COVID-19 Resources for Chicago Families

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Chicago Families,

This is an uncertain and scary time for us all. Elevate Chicago is staying up-to-date on how the coronavirus (COVID-19) is impacting individuals and communities around the country, and we are taking actions to keep our families, students, voters, volunteers, and the entire community informed about how to stay safe.

This document is intended to provide various resources and information for families and community members during the Coronavirus outbreak and the related forced school closures in Chicago, IL. We have pooled information and resources here from several government, education, and community organizations, and we are grateful for their public sharing of this information. We hope this document will be shared widely to support everyone during this time.

We are sharing specific information in four areas:


What is Coronavirus and COVID-19?

  • Coronavirus is a new type of virus that originally formed in China in late 2019. It causes a respiratory illness called COVID-19. Coronavirus spreads from person-to-person, and is only diagnosed with a laboratory test.

  • Because it is a virus, it is not able to be treated with antibiotics. There is no vaccine available yet.

  • The COVID-19 causes symptoms like cough, fever, shortness of breath, fatigue and sometimes body aches.

  • Most, almost 80%, of COVID-19 cases are mild and won’t require a hospital visit or any serious medical intervention. Medical and disease experts predict that 98% of people who contract the Coronavirus will make a full recovery.

  • The best way to prevent coronavirus is to wash your hands with warm water and soap, avoid touching your face, keep your surfaces clean and disinfected, and stay home when you are sick.


Where can I find information about how the Illinois state government and Chicago city government are responding to Coronavirus? 

  • For Illinois, visit the state health department online at this link.  All COVID-19 cases are reported to the Illinois Department of Health.

    • If you have specific questions about Coronavirus, you can contact the Illinois Department of Health at 1-800-889-3931 or

  • Locally, the City of Chicago is providing updates at their Department of Public Health website. You can sign up for text updates at this link.

Illinois is currently working to re-open. What does that mean?

  • Amid an uptick of COVID-19 cases over the past month, Gov. J.B. Pritzker laid out a new approach to managing any resurgence across the state.
  • The new approach is more surgical, dividing the state into 11 regions — Illinois’ existing Emergency Medical Services regions — and tightening the metrics officials will watch to determine if any action is warranted.
  • The plan also includes mitigation steps unique to different categories, like restaurants and bars, offices or salons, that could be used to specifically respond to a type of outbreak in a specific part of the state. Read more on Pritzker’s plan here.
  • There is now a self-quarantine list that includes people from states who must quarantine before they enter Illinois.

I or someone in my household is not feeling well. What can I do? How can I get tested?

  • If you are not feeling well, please stay home if you can to avoid spreading any germs to others.

  • If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 OR you have symptoms, such as a cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider or local doctor’s office for medical advice. Please tell your healthcare provider about your symptoms.

  • Your healthcare provider will make the decision if you should be tested or not.

This is an overwhelming and uncertain time. How can I manage my stress and anxiety in this time?

How can I talk to my kids about Coronavirus? How can I support my child in managing any anxiety or stress?

My office is closed and I’m working from home. My kids are home, too. How can I manage this?

  • The Root shared advice for how to survive working from home with kids.

How can I support our local and national community during this time? What can I do for all families & kids?


My child attends Chicago Public Schools. What is the district’s plan for instruction into next school year? 

  • Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a law that will give school districts the flexibility to hold classes in school buildings and provide remote learning this fall as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
  • Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a law that will give school districts the flexibility to hold classes in school buildings and provide remote learning this fall as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
  • Facing a slow but steady rise in new COVID-19 cases in Chicago, Chicago Public Schools officials ditched plans to have some students in classrooms to start the school year, and announced a fully remote learning plan for the fall.
  • CPS Chief Executive Officer Janice Jackson and Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that all students would be learning remotely for at least the first quarter of the 2020-21 school year, which begins Sept. 8.
  • Read more here.

My child relies on meals from school. What can we do?

  • Click here to find your closest food pickup location, with dates and times that each location is open. If you need assistance, please call the CPS Command Center at 773-553-KIDS (5437) or email

  • Every package will include three days worth of breakfast and lunch for one child. If you have two CPS children, you can pick up two packages, and so on. The packages include a mix of the following for breakfast: cereal, a nutritional bar, an orange or apple and milk. For lunch, they’ll include either a hamburger, a chicken, ham or turkey sandwich, a hot dog, or sunbutter and jelly dippers. Lunch meals will also have fruit, vegetables and chocolate milk.

  • You can go to any CPS meal pickup location to get a package of food. It doesn’t matter if it’s the school your student attends, the school closest to your home or any other school, you can get food there with no questions asked.

How can I get free or low-cost access to the internet or other LTE data to support my child’s distance learning?

  • Chicago Public Schools released details about its plan to connect 100,000 low-income families to free internet, saying it will lean on more than 30 community organizations to assist with outreach. The district said it will track those efforts closely with a new data dashboard, but it wasn’t able to provide numbers yet on how many families so far have signed up.
  • The city of Chicago, donors, and internet service providers have struck a deal to expand internet access for Chicago students — what officials called a “groundbreaking” initiative that comes more than three months after the coronavirus pandemic shifted most learning online.
  • Under the plan, the city aims to provide free high-speed internet to an estimated 100,000 children in low-income households, paid for with donations and federal emergency coronavirus response dollars. The estimated cost over four years is $50 million.
  • Read more here. 

We know this will mean big changes for families, students, and school personnel. Here are some tips to support you during this time.

  • Khan Academy created different daily schedules for students grades Pre-K -12. 

  • Connect with other parents in your community and consider offering kids the option to do a video chat that is just for kids. Our kids will be scared and may not want to share this with adults. It’s good for them to talk to each other.

  • Make a schedule that the kids follow each day. For example: wake up, family short yoga/exercise routine, reading, art, math, meditation, etc. Here is a sample general schedule!

  • In your parent network, consider offering resources digitally to the children in that community. For example, a drama teacher could teach a creative storytelling class once a week. This helps the kids stay connected to trusted families, and the parents feel more grounded in a shared community even though we are at a distance.

How can I further support my child’s learning while they’re not in school? Below is a list of several online resources and other tips to support families and students online.

Documentaries / learning videos

Online learning games/camps

  • Younger kids

    • Khan Academy Kids

    • ABC Mouse

    • Starfall – free games, songs, interactive reading

    • Backpack Sciences – This is a free video series on how to teach science without the overwhelm.

    • Breakout Edu – Online learning games for all ages and content

    • Brainpop – Online learning modules and videos for all ages and content

    • Check Math – Match learning modules

    • Delta Math – Delta Math is a free website for teachers and students covering a wide range of math content from middle school through AP Calculus.

    • Arcademics – Boost student engagement & fact fluency with a free multiplayer educational games, math games, language arts games, and more!

  • Older kids

    • Beast Academy (math for 8-13)

    • Khan Academy (math for 6 and above, other topics like a beta ELA modules)

    • For those with kids 8+ who like Minecraft, the Connected Camps are about to start opening up. They normally only work in the summer and winter breaks.

    • Alchemie (high school chemistry)

    • American Chemistry Society (high school chemistry)

    • Breakout Edu – Online learning games for all ages and content

    • Brainpop – Online learning modules and videos for all ages and content

    • Check Math – Match learning modules

    • CK-12 Foundation – Each lesson has a reading passage, videos, optional review questions, and self-graded practice questions. The lessons can be assigned to Google Classroom and it puts the grade in that students got on the practice questions (students must get 10 practice questions correct to get 100%).

    • CMU CS Academy – Online computer science tool for middle- and high-schoolers

    • Delta Math – Delta Math is a free website for teachers and students covering a wide range of math content from middle school through AP Calculus.

    • American Panorama – Digital Atlas of America uses online GIS to explore and visualize data with maps.

    • Arcademics – Boost student engagement & fact fluency with a free multiplayer educational games, math games, language arts games, and more!

    • Bamboo Learning – Bamboo Learning offers FREE voice-based applications (Alexa skills) that cover a range of academic subjects, including math, ELA/listening comprehension, and social studies.

    • Biology Simulations – Simulations and virtual labs for biology topics including evolution, ecology, and cellular energetics.

  • Reading

    • Progressive Phonics – free progressively sequenced books online or to print out

    • Raz Kids – interactive reading for K-5 (2 week free trial)

    • Reading Eggs (recommended by this site)

    • CommonLit

    • Epic Reading – Free online books for kids 12 and under

    • American Reading Company  – ARC Bookshelf is a mobile application available on iOS, Android and viewable on the web, providing American Reading at Home titles specially designed for successful reading practice.

  • Spanish

    • Pocoyo

    • Oh Noah – Kids video, mostly in English with some Spanish vocabulary

    • Rockalingua – Music-based Spanish learning: videos, games, worksheets, etc

    • Daniel Tiger – in Spanish

    • Spanish Playground – language videos in slow, clear Spanish

    • Spanish Cartoons

    • Conjuguemos – For a variety of languages. “Use without account” option has vocabulary, grammar, listening activities and games in Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Korean, and Latin.

  • Diverse Learners

    • Board Maker – Boardmaker is a collection of standardized picture symbols used for communication with students who are strong visual learners. This includes those with autism spectrum disorders, Downs Syndrome etc

    • The Center on Online Learning and Students with Disabilities has a wealth of resources focused on making online learning more accessible, engaging, and effective for students with disabilities.

    • Common Sense Media has curated a list of the Best Special Education Applications and Websites based on recommendations by educators who work with students with special needs. Applications support the development of academic and social-emotional skills, as well as sites to assist teachers in providing differentiated learning opportunities.

    • The Council for Exceptional Children has developed COVID-19 Information for Special Educators, including a forum for members on how to adapt IEP services during school closures and a link to a resource page developed by the Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE).

    • The New York City Department of Education offers suggested activities and strategies for families to support Diverse Learning at Home for Special Populations. Resources include links for assistive technology support, as well as specific occupational, physical, and speech therapy activities for students as young as preschool.

    • The State Educational Technology Directors Association offers strategies and resources on its site for ensuring that online learning supports students with Individualized Education Plans.

  • English Language Learners

How can my child still feel connected to classmates and friends? Here is a list of things kids can do together, virtually:

  • Virtual book clubs for kids who can read – can they all pick a book, read it, and then get on a Google Hangout and tell each other about what they liked/didn’t like about the book. One parent could probably moderate that for a few households. Could also work for movies.

  • Music appreciation – find a good song you think your friends would like. Make up a dance to it. Look up the artist and tell some facts about them. Film a dance and send it to your buddies and they send you one back.

  • Lego extreme home makeover – build a crazy lego house for your favorite character/doll (or one that your friend gives you) and then make a video giving a tour.

I want to limit screen time where I can. What are some ideas or offline projects that kids can do at home with limited materials?

  • Projects

  • Games kids can play at home

    • Playing school – teaching the stuffed animals, I bought my kids each a clipboard and it was amazing how much power they suddenly felt they had!

    • Making comic books – lots of free printable to be found on Pinterest

    • Old game/new rules – my kids love taking existing board games and making up new rules for them. The easiest way to start is to try and figure out how to make a game collaborative instead of competitive. Just down on bickering as well.

    • Make me laugh videos – usually this is one kid filming the other kid as they try and make eachother laugh. And then rewatch the videos and launch all over again. But they usually get pretty elaborate in the lengths they’ll go to for a giggle

    • Coziest bed ever – make the other person the most cozy, cuddly bed ever, in a non-bed spot. Often results in napping

    • Art project: watch Bob Ross online videos regarding how to paint and painting along with him.

    • Make a marble/small run: take all paper towel rolls, toilet paper rolls and other cardboard type items and tape them to the wall to make a maze.

    • Improv games


What could the Coronavirus and COVID-19 mean for voting and our local democracy? 

  • Roughly 5 million Illinois voters will receive applications to vote by mail for the November election as a result of legislation Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed Tuesday aimed at encouraging mail-in voting amid the ongoing pandemic.
    • The measure, approved by the General Assembly in its brief special session last month, applies only to the Nov. 3 general election. The new law also makes Nov. 3 a government and school holiday to allow empty schools to be used as polling places as a safety precaution for students and teachers.
    • Local election authorities will automatically send vote-by-mail applications by Aug. 1 to those who voted in the 2018 general election, the 2019 municipal election or the March 17 primary. Applications also will go out to anyone who registered to vote or updated their address after the primary.
    • You can read more here.
  • When We All Vote has several resources for schools and communities to use during this period of social distancing.

    • The IL primary moved ahead as planned on Tuesday, 3/17. Other elections are TBD.

    • Stay connected with the My School Votes team by signing up for updates.

    • Use the state-by-state guides on the My School Votes website to stay informed about your state’s upcoming elections and deadlines.

    • Share this easy link with anyone in your community to be sure they are registered to vote before the next elections.

    • You can download OutVote and check out our starter guide to start reaching out to your contacts who may not be registered to vote.

    • You can try this “Friend Mapping” activity to think through people in your network you’ll reach out to and then do it by picking up the phone or using OutVote.


I’m in Illinois and not currently being paid because I have Coronavirus or work for a company that shut down because of it. What do I do next?

  • Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a new fund that will give $1,000 per household to Chicago residents – including undocumented immigrants, college students and more – who were excluded from federal coronavirus relief payments that were distributed earlier this year. Read more here. 
  • Chicago Coalition for the Homeless has a list of resources for families experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
  • Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced several efforts to bring economic relief to those hit hardest by COVID-19. There are also additional services and resources available for people who suddenly find themselves out of work.

  • Unemployment insurance

    • In addition to those who would typically get unemployment insurance, Gov. Pritzker said unemployment insurance is available to those without paid sick leave or those unable to work due to COVID-19. He added that his administration has waived the seven day waiting period, so anyone who qualifies can be immediately eligible.

    • Here is a link to the City of Chicago Employment and Financial Assistance Office
  • As of March 19, IDES offices are closed to the public until further notice. To file for unemployment in Illinois, you can:

  • Those approved for unemployment insurance may be eligible for a “maximum of 26 full weeks in a one-year period, depending on when the claim was established,” according to the IDES website.

  • Click the link to view a table that gives some guidance as to what weekly unemployment insurance payments would look like for approved applicants, depending on their incomes.

  • Residents can also use Illinois Worknet Center website to find resources about careers, layoff assistance and training.

  • Loans for small businesses

    • Small businesses struggling to pay rent, employees and utilities may be eligible for loans. Interest rates for Illinois businesses without credit available elsewhere is 3.75% and 2.75% for nonprofit businesses. More information on loans for small businesses in Illinois can be found here.

    • Gov. J.B. Pritzker said that self-employed and gig workers in Illinois will get their first COVID-19 jobless benefits starting May 11, blaming the delay on “confusing and very stringent regulations” from the Department of Labor “that attempt to severely limit who can actually qualify.” Read more here.

  • Utility relief

    • Until the state disaster declaration is lifted — utilities including energy, telecommunications and water cannot be shutoff. Information on applying for utility bill assistance can be found here.

    • There is a new Chicago program that aims to reduce the costs of water and sewer bills for vulnerable residents. The city said debt relief will be given to residents who are able to demonstrate an ability to manage the bills at the reduced rate for one year. Read more about it here.


    • For homeless families, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday unveiled a sweeping plan to test, protect and treat homeless Chicagoans most vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus. It includes: testing more than 700 shelter residents for COVID-19 each week; having health department nurses visit shelters to provide “in-person education and screenings”; pairing “community-based providers” with shelters to provide “ongoing clinical support”; providing temporary housing in individual rooms with support services to “shield the most vulnerable shelter residents”; and establishing a 100-bed “isolation facility with wrap-around services” for homeless Chicagoans also suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues. Read more about the plan here.

    • Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that $33 million in funding from the federal coronavirus relief bill will go toward housing grants, including mortgage and rental assistance for city residents. Residents can apply for a series of programs through the city’s website at

      • For those making up to 50% of the area’s median income, the city will provide between three and six months of rental support through the Department of Family and Support Services, with the amount of the award based on need, officials said.
      • Half the funds will go toward those making less than 15% of the area’s median income, the city said. That application opened Monday and closes Aug. 10.
    • Student loans

      • Relief is coming for Illinois residents paying private and non-federal student loans who are not covered by the CARES Act. This newly approved relief allows borrowers to request a 90-day forbearance, waive late fees, give no negative credit reports, pause debt collection lawsuits for 90 days and offer enrollment in other borrower assistance programs.

      • Services include MOHELA, Navient, Nelnet, Edfinancial, Lendkey Technologies, Upstart and others

I am an undocumented immigrant. Are there any resources available to me and my family?

  • Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a new fund that will give $1,000 per household to Chicago residents – including undocumented immigrants, college students and more – who were excluded from federal coronavirus relief payments that were distributed earlier this year. Read more here. 
  • In general, Immigrants Rising has a great collection of very tangible resources for this challenging time.
  • Health

    • USCIS encourages all those, including undocumented immigrants, with symptoms that resemble Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) (fever, cough, shortness of breath) to seek necessary medical treatment or preventive services. Such treatment or preventive services will not negatively affect any alien as part of a future Public Charge analysis.

    • United We Dream published a list of state-specific health care resources for undocumented folks and a great video about how to make your own hand sanitizer.

    • Free Clinic Directory has nationwide resources for uninsured people to connect with affordable and free health clinics in their area.

      • Note from this resource: Although undocumented people are usually not eligible for health insurance, even through ACA, we can still receive health care through free/low-cost clinics that serve the uninsured. If you are experiencing an emergency, emergency rooms and hospitals that receive Federal Funding (most do) cannot turn away patients. If you are pregnant or under the age of 18, you can get care in IL, regardless of immigration status.

    • If you do not have a medical provider, are uninsured, or have limited or no income and believe you need non-emergency medical services, you can contact your nearest community health center (CHC) by phone and inform them of your need. They will work with you to coordinate appropriate care. CHCs receive funding from the federal government that allows them to charge each patient on a sliding scale fee based on the patient’s income and ability to pay. No patient will be turned away because of inability to pay. There are approximately 165 CHCs throughout the city of Chicago. You can find your nearest CHC at

    • Heartland Alliance Health Centers remain open. Please call ahead: 773-275-2586. Locations: 1015 W Lawrence (M-F, 8-5); 932 W Washington Blvd (M-F 8-5); 5501 S Halsted (M-F 8:30-5).

    • Cook County Health (CCH) system treats undocumented people living within the county of Cook, which includes the city of Chicago. CCH is a public health system with a strong charity program called CareLink, for people who are uninsured or undersinsured, including undocumented immigrants. The vast majority of CareLink recipients are undocumented. CareLink is accepted in all health clinics and hospitals within CCH. Those with CareLink do not have to worry about any medical bills.

    • Community Health is a free health clinic for low-income (up to 300% of Federal Poverty Level), uninsured adults in Chicago, IL. Primary care, specialty care, pharmacy, etc (open now, though currently doing many appts remotely due to COVID-19). You can go to their website or call 773-395-9900.

    • Yo Soy Ella: During this time of social distancing women can call 773-663-5001 any day of the week between 7pm-9pm and receive Talk-Therapy or email We offer FREE mental health and emotional support services for women, in Spanish and English, with low to moderate needs/symptoms.

  • Food

    • Families can get food at CPS food sites. Food is also available at the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

    • Updates on the latest efforts from The Salvation Army of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division provides social services to communities in Greater Chicagoland, Northern Illinois, and Northwest Indiana.

  • Housing

    • Evictions/Foreclosures: All evictions/foreclosures have been suspended for at least 30 days in Cook County. This means that if you are unable to pay your rent, you cannot be evicted.

  • Benefits

    • If you have been a victim of a crime and you are currently pursuing a T-Visa, U-Visa, or Asylum you are eligible for State-funded health insurance, food assistance, and cash assistance. This will NOT cause you to be a public charge.

    • Children, regardless of legal status, can qualify for All Kids health insurance. Pregnant women and new moms qualify for WIC benefits, regardless of legal status. However, if you are concerned about your immigration case and have public charge questions, please contact your attorney before applying for these benefits. If you need an attorney, see the resources listed under Legal Services

  • Employment

    • If you do not have work authorization in the United States, you still have rights. If you need assistance understanding your rights, you can contact ARISE Chicago at 773-769-6000. There are other resources at this website.

    • If you have valid work authorization (this includes DACA recipients), you may qualify for unemployment benefits if you have lost your job or hours worked.

    • Legal Aid at Work provides clarity about Undocumented Workers’ Employment Rights, as well as Coronavirus FAQs in English, Spanish & Chinese.

    • Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights created an infographic about DACA and unemployment insurance in Illinois.

    • IL Business Immigration Coalition (IBIC): We have Know Your Rights 1-pagers for individuals and workplaces, 1-pager on “No-Match Letters” which can impact workers, information on Illinois Rise Act (state aid for undocumented college students), and were putting together information for both workers and businesses around Covid-19. We are also part of the American Business Immigration Coalition.

  • Legal Aid

    • Legal Aid Chicago provides free civil legal services to people living in poverty in Cook County.