Covid-19 FAQs


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Frequently Asked Questions: What Do I Do During the COVID-19 Crisis

COVID-19 Information

  • Stay home and consult a doctor if you are showing symptoms
      1. Fever
      2. Cough
      3. Sore Throat
      4. Difficulty Breathing
  • Do not walk into a hospital or clinic without calling ahead first
  • Take precautions to prevent the spread of germs:
    1. Avoid close contact with people who are sick
    2. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
    3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
    4. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects
    5. Stay home when you are sick unless you are seeking medical care
    6. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

This COVID-19 crisis has had and will continue to have a profound impact on workers. Please see below for a list of Frequently Asked Questions and how workers can respond during this crisis: 

*Note: the information in this document does not constitute legal advice.  For legal advice, contact an attorney



1. How to protect yourself if you are currently working

  • General information--including sample letters and petitions
  • Information for domestic workers

2. What to do if you lose work hours or lose your job

3. Local resources to help you

4. Immigrant rights

5. What is Arise doing during this crisis?

6. What can I do to help?



General Information

My employer expects me to come into work despite the government recommending that people stay home. I am afraid  that I will be exposed to COVID-19 from someone at work. Do I have a right to refuse work that is dangerous to my health or the health of others?

Even if your workplace remains open and your boss expects you to work, Arise believes workers should choose whether to go to work, and whether their working conditions are safe and healthy. If you do not believe your workplace conditions are safe or healthy, take action with your co-workers as a group. There is power and safety in numbers. Co-workers taking action together to address workplace issues is considered to be “Protected Concerted Activity” under federal law. Practicing Protected Concerted Activity means that your employer cannot lawfully retaliate against you and your co-workers for taking action together to stay safe at work (see more here: You and one or more coworkers can communicate with your employer, ideally in writing in the form of gathering signatures to sign a petition that states your specific demands for a more safe and healthy workplace. Present this petition to your boss and remind them that your health is at risk when you are forced to leave your home and go to work. If your boss refuses to comply with the demands of your petition, gather your coworkers to stop work or go on strike. Contact Arise Chicago ([email protected] / 773-769-6000) for support for collective actions such as these.


Can the government stop my employer from forcing me to work?

     Take Action at Work: Report your Employer to an Agency

If your employer is telling you to work but your workplace is not an “essential” business:

Contact the Chicago Office of Labor Standards (for workplaces located in Chicago)

Contact the Illinois Attorney General Labor Bureau (for workplaces located outside of Chicago)

Contact the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity


If your employer is not practicing social distancing or maintaining a sanitary work environment:

Contact the Chicago Office of Labor Standards (for workplaces located in Chicago)

Contact the Illinois Attorney General Labor Bureau (for workplaces located outside of Chicago)


   Illinois regulations

See the Illinois Governor’s Executive Order here. “Non-essential” workplaces are closed; however, “essential” workplaces can remain open. Restaurants and bars are closed for the time being. However, some restaurants are providing food delivery and employers can require cooks and drivers to show up to work. Grocery stores and pharmacy workers are on site. If you are working your regular shifts, the minimum-wage and paid sick days accrual laws still apply. If you believe you are not employed at an “essential” workplace, but your boss remains open, and you do not feel safe going to work, you may file a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General. Contact Arise Chicago at [email protected] or 773-769-6000 for support in doing this. The federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) cannot enforce CDC guidelines such as 6-feet social distancing or use of hand sanitizers. However, in some instances, such as if your employer is not providing soap, paper towels, and/or hot/cold water for sanitation, you can file a complaint to OSHA to require your employer to comply with OSHA standards. For these or other OSHA standards, contact the regional office.

Find your OSHA Area Office contact info here:

If your boss is not ensuring a sanitary environment, or if there are more serious health or safety hazards unrelated to COVID-19, take collective action with your co-workers by signing a petition, stopping work, or striking ( 

If you take collective action with a petition, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure the letter is dated.
  2. Add in your own specific demands (not economic in nature)
  3. Deliver the letter to the company. One or more workers can do this. 
  4. Fax or email the letter to the corporation, if there are more than one locations
  5. Take a picture of the letter with all the signatures. 
  6. Take a picture of the letter being delivered with a time stamp on the photo (most cell phones have that feature)

Download sample petitions here:

  1. Petition for currently employed workers
  2. Call to action inviting co-workers to take action
  3. Group sample letter if laid off or about to lose work
  4. Call to action to co-workers if about to be laid off
  5. Sample strike notification letter to employers of "essential" workers in unsafe conditions

Contact Arise Chicago for support for collective actions such as these. See our Facebook video here for more information on essential and non essential workers.  See this Facebook video for how to take action if you feel unsafe at work.


What businesses and workers are considered essential during this crisis?

    • Healthcare workers 
      • Those who work at hospitals; clinics; dental offices; pharmacies; public health entities; healthcare manufacturers and suppliers; blood banks; medical cannabis facilities; reproductive health care providers; eye care centers; home healthcare services providers; mental health and substance use providers; ancillary healthcare services — including veterinary care
  • Essential Government Functions
      • All first responders, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, court personnel, law enforcement and corrections personnel, hazardous materials responders, child protection and child welfare personnel, housing and shelter personnel, military, and other governmental employees
    • Human Services Operations
      • Any provider funded by DHS, DCFS or Medicaid; long-term care facilities; home-based and residential settings for adults, seniors, children, and/or people with disabilities or mental illness; transitional facilities; field offices for food, cash assistance, medical coverage, child care, vocational services or rehabilitation services; developmental centers; adoption agencies; businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services and other necessities of life for needy individuals. This excludes day care centers except under special circumstances, for example, certain essential workers such as government employees still qualify for child care services. 
    • Essential Infrastructure
      • Working in food production, distribution and sale; construction; building management and maintenance; airport operations; operation and maintenance of utilities, including water, sewer, and gas; electrical; distribution centers; oil and biofuel refining; roads, highways, railroads, and public transportation; ports; cybersecurity operations; flood control; solid waste and recycling collection and removal; and internet, video, and telecommunications systems
    • Stores that sell groceries and medicine
      • Grocery stores, pharmacies, certified farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, convenience stores, and others involved in the sale of groceries and medicine
    • Food, beverage and cannabis production and agriculture
      • Food and beverage manufacturing, production, processing, and cultivation, including farming, livestock, fishing, baking, and other production agriculture
    • Organizations that provide charitable and social services
      • Businesses and nonprofit organizations, including food banks, when providing food, shelter, social services, and other necessities of life 
    • Media
      • Newspapers, television, radio, and others
    • Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation
    • Financial institutions
      • Banks, currency exchanges, consumer lenders
    • Hardware and supply stores
    • Critical trades
      • Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, security staff, operating engineers, HVAC, painting, moving and relocation services, and other service providers that maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences, Essential Activities, and Essential Businesses and Operations
    • Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery and pick-up services
    • Educational institutions 
      • For purposes of facilitating distance learning, performing critical research, or performing essential functions
    • Laundry services
    • Restaurants for consumption off-premises
      • Delivery or take-out only
    • Supplies to work from home & Supplies for Essential Businesses and Operations
      • Businesses that sell, manufacture, or supply products needed for people to work from home and for essential businesses
    • Transportation 
      • For purposes of Essential Travel
        • Includes airlines, public transportation, Uber, Lyft, and taxis
      • Auto repair shops and bike shops included 
    • Home-based care and services
    • Residential facilities and shelters
  • Professional services
    • Legal services, accounting services, insurance services, real estate services
  • Critical labor union functions
    • Administration of health and welfare funds and personnel checking on the wellbeing and safety of members
  • Hotels and motels 
    • To the extent used for lodging and delivery or carry-out food services
  • Funeral services

See Governor Pritzker’s full executive order regarding COVID-19:


Is it safe for me to go to work?

If you must work, practice social-distancing--stay 6 feet away from other individuals and follow all other recommendations such as washing your hands, cleaning surfaces, and avoiding touching your face. The State of Illinois ordered that people stay home from work if possible. Unfortunately, there is no law that says that you don’t have to go into work during this crisis. 

Do I have a right to paid sick days?

Workers in the city of Chicago have a right to 5 paid sick days. If you work as an employee in Chicago for at least 80 hours for an employer within any 120-day period, you are probably covered by the Chicago law, whether you are a full-time, part-time, or temporary worker. This includes salaried employees, domestic employees, day laborers, tipped workers, and home health care workers. If you are a union member, you should check your CBA. However, the law does not cover minors, certain public or city agency employees, state or federal government workers, construction industry workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), or participants of certain subsidized temporary youth or transitional employment programs. See this document from the City of Chicago for more information.

Workers in 21 Cook County suburbs also have a right to 5 paid sick days. See which suburbs here: If you work as an employee in a covered suburb for at least 80 hours for an employer within any 120-day period, you may be covered by the Cook County law, whether you are a full-time, part-time, or temporary worker. However, the law does not cover federal, state, or local government employees, or construction industry workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). You earn 1 hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours per year. All covered employees are protected against being fired or punished for using or requesting their sick time (including threats, discipline, demotion, reduction in hours, termination, etc.). For more information about the Cook County law, see here:

What Can I Use Paid Sick Leave For?

  • You or your family member is ill or injured, receiving medical care, treatment, diagnosis or preventative medical care;
  • Your place of business is closed by order of a public official due to public health emergency;
  • Your child needs care because their school or place of care is closed due to a public health emergency;
  • You or your family member is a victim of domestic violence or sex offense.

How Do I Take Paid Sick Leave?

  • Give your employer as much notice as possible that you will need to use your Paid Sick Leave.
  • If you use 3 or more work days in a row of Paid Sick Leave, your employer could require you to provide documentation to support your leave request.
  • Employers cannot require you to find a replacement worker to cover for you in order to use Paid Sick Leave.

What Can I do if My Boss is not Following the Law?

If you believe you are entitled to Paid Sick Leave, and your employer is not complying, contact Arise Chicago to file a complaint with the City of Chicago Office of Labor Standards (for Chicago workers) or the Cook County Commission on Human Rights (for covered suburban workers): [email protected] / 773-769-6000.



Domestic Workers

Should I wear a face mask while working as a caregiver?

The CDC does NOT recommend that people in good health wear masks to protect themselves from the coronavirus. Face masks should be worn by people who already have symptoms of the coronavirus to help prevent the spread of the virus to others. The use of specialized face masks is recommended for healthcare workers and caregivers who are caring for people who have had symptoms of the coronavirus. Masks are only effective if combined with frequent hand washing with a hydroalcoholic solution or soap and water. If you need to wear a mask, learn how to wear and remove it properly. Learn more here:

How do I keep myself safe while cleaning someone’s home or office?

Ask your employer to provide you with non sterile disposable gloves. Use good hand washing techniques while working and before leaving work. Avoid taking cleaning supplies from one house to another to prevent the spread of germs, and change your clothes once you get home from work. See list of disinfectants to help kill the virus here:

How can I best care for my elderly client since they are more at risk?

Limit visitors to the home. Limit your own exposure to places where there are many people. This reduces the chances of exposing yourself to the virus and spreading it to your client. Practice good hand washing techniques. Talk with your employer to ensure that enough medication and food is stored in the home, and establish an alternative plan for medical visits if needed to limit exposure to the virus. 

How can I best care for the children I care for? 

Practice and teach good hand washing techniques. Explain that hand washing is a way to protect ourselves and others. Support the children as they try to understand what is happening. Limit exposure to the virus by stopping activities that involve close contact with others, but remember that outdoor activities are still important for children. Spend time outside doing activities that keep a safe distance from others, such as hiking and biking. Comic explaining COVID-19 to kids:


Can I apply for unemployment benefits?

  • Those that qualify, should apply for unemployment
  • Be aware that unemployment applications are reviewed and monitored by the federal government. Your documentation will be subject to verification. 

Who is Eligible for Illinois Unemployment Benefits?

You are eligible if you:

  • Have earned $1,600.00 total during your “base period”; $440 must have been earned outside of your highest paid quarter; 
  • Your “base period” consists of the four calendar quarters before a claim for benefits was filed
  • If you worked part-time, you are eligible as long as you meet the income requirement.
  • Have had a reduction in hours (possibly)
  • Have become unemployed through no fault of your own;
  • Temporary layoffs due to COVID-19 are eligible, if:
  • You are confined to your home due to a COVID-19 diagnosis, or because you need to care for a spouse, parent, or child who’s been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • You have had to leave work due to a child’s school closure;
  • NOT if you left work voluntarily due to concern about COVID-19;
  • NOT if you are receiving paid leave.
  • Are able and available to return to work.
  • You must register with the state employment service at Illinois JobLink ( to show your availability, UNLESS you were temporarily laid off due to COVID-19– then you are NOT required to show your availability.


  • Some domestic workers are eligible for unemployment insurance:
  • Certain categories of Immigrants qualify for benefits
    • You must have valid work authorization, both at the time the wages were earned and at the time you are looking for work. The following are eligible, so long as this requirement is met:
    • Lawful permanent residents (“green card” holders)
    • DACA recipients
    • Lawfully in the U.S. to perform services (e.g., H2, H-1B workers, and any other with work authorization)
    • Permanently Residing Under Color of Law (PRUCOL) (e.g., refugees, immigrants who have been granted asylum, among others)


*Contact Legal Aid Chicago at (312) 341-1070 if you have any additional questions.


How do I apply for unemployment benefits?

How long might business closures and social distancing last?

The virus seems to have a cycle of 21 days, but this cycle might extend for several months. According to medical information, the shortest period to decline will be by the end of April or mid-May.  


How can I get food assistance?

    • Chicago Public Schools 
      • CPS schools are open Monday – Friday, 9am-1pm, to provide meals to parents (breakfast and lunch). They will receive 3 days of meals for each young person in the household. 1-773-553-KIDS or email at [email protected] to make a request for food delivery.
  • Food Pantries
      • Common Pantry (local food pantry on the North Side 3744 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60618) - open Wednesdays and Thursdays
      • Food Bank Directory: - members can use this link to look up food pantries, soup kitchen, mobile food distribution, or shelters in Cook County - just input their address and it will locate the closest resources
      • Berwyn & Cicero & Stickney residents: Cicero Berwyn Stickney food pantry located at la Iglesia Luterana Getsemaní, 1937 S 50th Ave in Cicero - open on Tuesdays
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) 
    • Call 1-800-843-6154
    • You qualify if you:
      • Are pregnant or have a child under age 19 who lives with you. A child who is 18 must be a full-time high school student. A pregnant woman (and her husband, if he lives with her) may qualify for help, even if they don't have any other children
      • Live in Illinois. You can be homeless and still qualify.
      • Be a U.S. citizen or meet certain immigration requirements.
  • Help in finding health care and other services in your area


What if I cannot pay my bills? 

  • Utilities
    • Illinois utilities, including electric, gas, & water, have agreed to suspend shutoffs and new late fees until May 1st. Includes ComEd and People’s Gas, except in the case of safety concerns.
  • Evictions
    • The Cook County Sheriff will not enforce eviction orders beginning on March 14th, 2020, and continuing until April 13th, 2020. If the court has already ordered that a tenant should be evicted, the sheriff will not take action to put the tenant out until April 13th at the earliest.
  • Some homeowners can defer their mortgage payments. 


What financial relief is available to domestic workers?

  • Coronavirus Care Fund: 
    • The Coronavirus Care Fund will provide emergency assistance for home care workers, nannies and house cleaners, and enable them to stay home and healthy.
      • If you are a domestic worker, text RELIEF to 97779 to get updates from NDWA, and find out when the Coronavirus Care Fund applications are ready. 

Where can I find more information about specific local resources? 

  • Individual Wards sometimes offer local resources to residents
  • Additional Hotlines: 
    • Chicago Public Schools: (773) 553-5437
    • Chicago Department of Public Health: (312) 746-4835
    • ICIRR Immigrant Family Services: (855) 435-7693
    • 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline: (312) 738-5358
    • Rape Crisis Hotline: (888) 293-2080
  • Health & Wellness resources
    • If you feel you would like to talk to a mental health professional about your current experiences, United HealthCare is offering a free, 24/7 helpline at (866) 342-6892 to anyone.
    • Additionally, as always, Brightstar’s TURN helpline operates Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9am – 6pm at (833) 887-6123.
    • Illinois Medicaid is available to low-income adults between 19-64 years old.
    • If you are interested in meditation, Balance App is offering a free, one-year subscription. E-mail [email protected].
    • If you or someone you know is pregnant or breastfeeding, please see here for the CDC’s recommendations.


How will DACA recipients be affected by this crisis?

DACA recipients can apply for/qualify for unemployment. If you have work authorization at the time you were working and lost your job, you can access unemployment on DACA.

What rights do I have in my workplace?

If you are working, the law protects you regardless of status. This includes minimum wage, health and safety, and discrimination laws. You are also eligible for paid sick days if you work in Chicago or certain suburbs in Cook County. 

Do immigrants have a right to healthcare? 

Yes. Immigrant rights regarding access to health:

  • It is safe and important to see a doctor if you need care. Your doctor must respect your right to privacy, and you do not need to share any information about immigration status unless you apply for Medicaid or other health coverage. 
  • You can see a doctor even if you don’t have health insurance. Find a health center here: 
  • It is safe to visit hospitals and places where health services are provided
  • Many states have some medical assistance programs that cover immigrants regardless of status:
  • Undocumented individuals are not restricted from testing, screening, and treatment

Will the COVID-19 crisis impact immigration proceedings?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") has suspended in-person services from March 18, 2020 through April 1, 2020.  This move will postpone all naturalization ceremonies, citizenship, green card and asylum interviews, among other things. In the meantime, USCIS will provide limited emergency services.

When USCIS resumes normal operations, individuals will automatically be rescheduled for interviews and should receive a new appointment letter in the mail.  

As a result, if you receive a phone call or notification from USCIS informing you that your interview has been postponed for a later date, do not be alarmed as it is part of USCIS's initiative to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Visit to learn more about how USCIS is responding to the crisis.



Is Arise Chicago open during the COVID-19 crisis? 

Arise Chicago will only be taking phone calls and the office will be closed until further notice. Dial or text 773-769-6000 or text 312-715-8141 to reach an Arise organizer.

What is Arise doing to fight for the workers during this crisis?

  • Passing legislation for all Chicago workers: Arise is a leading member of a coalition to pass an Emergency Paid Leave law for all workers in the City of Chicago to continue to be paid while they are at home due to a public health emergency. Help us pass the law! Visit our action page:
  • Communicating with our members: If you are an Arise member:
  • Developing Organizing and Educational videos and publications for workers to better defend their rights and protect their health. Visit our website and Facebook page for updates.



What can I do to help fellow workers during the crisis?

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