IN THE LOOP
The news you need to know this week
Welcome to the latest edition of our update on the news you need to know and how it affects you and the communities we serve. These emails feature important updates, and you can sign up below! As always, thank you for your support of APLA Health, and please share this with others who may be interested.
Garry Bowie, Executive Director of Being Alive — A Tribute
APLA Health pays tribute to Garry Bowie, the Executive Director of Being Alive, who died on April 7 from complications of COVID-19. Being Alive is a client-driven organization that has supported the well-being of people living with HIV since 1986. The Weho Times wrote about Garry’s passing and included a memorial from Garry’s husband, Jeff Wacha.
If You Are on SSI, Veterans’ Benefits or Don’t Pay Taxes, You Can Get $1,200 Stimulus Check Through a New IRS Website
Supplemental Security Income Recipients Will Receive Automatic COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments
The Social Security Administration announced today that Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients will automatically receive their Economic Impact Payments directly to their bank accounts through direct deposit, Direct Express debit card, or by paper check, just as they would normally receive their SSI benefits. Treasury anticipates SSI recipients will receive these automatic payments no later than early May.
“SSI recipients with no qualifying children do not need to take any action in order to receive their $1,200 economic impact payment. The payments will be automatic,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “Recipients with qualifying children should use the ‘Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here’ web portal to enter basic information so they can receive their payments as quickly as possible.”
The federal government is sending most Americans earning under $75,000 a $1,200 stimulus check to help with expenses during the COVID-19 crisis. Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 and chose direct deposit of their refund will automatically receive the payment. Individuals who receive Social Security retirement, disability (SSDI) or who receive Railroad Retirement benefits, but did not file a return for 2019 or 2018, will also automatically receive a payment in the near future (see below for additional information if you have qualifying children under age 17).
The federal government initially said that people on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Veterans’ Benefits and those who hadn’t filed tax returns would have to file a simplified tax return to get their stimulus checks. APLA Health and other advocacy organizations have been advocating for a simpler mechanism and urged the IRS, Social Security and Veterans’ Affairs to just use account numbers they already have. Now, the IRS has launched a new website where people on SSI, Veterans’ Benefits and those who did not file income tax returns can register to receive their payment.
- On the IRS website, look for “Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Info Here.” The website is secure and the information you enter will be safe. The IRS will use your information to confirm eligibility and send your “Economic Impact Payment.”
- The IRS will need your current mailing address and email, valid Social Security Number, bank account routing and account number (both are on all of your checks) if you have one and a driver’s license or state-issued ID. People who do not have a bank account can get their checks through the mail or go to JoinBankOn.org to open a free, safe online account.
- People who receive Social Security retirement, survivors, or disability insurance benefits and who did not file a tax return for 2018 or 2019 and who have qualifying children under age 17 should also go to the IRS’s webpage to enter their information about them and their qualifying children. They will receive the $500 per dependent child payment in addition to their $1,200 individual payment. If Social Security beneficiaries in this group do not provide their information to the IRS soon, they will have to wait to receive their $500 per qualifying child.
- These stimulus payments will not be considered income and will not count against your assets (under $2,000 for single individuals) if you collect SSI, unless you still have all or part of the money in your bank account 12 months after receiving it.
- If you enter your bank account information, the IRS will deposit your check directly into your bank account. Otherwise, they will mail the payment to you.
- For more information for Social Security and disability benefits and the Coronavirus, go to socialsecurity.gov/coronavirus.
- A word of caution: when you have finished filling out your form, the IRS will email you and ask you to verify your email address. Then you will get transferred to what looks like the start page for e-file for tax returns. It’s a little confusing.
You can use the IRS website to determine your eligibility for the stimulus payment. If you are concerned or have other questions about the payments or your benefits, please call APLA Health’s Benefits Department at 213-201-1615. You can reach all APLA Health services for people living with HIV by calling 213-201-1600. Personnel will be available to route your call.
Information on the Statewide Eviction Moratorium for Los Angeles County Residents
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors issued an executive order which expands an existing temporary rent freeze and moratorium on evictions in parts of Los Angeles County in response to the coronavirus/COVID-19 health emergency.
The new order expands the temporary eviction moratorium to cover all residential and commercial tenants in Los Angeles County, except those who live or conduct business in cities that have already enacted their own eviction moratoria. Read more about the expanded rent freeze and moratorium here.
On March 16, Governor Newsom issued an executive order allowing local jurisdictions to halt evictions during the COVID-19 state of emergency and on March 27 followed up with a statewide moratorium on evictions through May 31, 2020. The City and County of Los Angeles have passed similar orders, retroactive to March 4 when the local state of emergency was declared.
Here are some important things to know about the eviction moratorium orders:
- The order prohibits landlords from evicting residential and commercial tenants for nonpayment of rent and prohibits enforcement of evictions by law enforcement or courts. Utilities will also stay on for all residents during the state of emergency and landlords may not charge late or other fees.
- Unincorporated Los Angeles County and some cities have implemented a rent freeze for rent stabilized units. Landlords may not raise the rent for properties built before February 1995 until after the moratorium ends on May 31, 2020.
- Tenants must declare in writing, no more than seven days after rent is due, that they cannot pay for part or all of their rent due to COVID-19. Reasons can include:
- A diagnosis of COVID-19 or caring for a household/family member who is diagnosed with COVID-19;
- Layoff, loss of hours, or other income reduction resulting from business closure or other economic or employer losses due to COVID-19;
- Compliance with a recommendation from the County’s Health Officer to stay home, self-quarantine, or avoid congregation with others during the state of emergency;
- Extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses related to diagnosis and testing for and/or treatment of COVID-19;
- Child care needs arising from school closures related to COVID-19;
- The state of emergency regarding COVID-19;
- Following government-recommended COVID-19 precautions;
- A No Fault eviction reason, unless necessary for health or safety reasons.
- Tenants need to retain documentation of inability to pay rent, but are not required to submit it to a landlord in advance.
- Tenants will have to repay full rent within twelve months or face eviction once the moratorium is lifted.
- In some cities, landlords can proceed with some “at-fault” evictions of tenants.
It is important to note that not all cities in Los Angeles County have issued local moratoriums, though all of Los Angeles County is protected by the Governor’s executive order halting evictions during the state of emergency. Approximately two dozen cities, including Los Angeles, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Pasadena, Long Beach and unincorporated Los Angeles County have local eviction moratoriums with specific guidance and some additional protections. Many housing advocates and non-profits are urging local leaders to enact more significant protections for renters, as the patchwork of national, state and local moratoriums are confusing and many landlords are still demanding rent and threatening evictions although they should not be doing so.
To help you understand your rights and navigate the various eviction moratorium orders, visit Inner City Law Center’s website at innercitylaw.org/services
Impact of COVID-19 on Efforts to End the HIV and STD Epidemics
The COVID-19 outbreak will have both an immediate and lasting impact on efforts to end the epidemics of HIV, hepatitis C (HCV) and sexually transmitted disease (STDs). With a statewide stay-at-home order in place, fewer people are now accessing routine testing, medical care and harm reduction services. Critical public health workers have been redeployed to address COVID-19 related concerns. The growing economic crisis has led to widespread unemployment, housing instability, mental health and substance use issues and other challenges associated with poor health outcomes and increased vulnerability to HIV, HCV and STDs.
At the same time, COVID-19 will likely disproportionately affect communities most impacted by these conditions and compound their existing health disparities. Early data suggest COVID-19 is hitting black and brown communities especially hard. According to a new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation, communities of color are more likely to experience health and economic challenges due to COVID-19 for a variety of reasons, including lack of access to healthcare, higher rates of certain underlying health conditions and other economic and social conditions. The LGBTQ community, particularly transgender individuals, will also be significantly impacted by the heath and financial effects of the current public health crisis. Consequently, COVID-19 may exacerbate existing disparities in HIV, HCV and STD diagnoses and health outcomes.
Policymakers have taken steps to mitigate the health and economic challenges stemming from COVID-19, but access to healthcare and financial relief remains uneven. For example, the recently passed $2.2 trillion stimulus package will significantly expand unemployment insurance and provide direct payments to many Americans. However, some individuals, including undocumented immigrants and mixed immigration status families, may not qualify for or may face challenges accessing economic relief. Immigrants may also be fearful of accessing healthcare and other assistance programs due to recent changes to the public charge rule. Additional policy actions will be needed to address these gaps as well as other challenges facing vulnerable communities, particularly housing instability and homelessness. Failure to take bold action now will further compound health disparities and hinder progress in addressing HIV, HCV and STDs.
APLA Health is actively engaging with elected officials, health departments and community-based organizations to identify ways we can maintain our progress in the fight against HIV, HCV and STDs during this growing public health crisis. While efforts to address COVID-19 are paramount to the lives of all Californians, programs that respond to the needs of people living with and vulnerable to these conditions must continue to provide high quality services. With many local health departments and community-based organizations adjusting how they continue to provide services while responding to COVID-19, increased funding will be required to prevent disruptions to care. Many of these programs must now expand telehealth options, are reassigning personnel to COVID-19 response and could see an influx in new patients as a result of loss of income or health coverage. Widespread testing for COVID-19 also presents a critical opportunity to ensure individuals are offered testing for HIV, HCV and STDs and linked to care and treatment. Now more than ever, we must invest in community driven solutions and ensure individuals have access to the tools and resources they need to remain healthy. We will keep you updated on how you can help in the days and weeks to come.
Stay in the loop!
We will send you regular updates on issues and policies affecting the LGBT and/or HIV communities and urge you to call or e-mail your representatives about key political activity at the local, state, and federal levels.