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Access to local resources

Am I eligible for disability benefits if I can’t work?

Your social worker can give you information about financial programs, what the qualifications are, and how to apply.

The federal government runs 2 of the best-known programs.

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a program of the Social Security Administration (SSA). It pays a monthly cash benefit to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is another SSA program. Benefits are calculated based on an individual’s financial needs, not the amount of tax that they paid. SSI pays its benefits monthly. This amount may be supplemented by state or local benefits.

Is “avoiding COVID-19” a reason to request leave or work from home?

Possibly. Employees with kidney disease may be able to take leave to avoid contracting coronavirus under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA).

The CDC recommendations state that people with kidney disease should continue to stay home because they are considered a high risk group for more serious COVID-19 illness; therefore, employees with kidney disease (or those caring for someone with kidney disease) would be eligible for 2 weeks of paid sick leave under the EPSLA on these grounds.

In addition, employees can also take leave under the EPSLA if their physician has advised them to self-quarantine on the belief that the employee is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

For more information, including suggestions for writing a letter to your employer requesting work accommodations because you are at high risk for severe disease from COVID-19, click here.

What are my rights as a kidney patient if my employer wants me to return to work

There are laws to protect people with chronic conditions and illnesses from discrimination in the workplace. Your legal rights may be protected by one of the following federal acts.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

If you work for a company with 15 or more employees, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires your employer to make any “reasonable accommodations” that you might need in order to perform your work duties.

Examples include:

  • Making parking lots, bathrooms, and work areas handicapped accessible
  • Allowing you to work from home if possible, in your current role
  • Having flexible work schedules (to schedule around dialysis treatments for example)
  • Designating a sterile area to exchange cleansing fluid bags for PD
  • Reassigning you to a less strenuous job if you request one and one is available
  • Assigning any of your non-essential tasks to other employees, at your request

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handles complaints under the ADA.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

If you work at least 20 weeks of the year for an employer with 50 or more employees, you may qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA allows for 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for medical reasons.

If you had group health insurance coverage before taking leave, it will continue under the same terms or conditions.

Your employer can ask for medical certification stating that you have a serious illness but cannot punish you for taking leave to have surgery or begin treatment. Your spouse, children, or parents may also be eligible for FMLA leave if you need them to provide you with care or transportation.

The Department of Labor (DOL) handles complaints under FMLA.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

You may also have protected rights under the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act – which includes the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) – or other state and local laws.

The FMLA Expansion Act provides 12 weeks of leave. If you are a full-time employee, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act provides 80 hours of leave. If you are a part-time employee, the law provides leave for the average number of hours you work in a two-week period. Currently these provisions expire December 31, 2020.

For more information, including suggestions for writing a letter to your employer requesting work accommodations because you are at high risk for severe disease from COVID-19, click here.

Am I eligible for unemployment benefits due to COVID-19?

You may be eligible for unemployment benefits if you have lost you job.

  • Apply for federal unemployment benefits at and contact your state's unemployment insurance program as soon as possible after becoming unemployed.

How can I get groceries?

As the coronavirus spreads throughout America, it may seem like many of the shelves in your local grocery market or big-box store are quite bare.

It’s reassuring to know the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced that there are no nationwide shortages of food, although in some cases the inventory of certain foods at your grocery store might be temporarily low before stores can restock.

Supporting our stores

" You should have enough basic household products and groceries on hand, so you are prepared to stay at home for an extended period of time."

Store owners and managers are working overtime to supply people with the groceries and products they want. You may have noticed that many stores have been closing earlier, this is so employees can spend more time disinfecting shelves, carts, and equipment and restocking shelves before customers arrive the early the next day. Some stores are offering vulnerable patrons – those who are over age 60 and/or with underlying medical conditions – to shop at special hours to lessen their potential exposure to people who may have COVID-19 but are asymptomatic.

Ordering groceries

Most major grocery chains have made it possible to order groceries online and have them delivered to your door within hours or days. Check the websites of local or national grocery stores that may allow you to select your items online and then arrange for home delivery or curbside pickup. You can also order groceries and other items for a number of online delivery services including Instacart, Shipt, and Peapod.

Keep in mind, however, that many of these services are experiencing delays due to the high volume of people choosing the safety of online ordering rather than in-person shopping. This means you will need to plan ahead.

If you have questions or concerns about the delivery timeline, speak to a customer service representative.

What are some reliable sources of information?

How can I get my medications?

Ask your physician or local pharmacy if ordering your medicines online is an option. Many online pharmacies (including national chains) will fill valid prescriptions and ship them directly to your door allowing you to avoid going to the pharmacy in person.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is working with private plans to waive prescription drug refill limits and to relax restrictions on home or mail delivery of prescription drugs. However, you should only order from a reputable online pharmacy.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns consumers about rogue online pharmacies that claim to sell prescription medicines at deeply discounted prices.

If you have questions, call your healthcare professional. Also, be sure you have over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies (fever reducers, tissues, hydrating beverages, etc.) to treat fever and other symptoms.

How are undocumented patients affected?

As well, many are hourly workers – people working in construction, landscaping, and domestic, hotel, and food service industries. Undocumented workers are especially worried about losing their jobs (and incomes) due to becoming seriously ill, needing to quarantine should they become even mildly symptomatic, or having a sick family member. Often, hourly workers do not have the luxury of a financial cushion to see them through several weeks or months without being able to work.

Are there options for undocumented patients?

People who are undocumented are facing overwhelming challenges during the coronavirus outbreak. Many undocumented people are over the age of 60 and have underlying medical conditions, including kidney disease or are kidney transplant recipients.

Should undocumented patients avoid seeking medical care because they fear civil immigration enforcement?

" Individuals should not avoid seeking medical care because they fear civil immigration enforcement."

--U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Undocumented people may also fear deportation if they go to an urgent care facility or hospital emergency department. It’s important to know that fear of deportation should not stop anyone from seeking medical help. Recently, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued reassuring guidance that they are not targeting emergency rooms, health clinics, or drive-through clinics.

Where can an undocumented person find help?

If you are undocumented and you believe you may have COVID-19 or you’re unable to work because you’ve been laid off from your job, help may be available from:

For more resources, please contact your state’s Health Department and immigration advocacy organizations.

Who else can help?

  • 211 is a national resource for finding local help. Call 211 or visit to browse a variety of resources in your area. 
  • Area Agencies on Aging are public or private non-profit agencies designated by the state to address the needs and concerns of all older persons at the regional and local levels. If you are over 60, these organizations can help connect you to resources.
  • Our partner, the Patient Assistance Network (PAN) Foundation, have opened a COVID-19 Treatment and Prevention Fund. This fund offers direct financial relief to patients most impacted by the pandemic. We’re proud to partner with PAN to provide comprehensive support to our community year-round, and especially during these difficult times. Learn more about PAN’s new fund here.

What if I can't afford food?

  • Sign up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Find out who is eligible and how to apply here.
  • Find a local food shelf or food pantry here.
  • Discover kidney-friendly options during COVID-19 here.
  • Many organizations and school districts are offering free meals for students even while schools are closed. Contact your local school district to figure out what resources may be available for your children.

What if I can't pay my rent/mortgage?

  • Your state or county may offer emergency assistance resources for housing costs. Check with your state’s housing agency for assistance programs or low-cost housing resources.
  • Contact your local United Way.
  • Many cities and states are halting evictions and foreclosures due to the coronavirus. Check with your local officials to find out the policies in your area.
    • If you are having trouble paying your rent/mortgage during this time the best action to take is to reach out to your landlord or mortgage lender.
    • Reach out to your state Attorney General's office for help with tenants’ rights, especially if you feel you are being wrongly evicted. You can find your state Attorney General office here.
    • Call your city council member or state representative to find out what is being done in your community.

Funds and food sources for transplant patients

You can start getting information about funds and food sources for transplant patients from your transplant center and your local health department.

For more information

What about my power, water, or internet getting shut off?

  • Many local utilities, cities, and states are passing policies to prevent shut offs.
    • If concerned about paying your bill, contact your provider in advance as they may have financial assistance programs available at this time.
      • Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federal program that helps with utilities. You must apply through your state agency.
      • Check United Way, Children’s Defense Fund, and other social service organizations for additional resources in your community.
      • Many companies have pledged to help Keep America Connected by offering free internet to families with students or low-income households during this time.

What alternatives are there to grocery stores?

Some community service organizations are organizing free grocery pickup for seniors and immunocompromised individuals. Your local city or county representative may be able to assist you with finding those groups. You can also check Nextdoor or Facebook to find groups in your area.

  • Many grocery stores are offering certain times for those with compromised immune systems/elderly to shop. Check with your local store if this applies to you.
  • Meals on Wheels is a meal delivery service available in most areas of the country. Eligibility criteria and costs may vary depending on your location and age.
    • There may be other meal delivery services available in your area as well, start by dialing 211.
    • The Food is Medicine Coalition has a listing of partners that offer meals for people with chronic illnesses.

I’ve lost my job because of coronavirus, what can I do?

  • Apply for unemployment benefits – visit or go here to find out how to apply in your state.
  • Keep your employer sponsored health coverage through The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). This gives workers and their families the right to choose to continue group health coverage provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time.
  • If you are a dialysis patient, talk to your social worker about applying for the American Kidney Fund’s financial assistance programs.

Where can I get tested?

The US Department of Health & Human Services has partnered with pharmacies and retail companies in an effort to make COVID-19 testing more available and accessible to Americans in many areas of the country. The goal of this partnership is to expand testing to communities across the US especially in populations that are under-tested and socially vulnerable.

Americans will have access to faster, less invasive, and more convenient testing for active COVID-19 infection, while protecting healthcare personnel by eliminating direct contact with symptomatic individuals.

It is important to remember that a negative test result means that the virus that causes COVID-19 was not found in a person's sample. In the early stages of infection, it is possible the virus will not be detected especially in those who do not have any symptoms.

Click here to find a testing location near you.

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