Workforce Issues

Worker's Rights During COVID-19

Learn about key federal workplace laws protecting social workers during the current pandemic related to unemployment insurance; worker's compensation; sick and family leave health insurance, and more,

Learn about worker's rights during COVID-19

Guidelines for Reopening Social Work Practices

During the COVID-19 public health emergency, many clinical social work private practices have been closed or have shifted to virtual service provision. As governments begin to permit the reopening of non-essential businesses, social workers need guidance on resuming the provision of in-person services.

$20 Billion in New Phase 3 Provider Relief Funding

On October 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), announced $20 billion in new funding for providers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. Under this Phase 3 General Distribution allocation, providers that have already received Provider Relief Fund payments will be invited to apply for additional funding that considers financial losses and changes in operating expenses caused by the coronavirus.

Previously ineligible providers, such as those who began practicing in 2020, will also be invited to apply, and an expanded group of behavioral health providers confronting the emergence of increased mental health and substance use issues exacerbated by the pandemic will also be eligible for relief payments.

Learn more about Phase 3 Provider Relief Funding

CARES Act Provider Relief Fund

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is releasing $50 billion to Medicare-enrolled individual healthcare providers (including clinical social workers) and facilities that billed Medicare fee-for-services in 2019 to provide them compensation for healthcare-related expenses and lost revenues attributable to COVID-19. An initial $30 billion was automatically distributed (with no application requirement) in mid-April 2020, divided among all providers that received Medicare payments during 2019 in proportion to their relative Medicare reimbursements during that year.

On April 24, 2020, HHS begun distributing the remaining $20 billion to Medicare providers to augment their allocations, so that the whole $50 billion general distribution is proportional to providers' share of 2018 net patient revenue from all payors. Medicare providers for whom HHS did not have adequate cost report data on file will need to submit data about their annual revenues and estimated COVID-related losses via HHS’s CARES Provider Relief Fund Payment Portal. HHS will distribute these payments on a weekly and rolling basis.

These payments are not loans and, if used consistent with the applicable Terms and Conditions, need not be repaid. Recipients in either phase of the distributions must, within 30 days of their receipt of the funds, attest to compliance with the Terms and Conditions, using the agency’s online attestation portal and complete Step 1: Eligibility. HHS has issued a CARES Act Provider Relief Fund Application Guide Application Guide to assist providers in submitting needed information for the General Distribution portal.

A number of clinical social workers have inquired about program eligibility, permissible uses for the funds, recordkeeping and other requirements. On April 24, 2020, HHS issued an updated description of the entire Provider Relief Fund program, including Frequently Asked Questions on the General Distribution Portal, which address some of these questions but not all. NASW will provide updated guidance when it becomes available.

CARES Act Key Points

Basic Eligibility for Funds

According to HHS, providers were eligible for the funding if they billed Medicare in 2019 and provided (after January 31, 2020) "diagnoses, testing, or care for individuals with possible or actual cases of COVID-19." HHS has stated that this includes everyone a provider treated: "HHS broadly views every patient as a possible case of COVID-19."Providers who have ceased operations as a result of COVID-19 remain eligible to receive funding.

Conditions regarding the Funds

Use of Funds: Under the Terms and Conditions, the provider must certify that, among other things, the payment “will only be used to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, and that the Payment shall reimburse the Recipient only for health care related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to coronavirus.” There appears to be no HHS guidance on what expenses and lost revenues are covered. Clinical social workers should keep track of all expenses and lost revenues they believe are related to COVID-19; once HHS provides further guidance, they can determine which expenses and lost revenues qualify. Regarding COVID-19-related expenses, for example, clinical social workers might consider costs related to the purchase of personal protective equipment and computer programs to provide telehealth.

Balance Billing: Providers must agree that they will not seek collection of out-of-pocket payments from a presumptive or actual COVID-19 patient that are greater than what the patient would have otherwise been required to pay if the care had been provided by an in-network provider. This is another area where HHS guidance would be helpful, given that out-of-network providers typically are not aware of what a patient’s in-network benefit and copay levels would otherwise be.


Under the terms and conditions, all recipients are required to maintain proper records and cost documentation to show compliance with the program and its eligibility requirements. HHS states that recipients will be required to submit copies of such records upon the agency’s request, and that it will provide instructions on this recordkeeping requirement in the future. Recipients of more than $150,000 (under the Provider Relief Fund and under other federal coronavirus response laws) will be required to submit a quarterly report addressing specified issues.


The UnitedHealth Group is handling the payment process for HHS. UHG’s provider relations department may be contacted at 866-569-3522 with questions about payment status or eligibility. Medicare providers whose questions UGH cannot answer may direct them to HHS via email at

All social work organizations are responding to challenges created by the COVID-19 public health crisis. Learn about licensing, education, employment and other workforce-related topics.

SBA Loan Assistance Available to Social Workers

April 20, 2020

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) available to small businesses and nonprofit organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Treasury Department has created Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help small businesses with their payroll, and must be spent within the next eight weeks. 100% is forgivable if it’s spent on allowable expenses.

Social Work License Testing Schedules Disrupted by Pandemic

Pearson VUE, the ASWB test vendor, shut down all test centers in the United States and Canada from March 17 through April 15, 2020. All testing appointments during those dates were canceled.

Effective April 7, Pearson VUE added ASWB candidates to the list of essential workers who are allowed to test in a subset of test centers that have been opened on a limited schedule for testing essential service providers.

ASWB candidates must schedule their appointments on Pearson Vue's ASWBs exam program page. Availability is first-come, first-served.

Read ASWB's letter about testing.

Social Work Responds (Statements)

Grief and Loss in the Pandemic

May 1, 2020 - There is one thing about a pandemic: Everyone is affected. Although each of us has our own unique experiences of this public health crisis, we also share collective experiences, such as social distancing. We have been touched personally, and we have been touched professionally. We are becoming aware that life as we knew it will change. It will be different going forward. Many are starting to use the phrase “a new normal” to describe what we will face as we move into the future.  Grief needs to be acknowledged — for all of us are experiencing loss as we move through this pandemic.

Read "What's the Meaning of This?"

Social Justice Impact of COVID-19

April 17, 2020 — The COVID-19 pandemic is a health and mental health crisis, to be sure. But it is also a crisis of social injustice, inequitably affecting vulnerable and marginalized populations. The incredible strain on our health care system and the widespread impact on our civic infrastructure have surfaced existing (and often persistent) gaps in service. Changes in federal and state policies are needed to protect vulnerable populations during and after the pandemic. 

Read "COVID-19 and Social Justice"

Social Needs Care During the Crisis and Post-Pandemic

April 10, 2020 — The health of every American is shaped by many factors beyond their medical care, including secure housing, access to nutritious food, and reliable transportation. While Congress, the White House and state governments have provided substantial relief to help the nation cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers need to take additional action to promote social needs care and support social workers delivering these services.

Read "Reinforcing the Essential Nature of Social Work During and Post-Pandemic"

Balancing "Essential" with Safe and Ethical

April 3, 2020 — During the COVID-19 pandemic, social workers have been designated “essential workers” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. With this guidance, the federal government is 1) recognizing that the services social workers provide in hospitals, child protective services, nursing homes, and other community-based settings must continue throughout this pandemic, and 2) recommending that states do all they can to temporarily reduce/eliminate barriers to allow the workforce to be deployed expeditiously. But the states ultimately maintain the authority to protect the public.

Read "Balancing Essential with Safe and Ethical During COVID-19"

Providing Safe, Ethical and Competent Mental Health Support

March 27, 2020 — The COVID-19 crisis presents a new opportunity for social workers to demonstrate that we can safely, ethically and competently use a variety of technologies to provide a broad range of social and health services.  Educational institutions also are moving to virtual learning and offering remote-based field activity to meet student needs during the pandemic.

Read "COVID-19 Telehealth: Providing Mental Health Support Safely, Ethically, and Competently"

Social Work Leaders Urged to Eliminate Workforce Barriers

March 20, 2020 — The three largest social work organizations in the United States are calling social work practitioners, students, faculty, employers, regulators, policy makers, and all interested parties to action. We need a competent social work workforce to be available now, and to be prepared to enter the workforce in a timely manner, to meet the growing need for health and human services. Whatever barriers that threaten the supply of social workers entering the field must be evaluated to determine their necessity in this time of crisis.

Read "Social Work in This Unprecedented Time"

woman speaking in a seated group
Connect to end COVID-19, overlapping speech bubbles

Join NASW’s national Connect to End COVID-19 effort, a CDC-funded initiative to support social workers and their clients in informed vaccine decision-making. Complimentary webinars and CEUs available. Learn about Connect to End COVID-19

U.S. Capitol building

COVID-19 Advocacy

NASW is advocating for social workers and the people they serve throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Learn about NASW's COVID-19 Advocacy

Social Justice Brief

Implications of Coronavirus (COVID-19) for America’s Vulnerable and Marginalized Populations

In the News

Social Workers and the COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 and Student Loan Management

Student loan borrowers can apply for income-driven repayment plans if their income is reduced as a result of COVID-19.

Learn more about student debt relief

NASW insurance company, RRG

Deferred Renewal Payment

NASW Assurance Services is offering a 60-day deferred renewal payment to policyholders experiencing financial hardships.

Visit NASW Assurance Services to learn about deferred payments

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