IMPORTANT UPDATES ON COVID-19
(Updated May 7, 2020)
As coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) continues to spread outside of its area of origin, I wanted to share some information that may be helpful on how to detect and prevent the spread of this respiratory illness, as well as steps the federal government is taking to assist state and local responses and help American families during this time.
My offices are currently operating normal hours and will continue to do so until further notice.
Constituents experiencing issues with federal agencies are encouraged to contact our Tifton District Office at (229) 396-5175 for assistance.
- Georgia Coronavirus Hotline: (844) 442-2681
- COVID-19: State Services in Georgia: https://georgia.gov/covid-19-state-services-georgia
- Centers for Disease Control: www.cdc.gov/nCoV
- Georgia Department of Public Health: https://dph.georgia.gov/
- U.S. Department of State Travel Information: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus
- Department of Veterans Affairs: www.va.gov/coronavirus
- Information for members of the United States Air Force: https://www.af.mil/News/Coronavirus-Disease-2019/
- Resources for small businesses
Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure and can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus or have been exposed, please contact your primary care doctor, an urgent care facility, or your local health care center. Please do not show up unannounced at an emergency room or health care facility.
Office and Visitor Information:
My offices are currently operating normal hours and will continue to do so until further notice. However, access to the U.S. Capitol, Capitol Visitor Center, and House Office Buildings are limited at this time.
We apologize for the inconvenience of these temporary measures. These actions are being taken by the House and Senate to protect the health and safety of everyone, including visitors. We appreciate everyone’s understanding.
- Capitol and House Office Buildings: The Capitol and House Office Buildings will only be open to Members of Congress, staff and official business visitors, and all official business visitors must be escorted by a member of my staff. If you have scheduled an official business visit, please contact my D.C. office at (202) 225-6531 for information on gaining access to the Rayburn House Office Building.
- Capitol Visitor Center and Capitol Tours: The Capitol Visitor Center and U.S. Capitol Building will be closed to all tours, including Member and staff led tours, until further notice. If you have scheduled a tour through my office, a member of our staff will be in touch on rescheduling your tour for a later date. If you wish to inquire on the status of your tour rescheduling, please call my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225-6531.
- White House Tours: The White House will be closed to all tours, including Member and staff led tours, until further notice.
Services for Individuals and Families:
Unemployment: The Georgia Department of Labor has moved to online services during this time. Due to an extremely high volume of unemployment claims filed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, individuals may experience a delay in requesting weekly benefit payments. If you are having difficulty claiming your weekly benefits, please contact your local career center. Please note that you can file a claim online 24 hours per day. You can find more information on state unemployment at https://dol.georgia.gov/.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP): TEFAP is a federal program that helps supplement the diets of low income persons in Georgia, including the elderly, by providing them with emergency food and nutrition assistance at no cost. For more information on availability in your area, contact one of your local food banks. For questions or concerns about TEFAP, please contact the state office at (404) 463-8042.
Individual Recovery Rebates:
All U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 ($150,000 married), who are not a dependent of another taxpayer and have a work eligible social security number, are eligible for a $1,200 ($2,400 married) rebate. In addition, they are eligible for an additional $500 per child. This is true even for those who have no income, as well as those whose income comes entirely from non-taxable means-tested benefit programs, such as SSI benefits.
For the vast majority of Americans, no action on their part will be required in order to receive a rebate check as IRS will use a taxpayer’s 2019 tax return, if filed, or in the alternative their 2018 return. This includes many low-income individuals who file a tax return in order to take advantage of the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.
The rebate amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 that a taxpayer’s income exceeds the phase-out threshold. The amount is completely phased-out for single filers with incomes exceeding $99,000, $146,500 for head of household filers with one child, and $198,000 for joint filers with no children.
The new “Get My Payment” tool from the IRS allows you to provide your direct deposit information and check the status of your payment. You can access this tool on the IRS website by clicking here.
The United States has suspended travel from Europe by foreign nationals who recently traveled to certain European countries. This travel restriction began on Friday, March 13, 2020 and will last 30 days. It does not include American citizens, however, Americans will be directed to use certain airports and be subject to screening.
SAMHSA Distress Hotline:
Constant updates about coronavirus can be overwhelming and stressful. If you or your loved one is feeling anxious, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides toll-free, multilingual counseling 24/7. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746, or visit their website by clicking here.
Domestic Violence Resources:
Tragically, the United States has seen a rise in reports of domestic violence. If you or someone you know is in a dangerous domestic situation, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or the Georgia Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-33-HAVEN. Both hotlines are available 24/7 and are completely confidential.
Reporting Suspected Elder Fraud and Abuse:
For emergencies, call 9-1-1 for immediate help.
For non-life-threatening emergencies:
- DOJ National Elder Fraud Hotline - 1-833-372-8311 (Every day, 6:00 a.m.–11:00 p.m. ET)
- Eldercare Locator Helpline: 1-800-677-1116
- Victim Connect Hotline: 1-855-484-2846
Tax Filing Deadline Extended to July 15:
At President Trump’s direction, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has announced that the tax filing deadline will be extended to July 15. Treasury is still asking those who can file by the typical April 15th deadline to please do so. You can find more information on the IRS website by clicking here.
Agricultural Labor Issues:
Rep. Doug Collins and I have sent a letter to Sec. Pompeo urging the State Department to work with producers to ensure our agricultural sector remains robust to keep food on the tables of American households during the coronavirus outbreak. You can read that letter by clicking here.
In addition, USDA would like to hear from farmers with agricultural labor concerns. If you are a producer impacted, you can share your concerns by emailing AgLabor@USDA.gov or through https://www.farmers.gov/manage/h2a.
Rest assured that I will continue to raise this issue and supporting all our Georgia businesses - big and small - to the highest levels of government as we continue to work through the coronavirus outbreak.
In early March, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations:
- More than $4 billion to make diagnostic tests more broadly available; to support treatments to ease the symptoms of those infected with the virus; and to invest in vaccine development and to procure vaccines when they are available. Funds are also made available for the Food and Drug Administration to protect the integrity of medical products manufactured overseas and identify and prevent potential shortages.
- $2.2 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for a robust response, including: Nearly $1 billion exclusively for state and local response efforts; and $300 million for CDC’s Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund to prevent, prepare for, and respond to diseases – keeping our nation prepared and positioned for any health threat.
- $20 million to administer disaster assistance loans for small businesses impacted by the virus.
- $1.25 billion for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to protect Americans abroad and prevent the spread of the virus worldwide, including: $264 million to evacuate Americans and maintain consular operations overseas; and $200 million for USAID’s Emergency Response Fund to prepare for and respond to emerging health threats – working to prevent the spread of illness and infection before it reaches U.S. soil.
On March 14, Congress passed the Coronavirus Response Act to assist Americans and their families through the COVID-19 outbreak:
- Free tests for Americans who should be tested
- Paid Sick & Family Medical Leave for those that need it
- Ensures students receiving school meals still get them
- Protections & relief for small businesses
On March 27, President Trump signed into law the CARES Act, as amended by the U.S. Senate. Highlights include:
- Agriculture: $9.5B to the Agriculture Secretary to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus by providing support for agricultural producers including producers of specialty crops, producers that supply local food systems, including farmers markets, restaurants, and schools, and livestock producers, including dairy producers.”
- Businesses: The bill establishes a fully refundable tax credit for businesses of all size that are closed or distressed to help them keep workers on the payroll. The goal is to get those employees hired back or put on paid furlough to make sure they have jobs to return. The credit covers up to 50 percent of payroll on the first $10,000 of compensation, including health benefits, for each employee. For employers with more than 100 full-time employees, the credit is for wages paid to employees when they are not providing services because of the coronavirus. Eligible employers with 100 or fewer full-time employees could use the deduction even if they aren't closed.
- Food Assistance: $15.81B for Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP) contingency fund, $8.8 billion to give schools more flexibility to provide meals for students, and $450M for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).
- Hospitals and Community Health Centers: $100 billion for hospitals responding to the coronavirus and $1.32 billion in immediate additional funding for community centers that provide health care services.
- Individual Recovery Rebates: All U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 ($150,000 married), who are not a dependent of another taxpayer and have a work eligible social security number, are eligible for a $1,200 ($2,400 married) rebate. In addition, they are eligible for an additional $500 per child. This is true even for those who have no income, as well as those whose income comes entirely from non-taxable means-tested benefit programs, such as SSI benefits. For the vast majority of Americans, no action on their part will be required in order to receive a rebate check as IRS will use a taxpayer’s 2019 tax return, if filed, or in the alternative their 2018 return. This includes many low-income individuals who file a tax return in order to take advantage of the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. The rebate amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 that a taxpayer’s income exceeds the phase-out threshold. The amount is completely phased-out for single filers with incomes exceeding $99,000, $146,500 for head of household filers with one child, and $198,000 for joint filers with no children
- Insurance Coverage: The bill requires all private insurance plans to cover COVID-19 treatments and vaccine and makes all coronavirus tests free.
- Medical Equipment: $16 billion to the Strategic National Stockpile to increase availability of equipment, including ventilators and masks.
- Rural Businesses: $20.5M to the Business and Industry Loan Guarantee program to provide guarantees to loans made by private lenders to rural businesses, similar to SBA loans for rural communities.
- Small Businesses: $10 billion for grants of up to $10,000 to provide emergency funds for small businesses to cover immediate operating costs and $350 billion for the SBA to provide loans of up to $10 million per business. Any portion of that loan used to maintain payroll, keep workers on the books or pay for rent, mortgage and existing debt could be forgiven, provided workers stay employed through the end of June.
- Temporary Student Loan Relief: All loan and interest payments would be deferred through Sept. 30 without penalty to the borrower for all federally owned student loans.
- Vaccines and Tests: $11 billion for diagnostics, treatments and vaccines and $80 million for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prioritize and expedite approval of new drugs.
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) and/or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It is also possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.