Coronavirus Resources for Families

Our nation and world have experienced an unprecedented threat in the form of coronavirus (COVID-19). Please know, as your Representative, I remain fully committed to combatting coronavirus and am actively engaged with local, state, and federal health officials.

While the situation is constantly evolving, I want to make sure you have current information on the resources available to you and your family. Over the past few weeks, I have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress to enact policies to help families impacted by coronavirus. Below I have included information to assist you and your loved ones.

If you have any questions about the materials below, please do not hesitate to contact my office by calling (202) 225-4201 or sending me a message online. My staff and I are here to assist you in any way possible during these uncertain times.


Making the Most of Social Distancing
As the father of three young girls, I know how important it is to keep children engaged while quarantined - particularly with the closure of schools and many parents working from home. While area school districts have provided a wealth of free educational and recreational resources to be used during this time, many experts recommend trying to keep daily routines as consistent as possible with wake-up times, meals, naps, physical activity, and bedtimes occurring as usual. Below, I have included some free federal educational resources my own children have been enjoying.

National Zoo Webcam
While zoos may be closed to the public, the National Zoo in Washington, DC has four different webcams to choose from - each providing a glimpse into the daily life of mole-rats, lions, giant pandas, and elephants!

Library of Congress Tour
Take a virtual tour of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC and explore the beautiful, historic Thomas Jefferson Building online.

Explore and Learn with Smithsonian Museums
The Smithsonian Institute boasts a vast array of online information to educate and provide entertainment. Parents and educators can access an impressive collection of research, online content, and distance learning resources here. Children can also utilize their online portal to find fun games, quizzes, and activities.

Space Racers
Created by NASA, Space Racers keeps young minds sharp and engaged while they're home from school. On the website, students can choose from a variety of games to play, activities to do together away from the screen, and even educational curriculums chock-full of STEAM-focused content.

Student Discovery Sets
Free ibooks from the Library of Congress bring together historical artifacts and one-of-a-kind documents on a wide range of topics from history, to science, to literature.


Talking to your Children About Coronavirus
Talking to your children about coronavirus and its effects in a way they can understand can be a daunting task for any parent. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has put together general principles for talking to children about the outbreak of COVID-19. The CDC recommends taking time to calmly discuss the outbreak with children and to be open to questions that children may have. The CDC also recommends limiting the amount of screen time that is focused on the outbreak that children are exposed to. Additionally, this is a great time to reinforce proper hygiene habits like cough and sneeze etiquette and hand washing techniques. More information and tips for talking with children about COVID-19 can be found online.

Keeping You and Your Family Healthy
Keeping our families and loved ones safe and preventing the spread of the COVID-19 is critical. Below find information about government efforts to strengthen our healthcare infrastructure and ensure families have access to the medical care needed.

Expanded Access to Telehealth
The CARES Act expands the available uses of telehealth services to respond to surging requests. This enables more providers to diagnose and treat patients in a safe and fast environment without requiring patients to leave their own homes. Specifically, this bill:
  • Eliminates the need for a pre-existing relationship with a doctor in order to initiate a telehealth appointment
  • Enables Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics to host telehealth practitioners.
  • Reauthorizes Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant programs promoting telehealth.
  • Allows Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) to cover the costs of telehealth services.
  • Expands telehealth for use for hospice care by physicians and nurse practitioners.
Health Savings Accounts, Flexible Spending Accounts, and High-Deductible Health Plans
The CARES Act enables individuals to utilize HSAs or FSAs to purchase over-the-counter medications tax-free without a prescription. This bill will also enable High-Deductible Health Plans to provide coverage for telehealth before the patient hits their annual deductible.
While reports indicate treatments to treat COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, may be available soon, there is currently no vaccine for coronavirus and the best way to prevent illness is to avoid exposure altogether. It's important for communities and families to take the necessary steps, like washing your hands, social distancing, and staying home if you're sick, to avoid spreading the virus.

Prevention Tips from the CDC
Below are prevention tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sickAvoid 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
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • If soap is not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
More information can be found at CDC.gov. If you think you may have coronavirus, immediately contact your healthcare provider for guidance.
 
Financial Resources
In addition to strengthening our healthcare infrastructure and ensuring our healthcare providers have the equipment and resources needed to care for patients who may become ill, Congress has passed a series of reforms to create programs and support for the American people.

Rebate Checks
Under the CARES Act, all Americans with a valid Social Security Number who meet certain income thresholds will receive a one-time rebate check of $1,200 per adult, or $2,400 per married couple, and $500 for each child. Individuals who receive Social Security benefits are eligible for the rebate so long as they meet the income thresholds.

Eligibility Thresholds
The full rebate amount is available for those with an adjusted gross income (AGI) at or below $75,000 for individuals, and $150,000 for married couples. For individuals with an AGI above $75,000, the rebate amount will decrease by $5 for each $100 increment earned above $75,000, fully phasing out at $99,000. For married couples with an AGI above $150,000, the rebate amount will also decrease by $5 for each $100 increment earned above $150,000 fully phasing out at $198,000.

The Department of the Treasury will reference the adjusted gross income on your most recent tax return of the last two years. For example, if you have already filed your tax return for 2019, the IRS will consider your 2019 AGI. For individuals who have not yet filed for 2019, the IRS will look at your 2018 AGI. It's important to note that the rebate is considered an advancement of a 2020 tax credit, and because full 2020 income data won't be known until the end of the year, it's possible an individual may have to pay back some of the money if their income for 2020 is significantly higher than it was in 2018 or 2019.

Timeline for Payments
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has announced that he expects payments to begin going out the week of April 6, 2020. It may take several weeks or longer for all payments to go out. The Internal Revenue Service will send the funds via direct deposit if that information is included on your most recent tax return for either 2019 or 2018. Otherwise, the IRS will send you a check in the mail to the mailing address on your most recent tax filing.


Unemployment Insurance
In an effort to provide financial relief for those who have been laid off due to COVID-19, Congress has provided significant new funding and reforms that will provide greater Unemployment coverage, and get these needed resources to Americans more quickly.

As all unemployment benefits are administered by individual states, the Employment and Training Administration announced guidance on flexibility provided under federal law for states to amend their laws to provide unemployment insurance benefits in multiple scenarios related to COVID-19. Visit the Texas Workforce Commission's (TWC) website for more information. Employees can also go through the Department of Labor’s website to apply for unemployment compensation.

Improved Unemployment Program
The CARES Act creates a new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program that will cover individuals who wouldn't normally be eligible for traditional Unemployment Insurance benefits. This program particularly helps self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and those who are simply unable to work due to the Coronavirus outbreak. In addition to expanded eligibility, under this program Unemployment recipients would receive an additional $600 per week on top of the amount given to them through their state program. In Texas, weekly Unemployment benefits previously ranged between $69 to $521 per week. Additionally, this program adds an additional 13 weeks of Unemployment benefits to the number of weeks states currently allow. In Texas, Unemployment beneficiaries were previously limited to 26 weeks of benefits. Lastly, under this bill, retroactive benefits can be applied for back to January 27, 2020. The CARES Act provided $250 billion to cover the additional benefits described above.


Additional Financial Relief
In addition to tax relief , rebate checks, and expanded unemployment benefits, below is additional information on additional provisions to provide financial relief for Americans.

Tax Deadline Extension
The Department of Treasury and IRS have moved Tax Day from April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020. While individuals and families have an additional 90 days to file and make payments without interest or penalties, those who may receive tax refunds should file now to get your money. Details can be found on the IRS website.

Charitable Contributions
The CARES Act creates a $300 above-the-line charitable contribution allowance for those who don't itemize on their tax return.

Guaranteed Sick Leave Reforms
If your ability to work has been impacted by COVID-19, your employer may be required to temporarily provide for fully paid sick leave. Public and Private employers with less than 500 employees will now be required to provide full-time employees with two weeks (80 hours) paid sick leave as well as part-time employees on a pro-rated basis. Employers are required to cover employees not working for specific reasons found here.

Changes to the Paid Family Medical and Leave Program
Due to COVID-19, some employers may be required to temporarily extend Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits to employees who must stay home to care for a minor child whose school or care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19. If this situation applies to you, employers would be required to provide you with ten weeks paid leave at two-thirds of your wages. Find specific information here.

Modifications to Retirement Plan Rules
H.R. 748 enables Americans to tap into their 401(k)s, IRAs, and other qualified retirement accounts for up to $100,000 for the entirety of 2020 without facing a 10% penalty for early withdrawals. For older Americans, the bill also waives required minimum distributions for retirement accounts for the entirety of 2020.

Mortgages and Rent
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), those who are unable to pay rent or their mortgage on time due to the coronavirus outbreak should contact their lenders or landlords to let them know about the situation.There are a number of options that lenders or landlords may be willing to provide like waiving certain fees or delaying or adjusting certain payments. Detailed information on options can be found here.

At the direction of President Trump, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has suspended all evictions and foreclosures on HUD-backed properties until the end of April.You may also contact a HUD approved housing counselor to get free, expert assistance on avoiding foreclosure and advice on which programs you qualify for given your specific situation.

The Federal Housing and Finance Agency also directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to suspend all foreclosures and evictions for at least 60 days for homeowners with mortgages backed by the government-sponsored enterprises. Those looking to determine whether their mortgage is backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or another entity, can visit this website to determine who owns your mortgage.

Bills
Again, the CFPB recommends those who are unable to pay their bills on time due to the coronavirus outbreak should contact their lenders to let them know about the situation.The CFPB and other financial regulators have encouraged financial institutions to work with their customers to meet their community needs.

Credit card companies and lenders may be able to offer you a number of options to help you. This could include waiving certain fees like ATM, overpayments, and late fees, as well as allowing you to delay, adjust, or skip some payments.

Student Loans
At the direction of President Trump, the United States Department of Education announced all borrowers with federally held student loans will automatically have their interest rates set to 0% for a period of at least 60 days. In addition, each of these borrowers will have the option to suspend their payments, without worrying about accruing interest, for at least two months to allow them greater flexibility. More information about student loans impacted by coronavirus can be found on the Department of Educations' Federal Student Aid's website.

School Meal Assistance
Several school districts in Collin County are providing grab-and-go meals, or other food assistance services to students and families in need during the COVID-19 outbreak. In collaboration with local education agencies (LEAs), the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has created a tool for parents to help them to locate LEA facilities serving meals. Access the Meal Finder Tool here.

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