Law School Leads UVA CARES Project to Help Contract Employees
Contract employees affected by the University of Virginia’s shift to remote operations during the COVID-19 pandemic have a way to get information about unemployment benefits and other services, thanks to a project being spearheaded by the Law School.
The project is named after the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, recently passed by Congress. The legislation adds $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits for up to four months, in addition to what workers receive from the state. The new benefits start this week in Virginia.
“We are so glad that we can assist University community members we work with every day and whose work is critical to the University’s success,” Dean Risa Goluboff said. “Students and faculty at the Law School had been looking for ways to support contract employees, so we are delighted to provide this important assistance.”
Sarah Shalf ’01, UVA’s director of clinical programs, is leading the project.
“The shutdown has had tremendous impact across the country, including here in Charlottesville, where the city economy depends heavily on the University’s continued operation,” she said. “At the same time, the University has resources and expertise to help ease the pain of that shift, so it’s important for us to step up.”
The project is initially taking referrals from the Emergency Assistance Fund hotline. Contract employees who work for UVA’s 11 contractors, as well as affected employees from UVA and University-associated organizations, can also contact the project directly.
“Depending on availability of volunteers, we hope to expand our services to a broader group,” Shalf said. “Although we cannot provide legal advice, we will also be working with the bar community to locate attorneys who can provide pro bono advice, for referral from our service.”
On Thursday, Goluboff sent out a call to students, faculty and staff to volunteer, and more than 50 have already stepped forward to help. Community members outside the Law School have also expressed interest in helping.
“Volunteers will be trained on the most common questions that arise for people who are contemplating applying for unemployment insurance benefits, such as who is eligible under the newly expanded benefits, the process for applying, what documents are needed and any information we have about how long people can expect it will take,” Shalf said. “Once trained, the volunteers will sign up to call back people who have requested our assistance and answer their questions.”
Volunteers can help by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
The project’s website, launched by Law School and University faculty and staff, will serve as an intake vessel for those seeking information and will also provide information on related community resources, from local food pantries to getting relief on energy bills.
Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.