Legal issues during COVID-19
Resources Compiled by LawHelpNY and the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project
About this page
Resources are being written everyday to help you with the legal issues you are facing.
We want you to know your options, know your rights, and know that help is available.
We are making ongoing updates to this page. If you don't see the issue you are facing addressed here today, please check back soon. You can also look for more information in our Know Your Rights Section.
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Legal issues during COVID-19
Are the courts still open? What matters are considered essential? +
The NY State Court System is open only for essential and critical needs of the public.
What does this mean for me?
This means that courts are only hearing certain types of cases at this time. However, there are some exceptions.
These links provide more information about what kinds of cases the courts are still open to hear:
In addition, some cases are now being heard over phone or Skype.
If you have questions about a case already in court, call the courthouse where the case is located.
You can find the phone number using the Court Locator on NYCourts.gov.
If you aren’t able to get through to the courthouse or you need additional information, you can call the Coronavirus Court Hotline at 1-833-503-0447
Find the most recent updates about courts in New York State at NYcourts.gov
What are my options if I'm out of work due to COVID-19? +
If you have lost your job or been furloughed, you are not eligible for federal paid sick leave or federal paid family leave, as you may know. You should apply for unemployment insurance benefits.
Here are some things you should know about applying for Unemployment Insurance benefits:
- New York State is waiving the 7-Day waiting period for Unemployment Insurance benefits for people who are out of work due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) closures or quarantines.
- If you are filing a new unemployment insurance claim, the day you should file is based on the first letter of your last name. Find out what day to apply here.
- After you complete your form online, you may need to call the Telephone Claims Center at (888) 209-8124
- The Telephone Claims Center is open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and on Saturday and Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- You may need to call multiple times to get through to an agent - don't give up!
- Get more information about Unemployment from NY Department of Labor
The federal CARES Act was signed into law March 27, 2020.
The Act provides enhanced Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for New Yorkers. Here’s what you need to know.
You may also be protected by paid sick leave and family leave laws.
- Read the Fact Sheet on Workplace Rights and COVID-19 by the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) for a summary of city, state and federal laws that may protect you.
The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides:
- Paid Sick Leave of up to 2 weeks depending on the size of your employer.
- Paid Family Leave including 12 weeks of paid leave for employees who are unable to work or telework (work from home) because their children's schools or childcare providers are closed.
If your workplace closed or if you have been furloughed, you should apply for Unemployment Insurance Benefits (link to NY DOL) because you are not eligible for federal paid sick leave and federal paid family leave.
The Empire Justice Center has more answers about the federal and state laws about paid sick and family leave.
Under New York State's Paid Sick Leave law some employers must provide 5 to 14 days of job-protected, paid sick leave to employees who need to take leave.
In addition, New York State has a Paid Family Leave law.
National Center for Law and Economic Justice have put together a resource to help you understand the government programs that are available to help you make ends meet. Get the fact sheet here.
I need help with unemployment benefits. +
The New York State Bar Association has created an Unemployment Insurance Relief page that can help you if
- You need to file a claim
- You have already filed a claim
- Your claim was denied
Here are some more helpful resources about applying for unemployment benefits
- Watch this video with the most recent answers to questions about unemployment benefits from New York Legal Assistance Group
- Read about Unemployment Insurance Benefits and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance from LawNY
- Read this PDF of step-by-step instructions for how to file for unemployment online
I need to talk to someone for help and I live in New York City
During the COVID-19 crisis, the VOLS Unemployed Workers Project provides much needed support and guidance to New Yorkers.
Trained attorneys are available to answer questions about the various unemployment programs’ eligibility requirements, payment amounts and will help you navigate the process of filing for benefits.
You may be eligible for free attorney representation if you are denied benefits. Here is how to get help:
- Call VOLS Unemployed Workers project at 347-521-5720
- Complete the online interest form to request contact from a VOLS representative
- Read more information and answers to frequently asked questions about unemployment on the VOLS website
You may also be able to receive help from the Access to Benefits Helpline from the Legal Aid Society
The Access to Benefits (A2B) Helpline 888-663-6880 will be open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
A2B staff can assist NYC residents with employment and unemployment benefits matters, issues related to Medicaid/health law, SNAP, public assistance, disability, and other benefits and issues related to COVID-19.
I need to talk to someone for help and I do not live in New York City
You can also find help in your county using our Find a Lawyer search.
If you can't find help near you, you may be able to connect with a volunteer attorney through the New York State Bar Association.
What can I do if I can't pay my bills? +
If you are having trouble paying bills or mortgage payments, you can read this helpful resource from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about protecting yourself financially.
There are many protections being put in place for you - read about adjustments that are being made to many of the bills and fees you may be paying in this online PDF FAQ for consumers
What about student loans?
If you are having trouble paying your student loan bills, read about the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The CARES act suspends principal and interest payments on federal student loans thorugh September 30, 2020.
How do I manage my money?
New York Legal Assistance Group has put together some helpful tips on financial planning during a crisis.
The Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project has put together a list of useful consumer and homeowner information.
I think I have been targeted by a scammer.
Scammers look for opportunities to take advantage of the vulnerable, especially during times of emergencies or natural disasters.
My partner is abusive. How do I keep myself and my children safe? +
Shelters and domestic violence programs are still open and can help. If you need help right now, call 911 for the police.
Call a domestic violence hotline, for help with safety planning, finding shelter, support, and treatment for injuries
- The New York State 24-hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline 1-800-942-6906
- The U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE(7233)
There are many online resources for finding shelters, support and treatment
- Visit New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence to learn more about services
- Read about how to make a safety plan from TheHotline.org
- Read this article about the impact COVID-19 may have on intimate partner violence survivors from TheHotline.org
- Find many more related resources from FuturesWithoutViolence.org
You have the right to ask the court for a “Temporary Order of Protection”
An Order of Protection is a legal document issued by a judge to protect you or your children from an abuser.
Orders of Protection can order someone to “stay away” or have no contact with you or your children, and can limit the person's communications with you.
Orders of Protection are considered “essential” matters by the court. This means, you can "petition" (or ask) the court for an order of protection. A Temporary Order of Protection is valid for a shorter period of time, usually until the next court appearance.
Your attorney or advocate can "petition" (or ask) the court for a Temporary Order of Protection or you can do it yourself.
If you need to do it yourself, you can reach the court by calling the Coronavirus Telephone Hotline at 1-833-503-0447.
If you are in NYC you can get information about getting an emergency order of protection by calling 646-386-5299 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Court forms for filing an Orders of Protection can be found on NYcourts.gov
What if I already have a Temporary Order of Protection?
If you already have a Temporary Order of Protection that is valid as of March 19, 2020, it will remain in effect until the court is able to hear the matter.
So, even if your Order has now expired, you can still call the police and have it enforced.
The court is postponing hearings on existing Temporary Orders of Protection.
If you had a hearing scheduled, you may have a new court date.
Call the courthouse where your case is being heard to find out if the case has been postponed.
- Find contact information for any court in New York state using the Court Locator on NYCourts.gov
What about custody, visitation and child support? +
Read this resource by Legal Assistance of Western New York (LawNY) about custody, visitation and child support during the COVID-19 crisis.
This article from Empire Justice Center has answers to many questions you may have if you are paying child support, lost your job, file a joint tax return, or currently owe child support. This article also discusses how stimulus checks may be affected by child support.
What can I do as a freelancer or small business owner? +
If you're a small business owner in NYC, your business may qualify for financial help from the City.There are a number of programs, grants and loans to help you now. Read more on NYC.gov
If you are a freelancer or self-employed, you can apply for unemployment and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
Even if you are not normally eligible for unemployment you can apply for benefitis at this time (for example, self-employed, independent contractors, farmers workers with limited work history, and others).
If you have questions as an employer, read Small Business Employment Issues and COVID-19.
If you have a commercial lease, read about your obligations and what to do if you are facing non-performance in Commercial Leases and Covid-19.
I am afraid that I may lose my housing because I can't afford my payments. +
I am renting
If you have received an eviction notice recently or a Section 8 termination, you can find answers to questions you may have here.
All eviction proceedings and any ongoing eviction orders are suspended statewide until August 20.
- This pause is called an "eviction moratorium"
- The moratorium is on residential and commerical evictions
- You can read more about your rights as a tenant during COVID-19 in this article from LawNY
New York is also banning fees for late or missed payments during the eviction moratorium.
Renters facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 are also allowed to use their security deposit as payment and repay their security deposit over time.
I have a mortgage
All existing foreclosure proceedings have been suspended until August 2020.
Foreclosure cases are "non-essential" matters. If you are behind on your payments, your lender should not be able to start a new foreclosure case against you right now.
If you are already facing foreclosure, you should know that foreclosure cases are being rescheduled to later this year.
Read about what to do if you're facing foreclosure or falling behind on your mortgage during the COVID-19 pandemic in this article from LawNY
I need something else. +
We are sorry you didn't find what you're looking for yet. Here are some good resources that have answers to some issues we aren't yet covering on this page
- Latest information by legal issue area from New York Legal Assistance Group - you can find information here about wage garnishments, mediciad, immigration, health insurance, special education, taxes, veteran issues, and more.
- Frequently asked questions and resources from Empire Justice Center - you can find information here about social security, scams and fraud, stimulus checks, child support, nursing homes, and more.
- The Legal Aid Society has also published information on various legal issues you may be facing during COVID-19 and information on the courts.
You can also chat with one of our LiveHelp volunteers, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Click here to start chatting!
Getting legal help
Many legal aid organizations are ready to help you over the phone, online or chat.
Look for remote legal services in our Find a Lawyer search