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Coronavirus Updates and Resources

April 28, 2020
Press Release

Last week, my office hosted a webinar to assist Metro Atlanta small businesses with identifying critical resources and opportunities.  In addition, Congress passed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which adds funding for programs that provide grants and loans to small businesses.   More information about these programs are outlined in this edition of the newsletter.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also announced that Supplemental Security Income and Veteran Affairs beneficiaries need to act by May 5, 2020 if they did not file a tax return in 2018 or 2019 and have a dependent.  These non-filers may update their information here to receive an additional $500 per child in their economic impact payment.

Please feel free to check my website frequently for updates.  As always, my office is standing by to answer any questions or concerns that you may have.  If you need help working with a federal agency or have any legislative questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.  

 Below, you will find updates and resources on various subjects including:


Paycheck Protection Program

Last week, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act became public law.  This legislation adds funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), through which small business owners may qualify must for a loan to help them cover the cost of retaining their employees.  

Eligible entities may apply for a PPP loan through an SBA 7(a) lender Applications for the program are now open, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) began accepting applications on Monday, April 27, 2020.

Small businesses who choose to apply for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program must meet several criteria.  In general, qualified small businesses–

1)      Must have been in operation by February 15, 2020; or

2)      May not employ more than 500 employees per a physical location.

Nonprofits, 501 (c)(3) and 501(c)(19), are also eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program.  For a full list of PPP eligibility, you may visit the SBA’s website here.

For those who already received funding through the PPP, please be aware of the loan benefits.  For example, PPP funds may be eligible for loan forgiveness of up to eight weeks of payroll based on employee retention and salary levels; no SBA fees; and at least six months of deferral with maximum deferrals of up to a year.  Please visit the SBA website for a full report on the Paycheck Protection Program.


Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Grant 

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, small business owners in all U.S. states and territories are able to apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and an advance (grant) up to $10,000.  

Economic Injury Disaster Loans are low-interest loans that are available for expenses that could have been met if the disaster had not occurred.  As with many programs under the CARES Act, nonprofit organizations may also apply for EIDL funding.  For more information on how to apply for an EIDL, you may access the SBA EIDL Application Overview.  You may apply for EIDL or check the status of pending application online.

In general, small businesses and nonprofits must apply for an EIDL in order to be eligible for the advance (grant), which does not have to be repaid under any circumstances.  Furthermore, these funds may be used to cover a variety of expenses including, payroll, sick leave, production costs, business obligations, debts, rent/mortgage, and other business-related expenses.


Small Business Debt Relief Program

As small businesses face unprecedented changes in income, the SBA is providing relief for businesses who already hold certain SBA loans.

Under the CARES Act, businesses with non-disaster SBA 7(a), 504, and microloans may have all of their loan payments on the principal and interest of their loan, as well as their loan fees, covered by SBA for six months.  Loans administered under the Paycheck Protection Program are not eligible for debt relief. However, businesses may apply for debt relief for an existing eligible loan and the Paycheck Protection Program separately.

A brief overview of the SBA’s Debt Relief program in response to COVID-19 may be found here.


Veterans Affairs

Under the CARES Act, Congress worked to address many of the unique issues that veterans are facing as a result of COVID-19.  I recently shared my concerns about the safety of those providing and receiving care at the Atlanta VA Medical Center (VAMC).

In recent weeks, the Department of Veterans Affairs altered their operating mechanisms to address the needs of veterans.   The VA instituted a response plan and best practice guide to address Covid-19.  You may find additional information on what the VA is doing in response to COVID-19 here.

As many of you know, it is critical to secure tangible payments for our veterans during these difficult times.  In an effort to ensure that veterans are able to receive their Economic Impact Payments with ease, the IRS has recently announced that recipients of VA Benefits will automatically receive their Economic Stimulus Payments.

If you are a veteran receiving VA benefits without child dependents, you do not need to file a tax return to receive your Economic Impact Payment; however, if you would like to receive an additional $500 per child dependent in your household and you did not file a tax return in 2018 or 2019, you have until May 5, 2020 to update your information.

You may find more information on how the IRS is handling Economic Impact Payments for veterans here.  You may also find additional information about VA benefit payments, healthcare appointments, and more here.


Food Assistance

There are options available for those who may be in need of food assistance.  You may learn more about Georgia’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) here.

To find out if you are eligible for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children you can use the pre-screening tool here and begin the enrollment process here.

You may learn more about the new options available to you as a result of recent legislation adopted by Congress, including information about the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

To find food assistance near you, you can also call the USDA national hunger hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE.


The IRS and Economic Impact Payments 

In the past few weeks,  many Americans began receiving rebates also known as economic impact payments from the Internal Revenue Service.  This factsheet provides a basic overview of what to expect.  

Unfortunately, there are also many scams and thieves; please remember that the IRS will not call, text, email, or contact you on social media.   Please do not click links or open attachments from entities claiming to have information about economic impact payments or rebates.

As Chair of the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, I recently raised concerns about reports of political delays and returned payments of this desperately needed assistance.  My staff and I are working to elevate and resolve any challenges you encounter with receiving your payment.

The Internal Revenue Service updated guidance for –

Supplemental Security Income and Veteran Affairs beneficiaries need submit additional information by May 5, 2020 if they did not file a tax return in 2018 or 2019 AND have a child dependent.  These non-filers may update their information here to receive an additional $500 per child in their economic impact payment checks. If you fail to act by May 5th, you may receive the rebate when filing your taxes next year.

In addition, employers and small businesses should also continue to monitor the IRS website for updates on tax relief and guidance for businesses and nonprofits during this time.

Metro Atlanta is also home to many IRS employees.  Over the weekend, I expressed alarm about the these and many other IRS employees potentially returning to the workplace without protective equipment and clear safety protections.  Critical work can be completed without jeopardizing the health of federal workers.


Unemployment

My office receives many questions with questions about how to receive unemployment assistance if a person is self-employed, a gig worker, an independent contractor, an employee of churches or non-profits, or those with limited work history, who do not qualify for state unemployment benefits.  

The CARES Act provides federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to many workers, who are not normally eligible for unemployment.  States like Georgia began setting up these programs and are beginning to issue payments.

The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) must determine that an individual is ineligible to receive state benefits before being evaluated for federal PUA benefits.  The first step is for the individual to file a regular state unemployment claim application, where you will be asked questions about your employment and wages for the last 18 months. 

The Georgia Department of Labor recently began notifying applicants who are potentially eligible for PUA.  Individuals who already filed a claim with the GDOL and determined not eligible for state unemployment benefits and may be potentially eligible to receive benefits under this program, do NOT have to refile a regular state claim.

Please visit the Georgia Department of Labor website for more information.


Georgia’s Reopening and Unemployment 

Many people are concerned about how workplaces reopening will affect unemployment assistance.

If your place of employment remains closed, or your hours are much lower, you may still be eligible for unemployment.  In Georgia, you can earn up to $300 per week before your unemployment benefits are affected.

If your job reopens and you are worried about COVID-19, please collaborate with your employer on plans to return to work. Under the  CARES Act people may be eligible for unemployment if they left their job as a direct result of being diagnosed with, testing positive for, or coming into direct contact with someone who has COVID-19.

You may learn more about unemployment in Georgia by visiting the Georgia Department of Labor’s website.


Immigration

This week, the Administration announced a new executive order banning immigrants from entering the United States.   I strongly oppose the spirit and content of this order.  The administration should be focusing on its response to the pandemic and not on continuing its campaign of hate and fear against immigrants.  It is important to note, however, that the order has many exemptions and does not affect all immigrants.

Those people subject to the order include any individual seeking to enter the U.S. as an immigrant, who:

  • Was outside the United States on April 24, 2020
  • Did not have a valid immigrant visa on April 24, 2020; and
  • Did not have a valid official travel document (such as a transportation letter, boarding foil, or advance parole document) on April 24, 2020, or one issued on any date thereafter that permits travel to the United States to seek entry or admission.

Those excluded from the order include lawful permanent residents (green card holders), medical workers and their families, spouses and children of U.S. citizens, members of the U.S. military, non-immigrants, and asylum seekers.  A full list of exceptions is available on my website. 

As always, my staff is ready to help with your questions about your immigration case.  I will keep fighting in Congress to respect the rights and inherent dignity of all people in our nation of immigrants.


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