COVID-19 Help: Food, Housing, and Financial Assistance

Watch the latest social services updates on GovTV for emerging news on supports available during the pandemic: Watch Now

  • Food Assistance

  • Financial Assistance

  • Housing & Utility Assistance

  • Support for Families

  • Business Assistance

  • Immigrant Resources

View Food Pantry Schedule

Food pantry schedule icon

  • There are many ways to access food in Somerville! Check out this guide of the different food resources available across the city.
  • The Somerville Food Security Coalition is maintaining an updated list of food pantries during COVID-19. Call an organization before visiting in person, as they may have new procedures to follow.
  • Project Bread offers a FoodSource Hotline at (800) 645-8333 (TTY line: 1-800-377-1292) to help callers find food resources. The hotline is available in 160 languages.
  • SNAP is a federal nutrition assistance program for low-income individuals and families that provides benefits via an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. You can check your eligibility for SNAP here, and sign up for benefits here. The SNAP time limit and work rules have been suspended because of COVID-19. If you were previously denied SNAP for not meeting the work rules, you should reapply for benefits.  If you currently receive SNAP, you may receive a COVID-19 emergency supplement up to the maximum amount. U.S. Citizens, and some asylees, refugees, and green card holders can apply for SNAP. Parents who are not eligible for SNAP can apply for their eligible household members, such as U.S. citizen children. Note that SNAP benefits are factored into public charge determinations. You should speak with your immigration attorney before applying. If you do not have an immigration attorney, you can contact any of these organizations for help.
  • Seasonal Farmers’ Markets: The Somerville Winter Farmers Market has a $15 SNAP/P-EBT match.
  • Free Cab Vouchers: Don’t have a car and don’t have a reliable ride to get food? Having trouble getting the food you need? The City of Somerville was awarded a grant to distribute Green & Yellow Cab vouchers to help you get to food easier, at no cost to you. Vouchers can be used Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and can be used for rides to Market Basket, food pantries in East Somerville, or local farmers’ markets. Fill out this form online or email [email protected] or call (781) 747-8502 for more information. If you are 60 years or older, call Connie for vouchers at (617) 625-6600 x2319.
  • Oakdale Farms: In addition to our great farmers’ markets, you can spend your SNAP and redeem your HIP benefits by placing a farm-fresh order for delivery from Oakdale Farms! They supply the Somerville Mobile Farmers’ Market and just started a new delivery program. Deliveries come to Somerville on Fridays.

You can also call 311 any time if you’re concerned about food access and they will connect you with local resources.

  • Grab-and-go: Pick up free grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches every weekday at five schools around the city. 
  • The Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program provides emergency food assistance to families with school-aged children. You do not need to apply for this benefit. Families currently receiving SNAP benefits will receive additional funds automatically on their EBT card. Students who are enrolled in or eligible for free/reduced-price school meals, OR that attend a school with universal free school breakfast and lunch (Somerville High School, Healey School, Winter Hill School, East Somerville Community School, and Next Wave/Full Circle) should have automatically received a letter from the DTA and the card. Do not throw out the letter or the card. The card will be reloaded monthly. Follow the instructions to activate your card. If you lose your child’s case number or the letter, go to DTA Connect to retrieve the number. If you did not get a letter in the mail or if you need help, contact Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at (800) 645-8333 (TTY 800-377-1292). This benefit is available regardless of immigration status, and does not count as a negative factor for public charge determinations.

WIC is a supplemental nutritional program for children under 5 years old. Check your eligibility for this program here. To apply for WIC, complete an application online or contact the local Somerville WIC office at the Cambridge Health Alliance here or at (617) 575-5330. A WIC staff member will call you back. Massachusetts WIC is also available at (800)-942-1007 or (617)-721-6601 weekdays Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you hear a recording, please leave a message with your name and telephone number. This benefit is available regardless of immigration status, and does not count as a negative factor for public charge determinations.

Several grocery stores in the area are offering dedicated hours for seniors and other at-risk individuals, including pregnant people and people with compromised immune systems. However, it is recommended to call before heading out to shop, as policies may vary by location.

  • Market Basket
    • New Hours: 6 a.m. - 8 p.m. every day
    • Seniors Shopping: 6 a.m. - 7 a.m. 
  • Star Market 
    • New Hours: 6 a.m. - 10 p.m. every day 
    • Seniors Shopping: 6 a.m. - 7 a.m. every day
  • Stop and Shop
    • Seniors Shopping: 6 a.m. - 7:30 a.m. every day 
  • Trader Joe’s (Assembly Square)
    • New Hours: 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. every day
    • Seniors Shopping: 8 a.m. -9 a.m. every day

Business Assistance

The coronavirus outbreak and the social distancing precautions it necessitates are having a big impact on Somerville businesses and the surrounding business community. We understand the stress that our entrepreneurs, workers, suppliers, and freelancers are under given the uncertainty of the situation and the level of disruption to daily life.

  • The City has set up a separate website dedicated to local business needs during this health crisis. Please bookmark www.somervillema.gov/COVIDBizHelp and visit for regular updates, event announcements, and support during this difficult time. You can also contact the Economic Development team at [email protected]
  • The City’s Economic Development team offers an e-newsletter for businesses. It’s sent frequently and includes the latest information, resources, and initiatives for our local business community. 
  • Economic Development also regularly hosts virtual town halls for busines owners. These are an opportunity for business owners to ask City staff questions and share concerns about the public health and economic emergencies our community is facing. Virtual town halls are also being held in Spanish and Portuguese
  • The City is offering free one-on-one coaching assistance to businesses based in Somerville or owned by Somerville residents that have been affected by the coronavirus. Get help with loans applications, financial planning, restaurant operations, and more. Learn more here. Coaching is also available in Spanish, Portuguese, and Nepali.
  • The State also offers guidance and directives for businesses and employers during this pandemic.
  • The CARES Act and other federal aid (see section below) also provide businesses with some opportunities for support.

 

Employee Assistance

  • File for unemployment: The MA Department of Unemployment Assistance has resources for employees.
    • To file for unemployment benefits, click here. To file for unemployment benefits in Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Chinese, or Vietnamese click here.
    • For assistance with your Unemployment Insurance (UI) or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) application, call the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) at (877) 626-6800 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Monday–Friday, 8 a.m–12 p.m. Saturday. Multilingual call agents are available.
    • To be eligible for unemployment benefits, you must have a valid social security number and employment authorization. Unemployment benefits do not count as a negative factor under the Public Charge rule. The following resources are available to people who do not have employment authorization:
  • Apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA): This program, created as part of the CARES Act, extends unemployment eligibility to self-employed individuals including gig workers, independent contractors, consultants, freelancers, and others who are paid through 1099. PUA will be available at least until the week ending September 4, 2021. 
  • Apply for transitional cash assistance:
    • Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) is a cash assistance program for families with children under 18. Find out if you’re eligible here, and apply online here.
    • Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) is for disabled individuals who are not yet on SSI (supplemental security income). Find out if you’re eligible here, and apply online here. A representative will follow up with a phone call once you complete the online application.
    • You can apply for cash benefits by phone by calling the MA Department of Transitional Assistance Ombudsman Office at 617-348-5354 or the DTA Assistance Line at (877) 382-2363 from 8:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.
    • If you are an immigrant, you may be able to receive cash assistance, but it may affect any future applications for permanent residency (green card). You should speak with your immigration attorney before applying. If you do not have an immigration attorney, you can contact any of these organizations for help.
    • The Somerville Cares Fund will support Somerville community members most impacted by COVID-19 pandemic including people who have lost their jobs and are struggling to cover basic needs like food, utilities, rent/mortgage, healthcare, or child care. The fund is open to all Somerville residents, regardless of immigration status, as well as all Somerville workers, including those recently laid off from their jobs. Please see this press release for more details on the fund and how it is administered. You can apply for funds here, or donate to the fund here.

A range of independent funds and organizations are also mobilizing to support those in specific fields:

  • Service and tipped workers: One Fair Wage is offering cash assistance to service industry workers and workers who rely on tips.
  • Restaurant workers: Children of Restaurant Employees is offering financial assistance to restaurant workers who test positive for COVID-19 and have children at home.
  • Domestic workers: The National Domestic Workers Alliance has a fund for in-home care workers, nannies and house cleaners impacted by COVID-19.

If you know of other helpful financial resources not listed here, please email [email protected]

Under the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law, most employees in the state also have the right to earn and use up to 40 hours of job-protected sick leave per year to take care of themselves and certain family members. Click here for more information about employee rights and employer obligations in Massachusetts during this pandemic.

The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is reporting that fraudulent unemployment claims are being filed with stolen personal information from prior data breaches. If you get mail about unemployment claims that you did not file or if you believe that someone has applied for unemployment benefits fraudulently with your personal information, alert the DUA by completing the secure DUA fraud reporting form or calling (877) 626-6800.

 

Artist Assistance

Video: Supporting Our Artists During a Pandemic

  • The Somerville Arts Council has gathered information on funding and grants for artists impacted by COVID-19
  • They’re also sharing new information regularly on their Facebook page
  • The Arts Council has launched the “Home Alone Art Series” (HAAS) to hire and pay Somerville artists (both residents and those who have a studio in Somerville) who are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19. HAAS is a series of art-related performances that will be live-streamed by you on Facebook. Selected artists will receive a $300 stipend. Learn more here
  • You’ll also find an extensive list of resources for freelance artists here.

 

Student Assistance

A number of loan relief programs are available to help students:

The federal CARES Act, which was signed into law on March 27, helps borrowers whose loans are held by the federal government. Payments on these loans are suspended until September 30, 2020. During that time, all interest will be waived, and non-payment will not negatively impact your credit score. Eligible loans include Direct Loans, as well as Federal Perkins Loans and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans held by the federal government. Updates on Federal Student Loan relief are available on the Federal Student Aid Coronavirus page. Please note that some FFEL Program loans are owned by commercial lenders, and some Perkins Loans are held by the institution you attended. These loans are not eligible for this benefit at this time.

Students with loans held by commercial lenders may find relief through a different program. On April 21, the Massachusetts Division of Banks announced that it had joined in a multi-state initiative that expands CARES Act protections to borrowers with commercially-owned Federal Family Education (FFEL) Program Loans and privately held student loans who are struggling to make their payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Protections include:

  • Suspension of loan payments for 90 days
  • No late payment fees
  • No negative credit reporting
  • A requirement that your loan servicer must work with you to explain different repayment options, such as income-based repayment, and enroll you in which program fits your circumstances.

Additional information and resources, including a full list of participating private student loan servicers, are included in the Division’s Consumer Advisory.

Contact your loan servicer online or by phone immediately to determine if your loans are eligible for either of these programs. Your servicer is the entity to which you make your monthly payment. If you do not know who your servicer is or how to contact them, visit StudentAid.gov/login or call 1-800-433-3243 (TTY 1-800-730-8913) for assistance.

If you have a No-Interest Loan from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE), you may be eligible for relief from DHE directly. On April 21, Governor Baker announced that:

  • Loan repayment will automatically be deferred from April 2020 through July 31, 2020. This deferment will not count toward the program’s permissible 36 months of available deferment (if you have already made your April payment it will be applied to your outstanding balance as usual, but it will not be refunded).
  • While accounts are being deferred, borrowers who wish to continue monthly payments may do so, without incurring late fees until July 31, 2020.
  • Accounts currently 120 days past due will not be placed into collections until August 2020.
  • Credit bureau reporting will not resume until the end of August 2020.

The nonprofit Community Service Society also has helpful guidance on their website for managing student loans during COVID-19 impacts.

 

Funds for Bereaved Families

Some funding may be available through the MA Department of Transitional Assistance to help pay for a funeral and burial. More information about eligibility can be found here

FEMA is also providing financial assistance for COVID-related funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020. Applications for funds will be accepted starting in April 2021.

The City of Somerville’s Social Worker and Family Services Manager, Luciana Quintanilha, is available to provide guidance on this difficult topic. She can be reached at 857-270-4010 or via email at [email protected].

 

Federal Aid: The CARES Act, American Rescue Plan Act, & More

To date, the federal government has passed three major pieces of legislation to provide funding for COVID-19 relief: The CARES Act in March 2020, the Consolidated Appropriations Act in December 2020, and the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021. 

The federal government began issuing a third round of direct payments, know as Economic Impact Payments (EIP) or "stimulus checks," to eligible individuals in mid-March 2021. 

  • Individuals earning $75,000 or less will receive $1,400. Married couples earning $150,000 or less will each receive an EIP.
  • An additional $1,400 will be given for each child and adult dependent. This includes college students and older adults if claimed as dependents. 
  • Payments will decrease for those earning more than $75,000 and will phase out completely for individuals making more than $85,000 and for married couples making more than $160,000. 
  • Payments are based on your most recent tax filings. People who receive Social Security benefits but don’t file a tax return are still eligible. 
  • The third round of payments expands eligibility to mixed-status families. One valid Social Security number (SSN) per family is required.

Most individuals will automatically receive their payment through direct deposit, a paper check, or a prepaid debit card called an Economic Impact Payment (EIP) card. Check on the status of your payment and the payment method here. Refer to these common questions and answers to learn more about the second round of stimulus payments.

Yes, some individuals will receive their EIP in the mail as a prepaid Visa debit card. Check the status of your payment to see how your money will be delivered to you. 

MetaBank will be mailing the Visa debit cards in plain envelopes from “Money Network Cardholder Services.” Do not throw away your card. Cards will be mailed to your most recent mailing address on file with the IRS. To confirm that the card mailed to you is your EIP card, check the following: 

  • Envelope is from Money Network Cardholder Services
  • Card has the Visa® name on the front and the back of the card has the name of the issuing bank, MetaBank®, N.A. 
  • The envelope will also contain information explaining that the card is your EIP Card. Be sure to review the information included with the card carefully. 

If you receive a card in the mail that does not meet those criteria, it could be a scam. Contact 311 if you are having trouble determining if your card is legitimate and consult the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information for more resources about avoiding stimulus payment scams. 

To activate your EIP card, call 1-800-240-8100. You will be asked to validate your identity by providing, at minimum, your name, address, and social security number. You will then be asked to create a 4-digit PIN required for ATM transactions and automated services. If your card has more than one name on it, only the primary Cardholder (the name listed first on the card) may activate the card.

You can use your EIP card like any other debit card to make purchases wherever Visa debit cards are accepted. You will need to enter your 4-digit pin to make purchases, get cash back during a transaction, or to withdraw cash from an ATM. In order to avoid fees, only use in-NEtwork ATMs that carry the AllPoint brand. You can use the EIP ATM Locator to find in-Network ATMs. 

To avoid a $0.25 fee, do not check your balance at the ATM, even if the ATM prompts you to check your balance. You can check your balance for free online by making an account at https://www.eipcard.com/ or by calling 1-800-240-8100. 

Most services and transactions are free of charge, but the following transactions will incur fees: 

  • Out-of-Network ATM withdrawals 
  • International ATM withdrawals
  • ATM Balance Inquiries (including In-Network)
  • Lost or stolen card reissuance
  • Bank/Teller Over-the-Counter Cash Withdrawal 

A full list of fees can be found here

You can get more information about how to activate, use, and check the balance of your card at eipcard.com.

MetaBank will be mailing the Visa debit cards in plain envelopes from “Money Network Cardholder Services.” Do not throw away your card.

 

Yes, some expanded unemployment benefits were introduced in the CARES Act and have been extended:

  1. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC). If you are currently receiving unemployment, you will receive $300 per week in addition to your regular unemployment compensation through September 6, 2021. If you already receive unemployment benefits, no additional action is required on your part to receive the additional $300 per week. If you are a new applicant for unemployment compensation, the $300 will become part of your compensation amount once your application has been processed. New applicants should apply for unemployment benefits online.
     
  2. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). This program extends unemployment eligibility to self-employed individuals including gig workers, independent contractors, consultants, freelancers, and others who are paid through 1099. PUA is available for up to 79 weeks through September 4, 2021. To file for PUA benefits, complete the online application here. This application is not available in Spanish, but there are guidance materials in Spanish here.
     
  3. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). This program is for individuals who have already exhausted their previous unemployment benefits. It provides up to an additional 53 weeks of benefits, until September 4, 2021. Learn more here.
     
  4. Small Business Supports. If you are a small business owner who has lost your own income due to business shutdown you may be able to include your salary/wages in your payroll calculation when applying for the Paycheck Protection Program Loan, Economic Injury Loan, and other small business support programs (see below). You should talk to your bank about the best way to maximize the benefits of each program for your situation.

Apply online for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). This program extends unemployment eligibility to self-employed individuals including gig workers, independent contractors, consultants, freelancers, and others who are paid through 1099. PUA offers up to 79 weeks of benefits, through September 4, 2021. To file for PUA benefits, complete the online application here. This application is not available in Spanish, but there are guidance materials in Spanish here.

You may also be eligible to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program. The SBA shared additional guidance in this document.

If you have a Social Security Number and Work Authorization, yes, you can benefit from both the unemployment supplement and the stimulus check. This includes DACA recipients and TPS holders. Unemployment benefits and the stimulus check will not be counted as a negative factor under the Public Charge rule.

If you do not have an SSN or Work Authorization, you may be eligible for the third stimulus payment if you're part of a mixed-status family. The following resources are also available to people who do not have employment authorization:

 

Information and updates on small business loan programs during COVID-19 is available on this Small Business Adminstration website. These are some options that can help small businesses:

  1. Paycheck Protection Program Loan
    New applicants should reach out to their banks immediately to begin the application process. The Paycheck Protection Program is meant to help businesses maintain cash-flow and keep workers on payroll. Owners’ wages/salary can be included in the payroll calculations. If payroll is maintained, loans can be forgiven. This program offers up to eight weeks of payroll forgiveness, no SBA fees, and least six months of deferral with maximum deferrals of up to a year. Small businesses (under 500 employees), nonprofits, sole proprietors, independent contractors, self-employed persons, and tribal businesses are able to apply.
  2. Small Business Debt Relief Program
    This program will provide immediate relief to small businesses with non-disaster SBA loans, in particular 7(a), 504, and microloans. Under it, SBA will cover all loan payments on these SBA loans, including principal, interest, and fees, for six months. This relief will also be available to new borrowers who take out loans within six months of the President signing the bill into law.
     
  3. Economic Injury Disaster Loans & Emergency Economic Injury Grants
    These low-interest loans are available for Massachusetts businesses affected by novel coronavirus. Applicants can use these funds to pay for expenses that could have been met had the coronavirus disaster not occurred, including payroll and operating expenses.Eligibility: Businesses with under 500 employees, sole proprietors, independent contractors, cooperatives and employee-owned businesses, tribal small businesses, and most private nonprofits of any size. Applicants can also request an emergency advance as part of their application for an EIDL. This advance, up to $10,000, can be available within three days, does not need to be repaid, and may be used to keep employees on payroll, to pay for sick leave, meet increased production costs due to supply chain disruptions, or pay business obligations, including debts, rent and mortgage payments. See more information about the SBA's offerings to businesses here.
  4. Small Business Tax Provisions
  • Employee Retention Credit for Employers Subject to Closure or Experiencing Economic Hardship
    • This provision would provide a refundable payroll tax credit for 50 percent of wages paid by eligible employers to certain employees during the COVID-19 crisis. The credit is available to employers, including non-profits, whose operations have been fully or partially suspended as a result of a government order limiting commerce, travel or group meetings. The credit is also provided to employers who have experienced a greater than 50 percent reduction in quarterly receipts, measured on a year-over-year basis. 
    • The credit is not available to employers receiving assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program. 
  • Delay of Payment of Employer Payroll Taxes
    • This provision would allow taxpayers to defer paying the employer portion of certain payroll taxes through the end of 2020, with all 2020 deferred amounts due in two equal installments, one at the end of 2021, the other at the end of 2022. Payroll taxes that can be deferred include the employer portion of FICA taxes, the employer and employee representative portion of Railroad Retirement taxes (that are attributable to the employer FICA rate), and half of SECA tax liability.
    • Deferral is not provided to employers receiving assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program.
  • Counseling & Training
    • Resource partners including Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), Women’s Business Centers (WBC), or SCORE mentorship chapters will receive additional funds to expand their reach and better support small business owners with counseling and up-to-date information regarding COVID-19.  Information and updates on small business loan programs during COVID-19 is available on this Small Business Adminstration website

Yes. Private non-profits are eligible to apply for and receive many of the same supports available to small businesses, including the:

This CARES Act guide provided by the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship has more details on the different programs and eligibility requirements for non-profit organizations. The National Council of Nonprofits CARES Act guide is another helpful resource.

 

 

Mortgage & Rental Assistance

On November 23, 2020, the City announced $500,000 in rental and mortgage assistance to residents behind on payments due to the pandemic. These funds must be spent by the City by Dec. 30, so eligible residents are urged to apply right away to allow time for their application to be processed before the Dec. 30 spending deadline. For more details, see the announcement here

Landlords may begin the eviction process, but the physical removal of residents or their belongings for nonpayment is prohibited in Somerville under the City’s Emergency Order Establishing a Moratorium on Eviction Enforcement. This Order will remain in effect for residential tenants through April 30, 2022. 

You are still responsible for your rent or mortgage payments. To increase the chance you are able to stay in your home when the moratorium ends, you should pay as much rent as you can and you should seek rental assistance if you need help.

Important: A Notice to Quit is not an eviction. If you receive a Notice to Quit, you do not need to immediately leave your residence. You are entitled to a legal proceeding. Free legal services are available for low-income residents, regardless of immigration status:

  • Cambridge & Somerville Legal Services, 617-603-1700
  • De Novo, 617-661-1010
  • Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, 617-495-4408
  • COVID-19 Eviction Diversion Initiative, dial 2-1-1

For further assistance, Somerville residents should contact the Office of Housing Stability by completing this online referral form or calling 617-625-6600 Ext. 2581.

Important: A Notice to Quit is not an eviction. If you receive a Notice to Quit, you do not need to immediately leave your residence. You are entitled to a legal proceeding. Free legal services are available for low-income residents, regardless of immigration status:

  • Cambridge & Somerville Legal Services, 617-603-1700
  • De Novo, 617-661-1010
  • Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, 617-495-4408
  • COVID-19 Eviction Diversion Initiative, dial 2-1-1

For further assistance, Somerville residents can contact the Office of Housing Stability by completing this online referral form or calling 617-625-6600 Ext. 2581.

Any sort of rent freeze or rent waiver must come at the direction of the State. If you’re a Somerville tenant in need, please call the City’s Office of Housing Stability at 617-625-6600 ext. 2581.

Yes, if certain conditions are met. The revised Somerville Moratorium on Eviction Enforcement, in effect until April 30, 2022, requires landlords to provide occupants at least 48 hours advance notice of any intended entry, except in cases of emergency. Occupants have the option to be present or not present (at their sole discretion). Tenants are permitted to require a rescheduled entry time (within a reasonable time) if the proposed date/time is inconvenient. Masks are required to be worn by any individual over the age of five during access. If you have a lease that requires more than 48 hours advance notice, the landlord needs to abide by the lease.

You can go to the Office of Housing Stability’s website, complete this online referral form, or call the intake line at 617-625-6600 ext. 2581. Please be patient. We are trying to get back to everyone promptly but are short-staffed and trying our best to work remotely!

 

Utility Assistance

There are several circumstances under which your utilities cannot be shut off without permission of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU), even if you owe money to your utility company. For example, shutoffs are prohibited without DPU permission between November 15 and March 15, and if the utility service is necessary to heat your home. If you are having trouble paying your utility bills, you may be eligible for fuel assistance. You can also contact your utility company to try and set up a payment plan.

The City of Somerville, Eversource, and National Grid offer several income eligible programs that can help to lower your utility costs and pay off overdue bills.

Winter Heating Fuel Assistance Program

Low-income households may be eligible to receive help with winter heating costs through the Fuel Assistance Program between November 1 and April 30. This program serves residents of Somerville and Cambridge. It is part of the Massachusetts Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). To learn more about the program or apply for assistance, visit the program website or call 617-349-6252.

Payment Plans and Eversource New Start

If you have overdue portions of your bill, reach out to Eversource and they will work with you to spread out payments. If you meet the income eligibility requirements below, you may also qualify for Eversource’s New Start program. Through this program, Eversource will work with you to set a monthly budget payment based on your average monthly bill. If you make on-time monthly payments, Eversource will forgive a portion of your past due balance. Find out more here or call Eversource at 800-592-2000.

Discounted Electric and Natural Gas Rates

Eversource and National Grid offer discounted electric and natural gas rates to qualifying customers. Residential customers with incomes below the levels listed in the table below and who receive benefits from another program (e.g.,  LIHEAP/fuel assistance, SNAP, SSI, MassHealth, public or subsidized housing, Head Start, WIC) may be eligible. The Eversource discount rate is applied to your electric bill and does not affect your enrollment in the Somerville Community Choice Electricity Program or other competitive electric supply program. If you heat with electricity, let Eversource know because you may be entitled to an even lower rate. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply here. City social workers at the Health and Human Services Department (for residents 18 to 59 years old) and at the Council on Aging (ages 60 and above) can help you enroll. Income Limits

Number of people in household

Income Eligible Program

1

$37,360

2

$48,855

3

$60,351

4

$71,846

5

$83,341

6

$94,837

7

$96,992

8

$99,147

Weatherization and Appliance Management (Swap Out)

Community Action Programs Inter-City (CAPIC), a local nonprofit organization, administers the Income Eligible weatherization and appliance management programs for Somerville. You could receive:

  • A replacement window A/C unit
  • A replacement dehumidifier
  • ENERGY STAR certified LED light bulbs
  • And more energy saving devices. 

This program is currently being offered remotely and products can be delivered directly to your home without requiring an in-person visit. Check your eligibility in the table below. 

Contact 617-884-6130 to schedule an appointment. CAPIC is currently operating remotely so please be prepared to leave a detailed message. Someone from CAPIC will return your phone call.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit program provides eligible households with a $50/month credit toward their internet bill, and a one-time $100 credit toward the purchase of a new laptop or tablet. Learn more and sign up at getemergencybroadband.org.

Both Comcast and RCN are also offering Internet plans to eligible customers for $9.95 per month.

If you’re unable to pay your full internet bill, contact your service provider to discuss your options. They may be able to work with you to defer payments, waive late feeds, or set up payment plans.

Under the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law, most employees in the state have the right to earn and use up to 40 hours of job-protected sick leave per year to take care of themselves and certain family members. Click here for more information about employee rights and employer obligations in Massachusetts during this pandemic.

At a time of loss, it is natural to want to come together with loved ones. Social distancing orders and travel restrictions can make honoring a loved one more difficult, but you do not need to navigate this situation alone.

If your loved one is hospitalized, the hospital's Social Services department will be able to advise on how to make the proper arrangements for anything you may need moving forward. It is also important to contact a Funeral Director, as funeral homes have been receiving specific guidance and they’ll have the expertise to help you. 

Both of these resources can provide you with crucial information on how to navigate any end-of-life decision-making process and what kind of financial assistance your family may be eligible for to help cover the costs.

Considerations for Ceremonies 

The current COVID-19 pandemic may present some significant challenges to holding funeral ceremonies we’re accustomed to. Bereaved families can work with their funeral director to create meaningful services that adhere to current social distancing guidelines. The Center for Loss & Life Transition also offers some suggestions to help make the process less overwhelming during this unprecedented time: 

  • If possible, try to have a small ceremony wherever you are. Gather the family members who are part of your household, display photos of the person who died, light a candle, say a prayer or read a text aloud that is meaningful to you, play music if you’d like, and share thoughts and memories. This informal “funeral” may help you mark the occasion of the death, pay tribute to the person who died, and feel that sense of acknowledgment, remembrance, and support.
  • At a time of great loss, we want our loved ones close. If the pandemic is making this impossible, consider using technology to reach out to the people you care about to share news of the death, support one another, and discuss funeral planning. The goal is to stay connected as much as possible AND to be open and honest in those communications about whatever it is you are feeling or struggling with at the moment. Your candor will encourage others to be honest as well, creating the opportunity for mutual support and kindness.
  • Technology can also be used to help overcome any limitations of the funeral service itself. Services can be webcast or recorded and made available online later. Obituaries, guest books, and video tributes can be (and often are) shared online. And turning to technology is also a good way to involve others in the funeral-planning process. People want to help—and that is especially true right now. Tech-savvy friends and family members can all pitch in to help create videos, edit and upload photos, write social media posts, etc. The more people who participate, the better.
  • Plan a larger service and/or reception when social distancing restrictions have lifted. The social distancing restrictions have made us all more aware of our human need to be with and touch the people we care about. When death affects our social circle, we naturally feel the need to congregate and support one another in person. Even if you must delay a larger public gathering, those who want to support you will still be happy to attend when it is safe to do so. 

Funding & Assistance

Some funding may be available through the MA Department of Transitional Assistance to help pay for a funeral and burial. More information about eligibility can be found here

The City of Somerville’s Social Worker and Family Services Manager, Luciana Quintanilha, is available to provide guidance on this difficult topic. She can be reached at 857-270-4010 or via email at [email protected].

Given the uncertainty we are dealing with because of the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to start having conversations about end-of-life preparations with our loved ones, as difficult as they may be. With day-to-day life feeling particularly uncertain right now, having these difficult but important conversations will provide us with a sense of control, which can help make us feel less overwhelmed. Now is a good time to consider the following:

  • Advance directives for yourself: Do you have a health proxy? What are your wishes in case you find yourself in a situation when extreme measures (such as life support) are needed? Having clear advance directives and discussions about life support is especially critical at this moment. Your medical providers or a social worker would be the best people to guide you through this process.
  • Advance directives for loved ones: Do you have any loved ones living at assisted-living facilities or nursing homes? It is crucial to discuss advance directives with them as soon as possible, then help communicate their wishes to the appropriate staff.
  • Prepare an end-of-life plan: Get organized when it comes to your own affairs. Start drafting an end-of-life plan (writing a will, getting a power-of-attorney in place, and other information you find important for your loved ones to know), including medical instructions, guardianship designations, and other legal contingency plans, beneficiary designations, life insurance policies, a list of passwords, key contacts, medical professionals and financial advisers. Try to gather all this information in one place so someone who needs access to that information can find it easily. There are many resources available online that could be helpful at this time. 
  • Don't neglect your feelings. Recognize the world as we knew it has changed, and it is ok to feel overwhelmed. Breathe. Let go of what you can't control, and find some peace in what you can. Here is a useful resource about managing grief during this difficult time. 

The City of Somerville’s Social Worker and Family Services Manager, Luciana Quintanilha, is available to provide guidance on this difficult topic. She can be reached at 857-270-4010 or via email at [email protected].

For more information about resources for businesses disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit this page.

Business owners and freelancers should sign up for our business email alerts and bookmark our web page for business resources relating to novel coronavirus. You may also follow us on Instagram @SomervilleBusinesses or contact us directly at [email protected].