The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new respiratory illness that was first detected in China and has since spread to millions of people across the world. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) characterized the outbreak as a pandemic. As information is rapidly changing, check this page consistently for updates.
As your member of Congress, the safety and health of my constituents is my top priority. While many are concerned about the spread of COVID-19, rest assured that I am working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to keep our communities healthy. As a reminder, my office can assist with issues involving a federal agency, including State Department. You may call my Williamson County Office at 512-246-1600 or my Bell County office at 254-933-1392.
While there's still more to learn about the coronavirus, I encourage you to visit these resources for the latest information:
- Centers for Disease Control
- CDC: Caring for someone at home (Click here)
- CDC: What to do if you're sick (Click here)
- CDC: Interim guidance for businesses and employers (Click here)
- CDC: Cleaning and disinfection for households (Click here)
- Texas Department of State Health Services
- Bell County Health District
- Williamson County Health District
- Williamson County COVID-19 information hotline: 512-943-1600
- Bell County COVID-19 information hotline: 254-616-3209
The Department of Veterans Affairs has created a resource page for veterans experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or with questions regarding care. You can read frequently asked veteran COVID-19 questions here.
Legislative and Administration Updates
Phase 1: Emergency Supplemental Appropriations
- Provided $8.3 billion in emergency funding to respond to COVID-19
- $4 billion for diagnostic testing
- $2.2 billion for Centers for Disease Control and local health districts
- Williamson and Bell Counties received over $575,000 of this funding
- $20 million for small business disaster loans
- $1.25 billion for the State Department to evacuate Americans overseas
Read my statement on the Coronavirus Emergency Funding Bill.
Phase 2: Families First Coronavirus Response Act
- Provides free medically appropriate diagnostic testing for the coronavirus
- Increases access to telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries
- Provides funding for nutritional assistance programs and food banks to help assist low-income families in the wake of school closures related to COVID-19
- Provides $250 million for senior nutrition programs, including home-delivered meals and meals at senior centers
- Provides paid leave for employees impacted by the Coronavirus
Read my statement on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Phase 3: CARES Act
- A one-time tax rebate check for individuals and families
- $1200 for individuals making up to $75,000
- $2400 for couples filing jointly making up to $150,000
- $500 for every qualifying child dependent
- To estimate your stimulus check, visit Washington Post's Stimulus Check Calculator
- For specific situational questions, visit the IRS website.
- For questions about the stimulus payments, visit the IRS website page.
- To input your payment information and check on the status of your stimulus check, visit Get My Payment on the IRS website
- If you're a non-filer and need to input payment information, click here.
- For details on forgivable loans for small businesses that keep employees on the payroll, click here.
- Funding for PPE, health care workers, and hospitals
- Expands unemployment insurance to cover gig, self-employed and nonprofit employees.
Phase 4: Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act
- Adding $310 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program
- Increased Economic Injury Disaster Loan funding by $60 billion
- Provided $25 billion for additional COVID-19 testing
- Included an additional $75 billion for hospitals and health care workers
Currently there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, so everyone has a role to play in preventing the spread of the virus. The best way to stay healthy and prevent spreading the illness is to practice good hygiene. Protect yourself against infection by washing your hands, keeping your distance from others, and staying home if you're not essential. The CDC also recommends covering your face when in public. For guidance on masks, click here.
Symptoms of the coronavirus may appear 2–14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop any of these symptoms, stay home and call your health care provider for medical advice. It's important that you call first to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to health care workers and other patients.
The Department of State issued a Level 4 travel advisory: U.S. citizens should avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens abroad who live in the United States should arrange for an immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.
If you are currently overseas, follow this link for helpful resources. Sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to get alerts on rescue flights back to the United States. Also, follow the U.S. Department of State's Facebook page for upcoming rescue flight information.
If you are in need of emergency assistance from the State Department, you may utilize these phone numbers:
- U.S. and Canada: 1-888-407-4747
- Overseas: +1 202-501-4444
You can also call a U.S. embassy or consulate for emergency assistance. To find the closet consulate or embassy to you, visit USEmbassy.gov
School Guidance and Closures
On April 17, 2020, Governor Abbott issued an executive order that closed schools for the remainder of the 2019–2020 school year. This closure applies to public and private schools, as well as higher education campuses. Teachers may go into the classroom for video instruction, to perform administrative duties and to clean out their classrooms. The Texas Education Agency will provide more guidance for how to conduct graduation ceremonies. Information from individual school districts can be found on their websites.
Even with school closures, many districts are still providing meals to those 18 and under. Visit School Meal Finder to find locations close to you.
Reopening the Texas Economy
Governor Abbott signed an executive order on April 17, 2020, to give retailers the ability to provide curbside services while minimizing contact between employees and customers. Retail stores, restaurants, movie theater, malls, museums and libraries reopened on May 1, 2020, but must limit their capacity to 25% of their listed occupancy. If you are a retailer, please visit the Texas Department of State Health Services website here for more guidance.
Additionally, Governor Abbott signed an executive order creating the Strike Force to Open Texas, which is composed of private and public sector leaders to provide input on the future openings of activities and services in Texas consistent with guidelines provided by the CDC.
Assistance for Small Business Owners
Paycheck Protection Program Loans
H.R. 748, the CARES Act, provides for a $349 billion SBA-administered loan and loan forgiveness program known as the Paycheck Protection Program. This program provides 8 weeks of cash-flow assistance through 100% federally guaranteed loans to small employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency. These loans can be used for a great deal of things, such as payroll, group health care costs, employee salaries, interest on a mortgage obligation, rent, utilities, or any other debt obligations incurred before February 15, 2020. All payment on principal, interest, and fees will be automatically deferred for six months. Additionally, for all businesses that retain their staff until June 30, 2020, the portion of this loan that was spent on payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent and utilities can be forgiven. In order to begin the application process, you should contact your preferred lender and ask specifically about the SBA Paycheck Protection Program. If your bank is not participating, visit the SBA's website to find a PPP-approved lender.
- The CARES Act also permits small businesses to “double dip” on small business assistance.
- Small business can qualify for an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, providing the loans are used on different priorities.
- Small businesses, 501(c)(3) nonprofits, sole proprietors, independent contractors and other self-employed individuals are eligible for these loans.
- Physicians practices are also eligible, regardless of how they are structured (i.e., as an S-Corp, C-Corp, or sole proprietorship).
- Veterans organizations structured as 501(c)(19) organizations are also eligible.
Before you apply, you’ll need to make sure you have answers and documentation for some important information the lender will need to evaluate your SBA loan application. You will need to know how much money you need to borrow to meet your needs, including:
- Your payroll costs, including employee salary, wages and commissions, payment of tips, payments for vacation, parental, family, and sick leave. These costs may also include the costs of group health benefits (including insurance premiums), payment of retirement benefits, payment of state and local tax assessment on employee compensation, and income for a sole proprietor or independent contractor not in excess of $100,000.
- Your utility expenses, defined as electricity, gas, water, transportation, and telephone or internet access for service that began before February 15, 2020.
Economic Injury Disaster Loans
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is providing targeted, low-interest disaster recovery loans to small businesses that have been severely impacted by coronavirus. Additionally, the SBA continues to assist small businesses with counseling and navigating their own preparedness plans through the 68 district offices and resource partners located around the country. Texas is poised to become eligible for funds shortly. In the meantime, businesses should begin the application process at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/.
Process for Accessing SBA’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Disaster Relief Lending
- These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses without credit available elsewhere; businesses with credit available elsewhere are not eligible. The interest rate for nonprofits is 2.75%.
- SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon each borrower’s ability to repay.
- SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans are just one piece of the expanded focus of the federal government’s coordinated response, and the SBA is strongly committed to providing the most effective and customer-focused response possible.
- To apply, click here.
For additional information, please contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center. Call 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or email email@example.com.
To learn more about additional resources available to small businesses, click here.
Tax Filings and Stimulus Checks
Treasury Secretary Mnuchin announced the income tax filing deadline has been moved from April 15 to July 15, 2020. If you're expecting a refund, you are still encouraged to file early. The IRS continues to process refunds.
For frequently asked questions about the IRS rebate checks being sent to Americans, click here. If you have not received a stimulus check, you can visit Get My Payment on the IRS website to check on status and if necessary, input bank account information. If you're a non-filer, you can enter your bank account information here to receive your payment faster.
In addition to federal stimulus payments, Texans who are out of work can apply for unemployment through the Texas Workforce Commission.
Due to a high volume of callers, the TWC asks that Texans use their area code to find their proposed call and access times listed on the chart below. If you continue to have problems contacting the TWC for unemployment benefits, we recommend contacting your state representatives or senators.
TX-31 Coronavirus Cases