Congressman Rice is closely monitoring the developments of the coronavirus outbreak. He has attended a number of briefings with experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institute of Health (NIH), Health and Human Service (HHS), and other agencies who are currently coordinating the response effort. We will continue to provide updates as we receive them.
What is COVID-19?
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
Unemployment Insurance Benefits
What about unemployment insurance?
- The CARES Act signed into law on Friday provides $250 billion to give workers more access to unemployment benefits during this public health emergency.
- Expands coverage to more workers, including self-employed, independent contractors, and furloughed workers.
- Increases by $600/week Americans’ unemployment benefits for the next 4 months.
- Makes available 13 additional weeks of unemployment for those who need it.
- Waives the normal one-week waiting period.
- Includes funding to offset 50% of the costs of state and local government and non-profits for cost of paying unemployment to their workers.
- Supports short-time, work share programs as an alternative to layoffs.
Can individuals get more on unemployment than they got in their paycheck?
- The additional $600 in weekly benefits is designed to keep as many workers as whole as possible through the emergency. Some may temporarily receive more benefit than their paycheck – though that number is very small compared to everyone receiving Unemployment. Of course, people receiving Unemployment do not receive health insurance, retirement or other important benefits that can be available at work. The temporary $600 is only available through July 31.
Are unemployment benefits taxable and do they count as income?
- Yes. Unemployment benefits are taxable income and they generally count as income when determining eligibility for public assistance programs.
Are self-employed and independent contractors eligible?
- Yes. Self-employed and independent contractors, like gig workers and Uber drivers, are eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. This also covers workers laid off from churches and religious institutions who may not be eligible under the state’s program.
What about furloughed workers?
- Yes. States have policies in place to allow furloughed workers to receive unemployment benefits and part-time workers can receive partial benefits. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program also helps workers stay connected to their employer by allowing unemployment benefits for workers who have a job but are unable to work or telework due to COVID-19-related reasons and are not receiving paid leave through their employer.
*In the week ending March 28, 2020, the advance figures for South Carolina initial claims* was 64,856, an increase of approximately 108.85% from the previous week’s count of 31,054 and a 3,149.3% increase from the week ending March 14, 2020. This means that there were 64,856 individuals who both live and work in the state of South Carolina who filed an initial claim during that week.
Paycheck Protection Program
What is the Paycheck Protection Program?
- The Paycheck Protection Program prioritizes millions of Americans employed by small businesses by authorizing up to $349 billion for funding to pay up to 8 weeks of payroll costs including benefits. Funds can also be used to pay interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities.
Who is eligible for the loan?
- business that employs 500 employees or fewer
- industry that has an employee-based size standard through SBA that is higher than 500 employees.
- restaurants, hotels, or businesses that fall within the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code 72
- Tribal businesses
- 501(c)(19) veteran organizations
- 501(c)(3) nonprofits
- gig workers
- independent contractors
When is the application deadline for the Paycheck Protection Program?
- Applicants are eligible to apply for the PPP loan until June 30th, 2020.
How can I use the money such that the loan will be forgiven?
- The amount of principal that may be forgiven is equal to the sum of expenses for payroll, and existing interest payments on mortgages, rent payments, leases, and utility service agreements. Payroll costs include employee salaries (up to an annual rate of pay of $100,000), hourly wages and cash tips, paid sick or medical leave, and group health insurance premiums. If you would like to use the Paycheck Protection Program for other business-related expenses, like inventory, you can, but that portion of the loan will not be forgiven.
- What will lenders be looking for?
- Certain documents (final requirements will be announced by the government) such as payroll tax filings, Forms 1099-MISC, and income and expenses from the sole proprietorship.
- How do I calculate payroll costs?
- The sum of payments of any compensation to or income of a sole proprietor or independent contractor that is a wage, commission, income, net earnings from self-employment, or similar compensation and that is in an amount that is not more than $100,000 in one year, as pro-rated for the covered period.
* For FAQs on PPP, click here.
* For FAQs for Lenders, click here.
* For FAQs for borrowers, click here.
SBA Conference Call- an FAQ Ashley Bell and Congressman Rice
What is the CARES Act?
- Direct payment to Americans
- $1,200 per adult
- 2,400 per couple
- $500 for dependents
- Reductions for income of 75k+
- No payout for income of 99k+
- Helps small businesses stay open
- Relief for distressed industries
- Support to healthcare providers
- Direct cash payment of $1,200 for single individual who made under $75,000, or $2,400 for a married couple earning under $150,000, plus $500 per child. That payment is reduced for individuals who made $75,000-$99,000 and couples who made $150,000-$198,000.
- Payments are based on 2019 tax returns, or 2018 returns if 2019 returns have not been filed.
- Expands unemployment insurance to cover self-employed workers and “gig economy” workers.
- Expands unemployment insurance to four months.
- Prohibits foreclosures for 90 days on federally-backed mortgages for those who experience hardship related to the coronavirus outbreak
- Defers payment of federal student loans for six months
- $8.8 billion to Child Nutrition Programs to ensure children have access to healthy meals
- $15.1 billion to SNAP to provide food for low-income, unemployed or vulnerable families and individuals.
Hospitals and Healthcare Workers:
- $4.3 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including $1.5 billion to support state and local preparedness
- $250 million in hospital preparedness funding
- Increases access to telehealth services
- $275 million to expand services and rural hospitals, telehealth programs, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, and poison control centers.
- $1.3 billion in funding for for Community Health Centers
- $16 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile to purchase medical equipment to distribute to states
- $100 billion to reimburse hospitals for care of coronavirus patients and to make up for losses in revenue
For Small Business Owners:
- $350 billion in loan forgiveness for small businesses who maintain employees on their payroll, allowing funds to pay employee salaries, wages, cash tips, sick leave, employee group health care benefits and insurance premiums, retirement contributions and covered leave
- $10 billion in Small Business Association (SBA) grants for business operating costs
- $17 billion in SBA loans to cover six months of payments for small businesses with existing loans
- $260 billion to support workers affected by the outbreak
- For State and Local Officials:
- $274 billion in emergency funding for state and local governments
- $454 billion to support the Federal Reserves’ lending to eligible businesses, states, and municipalities
* This week the President highlighted that nearly 3,000 lenders have made loans to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program and these small businesses have already applied for more than $40B in relief.
- $9.5 billion for agriculture producers
- $14 billion increase in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s borrowing authority
- $100 million to expand broadband service in rural areas
- $33 million to allow the Food Safety and Inspection Service to continue inspecting slaughter houses
- $55 million to allow the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to continue operations including protecting U.S. agriculture from invasive pests and diseases.
- $14.4 billion to support healthcare services for veterans at provided by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities and through telehealth
- $2.1 billion for community-based veterans care
- Allows the VA to expand access to mental health services for underserved and at-risk veterans through telehealth
- Ensures that community-based home health workers can receive the PPE they need
- Improves the ability to assist homeless veterans during the outbreak
The Elderly Population
- Coronavirus funding provided $250 million for the Senior Nutrition program in the Administration for Community Living (ACL) to provide approximately 25 million additional home-delivered and pre-packaged meals to low-income seniors who depend on the Senior Nutrition programs in their communities.
- This funding will provide meals to low-income seniors:
- who are home-bound;
- who have disabilities;
- who have multiple chronic illnesses;
- as well as caregivers for seniors who are home-bound.
House of Representatives “Salaries and Expenses”: (25 mil total)
- $2 million for Office Supply Store computer purchases (front load revolving fund, will reimburse once paid for)
- $8.8 million for MRA (estimated $20k each office) for laptops/video town halls
- $2 million for Committees for laptops
- $1 million for expansion of IT Customer Support ($1m) and purchase additional equipment for computer imaging ($500k). Would include 24-7 support.
- $10 million Sergeant at Arms ($5m for emergency transportation; $5m for unforeseen emergencies)
Testing and Supplies
- More than $4 billion has been put towards efforts to make diagnostic tests more broadly available; to support treatments to ease the symptoms of those infected with the virus; and to invest in vaccine development and to procure vaccines when they are available. Coronavirus testing is free, ensuring there are no cost barriers to these tests.
- DHEC is now distributing tens of thousands of hospital gowns, protective masks, face shields and gloves from a national medical stockpile. Supplies are being distributed based on each county’s population, he said. The supplies include 16,780 surgical gowns, 51,000 hospital gloves, 44,000 N95 masks, 176,500 surgical masks and 17,740 face shields, according to DHEC.
- Following the emergency use authorizations making hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine - potential therapeutics for COVID-19 - available for use, Bayer Pharmaceuticals donated one million doses to the federal government and Novartis donated 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine.
- In terms of needed medical supplies, the President said that FEMA and HHS have already delivered 11.6 million N-95 respirators, 26 million surgical masks, 5.3 million face shields, 4.4 million surgical gowns, and 22 million gloves. He also announced that more than 8,100 ventilators have been delivered directly to states, and 1,000 more will be delivered in the next two days.
- The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced new policies to provide more flexibility for health care providers and patients to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The regulatory waivers and new rules will increase hospital capacity, rapidly expand the number of health care professionals providing care, make it easier for patients to access care they need, promote telehealth in Medicare, and more.
- At last night's White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing, President Trump announced that five additional cargo planes with medical supplies landed in the United States as part of FEMA's "Project Airbridge," and 27 additional flights are scheduled. He also said that 110,000 ventilators will be arriving in the coming months.
- Vice President Pence spoke specifically about medical supplies that has been delivered to the New York metro area in the last five days, reporting that more than 6 million N95 masks, more than 6 million surgical masks, and 2.8 million gowns were distributed to that region. He also said
- In an update, President Trump said that 1.87 million tests had been conducted. He also reported that 1,200 rapid response tests from Abbott Laboratories had been shipped and that 500 are being produced weekly, along with 50,000 testing cartridges.
- FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn issued a statement about serological tests, which are tests that measure the amount of antibodies or proteins present in the blood when the body is responding to a specific infection. The statement said that these tests are meant to detect, "the body’s immune response to the infection caused by the virus rather than detecting the virus itself."
- In the statement, Commissioner Hahn noted that the FDA has authorized only one Emergency Use Authorization for a COVID-19 serological test and that over 70 test developers have notified the agency that they have serological tests available for use. However, the statement added that some firms are falsely claiming that their serological tests are FDA approved or authorized, or falsely claiming that they can diagnose COVID-19.
- Directing the Department of Revenue to conform the state’s income tax deadline to July 15, which is the new federal income tax deadline. Other state taxes will remain delayed until June 1, as previously ordered.
- Any and all public beach access points, to include any adjacent or associated public parking lots or other public facilities, shall be closed to public access for recreational purposes for the duration of the State of Emergency
- All public piers, docks, wharfs, boat ramps, and boat landings providing public access to t
- he public waters of this State, to include any adjacent or associated public parking lots or other public facilities, shall be closed to public access for recreational purposes for the duration of the State of Emergency
- Directing that the beaching or rafting of boats, whether on a sandbar, lakeshore, riverbank, or island, is prohibited for the duration of the State of Emergency.
- Directing that all non-essential employees and staff of the State of South Carolina shall not report to work, physically or in-person, effective Friday, March 20, 2020, and until further notice. Essential employees and staff are designated by the corresponding agency head or their designee as essential or mission-critical to the State’s ongoing preparation for and response to emergency conditions related to COVID-19.
- Public universities, colleges and technical colleges: each institution’s president will, at their discretion, determine essential employees and allow non-essential employees to work from home.
- Prohibiting any county, municipality or other political subdivision from closing any location or facility that is occupied or utilized by any agency, department, official or employee of the State of South Carolina.
- Directing DHEC to temporarily suspend enforcement of certificate of need regulations necessary to expedite treatment of the virus.
- Suspending unemployment insurance payments for employers until June 1st, allowing business owners to have addition capital on hand.
- Waiving Department of Employment and Workforce regulations to allow unemployment claims to be expedited by at least one week.
- Suspending procurement regulations to allow state agencies to rapidly acquire resources to combat the COVID-19 virus.
- The “home or work” order requires all citizens of South Carolina to STAY HOME unless they are working, obtaining necessary goods or services, visiting family or engaging in outdoor recreation.
- This is a mandatory requirement, with criminal penalties (30 days in jail and/or $100 fine for each day of violation).
- The order also includes social distancing requirements for businesses that remain open – they must operate at 20% capacity (maximum) or 5 people per 1,000 square feet.
- The order went into effect Tuesday, at 5:00 p.m.
MUSC Health Care Center for Telehealth is offering a free urgent, virtual care platform for people in South Carolina experiencing mild to moderate flu like symptoms. To log on, visit: https://campaigns.muschealth.org/virtual-care/index.html Enter the code COVID19. Experienced providers will assist you. If you exhibit systems of coronavirus, they will advsie you on accessing the drive-through screening.
Several other South Carolina health systems are offering telehealth options to the public. For telehealth options and the latest information about DHEC’s COVID-19 response efforts, please visit scdhec.gov/COVID19. For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC website here.
The Trump Administration announced that telehealth coverage would be expanded for Medicare beneficiaries that will enable them to receive a wider range of healthcare services from their doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility. For more details on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services expanding telehealth options, see their press release with news of the announcement. CMS also shared a fact sheet about the expansion of telemedicine and has a FAQ document to provide clarity about how the expansion of this program to Medicare beneficiaries will help combat the spread of COVID-19.