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.
- Accessing assistance
- Washington State resources
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) resources
- Information for Veterans and Servicemembers
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, 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.
Eviction Protections: 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.
Washington State Resources
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