COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions
1. If we have to shut down altogether, will we still get next month’s payment from LSC? (Original Post – March 20, 2020)
- Yes. In FY 2020, LSC received an $440 million appropriation, of which $402.7 million is for the basic field grants.
- Basic field grant payments are made in 11 installments throughout the calendar year – with a double payment in January and a skipped payment in November.
- There will be NO disruption in LSC funding. We are adhering to our regular payment schedule.
2. Will there be a recognition that case numbers will go down? (Original Post – March 20, 2020)
- Yes. LSC recognizes that these are unprecedented times and that grantees are doing their best to ensure the safety and health of their employees and to meet the legal needs of their clients. We know that some level of disruption in client services is inevitable.
3. What effect will the pandemic have on LSC oversight visits? (Original Post – March 20, 2020)
- LSC management has postpone all visits scheduled for March and April. We continue to monitor the situation closely and will make decisions about May visits in the next couple of weeks.
- We are asking OPP and OCE staff to work remotely as much as possible.
- We will be flexible moving forward.
- We are not speaking for the Office of Inspector General.
4. Will there be an audit extension deadline? (Original Post – March 20, 2020)
- Yes, the Office of Inspector General is granting an automatic extension for grantees with a fiscal year-end of December 31, 2019. The new deadline for submission is May 29, 2020. Notice of approval is not required.
- The Audit Guide for Recipients and Auditors (Audit Guide), Section III-1, states that grantees’ audit reports are due within 120 days of their year-end; Section III-2 states, “Under exceptional circumstances, an extension of the 120-day requirement may be granted.”
- Eligible recipients who require additional time beyond the May 29, 2020 deadline must submit a request to the OIG, at firstname.lastname@example.org, following protocol established in the Audit Guide.
5. Will LSC lift the requirement to get advance approval on purchases over $25,000? (Original Post – March 20, 2020)
- Yes. Because the President has declared a national emergency, LSC’s prior approval is not required for purchases necessary for responding to the emergency such as protecting staff and maintaining client services through assisting grantee staff become or remain telework ready.
- However, pursuant to LSC regulations, grantees must still follow their own procurement policies and will need to submit documentation to support such purchases after the emergency passes.
6. Will there be any impact on renewal and other application deadlines? (Original Post – March 20, 2020)
- Because we are implementing a new grants management system for the 2021 grant cycle, the deadlines for standard awards and renewals will be much later this year.
- All grantees will complete the same application for this launch year regardless of status (renewal or standard award). We expect the application deadline to be around mid-August.
- The competition schedule will be sent out tomorrow (3/20).
- We will evaluate any need for extensions as we get closer to that date as circumstances dictate.
7. Can the 12.5% PAI obligation be waived or lowered for 2020? (Original Post – March 20, 2020)
- LSC recognizes that most, if not all, grantees have had to cancel clinics and postpone or suspend a variety of PAI activities. As a result, many of you will have difficulty meeting your PAI requirement this year.
- LSC regulations allow grantees to request partial waivers in such situations. As a reminder, LSC regulations require that waiver requests for this year be submitted during the current fiscal year.
- If you believe that you cannot meet the deadline, please reach out to OCE management for assistance, as the regulations allow flexibility when good cause exists for not meeting the deadline.
8. Will LSC grant extension for special grant conditions reporting? (Original Post – March 20, 2020)
- The Offices of Program Performance and Compliance and Enforcement will be as flexible as possible in granting extensions.
- For the Office of Compliance and Enforcement, please direct requests to the OCE Director @ email@example.com.
- For the Office of Program Performance, please submit requests to program liaisons.
9. Will LSC grant extension for Pro Bono Innovation, Technology Initiative, and Disaster grant milestone reporting? (Original Post – March 20, 2020)
- The Office of Program Performance will be as flexible as possible in granting extensions.
- Please submit requests to program liaisons.
10. What is LSC’s position on working from home? Is it encouraged? (Original Post – March 20, 2020)
- The federal government as well as state and local governments are encouraging people to work from home.
- We have heard from at least 30 grantees who have indicated that their staffs are teleworking, but still serving clients by phone, online, and videoconferencing.
- All LSC staff are working from home as well.
11. Will LSC provide resources to support increased telework? (Original Post – March 20, 2020)
- We realize that many grantees may not be prepared to support an increased telework capacity. We are currently exploring options to provide additional assistance and will update grantees in the next week.
12. How will LSC assess grantees’ use of LSC funds if they have to use extended leave for employees? (Original Post – March 20, 2020)
- LSC understands that, because of this national emergency, some or all employees may need to be on extended leave for a variety of reasons, including scenarios such as:
- (1) an employee’s work may not suitable for remote work and they may need to be on extended administrative leave;
- (2) an employee or a family member may be taken ill by COVID-19, and they may need to take extended sick leave; or
- (3) the government may impose restrictions that inhibit a grantee’s ability to carry out their operations, and the grantee may need to reduce the level of service they can provide and will need to place employees on extended administrative leave.
- LSC views the use of leave under these circumstances like any other employee benefit—allowable if reasonable under the circumstances.
13. Does LSC have any concerns about programs moving from in-person outreach and court hearings to making out attorneys available for more telephone advice? (Original Post – March 20, 2020)
- No. We recognize that programs will have to modify, improvise, and adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. The overarching goal is to ensure that clients are receiving the services they need, regardless of the mode of delivery.
14. Are there methods to meet the signed application requirement that LSC will permit, short of obtaining a physical signature? (Original Post – March 20, 2020)
- Yes. You may execute client documents without physical signatures. We discuss the requirements for electronic signatures and provide examples in Program Letter 16-2, available on lsc.gov.
15. How should grantees deal with client outreach during this time? (Original Post – March 20, 2020)
- Many grantees have indicated that they have suspended in-person client outreach. We recommend that grantees follow the social distancing recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as their state and local governments. We also encourage grantees to explore alternatives to in-person outreach such as social media, radio shows, public service announcements, updated information on websites, etc.
16. What information does LSC need from us in terms of changes in our operations, if any? (Original Post – March 20, 2020)
- Your Office of Program Performance liaison will be checking in with you regularly.
- If there are changes in your operations, please send an update to your program liaison and/or Lynn Jennings, Vice President for Grants Management at firstname.lastname@example.org
17. With the likelihood that expenditures for most programs will go down in the short run but increase significantly later this year and into next, will LSC be flexible regarding fund balance waiver requests? (Original Post- March 20, 2020)
- Yes. LSC regulations allow grantees to request approval to carry over funds in excess of 25% of its LSC support when there are extraordinary and compelling circumstances, such as a natural disaster or other catastrophic event, that prevent the timely expenditure of LSC funds. The COVID-19 crisis is such an event. Any questions related to how or when to apply for such a waiver should be sent to the OCE Director at email@example.com .
18. Can LSC grantees provide LSC funded legal assistance to an otherwise eligible client who has no income or whose income is at or below 125% of the FPG in securing benefits or loans now available under Families First Act and CARES?
- Yes, consistent with the grantee’s case priorities, its financial eligibility policy as well as LSC- related requirements; such as, 1611.7(a), 1611.8, and CSR Handbook, section 3.5 footnote 16.
19. If a client secures a coronavirus relief loan after being accepted as a client and the grantee learns about it, what does the grantee need to do?
- The grantee would have to obtain additional information and apply that information in a manner that is consistent with its financial eligibility policy. The grantee could also specifically ask at the time of intake whether the client is applying or intends to apply for coronavirus-related relief.
Answered in the Webinar on Tuesday 4/14
20. Will the supplemental funding be tied to a particular purpose? (Original Post – April 15, 2020)
- The CARES Act sets forth the purpose of LSC’s COVID-19 supplemental funding at “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus, domestically or internationally.” Of course, the LSC restrictions and eligibility criteria still apply to these funds.
21. Will we be expected to expend this funding within the calendar year? (Original Post – April 15, 2020)
- The CARES Act does not provide a time limit on the use of these funds. However, LSC encourages you utilize these funds as expeditiously as possible to meet the increased demand of COVID-19 related civil legal issues.
22. Will we be required to track COVID-19 related cases in our case management system? (Original Post – April 15, 2020)
- Yes. LSC has issued guidance on how to track cases which can be found on LSC’s COVID-19 page of its website.
23. Will COVID-19 Supplemental Grant Funding be included in our carry-over (fund balance) calculation? (Original Post – April 15, 2020)
- No. Grantees should not include one-time or special purpose grants, including COVID-19 Supplemental Grant funds in their carry-over calculations.
- Recipients of COVID-19 Supplemental Grant Funds are reminded that revenue and expenses relating to these grants must be reflected separately in their annual audited financial statements. This may be done by establishing a separate fund or by providing a separate supplemental schedule of revenue and expenses as part of the audit.
24. Will weekly unemployment insurance benefit for clients count as income for determining eligibility? (Original Post – April 15, 2020)
- Yes. Section 1611.2(i) income includes “unemployment and worker's compensation payments.” Please remember, though, § 1611.5 provides authorized exceptions to the annual income ceiling that permit you to accept clients with incomes up to 200% of the applicable Federal Poverty Guidelines (pursuant to your own policies). It lists factors that you may consider, including “current income prospects” and “[Other significant factors that the recipient has determined affect the applicant's ability to afford legal assistance.]"
25. If a grantee receives a Small Business Administration loan, will that impact LSC’s funding decisions? (Original Post – April 15, 2020)
- No. If a grantee were to receive a loan backed by the Small Business Administration, it would have no impact on a grantee’s CARES Act allocation because the amount of funding is driven by a formula calculation.
26. Is LSC encouraging grantees to apply for the Payroll Protection Plan Loans? (Original Post – April 15, 2020)
- LSC does not take a position on this issue. Each grantee’s board of directors and its leadership should assess its current and future financial status to determine what is in the best interest of their organization.
27. Does the one-time pandemic payment of $1,200 (or $2,400 per married couple) count as “income” under Part 1611?
- No. The one-time payment of $1,200 (or $2,400 per married couple) does not count as “income” under Part 1611. Grantees may disregard it as they would a gift or tax refund.
28. Do unemployment benefits provided as “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” to people who normally would not qualify for those benefits count as "income" under Part 1611?
- Yes. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program expands the scope of people who can receive unemployment benefits in the same way as regular unemployment benefits, but for no more than 39 weeks. They are paid weekly and based on prior earnings. Those unemployment benefits are income under Part 1611 the same as regular unemployment benefits. Nonetheless, unemployment benefits are not available for a full year. Thus, you may annualize them based on the expected duration of payments, prior income, and future income prospects. Also, you may consider exceptions to the annual income ceiling pursuant to § 1611.5 due to the pandemic, as discussed in the answer below regarding the extra $600 per week. Please contact LSC if you encounter an unusual situation.
29. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress created a program to provide additional payments of $600 a week for recipients of unemployment benefits through July 31. Does the extra $600 a week count as "income" under Part 1611?
- The extra $600 is provided with payment of unemployment benefits, which are included as income under Part 1611. LSC grantees have the following options for consideration of the temporary extra $600. All Part 1611 determinations, including the use of income exception factors, must be consistent with the grantee’s board-approved financial eligibility policies.
Annualize the Extra $600 for Determining Annual Income
Grantees may choose to annualize the extra $600 because it will be provided only for a limited time. For example, a person expects to receive the extra $600 for no more than 13 weeks, which is a maximum of $7,800. Annualized over 52 weeks, the $600 becomes an additional $150 per week.
Pandemic Exceptions to the Income Ceiling
With the annualization of the $600, some households may still exceed the 125% threshold but not the 200% threshold set in 45 C.F.R. § 1611.5 for exceptions to the income ceiling. For those households that also meet the asset eligibility requirements of § 1611.3(d), the grantee has the discretion to determine that the applicant is financially eligible based on one or more of the factors in § 1611.5(a), which include “[o]ther significant factors that the recipient has determined affect the applicant's ability to afford legal assistance.” Part 1611 permits the grantee to determine that the massive unemployment caused by the pandemic greatly reduces the likelihood of the applicant regaining employment before the expiration of unemployment benefits and, thus, presents a sufficient “other significant factor.” As with all exceptions to the income ceiling, that decision and the specific factor must be sufficiently documented in the case file pursuant to § 1611.5(b).
30. Can COVID-related out-of-pocket medical expenses be charged to the COVID-19 Supplemental grant?
- Yes. COVID-related out-of-pocket medical expenses qualify as a COVID-related cost and can be charged to the COVID-19 Supplemental grant. The expense must be for a reasonable medical item and limited to the actual amount charged to and paid by the employee. A COVID-19 or antibody test is a reasonable medical item for anyone during the pandemic. As with all employee benefits, a grantee needs to follow and document appropriate procedures, including documenting that the cost was not paid for by insurance or anyone else (e.g., a statement from the employee, a statement from the grantee’s benefits coordinator, or a denial from the insurer). If the grantee’s benefits policies don’t already provide for reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses, then the grantee must also document the management decision to provide reimbursement, any changes to the policies, and any board input or notice if needed. Grantees also must make sure to report the payment appropriately (e.g., taxable income or other appropriate category of payment).
31. Can COVID-19 Supplemental Grant Funding be used to pay a stipend or as compensation to law student interns who will largely be supporting grantee work around pandemic-related cases?
- Yes. The COVID-19 Response Grant Special Grant Terms and Conditions state that these funds must be used “for any activities to prevent, prepare for, or respond to coronavirus.” Law student interns whose work will support pandemic-related cases may be compensated with COVID-19 Supplemental Grant Funding. The law student’s work must involve COVID-19 related, permissible activities and must be coded as such. The grantee should give careful consideration to staffing allocation among the grantee’s funding sources. Further, as a reminder, 45 CFR § 1614.4(b)(7) prohibits allocating compensation paid to law students to the PAI requirement. Please contact LSC if you need further guidance on this topic.