|During the past several weeks, 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. Over the past few weeks, I have worked with my colleagues in Congress to enact policies to help individuals impacted by coronavirus. Below, I have included information to assist you and your family during these uncertain times.
If you have any questions about the materials included below, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My staff and I are here to assist you in any way possible during these uncertain times. You can reach my office by calling (972) 202-4150 or send me an email online.
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.
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.
In an effort to provide financial relief for those who have been laid off, furloughed, ordered to self-quarantine, or are experiencing reduced working hours due to COVID-19, Congress has provided $1 billion in emergency administrative grants to increase state capacity to process unemployment applications, make payments, and provide a federally funded extra week of benefits.
All unemployment benefits are administered by each individual state and eligibility, duration, and amount are all determined under each state’s laws. Workers who are impacted by COVID-19-related reasons would be subject to unemployment compensation laws regarding benefit eligibility in the state where the previous work was performed. The United States Department of Labor 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.
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is continuing to work on adapting unemployment benefits to meet the needs of those laid off, furloughed, experiencing reduced work hours, or ordered to self-quarantine due to COVID-19. At the request of Governor Abbott, TWC has waived the Work Search Requirement and eliminated the waiting week for unemployment benefits.
Employees can also go through the Department of Labor’s website to apply for unemployment compensation.
Unemployment Eligibility Scenarios
The Texas Workforce Commission has provided a list [DOWNLOAD] of possible scenarios to show how the pandemic may affect unemployment benefit eligibility. Remember, if you get paid your regular pay or sick leave while you are out of work, you may not be eligible or it may affect how much you receive.
Improved Unemployment Program
The CARES Act created 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 for four months 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 thirteen weeks of unemployment benefits to the number of weeks states currently allow. In Texas, unemployment beneficiaries were previously limited to 26 weeks of benefits, this will now bring the total to 39 weeks. 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.
|Guaranteed Sick Leave and Family Medical Leave
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 the following reasons:
The Department of Labor has issued guidance for employees here.
- the employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to coronavirus;
- the employee has been advised by health care provider to self-quarantine due to coronavirus;
- the employee is experiencing symptoms of coronavirus;
- the employee is caring for an individual who is subject to an order described in (1) or has been advised as described in (2);
- the employee is caring for their child because the school is closed or childcare provider is unavailable due to coronavirus; or
- the employee is experiencing a similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services
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. However, payments are not to exceed $200 per day and $10,000 total for the 10 weeks.
The Department of Treasury and IRS have moved Tax Day from April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020. While individuals 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.
- This leave would cover employees who are not working because the employee is caring for their child because the school is closed or child care provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency
- The requirement to provide the paid leave would apply to all employers with less than 500 employees
- Federal, state, and local governments are not eligible for the Credit
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.
|Financial and Housing Protections
Mortgages and Rent
On March 19, the Texas Supreme Court issued an order stopping eviction proceedings for the next 30 days, until April 19. There are exceptions for criminal activity or if the tenants "pose an imminent physical threat.
Furthermore, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Modifications to Retirement Plan Rules
The Phase III coronavirus legislative package 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.
The CARES Act creates a $300 above-the-line charitable contribution allowance for those who don't itemize on their tax return.
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.
|Keeping You and Your Family Healthy
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, the bill:
Health Savings Accounts, Flexible Spending Accounts, and High-Deductible Health Plans
- 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
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.
Preventing the Spread
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 being exposed to the virus. It's important for communities and families to take the necessary steps, like washing your hands and staying home if you're sick, to avoid spreading the virus.
Below are prevention tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
More information can be found at CDC.gov. If you think you may have coronavirus, contact your healthcare provider for guidance.
- 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
- 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