Resources for San Diegans: Food Donations, Rent Relief & More During Coronavirus Pandemic

From health benefits to pet food, resources are available to San Diegans affected by the coronavirus outbreak

NurPhoto/Getty Images

For some San Diegans, the coronavirus outbreak means more changes than working from their dining-room table. Many San Diegans have lost their jobs and are struggling to put food on the table for their families or care for loved ones who may be at risk or infected with COVID-19.

Local, state and federal officials, as well as private organizations, are providing resources to keep those families afloat. Here are some resources to take advantage of if you've been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic:

Where Can I Get Food Supplies?

The need for groceries and other essentials has skyrocketed as families across the county are touched by the coronavirus pandemic. Several food-donation organizations are operating, including school distribution sites and some home-delivery services.

Meals for Students

While all school districts in San Diego County are closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, the majority continue to provide one breakfast and one lunch to children 18 or younger. The times and dates for pickup vary by school district. Click for a list of schools offering services or download the CA Meals for Kids mobile app.

Senior Hours

Many grocery stores across San Diego County are making it easier for the at-risk senior age group and those with disabilities to shop. Major chains like Vons, Costco and Target are offering exclusive shopping hours to seniors group. Check out our list of stores here.


Benefits may be available to those who lost their jobs due to COVID-19. To find out if you qualify, submit an application here. You can also apply over the phone by calling 2-1-1. Expect delays, as CalFresh has received more applications than normal due to the circumstances.

Neighborhood House Association

While NHA programs are shut down amid the pandemic, the organization continues to distribute meals to children and seniors in their network at six locations across San Diego County. The kit includes breakfast, lunch and snacks and is available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at:

  • BYF Early Head Start: 841 S. 41st St., San Diego CA 92113
  • Balboa Lutheran Head Start: 7250 Eckstrom Ave., San Diego, CA 92111
  • Webster Head Start: 2930 Marcy Ave., San Diego, CA 92113
  • Urban Village I Head Start: 3795 Fairmount Ave. Suite B, San Diego, CA 92015
  • Home Ave. Head Start: 4111 Home Ave. Suite F, San Diego, CA 92105
  • Senior Nutrition Center: 795 Boundary St., San Diego, CA 92113

The meals are for children in the Head Start program that are served by NHA and for seniors that attend the NHA's senior center.

Feeding San Diego

The nonprofit food-distribution organization serve families and individuals amid the pandemic, though modifications are being made. For example, participants will be asked to pick up groceries via "drive-thru." The organization has food distribution sites across San Diego County. No appointment is necessary for food pickup -- just show up and an employee will help you. For a list of all locations, click here. Feeding San Diego has also announced it will expand it's hunger relief services for military and veteran families in a program called Feeding Heroes.

Meals on Wheels

While taking extra precautions, Meals on Wheels has not stopped delivering meals to seniors. Meals cost anywhere from $4 to $7 (after a one-time $35 initiation fee) and are delivered by volunteers. For more information, click here.

The San Diego Food Bank

The food bank operates about 200 food distribution sites across San Diego County, asking those in need of assistance to visit its COVID-19 Food Programs webpage, which provides weekly lists of emergency food distribution sites throughout the county. You can also call 2-1-1 or the food bank’s toll-free number, 866-350-FOOD (ext. 3663) to find the food distribution site closest to you.

Non English-speaking elderly people can request free grocery delivery by emailing

People's Alliance for Justice

Volunteers are delivering food, and other household essentials to seniors. Call 619-354-8051 for more info.

2-1-1 San Diego lists several other food distribution services, including some that deliver to seniors, to veterans and one that provides meals that are kosher. For more on those, click here.

Text COSD COVID19 to 468-311 to get text alert updates from San Diego County

How Can I Apply for Unemployment?

By Luis Treto, NBC 4 and Telemundo 52, and Nicholas Kjeldgaard, NBC 7

Thousands of Californians are navigating how to file for unemployment for the first time -- a journey that NBC 7's Consumer Bob has some guidance for.

Employees impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, even part-time workers, can apply for unemployment insurance if they were laid off, quarantined or had their hours cut. They may also be eligible for benefits if they missed work to take care of children amid school closures.

To qualify, employees must have received Social Security income in the last 12 to 18 months to be able to collect benefits from the first week, "or ... need to stay home to care for their children for the recent closure of schools," Martha García said, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Education.

According to the California Department of Employment Development, eligible workers can receive benefits of between $40 to $450 weekly for up to 26 weeks.

But if you are unable to work because you were sick or exposed to the novel coronavirus, you may also qualify for disability insurance.

"The legal and citizen immigration status requirements do not affect the eligibility to receive these benefits," Garcia said. 

Disability insurance provides short-term assistance. Most Californians are covered if they file a disability claim and medical documentation that they became ill with coronavirus or have symptoms.

The claim must present evidence of the onset of the medical condition and of the possible duration, as well as doctor, hospital or health-agent information.

Disability benefits cover 60-70 percent of a patient's salary and translate to an income of $50 to $1,300 per week for up to 52 weeks.

A paid-family-leave claim is available to those who are unable to work because they are caring for a family member with COVID-19. The claim provides up to six weeks of benefits to people who have full- or partial-wage loss.

Unemployment claims are only being accepted online, by phone or by mail, as assistance centers have closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. You can submit your claim on the website and click on the claims section or call EDD at 800-300-5616 to apply by phone.

Note that it can take three weeks after a claim is filed for the first paycheck to appear for qualified workers. The Employment Development Department (EDD) has a checklist to ensure there are no hiccups in the process.

Expect delays, as the website has received more applications than normal due to the circumstances. The department has increased staff to accommodate the increase in requests.

Jobless workers can also get sizable unemployment checks as a result of the recently enacted federal Coronavirus Relief law. The law raised weekly benefit amounts to as much as $600 per week, increased the duration of that pay and extended benefits to previously ineligible workers such as the self-employed. However, the extra cash will end after July 31, unless lawmakers pass an extension. Some states are ending it a week earlier, on July 25.

What if I Can't Pay My Rent?

On March 27, Gov. Gavin Newsom expanded an executive order that halts evictions statewide. The order builds on top of a previous one that allowed local jurisidictions to halt evictions for renters, slowed foreclosures and protected against utility shutoffs for Californians affected by COVID-19.

While a tenant will still be obligated to pay rent eventually, tenants won't have to worry about the time limitation through July 28, 2020.

The order applies to those who are unable to pay rent due to either a loss in income or an increase in medical costs due to COVID-19.

What to Do:
According to the order, tenants will have no more than a week after rent is due to notify their landlord that they are unable to pay all or part of their rent due to COVID-19 impacts. The tenant must retain documentation but won't be required to submit it to the landlord in advance, according to the order.

The City of Chula Vista recommends the following items as proof of financial instability related to COVID-19:

  • Letter from employer citing COVID-19 as a reason for reduced work hours or termination
  • Paycheck stubs from before and after the COVID-19 outbreak
  • Bank statements showing their financial situation before and after the outbreak

Local jurisdictions have the power to create their own criteria for following Newsom's executive order, meaning your requirements may be different. Please check with your own municipality for the deadline to notify a landlord -- Ed.

The county of San Diego approved a moratorium on evictions for residents and small businesses in unincorporated parts of the county. The measure gave the county's chief administrative officer the authority to work with financial institutions to halt foreclosures and foreclosure-related evictions, and allowed the county Housing Authority to extend the deadline for recipients, including those who receive Section 8 support.

The cities of Chula Vista and San Marcos followed suit. Here is a sample letter from the city of Chula Vista on how to notify your landlord if you're unable to pay rent.

The San Diego Housing Commission will not evict tenants from the thousands of affordable housing apartments under their control if they have experienced a decrease or loss of income due to COVID-19, a spokesperson said. Tenants using Section 8 housing vouchers will not be affected.

Can I Get Help With Bills?

Electric Bills

San Diego Gas & Electric customers affected by the coronavirus pandemic may qualify for discounts on their electric bills.

The electric company is urging San Diegans who have either lost their jobs or part of their income in recent months to apply for two discount programs that could deduct up to 30 percent from their electricity bills.

The California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program is available to residents who participate in public assistance programs like Medicaid or Medi-Cal, CalFresh, and CalWORKS, among others. With proof of participation in one of these programs, SDG&E will take 30 percent off your monthly bill.

If you don't participate in a public assistance program, you may still qualify for a discounted rate through either CARE or the Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) program, depending on household income and size. FERA, which offers an 18% discount on your electric bill, is only eligible to households with three or more people.

For example, If you make less than $33,820 with one to two family members in your household, you may qualify for CARE. If your household of five makes less than $60,340 a year, you may qualify for CARE. But if your household of five makes between $60,341 and $75,425 you may qualify for FERA. Income guidelines can be found on the SDG&E website.

You may be asked to verify your income and high energy usage may remove you from the program. When you no longer qualify for either CARE or FERA, you are required to notify SDG&E.

Apply for either program online here or by calling 877-646-5525.

What About My Pet?

The San Diego Humane Society wants to make sure pets are taken care of during the pandemic. The organization is distributing thousands of pounds of pet food and supplies to families in need.

Anyone can visit the Humane Society's campus locations in Escondido (3500 Burnet Dr.), Oceanside (572 Airport Rd.) or San Diego (5500 Gaines St.) between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. to pick up a bag of dog or cat food, as well as other supplies, such as cat litter, pet treats and pet beds while supplies last.

The Helen Woodward Animal Center is partnering with Feeding San Diego to provide pet owners who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 with two weeks worth of food for themselves and their pets. First, pet owners must fill out a pick-up form here. If you qualify, you'll receive an email within 48 hours with a scheduled pick-up time on a Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday during daytime hours

I Lost My Health Coverage. What Do I Do?

Covered California has extended its application deadline through June 30 for those who are uninsured. Those who sign up for Covered California will have access to private health insurance plans. Talk to a certified enroller over the phone by filling out this form.

Low-income residents may qualify for Medi-Cal, which could allow some to waive premiums and co-pays. People can apply online at the Covered California website, through the county's social services department or at a hospital through a qualified hospital provider. By applying through a hospital, coverage begins immediately to those that qualify under the conditions found here.

If you don't have health insurance and feel like you need a screening or treatment for COVID-19 you may be able to waive your fees, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) said. First, check with a local community health center or hospital to see if fees can be waived. If not, check if you may be eligible for Medi-Cal or Covered California.

The CDPH and the San Diego County public health officials urge residents not to go to a clinic or hospital unless absolutely necessary. Those that are sick should self-isolate unless symptoms require hospitalization.

I'm Worried About My Own or Someone Else's Mental Health

Taking the steps necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 like staying at home and limiting contact to members of one's own household may take a toll on some San Diegans. Be sure to check in on your neighbors and friends while maintaining a safe distance during the coronavirus pandemic.

Many health care providers have moved to video services to stay connected with their patients.

A number of resources are available for physical, mental and emotional health that people can utilize while staying indoors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Tips to Maintaining Mental Health
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has some tips to ensure you are maintaining your mental health amid stressful times:

  • Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories about the pandemic, including on social media
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do activities you enjoy
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you're feeling
  • Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row

Stress in Children
The CDC urges parents to watch for signs of stress in the kids and teens. Some signs include excessive crying or irritation, returning to outgrown behaviors like bedwetting, excessive worrying, unhealthy eating and sleeping habits and difficulty paying attention.

Talk to children about the outbreak and answer any questions they may have but reassure them that they are safe, the CDC said. Try to keep regular routines and be a role model by taking breaks, getting plenty of sleep and exercise, and connecting with others. For more tips, visit the CDC website here.

If you need help or know someone who does, call the disaster distress helpline at 800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. Call 911 if you feel like someone may harm themselves due to feelings of sadness, depression or anxiety.

The San Diego County crisis hotline is available at 888-724-7240.

To get your questions answered regarding coronavirus and to find out what resources are available to you, call 211 or visit

Text COSD COVID19 to 468-311 to get text alert updates

CORONAVIRUS IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY: What You Need to Know: Latest Developments | Resources | How to Help | What Has Reopened? | Photos: Coronavirus Impact in SD

Are you providing a service to people affected by COVID-19 that should be included? Submit a tip here.

Contact Us