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Debbie's Blog

Coronavirus resources and information

Washington, April 11, 2020
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Governor Whitmer announced she is partially lifting the stay home order. The state is moving to phase 4 of the MI Safe Start Plan. This will allow restaurants and bars to reopen on June 8th for dine-in service with restrictions. Businesses are allowed to service customers inside their shops without an appointment beginning June 4th. Office work that is not capable of being performed remotely is allowed to resume. Effective immediately, groups of 100 or less are allowed gather outdoors with social distancing. And in-home services, including house cleaning services, can resume operations.

YOU CAN:

  • Go to the grocery store or pick up take-out food. 
  • Go to the pharmacy to pick up a needed prescription.
  • Engage in outdoor activities like walking, hiking, running, biking. 
  • Go to the hospital or secure any care necessary to address a medical emergency or to preserve your health or the health of a loved one. 
  • Fill your car with gas.
  • Return to Michigan to a home or place of residence from outside the State. 
  • Leave the State for a home or residence elsewhere. 
  • Walk your pets and take them to the veterinarian for needed medical care.

YOU CANNOT:

  • Leave the home to work unless your employer designates you as a critical infrastructure worker. 
  • Participate in any public gatherings. 
  • Visit someone in the hospital, nursing home, or other residential care facilities (with limited exceptions). 
  • Go to the mall or to restaurants.

BUSINESSES THAT REMAIN OPEN FOR IN-PERSON WORK MUST TAKE AGGRESSIVE STEPS TO MINIMIZE THE VIRUS’S SPREAD. THEY MUST: 

  • Promote remote work to the fullest extent possible. 
  • Restrict the number of workers present in-person on the job. 
  • Keep employees at least six feet from one another to the maximum extent possible and enabling social distancing for customers who are standing in line. 
  • Any other social distancing practices and mitigation measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

Further, to maximize public health: 

  • WASH HANDS often and thoroughly
  • DISINFECT REGULARLY the surfaces and objects you touch often
  •  PUT ALL TRASH in trash bags for pick up


 If you think you might be sick
STAY HOME except to get medical care 

SEPARATE yourself from others, including family

CALL YOUR DOCTOR before seeking care

PRACTICE GOOD HYGIENE by washing hands frequently, covering your mouth with a tissue or your elbow when coughing 

SEEK MEDICAL CARE if your symptoms worsen, such as difficulty breathing


COVID-19 Tests
Call your doctor: 
If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider for medical advice. They will decide whether you need to be tested, but keep in mind that there is no treatment for COVID-19 and people who are mildly ill may be able to isolate and care for themselves at home.

The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure:
Fever
Cough
Shortness of breath


 Unemployment Insurance

More laid-off and furloughed workers than ever before (including those new to the job market) will be eligible for Unemployment Insurance and will see an additional $600 per week to match the average paycheck for up to 4 months of benefits. These benefits are available immediately.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) provides unemployment for the self-employed and so-called gig economy workers. If you applied for unemployment benefits previously, you DO NOT need to reapply at this time.

Residents seeking more information about UI benefits should contact the state unemployment insurance program.

To apply for unemployment benefits: visit http://www.Michigan.gov/UIA or over the phone at 866-500-0017

To file you need:
Social Security number
(or Non-citizens Alien registration and the expiration date of your work authorization card)
Employment information for the past 18 months: employer name and address, first/last day worked/gross earnings
Your address, phone number, date of birth
Driver’s License or State ID

Michiganders are asked to use the tools and resources available on the homepage of the website to help answer any outstanding questions they may have. Due to the unprecedented demand for unemployment benefits, those using the phone option may sometimes receive a busy signal and those using the website should expect longer load times. Users are asked to be patient and not click more than once to reload a page. Filing online remains the fastest way for Michiganders to apply for unemployment benefits.


Online Filing Schedule - Michigan.gov/UIA

The day or time of day in which a claim is filed will not impact whether a worker receives benefits or their benefit amount. Additionally, claims will be back-dated to reflect the date in which a claimant was laid-off or let go from their job due to COVID-19. The eligibility window to apply has also been increased from 14 to 28 days from the date of their work stoppage.

For more information visit Michigan.gov/UIA 


Direct Payments to Individuals & their Families
Individuals making up to $75,000 ($150,000 for married workers) will receive payments of $1,200 with an additional $500 payment per minor child. The payments decrease ratably and stop altogether for single workers making more than $99,000 ($198,000 for married workers and $218,000 for a family of four.)

These payments will be issued by the IRS via direct deposit and will be based on 2019 or 2018 tax return or 2019 Social Security statement.

Please visit www.IRS.gov and go to the “get your payment” section of the website. Once there you will be able to identify yourself with your 2018 or 2019 tax information, provide your direct deposit information, and within several days you should have the money deposited into your account. If you DO NOT normally file a tax return or your income is too little to file, you must visit www.IRS.gov, and look for “Non-filers: Enter Payment Info Here.” You will then be prompted to fill out the requested and relevant information.

If someone has not filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019 and does not receive Social Security benefits, the IRS recommends filing a 2018 return to receive payment – click here for more information. If the IRS does not have the taxpayer’s bank account information, the taxpayer should look for a letter from the IRS detailing how to receive their payment.

If you receive Social Security, retirement or other social safety net benefits, you may still qualify for direct payments. These payments will not be taxable nor represent “resources” for program eligibility purposes. Click here for more information from the IRS.

If you receive veterans disability compensation, a pension, survivor benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, or your income level does not require you to file a tax return, then you need to submit information to the IRS to receive an Economic Impact Payment. More information and directions are available by clicking the link here: www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here

TIMING OF PAYMENTS:

The IRS has begun to make payments and expects make about 60 million payments to Americans through direct deposit. The IRS has direct deposit information for these individuals from their 2018 or 2019 tax returns. This will include Social Security beneficiaries who filed federal tax returns that included direct deposit information.

The IRS has informed us they will begin to send Americans debit cards instead of checks for the Economic Impact Payments. This will not change the amount you receive. More details can be found here.

The payments will be issued at a rate of about 5 million per week, which could take up to 20 weeks to get all the payments out.

The payments will be issued in reverse “adjusted gross income” order—starting with people with the lowest income first.

The IRS is encouraging taxpayers to file their 2019 returns to the maximum extent possible. As taxpayers file their 2019 returns electronically, the IRS will post updated tax information weekly to its files and then send this information to another agency that will issue weekly payments.

For Social Security beneficiaries who do not file returns, Treasury and the IRS announced that these beneficiaries will not need to file a “simple tax return” to receive their rebate. Recipients will receive their rebate just as they would their Social Security benefits.

For other taxpayers who do not file returns, the IRS expects to release the “simple tax return” referred to in a recent IRS News Release “soon.” The IRS expects it will contain only a few questions, including name, SSNs, dependents, and deposit information. There also will be other IRS guidance accompanying this simple tax return.


Paying Taxes
The IRS announced that deadline to file your taxes has been extended to July 15. Please share this important update with your family, friends, and colleagues. 

The IRS recently went live with a website that provides tips for taxpayers and tax pros. You can find that site here.  

The IRS also recently pushed FAQs regarding this year’s tax filing deadline extension. You can find that site here

Governor Whitmer extended all April 2020 state and city income tax filing deadlines in Michigan to July 2020. State of Michigan and cities with income taxes due on April 15 will now be due on July 15, while cities with income taxes due on April 30 will now be due on July 31. More information on Michigan taxes available at www.Michigan.gov/taxes


Social Security
All SSA field offices are currently closed and as a result Americans should expect service delays. You can still reach the SSA by phone, however, click here to identify your local field office. 

The Social Security Administration also published a website providing Americans with information related to their services during the coronavirus pandemic. You can find that information here

Residents experiencing issues with Social Security should reach out to Dingell's office at 313-278-2936.


Food Assistance
My office keeps an updated list of Food Banks and Kitchens in Michigan's 12th Congressional District  

Michigan Department of Education Food Service Program Interactive Map

Congress has now secured $850 million in emergency funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to help food banks face increased utilization and demand in countless communities across the country due to the coronavirus. Click here to find a local food bank near you.

To find food assistance near you, call the USDA National Hunger Hotline 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1- 877-8-HAMBRE

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps, ensures that Americans receive the food they need, especially if they are newly unemployed. Congress has invested in SNAP in the last three bills to help Americans put food on the table during this crisis.

In order to apply for SNAP, use MI Bridges to apply for assistance, check your eligibility status, and manage your account online.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) provides access to nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women or mothers. To see if you are eligible for WIC benefits click here. If you are a new WIC client, please contact your local WIC clinic by calling 211, downloading the WIC Connect mobile app (available for Android and iPhone), or visiting Michigan WIC Client Connect website here. More information is available here; https://www.michigan.gov/wic.


Homeowner & Renters Protections
Mortgage Forbearance: Homeowners with FHA, USDA, VA, or Section 184 or 184A mortgages (for members of federally-recognized tribes) and those with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac have the right to request forbearance on their payments for up to 6 months, with a possible extension for another 6 months without fees, penalties, or extra interest. Homeowners should contact their mortgage servicing company directly.

Eviction Protections: Renters residing in public or assisted housing, or in a home or apartment whose owner has a federally-backed mortgage, and who are unable to pay their rent, are protected from eviction for 4 months. Property owners are also prohibited from issuing a 30-day notice to a tenant to vacate a property until after the 4-month moratorium ends. This protection covers properties that receive federal subsidies such as public housing, Section 8 assistance, USDA rural housing programs, and federally-issued or guaranteed mortgages. Renters whose landlord is not abiding by the moratorium should contact the relevant federal agency that administers their housing program or their local Legal Aid office.


Energy Assistance for Low Income Families
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) includes $12 million specifically to Michigan to help low income Americans and their families heat and cool their homes. To learn more about the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/heatingassistance or call 1-855-275-6424.


Emergency Paid Family and Medical Leave
Many workers in America currently have no paid leave and are being forced to choose between their paycheck, their health, and the health of the people around them.

The emergency paid leave provisions passed by Congress and signed into law by the President are a critical step toward protecting families’ financial security and mitigating the spread of the coronavirus.

U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet for Employees
U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet for Employers
U.S. Department of Labor Questions and Answers

Workers at companies with fewer than 500 employees are eligible to receive up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This leave is available to employees who are adhering to quarantine requirements or medical advice, obtaining a medical diagnosis, and caring for an individual who is sick or in quarantine or for a child whose school or day care has closed due to coronavirus. During this time, workers will be compensated at two-thirds of their normal compensation (after the first two weeks). Employers will receive a tax credit to offset 100% of the costs associated with providing this paid family leave, up to $200 per day. This program will expire at the end of the year. For more information about paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave, visit the IRS webpage.


Emergency Paid Sick Leave
Under this new law, workers at companies with fewer than 500 employees are eligible to receive paid sick leave for issues related to coronavirus, including adhering to quarantine requirements or medical advice, obtaining a medical diagnosis, and caring for an individual who is sick or in quarantine or for a child whose school or day care has closed due to coronavirus. During this time, workers are required to be paid at least their normal compensation if they themselves are sick or two-thirds of their compensation if they are providing care to another individual or child. Employers will receive a tax credit to offset 100% of the costs associated with providing this paid sick leave, up to $511 per day if the employee themselves are sick and up to $200 per day if the employee is caring for someone else.


Stopping Price Gouging
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order on March 15 to protect consumers against price gouging during the crisis. You can report potential price-gouging to the Michigan Attorney General online here or by calling 877-765-8388.


Essential Business and Employees
Many have reached out to me with questions about what’s considering an essential business, what can stay open, and what are my rights as a critical infrastructure employee. For example, a carwash is a non-essential business, but a pharmacy is essential. The Governor’s office and Attorney General’s Office put together a guidance that all businesses must follow, a resource on the rights for critical infrastructure employees, and FAQs that’s useful. Following this guidance will flatten the curve and help people. 


SMALL BUSINESSES

Small Business Forgivable Loans and Grants
Congress secured $350 billion in forgivable loans and $10 billion in grants to small businesses, tribal business concerns, and certain nonprofits.

Loans through a new SBA 7(a) Paycheck Protection Program can be forgiven when used for payroll costs (including paid leave, health care, and other costs) to retain workers, and other expenses such as rent, mortgage interest, and utilities. Independent contractors, sole-proprietors, and other self-employed persons are eligible for these loans. The legislation also clarified that small agricultural enterprises are eligible for these disaster loans and grants.

Small businesses can also apply for up to $10,000 in grants to retain workers and pay for debt obligations.

Small businesses, tribal business concerns, 501(c)(3) nonprofits, and 501(c)(19) veterans organizations in your district should contact their lender and the Small Business Administration office directly.

Michigan SBA District Office
313-226-6075
https://www.sba.gov/offices/district/mi/detroit
Michigan@sba.gov


Michigan Small Business Relief Grant
The Michigan Small Business Relief Grant is live and provides grants of up to $10,000. Qualifying expenses are include payroll, rent, and other operating expenses. This application link applies to Wayne County. Find the link here.


Paid Sick and Family Leave Tax Credit
Employers who provide required leave to their employees and who employ less than 500 employees are eligible for a tax credit to offset the costs of such leave. This tax relief will be provided against quarterly payroll taxes (those paid in connection the Form 941). For additional guidance, please refer to the IRS’s website.


VETERANS AND ACTIVE SERVICE

Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255

ANN ARBOR VA: For Veterans in these affected areas who have questions about routine medical care, please contact 734-845-5290 press 2.  For those needing pharmacy refills, please call 866-316-9350 Ext. 1.  For those needing to speak to a medical provider, please call 734-769-7100. 

DETROIT VA: Veterans, if you have flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath, call us at 313-576-1500 before you visit your local medical center or clinic to get answers on medical questions/concerns or prescription inquiries.

Beaumont Urgent Care is providing veterans and active military priority access for urgent care visits. Priority access means you can skip the wait in line and and visit any Beaumont Urgent Care location. Beaumont requires that visitors using priority access bring their U.S. Uniformed Service ID Card or VA Documentation (DD-214) to verify their status. To find a location in the Metro Detroit area, please visit here.

Congress provided robust emergency funding to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has the equipment, tests, and support services – including setting up temporary care sites, mobile treatment centers and increasing telehealth visits to allow more veterans to get care at home – necessary to provide veterans with the additional care they need. For further guidance as this funding and initiatives are implemented, please refer to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.

VA FAQ on COVID-19 available here

Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255


STUDENTS & EDUCATORS

Student Loan Relief for Borrowers
If you have student loan debt, Congress secured several options outlined below for borrowers that help provide relief through September 30, 2020. During this period, a borrower will be able to:

    • Pause payments for federal student loan borrowers who have Direct Loans and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL), which means these borrowers will not be required to make any payments toward outstanding interest or principal balance.
    • Suspend interest accrual for such loans so that these balances don’t accrue.
    • Avoid forced collections such as garnishment of wages, tax refunds, & Social Security benefits.
    • Halt negative credit reporting.
    • Ensure a borrower continues to receive credit toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Income-Driven Repayment forgiveness, and loan rehabilitation.

For additional guidance on how to apply and learn about next steps as this critical relief becomes available, please refer to the U.S. Department of Education website.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCE:
Student Aid FAQ for COVID-19


School Meals

As more schools close due to coronavirus, Congress has provided emergency funding for Child Nutrition Programs to ensure students can still receive their free or reduced-price school meals during this time. 

Michigan Department of Education Food Service Program Interactive Map


Stabilization Funding for Education

Congress secured $30.75 billion in funding for school districts, states and higher education institutions to ensure state resources and investments are not diverted from life-long learning.For additional guidance on how to apply and learn about next steps as this critical relief becomes available, please refer to the U.S. Department of Education website.


UTILITY AND HOUSING ASSISTANCE
 
Utility Shutoffs Suspended 
The Program: DTE Energy and Consumers Energy announced on March 16 they will suspend electricity and natural gas shutoffs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Eligibility Requirements: Shutoffs due to non-payment are suspended for people with low incomes and senior citizens. 

How to Access: DTE customers impacted by COVID-19 — those with a sudden loss of income or medical condition — as well as vulnerable seniors can call 800-477-4747 to determine eligibility for payment assistance. Consumers customers affected by COVID-19 can call 800-477-5050.

Program End Date: Both companies said their shutoff suspension will last through April 30, and that timeframe could be adjusted. Customers in either company’s Winter Protection Program already had their end dates extended through May 3, without any additional action required. 

More Information: Learn more about the companies’ response plans online: DTE Energy, Consumers Energy

Statewide Water Service Restoration
The Program: Gov. Whitmer issued an executive order on March 28 that requires public water suppliers in Michigan to immediately identify residences in their service area that do not currently have water service and to restore service to homes where the service has been disconnected due to non-payment or damaged infrastructure by April 12. A $2 million Water Restart Grant Program has been established through the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to provide funding to local communities to help reconnect homes to their water supplies. 

Eligibility Requirements: Everyone in the state is eligible for water restoration, regardless of past-due water bills. This program does not eliminate the obligation of a resident to pay for water, prevent a public water supply from charging any customer for water service, or reduce the amount a resident may owe to a public water supply. 

How to Access: Contact your water supplier if you need your water service restored. 

Program End Date: Public water suppliers must restore water to residences by April 12. The executive order remains in effect as long as Michigan is under a state of emergency related to coronavirus.  

More Information: Read the governor’s press release on the water restoration order. 

Keep Americans Connected Initiative (internet and phone service)
The Program: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has asked broadband and telephone companies to take the Keep Americans Connected Pledge, which says they will:
1. Not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;
2. Waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and
3. Open their Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.

Eligibility Requirements: See if your broadband and telephone service provider is among the more than 390 companies and associations who have committed to the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. 

How to Access: Contact your service provider if you anticipate trouble paying your bill. 

Program End Date: There is no set end date; the pledge is expected to last for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

More Information: A crowd-sourced list of free and low-cost internet options provides more information.  

Statewide Moratorium on Evictions
The Program: Michigan is prohibiting evictions from residential properties, including mobile homes, during the coronavirus pandemic.

Eligibility Requirements: The eviction moratorium applies to residential properties, but not businesses. 

How to Access: Residents do not need to take any action in order to avoid eviction. Tenants are still responsible for rent owed. 

Program End Date: The eviction moratorium took effect March 20, and it will last until 11:59 p.m. June 11th. 

More Information: Read Gov. Whitmer’s executive order prohibiting evictions

State’s Tax Foreclosure Deadline Extended
The Program: Michigan has temporarily postponed the tax foreclosure deadline for all residents. The deadline to pay back taxes and avoid foreclosure is extended from March 31 to May 29 or 30 days after the expiration of the coronavirus-related state of emergency, whichever comes first.

Eligibility Requirements: All Michigan residents are eligible for the extended tax foreclosure deadline.

How to Access: Property owners do not need to take any additional steps to utilize the extended deadline. 

Program End Date: The new deadline to pay delinquent taxes and avoid foreclosure is May 29 or 30 days after the expiration of the coronavirus-related state of emergency, whichever comes first.

More Information: Contact your local county treasurer for more information on property tax payment options. 

Mortgage forbearance and moratorium on foreclosures and evictions
The Program: The federal CARES Act allows borrowers with federally-backed residential mortgages to defer payments for 180 days, with the option to request another 180 days of forbearance. Federally-backed mortgages include mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration, purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and insured or guaranteed by other federal departments.

The forbearance period is in addition to a previously announced 60-day moratorium on mortgage foreclosures for borrowers with federally-backed, single-family home mortgages. The CARES Act also places a 120-day moratorium on evictions for properties with federally-backed mortgages, multi-family mortgages and certain housing programs. 

Eligibility Requirements: The suspension of foreclosures and evictions automatically applies to all eligible properties. The forbearance period is available to anyone with a federally-backed, residential mortgage. 

How to Access: Homeowners who anticipate trouble paying their mortgage should not simply stop making payments. Contact your servicer/lender to request a forbearance due to financial hardship related to the COVID-19 emergency. If given mortgage forbearance, take steps to ensure you will be able to repay the amount that was reduced or suspended after the mortgage forbearance period.

Program End Date: Mortgage foreclosures are suspended through May 17, and evictions are suspended for 120 days. The mortgage payment forbearance period is up to 180 days, with the option to request a 180-day extension. During a forbearance, no fees, penalties, or interest beyond the amounts scheduled or calculated as if the borrower made timely contractual payments will accrue on the borrower’s account.

More Information: HUD’s website has more details on its coronavirus response as well as phone numbers and email addresses to contact various offices.

Dingell Michigan and Washington Office Operations


Congresswoman Dingell’s offices in Washington, Dearborn and Ypsilanti are on enhanced telework policies to help reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus, but they are still working full time to serve you. 

EMAIL DEBBIE

Leave a message to be returned to Dearborn, MI office by phone: (313) 278-2936 or her Washington, DC office by phone at (202) 225-407.

Because of coronavirus, tours of the U.S. Capitol have been halted and access to some public areas of the Capitol complex is restricted.

Additional Resources
Homemade Facemasks
If you are interested in donating handmade face masks, please contact the Michigan -Community Service Commission at COVID19donations@michigan.gov or call 517-335-4925

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