I know this is a confusing and scary time. It seems as though every day, there are new statistics, information, and guidelines for how to stay safe and combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Rest assured, your local, state, and federal government are hard at work to get you the resources you need to maintain your health and financial security.
That’s why I’m hosting a tele-town hall tomorrow, March 27th at 6pm. I’ll be joined by a representative from the Small Business Administration to go over resources available to small businesses, and the Chief Medical Officer from Lifelong Medical Clinic in Berkeley to address health concerns. I invite you to join me for this very important conversation by calling 866-757-0660 at or before 6 pm (no access code required).
Below is the latest information on how our government is handling this crisis, where to get tested, where to go for help if your small business or employment has been affected, and how to keep yourself safe.
Congress and the federal government have been hard at work to get our communities the resources they need.
On March 4th, Congress passed an $8.3 billion funding package that was signed into law. It provides $3 billion for the development of treatments and a vaccine; over $2 billion in public health funding for prevention, preparedness, and response; funding for community health centers; and allows an estimated $7 billion in low-interest SBA loans for small businesses impacted by the pandemic.
And building on the resources provided in the supplemental spending bill, on March 14th, the House came together in a bipartisan way to pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to help address the economic effects of this crisis. Our bill establishes paid leave; strengthens unemployment benefits; expands and protects food assistance programs for our seniors and children; provides free coronavirus testing; and additional Medicaid funding to address the evolving impacts of the pandemic.
The latest bill – which just passed the Senate last night – gives our workers and economy a much-needed boost. We were able to secure a $2 trillion package that includes a $200 billion investment in hospitals, health systems, and state and local governments, to give them the resources they desperately need during this emergency; a $260 billion increase in Unemployment Insurance benefits to match the average paycheck of laid-off or furloughed workers; a $377 billion infusion of fast relief for small businesses and made rent, mortgage and utility costs eligible for SBA loan forgiveness; more than $30 billion in emergency education funding and eliminated income tax on student loan repayment assistance by an employer; and critically, we prevented secret bailouts and added special oversight requirements.
But it’s clear more help is needed. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the House to ensure that everyone has the resources they need to stay safe during this crisis.
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a public health emergency and issued a “Stay Home Except for Essential Needs” order, similar to the one in place for Alameda County and the Bay Area. The order dictates that residents not leave their homes except for essential needs like food, medical services, and laundry – for more information and frequently asked questions, visit the California Stay Home Except for Essential Needs FAQs.
Thanks to Governor Newsom, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, and nearly 200 state-chartered banks, credit unions, and servicers have announced that Californians economically impacted by COVID-19 may receive 90-day grace periods to make mortgage payments. For more information, and to see if you are eligible to apply, visit the California Financial Relief Page.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has now spread to more than 150 countries. More than 500,000 people have been infected worldwide, including over 75,000 in the United States, and over 2,500 in California.
As the number of cases in California has swelled, so has the demand for safe, reliable testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have published testing guidelines to help individuals and health care professionals make decisions about who needs to be tested.
For more information on testing, you can contact the Alameda County Public Health Department at (510) 267-8000 for guidance. Note that there may be an increased volume of callers, and it may take some time to be connected. If you have a primary care doctor, you should call their office first for instructions on being screened for testing.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is providing low-interest loans to small businesses and non-profits in the Bay Area and California who have been severely impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19). The program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million that 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 cannot be paid because of the disaster’s impact. You can find out if your business is eligible by visiting this page.
You may apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) loan here: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/
Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email email@example.com for more information on SBA disaster assistance.
For additional information or to obtain help preparing the loan application, please contact the SBA Office in San Francisco at 415-744-6820 or by visiting their website here.
More information regarding the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program can be found here.
If you are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, you should contact your doctor immediately. If you do not have a primary care physician, you should contact the Alameda County Public Health Department at (510) 267-8000. Be sure to call ahead so your health care provider can take steps to reduce your risk of infecting others.
Finally, I want to again stress the importance of social distancing during this crisis. Many people—particularly young people—do not exhibit symptoms of coronavirus but can still spread the virus, and this is one of the reasons community spread has increased so dramatically over the past week. I urge everyone to be responsible and limit physical interactions in order to flatten the curve and help us all stay safe.
As always, my office is here to help. If you need help with a federal issue, please call my Oakland office at (510) 763-0370. You can also connect with me via email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Please also visit my website at lee.house.gov/coronavirus for additional resources and FAQs.