[COVID-19] IMPORTANT UPDATES

The fast-paced nature of updates related to COVID-19 can be overwhelming, so we want to provide good information on additional resources as they become available.

My staff and I will continue to communicate on as many platforms as possible — via email and on my social media channels – FacebookInstagram and Twitter. We are also updating information on my website, including directly answering questions from the community.

Today’s email includes updates on childcare for essential workersTexas unemployment insurance, the payments resulting from the federal CARES Act and resources for small business owners.

If you have questions about COVID-19-related resources that haven’t been addressed in this email or elsewhere, please let us know via email at chris.turner@house.texas.gov.

CHILDCARE FOR ESSENTIAL WORKERS
Last week, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) announced the addition of a temporary class of employees to those who qualify for subsidized childcare. This includes those who work at grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, nursing homes, child care centers, and in home health care.

If you are an essential employee who resides in Tarrant County, click here to see if you qualify.

TEXAS UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE BENEFITS
A record number of Texans are filing for unemployment insurance benefits. As a result, capacity at call centers and on the website has been challenged. To address these issues, the agency is adding more staff and increasing their website’s capabilities.

In addition, the TWC has implemented a recommended call schedule for those seeking benefits. Applicants are asked to contact the TWC on certain days and times based on the first digit of their phone number. See the chart below.

To help answer questions about who can apply and what you will need when you apply, we have created a one-page document to answer these questions and more — click here and share with those who may be impacted and need additional information.

CARES ACT PAYMENTS 
In the coming weeks, people will begin to receive payments from the federal government as a result of the CARES Act. My office has received several questions about these payments, and although it is a federal program, I want to share what we know.

Individuals who earn less than $75,000 a year will receive $1,200. Couples who file their taxes as “married filing jointly” and earn less than a combined $150,000 will receive $2,400.

  • Families will receive an additional $500 for each child under the age of 17.
  • The payment amount will be reduced for those with incomes between $75,000 and $99,000. Married couples’ payments will be less for those with income between $150,000 – $198,000.
  • Those with an income of $99,000 or more will not receive a payment and the maximum income threshold to receive a payment for a family of four is $218,000.
  • There will be no payments to adults claimed as dependents.

Tax filings will be used as the source of income eligibility. There is no requirement to have filed your 2019 taxes to receive this payment, especially since the deadline has been pushed from April 15 to July 15. In lieu of a 2019 tax filing, 2018 tax filings will be used to determine income and delivery method (direct deposit or mail).

Americans who receive Social Security benefits, but don’t file annual tax returns, will receive benefits via the same delivery method they receive their monthly Social Security payments — by direct deposit or mail.

The timing of these payments is uncertain, but it has been reported that they could take several weeks before the money arrives in accounts and mailboxes.

AID TO SMALL BUSINESSES
House District 101 is fortunate to have many small businesses in our community. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit these businesses particularly hard. In response, the federal government has passed several measures to provide emergency economic aid.

On Friday, April 3, the Small Business Administration (SBA) began offering the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to provide small businesses with a direct incentive to keep their workers on the payroll. This program offers borrowers a loan of up to $10 million to cover eight weeks of payroll expenses. The loan has a 2-year term at 1.0% interest. Prospective borrowers can receive up to 2.5 times their average payroll, from the previous year, to use over the next 8 weeks following receipt of the loan.

The loan can be used for payroll costs, costs related to providing health care benefits, rent, mortgage interest, and utilities. The loan will be fully forgiven if 100% of the loan is used for the costs above, and the borrower maintains or rehires employees, while also maintaining salary levels. The level of forgiveness will decrease as the borrower’s ability to reach those goals decreases. Applicants apply for the loans directly from banks and other lenders. To find a participating lender near you, visit: https://www.sba.gov/paycheckprotection/find.

This Friday, April 10, those who are self-employed or independent contractors may apply for this program in order to cover payroll and certain other expenses.

In addition to the Paycheck Protection Program, there are several other SBA programs that small businesses may take advantage of:

  • The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program provides non-profit and for-profit borrowers with up to $2 million over a 30-year term at 2.75% to 3.75% interest. The SBA is also offering an Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance. That loan advance will provide borrowers with a loan advance of up to $10,000 for those applying for an EIDL program loan.
  • The SBA is also offering SBA Express Bridge Loans to small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender. Those small businesses will have access to up to $25,000 with a quick turnaround.
  • The SBA is offering debt relief to borrowers by automatically paying the principal, interest, and fees of current 7(a), 504, and microloans for a period of six months. The SBA will also automatically pay the principal, interest, and fees of new 7(a), 504, and microloans issued prior to September 27, 2020. Disaster loans are not eligible for debt relief under these rules.

Please keep in mind that if you are an eligible small business under SBA rules, you may use more than one of these programs to support your small business. There may, however, be additional terms associated with using more than one program. You can get additional info here or by calling the SBA Dallas-Fort Worth Office at 817-684-5500.

QUESTIONS FROM THE COMMUNITY
My staff has been compiling questions from constituents and others in our community and providing answers in response, posting these questions and answers in the hope that they may help others. These “Questions from the Community” serve as a FAQ of sorts and provide information about several areas impacted by the pandemic. If you’re interested in reading what has been compiled, click here.

Do you have a question about COVID-19 response that you would like answered? If so, email us at chris.turner@house.texas.gov.

Stay safe.

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