The coronavirus presents a dual challenge to the South Sound: 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.
Congress has passed a wide range of provisions aimed at helping you and your family through this crisis, and I have compiled the ones I have been most commonly asked about by constituents here. I have also included a list of additional resources that I hope will prove useful to you.
- Assistance available to individuals and families
- Small Business resources and support
- Washington State resources
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) resources
- Information for Veterans and Servicemembers
- What I've been working on
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 an Economic Impact Payment 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).
- 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.
I have answered many frequently asked questions on my website, which you can read here: Frequently Asked Questions on the Economic Impact Payment.
I also encourage you to check the IRS website for information and guidance on the Economic Impact Payment: IRS Economic Impact Payment - Frequently Asked Questions
Student loan relief for borrowers
If you have federal student loan debt, Congress has passed several provisions that provide relief to borrowers for the duration of the pandemic 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.
Homeowner and rental protections
Mortgage Forbearance: Homeowners with FHA, USDA, VA, or Section 184 or 184A mortgages (for members of federally-recognized tribes) and those with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac have the right to request forbearance on their payments for up to 6 months, with a possible extension for another 6 months without fees, penalties, or extra interest. Homeowners should contact their mortgage servicing company directly.
Learn more about mortgage assistance and foreclosure prevention for Washington state homeowners here
Eviction Protections: Eviction Protections: The governor has issued a statewide moratorium on evictions of residential tenants for non-payment until June 4. You cannot be evicted during the moratorium for failure to pay your rent. Learn more here.
Additionally, renters residing in public or assisted housing, or in a home or apartment whose owner has a federally-backed mortgage, and who are unable to pay their rent, are protected from eviction for 4 months. Property owners are also prohibited from issuing a 30-day notice to a tenant to vacate a property until after the 4-month moratorium ends. This protection covers properties that receive federal subsidies such as public housing, Section 8 assistance, USDA rural housing programs, and federally-issued or guaranteed mortgages. Renters whose landlord is not abiding by the moratorium should contact the relevant federal agency that administers their housing program or their local Legal Aid office.
Congress passed legislation requiring private sector employers with under 500 employees and government employers to guarantee two weeks of paid leave for sick workers and twelve weeks of job-protected paid leave to workers caring for children impacted by the pandemic’s closure of schools and other childcare options. Private sector employers are eligible for reimbursement of the costs of that leave through refundable tax credits. Learn more at the Department of Labor’s FAQ Page.
Additionally, Washington state now offers Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits. Some workers may be eligible for Paid Family and Medical Leave if ill or caring for a family member who is sick with COVID-19. Learn more here.
Department of Children, Youth, and Families maintains comprehensive guidance on how to find care for your child during the COVID-19 emergency.
Additionally, the department has compiled information and resources to help bolster the incredible resiliency of parents and families. Read the resource guide for parents and caregivers during the pandemic here.
Many schools are offering meals to children during this crisis. Check your local school district webpage to find a meal service location near you.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) provides supplemental nutritious foods needed by pregnant and nursing women, babies, and young children under the age of five. Find out if you’re eligible and how to apply here.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), called Basic Food in Washington, helps people with low incomes make ends meet by providing monthly benefits to buy food. Find out if you’re eligible and how to apply here.
Find a food bank near you here.
If you’re between the ages of 19 and 64 and your income drops below a certain threshold (see thresholds here), you likely qualify for Medicaid, or Apple Health as we call it in Washington. Compared to other forms of coverage, Apple Health has low to no cost-sharing. Apple Health enrollment is open year round. Learn more: https://www.hca.wa.gov/health-care-services-supports/apple-health-medicaid-coverage
If your family’s income is above the Medicaid threshold, you can buy coverage on the Washington Healthplanfinder exchange. Exchange coverage is subsidized on a sliding scale according to income. The Washington Healthplanfinder is currently holding a special enrollment period through May 8 for all eligible Washingtonians. After the special enrollment period closes, enrollment will be limited to individuals who have a qualifying life event, such as losing job-based coverage. Learn more: https://faq.wahealthplanfinder.org/faq/applynow.html
Lastly, you can keep your job-based coverage for as long as 18 months under the federal law known as COBRA. COBRA premiums are usually more expensive because the displaced worker pays the premium in its entirety--both the employer and employee contribution.
The CARES Act created a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that will provide small businesses with zero-fee loans of up to $10 million. The program provides cash-flow assistance through 100 percent federally guaranteed loans to employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency. If employers maintain their payroll, the PPP loans would be forgiven—helping workers remain employed, and enabling our economy to snap-back quicker after the crisis.
- If business retains employees at their salary level, up to 8 weeks of average payroll and other costs will be forgiven.
- Principal and interest are deferred for up to a year and all borrower fees are waived.
- This temporary emergency assistance through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Department of Treasury can be used in coordination with other COVID-financing assistance established in the bill or any other existing SBA loan program.
- These loans will be available through June 30, 2020
To learn more about the Paycheck Protection Program and find eligible lenders, visit the SBA’s page on this program.
Small businesses in all fifty states are also eligible to apply for Small Business Economic Injury Disaster Loans. These disaster loans can help supplement the Paycheck Protection Program.
- The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance and can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.
- These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses. The interest rate for non-profits is 2.75%.
- The SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon each borrower’s ability to repay.
In addition, all small business owners in the U.S. are eligible to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance of up to $10,000 to help with expenses like payroll, sick leave, rent or mortgages. These advances do not need to be repaid under any circumstances. To learn more about Economic Injury Disaster Loans and apply, visit the SBA’s page on this program.
The CARES Act also includes relief for non-emergency SBA loans, including 7(a), 504 and microloans. Under this program, the SBA will automatically pay the principal, interest and fees on those SBA loans for six months. This relief will also automatically apply to any SBA 7(a), 504 or microloan issued prior to September 27, 2020. To learn more, visit the SBA’s page on this program
The SBA’s Express Bridge Loan allows small businesses that have an existing business relationship with a participating lender to access up to $25,000 quickly. Learn more here.
The Export Import Bank’s Multi-Buyer Credit Insurance program protects you in case your customers overseas are slow on paying receivables or go out of business. It allows you to commit to export sales without fear of loss during the pandemic. Learn more here.
The Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is a network of more than 30 expert business advisors working in communities across the state to help entrepreneurs or small business owners start, grow or buy/sell a business. These centers can help you navigate available SBA loans and provide you with no-cost business consulting. Learn more here
Washington State Coronavirus Response Site – Washington's official COVID-19 site, run through the Washington State Emergency Operations Center.
Government Emergency Actions – Links to information about state and local emergency actions.
For You and Your Family – Learn how to protect and care for yourself and your family, cope with feelings of isolation or anxiety, determine whether you or a loved one is at higher risk from COVID-19, and find resources to get the care you need.
Travelers and Commuters – Information from public transportation agencies about bus, rail, ferry, and air travel.
Business and Workers – Information about support for employers and workers.
Childcare, K-12, and Higher Education – COVID-19 related information on childcare, schools, colleges, and universities.
Washington State Department of Health Website – Current information about the spread of COVID-19 in Washington.
In Washington's 10th Congressional District
Other local health departments
From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
coronavirus.gov – The CDC's main page with information about COVID-19.
Fact Sheet – What you need to know about COVID-19.
How COVID-19 Spreads – Learn about how the virus spreads, so you can better understand the ways you can help stop it.
Prevention and Treatment Information – There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, but there are ways to limit exposure to the virus.
Symptoms – Fever, cough, and shortness of breath are COVID-19 symptoms identified by the CDC.
What To Do If You Are Sick – Instructions about what to do if you suspect you may have the virus.
Guidance for Travelers – Includes information about COVID-19 for travelers and travel-related industries.
Guidance for Businesses/Employers – Contains strategies and plans to help employers prevent the spread of the virus in the workplace.
Stigma Related to COVID-19 – Stigma hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger towards ordinary people.
Frequently Asked Questions – Find answers to frequent questions about the coronavirus, the illness it causes, and how you can protect yourself.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – Answers frequently asked questions from veterans and provides links to resources about COVID-19.
Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs – COVID-19 updates for Washington state veterans homes residents and their family members.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord – Information from the base for JBLM servicemembers and their families
JBLM COVID-19 Hotline: (253) 967-3831
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, I’ve been practicing social distancing and working from my home in Olympia.
Even though I’ve been working remotely, I’ve been submitting legislative proposals to make sure Washingtonians can keep food on the table during this public health crisis, speaking with public health experts to explore the best ways to contain COVID-19 and maintain our healthcare system, and coordinating with government officials at the local, state, and federal levels to ensure they receive the resources they need.
I wanted to share some of the highlights of my work on during the pandemic:
- April 28: Newsletter: COVID-19 relief: Replenishing small business aid
- April 23: Press Release: Rep. Denny Heck leads letter to federal agencies to stabilize the mortgage market during COVID-19 crisis
- April 23: I hosted a Facebook Live town hall with Washington Health Secretary John Wiesman on the latest developments in our state's fight against the coronavirus
- April 22: Newsletter: COVID-19 relief: Answering your stimulus check questions
- April 20: Newsletter: COVID-19 relief: Accessing your unemployment benefits
- April 13: Newsletter: My four priorities for the next stimulus bill
- April 13: I hosted a Facebook Live town hall with WA Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine where we discussed the unemployment benefits available to workers in the South Sound
- April 9: I hosted a Facebook Live town hall with the SBA, and we fielded questions from constituents on the aid available to small businsesses following the passage of the CARES Act
- April 8: Newsletter: Supporting our small businesses
- April 1: Newsletter: How can I help?
- March 26: I hosted a Facebook Live town hall with Acting Chair of UW Laboratory Medicine Dr. Geoff Baird on the public health measures needed to contain the coronavirus
- March 25: I led a letter urging FEMA and HHS to allow COVID-19 test specimens in Washington be sent to our public health labs wih capacity, which could cut the wait time for results by a week
- March 23: Press Release: Heck initiatives help shape House stimulus bill
- March 23: Press Release: Rep. Heck introduces bill to provide rental assistance during COVID-19 crisis
- March 21: Newsletter: Keeping our community healthy
- March 20: I shared my priorities for a COVID-19 relief bill (CARES Act) with Speaker Pelosi. I urged Congress to include significantly expanded unemployment benefits and eligibility, and assistance for renters and homeowners.
- March 5: Newsletter: An update on COVID-19 (the coronavirus)
If you would like regular updates on my work and legislative priorities during the pandemic, I encouage you to sign up for my email newsletter.