Newsletter: How can I help?
This newsletter was sent to WA-10 constituents on Wednesday, April 1st. If you'd like to recieve regular updates like this, I encourage you to sign up for my newsletter.
In this update, I want to share a couple resources that I hope will prove useful as you and your family navigate this public health crisis.
The coronavirus presents a dual challenge: we need to keep our community healthy and safe through social distancing, while ensuring families can keep food on the table until they are back on their feet. I've been speaking with experts and officials around the clock about how to respond to COVID-19 on both fronts—and I want you to be a part of those conversations.
Last Thursday, I spoke with Dr. Geoff Baird, Acting Chair of the University of Washington Laboratory Medicine during a Facebook Live town hall. Our conversation covered a wide range of subjects, including the importance of ramping up testing for COVID-19, obtaining Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for our frontline healthcare workers, and the forecast for our economy and healthcare system in the weeks to come. If you missed it, you can watch it on my Facebook page.
We are experiencing circumstances unlike any our nation has faced in more than a century. Last week, Congress passed the largest legislative package yet towards combating the coronavirus and providing robust aid to families, displaced workers and small businesses affected by the crisis: the CARES Act. I am pleased that this $2 trillion stimulus was passed quickly and overwhelmingly by the House and Senate, and was swiftly signed into law by the President.
The CARES Act contains a wide range of provisions aimed at helping you and your family, and I want to share how to access three key pieces of assistance included in this law.
As the economy experiences sharp disruption from the effects of COVID-19, Congress has significantly expanded unemployment insurance benefits and eligibility for the duration of the pandemic.
- Most laid-off and furloughed workers, including those new to the job market, will be eligible for unemployment insurance. In addition, the federal government will provide a supplemental Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation of $600 per week, on top of your state unemployment benefit, to anyone who is eligible for unemployment benefits.
- This additional federal unemployment benefit does not impact your eligibility for the Children’s Health Insurance Program or Medicaid.
- No matter your job status -- full time, part time, employee, contractor, self-employed, household worker, or anything in between -- if you are out of work as a result of the Governor’s stay home order issued on March 23, you are eligible for unemployment benefits.
- Work search requirements are optional for all claimants until further notice. Public health experts all agree the most important step we can take to contain the virus is to stay home.
To apply for unemployment benefits, please visit the Washington State Employment Security Department website esd.wa.gov.
Direct payments to individuals and families:
Individuals making up to $75,000 ($150,000 for married couples) will receive payments of $1,200 with an additional $500 payment per minor child. The payments shrink and stop altogether for single workers making more than $99,000 ($198,000 for married workers and $218,000 for a family of four.)
- These payments will be issued by IRS via direct deposit and will be based on 2019 or 2018 tax returns, or 2019 Social Security statement.
- If you did not file a tax return in 2018 or 2019 and do not receive Social Security benefits, the IRS recommends filing a 2018 return to receive payment. If the IRS does not have your bank account information already, be on the lookout for a letter from the IRS detailing how to receive your payment.
- Beware of scams! The federal government will not ask to confirm your personal or banking details by email, phone or text message, or demand a “processing fee” to obtain or expedite your stimulus payment.
The IRS will release more guidance as they begin disbursing funds. Please refer to their coronavirus webpage for updates as they become available.
Student loan relief for borrowers:
If you have federal student loan debt, the CARES Act has several provisions that provide relief to borrowers through September 30, 2020, including:
- Pause payments for federal student loan borrowers who have Direct Loans and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL), which means these borrowers will not be required to make any payments toward outstanding interest or principal balance.
- Suspend interest accrual on those federal student loan loans so that these balances don’t accrue.
- Avoid forced collections such as garnishment of wages, tax refunds, & Social Security benefits.
- Halt negative credit reporting.
- Ensure borrowers continue to receive credit toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Income-Driven Repayment forgiveness, and loan rehabilitation.
For additional guidance on how to apply and learn about next steps as this relief becomes available, please refer to the U.S. Department of Education website.
Have more questions?
I know that Congress still has a lot of work on its plate as we tackle this daunting challenge. As we continue to weather this crisis together, let me know what other questions you have about accessing the aid that is available for individuals and families on my Facebook or Twitter page, or submit the question via my website.
Your health and safety are my top priorities. Take care of yourself and be kind to others—together, we can keep our South Sound community healthy.