Coronavirus (Covid-19) Update for Wednesday, April 1
In an effort to keep TN-09 constituents up to date on the coronavirus situation, I will share updates with important information. I hope you’ll take some time to look at this information. As always, if you need to reach my office please call 901-544-4131 for the Memphis office and 202-225-3265 for the D.C. office. Updates will be posted on my website: Cohen.House.Gov.
Tennessee has 2,683 cases of coronavirus infection, including 497 in Shelby County. Please follow prudent social distancing practices.
Earlier this week, I wrote to the Governors of Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi and urged them to establish mandatory stay-at-home orders at least through the end of April so that their residents living in close proximity to Memphis medical centers don’t overwhelm our hospitals. I am saddened that I needed to do this to protect my constituents’ critical resource needs, but I believe that it is the right thing to have done.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris have issued executive orders requiring non-essential workers to stay home. Both orders went into effect at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24.
Useful Resource Links
Here is a detailed list of coronavirus related resources you may find useful:
TANF Cash Assistance
The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) is making essential financial resources available to families that have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 emergency. Beginning 10 A.M. CST Thursday, March 26, families can begin applying, online, for up to two months of emergency cash assistance if they were employed as of March 11, 2020 and they’ve lost employment or at least 50% of their earned income as a result of the pandemic. See details about the program here: https://covid19.memphistn.gov/tanf-cash-assistance/
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act gives USDA authority to waive the requirement for individuals to be physically present in order to be certified or recertified to receive Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits. Tennessee was granted the ability to waive these requirements through May 31, 2020 and can now automatically load monthly benefits onto a WIC card. See details here: https://www.tn.gov/health/health-program-areas/fhw/wic/redirect-wic/wic-clinics.html
The USDA Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services (FNCS) is implementing a provision of the recently enacted Families First Coronavirus Response Act with a two-month Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) emergency allotment for Tennessee.
Summer Food Programs
USDA has also granted eligibility waivers to Tennessee removing the requirement that Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) open sites must be located in areas where at least 50 percent of participants are eligible for free or reduced price meals. This waiver remains in effect until June 30, 2020, or until expiration of the federally declared public health emergency, whichever is earlier.
The Internal Revenue Service will begin distributing economic impact payments within the next three weeks, while still making changes to how some recipients will received them. See the latest guidance from the IRS here: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus
Last week, the IRS announced it has moved the tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15. Additional guidance related to the IRS response to the coronavirus outbreak can be found here: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-operations-during-covid-19-mission-critical-functions-continue
The Memphis Alcohol Commission voted Saturday to allow restaurants to sell beer and wine for delivery and takeout. On Sunday, Governor Bill Lee issued an executive order allowing beer and wine sales statewide. With in-house dining banned during the coronavirus outbreak, one way you can help keep these businesses stay afloat, and their employees working, is to consider ordering take-out. However, be sure to follow social distancing precautions if doing so, and tip generously.
Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) travel restrictions, Sunday schedules
MATA has set new rules for ridership in an effort to comply with social distancing goals. No more than ten riders will be permitted on fix-route buses and trolleys. Riders are encouraged to keep their distance from other riders. MATA announced today that it will be operating on a Sunday schedule going forward. See details here: http://www.matatransit.com/sites/default/files/UPDATE%20Service%20Changes%20In%20Response%20To%20COVID-19.pdf
Beware of Disinformation
Bad actors are spreading false rumors and tales in an effort to confuse and scare us. Be attentive to the source of information in your evaluation of its truth and accuracy. Information passed long by friends and family is often presumed to be true, but check it out. Be skeptical of what appears to be improbable and we will all get through this.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on Covid-19 can be found at Coronavirus.gov. The CDC issued guidance this week that gatherings of 50 or more people should be postponed or canceled for the next eight weeks.
Please follow the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at Coronavirus.gov.
That guidance includes:
- Wash hands often for at least 20 seconds
- If soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer that is 60 percent alcohol
- Put a physical distance of at least 6 feet between yourself and other people
- Avoid physical contact with other people
- Stay home if you’re sick or have been exposed to someone who is sick
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough
- Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
Shelby County Health Department Updates
The Shelby County Health Department’s latest updates on the Coronavirus outbreak can be found at https://insight.livestories.com/s/v2/shelby-county-health-department-covid-19/db01f01b-3f9d-460a-9548-1db37ed0ccbd
The Health Department’s Covid-19 Call Center can be reached at 833-943-1658. This line is open 8:00 am – 4:30 pm Monday through Sunday.
Shelby County Schools Update
All schools and district offices of Shelby County Schools are closed through April 6 due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Learning Guides and online resources during this period can be found here: https://www.scsk12.org/instructionalresources/index
According to its website: The Parent Welcome Center can still be reached by phone during regular business hours at (901) 416-5300. The Office of Student Records can be reached at (901) 416-5830. All other in-person and phone support will not be available during the closure.
SCS has also prepared take-home packets with reading materials and assignments for students without online access. For more information about SCS school closures and available resources, please visit www.scsk12.org/coronavirusfacts
The YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South and partners such as the City of Memphis, The Redwing Group, Southwest Community College, FeedWells, and the Mid-South Food Bank have stepped up and will be providing free meals the SCS had planned to provide. Here is a list of distribution sites and hours: https://www.ymcamemphis.org/covid-19/emergency-meal-sites/
Social Security Administration Update
The Social Security Administration has provided guidance for beneficiaries during the virus outbreak here: https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/. Please note that local Social Security offices are not able to offer in-person assistance during the ongoing public health emergency.
Student Loan Repayment
The CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020, includes a freeze on all federal student loan payments and interest accruement through September 30, 2020. The bill also suspends any wage garnishment or tax refund reduction for people who have defaulted on their federal student loans. If you are unsure if your student loans qualify, visit StudentAid.gov or contact your loan provider.
Driver Guidance /Automobile Emissions Testing
Tennessee Driver Services has suspended issuing REAL ID through May 18, 2020. The Federal Government has extended the deadline to get a REAL ID for a year to October 1, 2021. Emissions testing requirements have been waived through May 18.
Shelby County Jury Duty Update
The Shelby County Jury Commission has released the following information:
Due to the spread of COVID-19, we are canceling the in-person Jury Qualification on April 2, 2020 and suspending in-person visits. We encourage you READ YOUR SUMMONS and GO ONLINE TO PICK A DATE to serve at a later time. If you have documentation to verify reasons or requests for exemptions or disqualifications, any questions and concerns, you may submit by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be working remotely and will respond as quickly as possible. We are working diligently to take the necessary steps to reduce the risk of contagion and protect the health of the citizens of Shelby County. We will continue to monitor this situation and give updates as needed. Thank you for your patience and understanding. For more information: https://www.shelbycountytn.gov/139/Jury-Commission
Applying for Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Assistance Loans
The Small Business Administration (SBA)’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance per small business 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 percent for small businesses without credit available elsewhere; businesses with credit available elsewhere are not eligible. The interest rate for non-profits is 2.75 percent. For detailed information about how to receive support, please contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center. Call 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or e-mail email@example.com.