On Aug. 4, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a pilot program to provide financial assistance for workers who have contracted COVID-19, enabling them to isolate at home.
The program will initially serve about 7,500 participants, all referred by Alameda County Public Health Department’s network of community medical providers of case investigation and contact tracing services. Those selected could receive a one-time $1,250 stipend.
District 3 Supervisor Wilma Chan spearheaded the effort to gain program approval. The program’s strategy is to coordinate quarantine and isolation resources among community partners with the goal of slowing COVID-19's spread.
“Through this neighborhood collaboration effort, we learned that the highest priority needs of those in isolation were delivered food and income,” Chan said. “Residents told us they could not afford to lose two weeks' worth of wages. Many workers are living paycheck to paycheck and are working in jobs that do not offer paid sick days. It is difficult to self-isolate if they test positive, because they need to continue working to pay for basic necessities, like diapers, rent, internet and utilities. Residents also told us that people are scared to get tested, because they fear receiving an isolation order if they receive a positive test result.”
The $1,250 figure comes from an average of two 40-hour work weeks in two cities with the highest minimum wages in Alameda County. The program aims to assist communities of color in the areas with the highest case rates.
Program participants must be referred by a designated clinic in one of the high-risk neighborhoods, have tested positive for the coronavirus and not be receiving unemployment benefits or paid sick leave. Immigration status will not be taken into account. The county is still exploring options for delivering the stipend to residents, including potentially using prepaid debit cards.
“If people are afraid to get tested or cannot safely isolate when COVID-19 positive, our efforts to contain the virus will not be successful,” said Chan. “We must do everything in our power to make sure our communities are equipped to help us stop the virus's spread. This includes providing those without other sources of income with some form of financial assistance that will enable them to safely isolate without worrying about how they will care for themselves and their families if they are unable to work during that time. The pilot stipend program is intended to alleviate these economic pressures.”
While the board voted to approve the pilot program this week, there is no official start date. Officials hope to launch the pilot in a few weeks.