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Legal issues during COVID-19

Contents
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.

 

Click to expand each box.

 

Legal issues during COVID-19

Are the courts open? +

 

Courts are only hearing certain types of cases at this time. Some cases are being heard in-person, some are being heard virtually, and some cases may be rescheduled.

 

If you have questions about a case already in court, call the courthouse where the case is located. You can find the phone number for any court 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

 

If you have an emergency, you can still start a new case in court, for example, you can file for an order of protection, you can file for a violation of a custody order if the other parent is not returning your child, or anything else you need a judge to look at right away. If you don't know if your case is considered an emergency, you should contact the court or an attorney.

 

You may be able to find updates about courts in New York State at NYcourts.gov

 

These links provide more information about what kinds of cases the New York City courts are still open to hear:

 

What are my rights as a tenant now? What are my rights as a tenant when the eviction moratorium ends? +

 

All eviction proceedings and any ongoing eviction orders are suspended statewide until October 1 and may be suspended even longer*

*The suspension on eviction proceedings may continue to be extended. We will update this page if the suspension is extended.

  • This pause is called an "eviction moratorium"
  • The moratorium is on residential and commercial evictions
  • 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 - read more about that here.

There is also a ban on evictions nationwide that is effective September 4, 2020 through December 31, 2020

 

Read these Know Your Rights articles to get answers to other questions you may have*

*Some of these resources may have not yet been updated to show that the eviction moratorium has been extended until October 1

 

 

Call these hotlines for more information

 

Statewide hotline: 833-503-0447, open 24/7. They will soon be able to answer questions in all languages with interpreters. This is a referral line only -- hotline workers aren’t able to answer specific legal questions, but they will be able to direct you to the courts, clerks offices and other resources in your region. If you don’t get through the first time, keep trying!

 

In NYC, you can also call Housing Court Answers, 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday: (212) 962-4795 or (718) 557-1379. Calls are answered directly in Spanish, English and French, and interpreters are used for all other languages through the LanguageLine translation service.

 

In the Capital District and in Upstate NY, you can call United Tenants of Albany's Housing Hotline, 9am-5pm Monday-Friday at (518) 436-8997, ext. 3 for referrals and guidance about your housing questions. For speakers of languages other than English, interpreting services are available through LanguageLine.

 

Look for free legal services near you using the Find a Lawyer search on LawHelpNY

 

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.

 

Federal laws

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.

 

State laws

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.

 

Local laws

New York City's Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law and Westchester County's Earned Sick Leave Law may provide additional rights, especially if you are a domestic worker.

 

More support

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

 

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:

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.

Read more here.

 
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. 

Read more about how to be aware of scams here.

 

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

 

There are many online resources for finding shelters, support and treatment

 

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.

 

If you are living in NYC, find more information on these issues on Brooklyn Volunteer Lawyers Project's Family Law Resources page.

 

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.

My family member has passed away from COVID-19 and has a small estate. +

 

When a person dies (the “Decedent”) with less than $50,000 of personal property, the Decedent’s estate is considered a small estate and the Surrogate’s Court proceeding that is used is called a Voluntary Administration. This proceeding is used whether or not the Decedent executed a Last Will and Testament during his or her lifetime. Personal property includes bank and retirement accounts, cars, stocks, bonds and anything of value that has the Decedent’s name alone, with no joint owner and no beneficiary designation. It does not include real property like houses, land, and buildings.

 

Click here to learn more about Surrogates' Court and get forms

 

How can I get help with my family member's small estate?

I am having trouble paying my mortgage. +

 
All existing foreclosure proceedings have been suspended until October 1, 2020

 

If you are already in a foreclosure proceeding, most foreclosure cases are being rescheduled to later this year. 

 

More Know Your Rights Resources about foreclosure during COVID-19

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

 

 

 

  • 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

 

Last Review and Update: Aug 31, 2020
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