People who are not citizens are eligible for unemployment provided they have authorization to work in the United States during the weeks they are applying for benefits.
“We are trying to make this process as pleasant as possible,” Ken Gomez of EDD said. The LAFED has been a wonderful ally in helping get the word out.”
211 LA County
https://www.211la.org/, (626) 350-1841
A nonprofit that partners with Los Angeles County, 211 is a treasure trove of resources for services and referrals. Accessible both via phone and online (the organization will be launching a new website within the next week), 211 has been disseminating information about the COVID-19 pandemic ranging from health information, to summaries of state orders to guidelines for small businesses affected by the pandemic. You can contact 211 about issues of elder abuse or potential financial fraud. The agency has experienced more than 15,000 service calls in the past three days.
At a time when receiving information is critical, 211 can help research and debunk rumors and can steer people to agencies or other community resources including food banks. 211 cannot provide COVID-19 screening, test kits or medical supplies.
“We’re here for you if you need help and you don’t know where to start,” said 211’s Alana Hitchcock.
Society for Financial Awareness
https://www.sofausa.org/, (858) 268-7092
As tempting as it might be to put everything on plastic during this time of crisis, be careful. Borrowing your way to financial security is not a viable option, said SFA’s Vic Clement. The pandemic will eventually end and if you have accumulated a ton of new debt, you may end up worse off than you were before.
Other bits of advice: don’t apply for a bunch of new credit cards. If you’re going to cancel soe cards, cancel the newer ones since the older ones will have the more favorable rates. Check your credit score frequently to protect against credit card fraud and potential identify theft. Clement suggested finding other resources to help pay your bills than maxing out credit cards. One option, if you are being laid off, is rolling over your 401K into an IRA and using those funds as a source of income.
Clement warned against financial scams and organizations that offer to dramatically boost your credit score in a couple of weeks. He recommended Cambridge Counseling Corporation as a reliable resource.
St. John’s Well Child and Family Center
https://www.wellchild.org/, (323) 541-1411
A network of community health clinics serving patients of all ages, St. John’s is proudly union-staffed (by SEIU Local 721) and eager to help labor brothers and sisters in need.
At a time when healthcare is a premium need, individuals who do not have health coverage will want to know their options. Mario Chavez reviewed Medi-Cal /, LA County’s My Health LA (MHLA) as well as Covered California Although the open enrollment period for Covered California is typically from October to January, the COVID-19 pandemic allows people to enroll now.
Individuals enrolling for Medi-Cal can do so in a St John’s clinic.
“Our locations remain open for medical services and to help you enroll in services,” said Chavez. “You are not alone.”
LA Regional Food Bank
https://www.lafoodbank.org/coronavirus/, (323) 234-3030
In partnership with other nonprofits and charitable organizations and with locations across the city, The LA Regional Foodbank is helping individuals in need get hunger relief, whether via delivery or at a local food pantry. LARFB volunteers and employees are taking protective measures and practicing social distancing to insure safety.
The food is free of charge to eligible recipients.
Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services
Didhirsch.org, (888) 807-7250
Didi Hirsch services individuals who are suffering from anxiety, stress or emotional upheaval due to man-made or natural disasters. Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of Americans to experience these feelings.
Between rampant illness, isolation and the threat of job loss, the pandemic has many people feeling some degree of anxiety, depression or hopelessness. People are asking themselves, Will I be able to return to my job when this is over? Will I still be able to retire? The requirement that we isolate is not helping, according to Sandri Kramer of Didi Hirsch, and signs of stress and depression can mimic the symptoms of the Coronavirus.
Kramer has also noticed a surge in the amounts of anger and discrimination directed toward people of Asian descent.
She reviewed coping strategies during the Pandemic https://didihirsch.org/agency-news/didi-hirschs-pandemic-recommendations/and encouraged people to not be afraid to seek help. Suggestions include turning off the news, seeking out correct reliable information, maintaining routines and establishing new ones. Now may be the time to try to become a Youtube influencer or find ways to volunteer either virtually or in person.
“Use creative outlets,” Kramer said. “Think outside the box.”