With schools closed and thousands of people across the country being laid off due to the new coronavirus pandemic, many Texans are finding themselves stuck at home with no income or access to necessary resources like food or medical supplies.
In response to growing concerns around the nation, President Donald Trump recently signed a bill mandating 12 weeks of paid leave for people quarantining or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms that applies only to companies with less than 500 employees. The federal bill, which goes into effect Thursday, also provides $1 billion in emergency unemployment insurance to the states and requires free testing for the new coronavirus.
In Texas, the economic damage is amplified as local businesses are shuttered, the service industry is halted, and the oil and gas industry is hammered.
But as state and federal leaders continue to respond, what can you do if you’re looking for assistance? And if you have the means to do so, what can you do to help others?
Food banks, school districts and some local pantries are providing free meals for people and asking for donations and volunteers as they face a significant increase in demand. Texans also have access to a variety of other resources, including free internet and housing support. Here’s a list.
Food near me: How can I get meals?
Texans who meet certain income eligibility guidelines can apply for various federal benefit programs. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides money for food, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children provides resources for pregnant women and people with children younger than 5.
Feeding Texas has a website where people can find 21 member food banks that can provide free groceries and a place to sign up for SNAP benefits. The organization is also asking for donations for the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, and local organizations are looking for volunteers, food donations and monetary donations.
Local chapters of the Salvation Army in Texas are also offering a variety of services, including shelter, addiction services and curbside pickup for groceries. Texans can donate directly to the Salvation Army Texas on its website or to their local chapters, which can be found here.
The Meals on Wheels Texas website allows Texans to search for local Meals on Wheels chapters that are providing meals to elderly individuals that can be picked up or home delivered. Local chapters are also looking for volunteers and certain items to be donated. Specific needs can be found on the local chapters’ websites.
Little Free Pantry is a nationwide network of local pantries providing food and resources to people experiencing food insecurity. Texans can find a map of pantries in their area here or list their own pantry if they would like to start one.
The Texas Education Agency launched the Texas Students MealFinder Map with a list of local education agency facilities serving meals in their communities. The map includes the address of each facility and dates and times meals will be served.
Texas medical supplies and services
The Texas Association of Community Health Centers has a website where people can search for community health centers, health center networks and other providers serving the uninsured in Texas. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, many centers are asking patients to call first before coming in.
Texans can call 2-1-1 and select option 6 for questions about symptoms, travel concerns, unemployment insurance, emergency food assistance, city and state orders, and more. Various counties across Texas also have websites with public health information and local hotlines for COVID-19 questions and virtual screenings.
The American Red Cross is facing a blood shortage due to cancellations of blood drives across the state and is urging people to give blood. People can sign up to give at various locations in Texas here.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission created a 24/7 statewide toll-free phone number at 833-986-1919 for COVID-19-related mental health support.
Texas unemployment benefits: How to file
Texans whose employment has been affected by the new coronavirus can apply for benefits using Unemployment Benefits Services or call 800-939-6631 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day for assistance.
Congress is also working to provide funds to a U.S. Small Business Administration program which previously offered long-term, low-interest loans to Texas small-businesses owners until money in the program ran out.
Internet, diapers and more: Other resources
Comcast is providing free Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots around the nation. People can find hotspots here and then select the “xfinitywifi” network. Charter Communications is also announced it would providing free Wi-Fi hotspots and broadband to students without a subscription for 60 days starting March 16. Students can enroll by calling 844-488-8395.
Aunt Bertha is a nationwide website with a searchable index of a variety of free support services, such as food banks and health care. Texans can search for services in their area by typing in their ZIP code.
Need Help Paying Bills has a list of organizations on its website offering housing support or eviction prevention services throughout the state of Texas, including emergency housing and homeless shelters.
The State Bar of Texas has a hotline at 800-504-7030 to connect Texans with legal service providers, who can give assistance with bankruptcy and debt-collection matters, unemployment applications and other civil legal problems.
For more local resources in your city, check out these helpful guides
Corpus Christi Caller Times: Food Bank to provide food and cleaning kits to low-income elderly amid coronavirus fears
The Dallas Morning News: Here are some of the North Texas organizations in need of help during the coronavirus pandemic
Tyler Morning Telegraph: East Texas Food Bank, nonprofits look toward support for vulnerable populations
Marfa Public Radio: Resources for West Texans During the COVID-19 Pandemic
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Disclosure: Feeding Texas, the Texas Association of Community Health Centers and Comcast have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.