Updating Constituents on the Coronavirus Outbreak
This week, we all dealt with the unprecedented nature and the national response to the coronavirus outbreak. As many of us are hunkered down at home, I will continue to provide regular and timely updates on the situation, ways that you can stay safe and healthy, and resources about what Congress and the federal government are doing to help. This is a very serious disease confronting our country and we all have a role to play in keeping each other safe. Despite the fact that my D.C. and District physical offices are closed in response to the crisis, my staff and I are available to meet constituent needs and address concerns. This week I also wrote to federal housing officials asking them to suspend foreclosure and eviction actions during this period; noted the likelihood the pandemic will affect the blood supply; insisted that consumer protections like those in my FAIR Fees Act be a condition for any bailout of the airline industry; announced significant grants to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and the University of Memphis; noted the availability of Small Business Administration disaster assistance loans; and offered a health tip on managing stress during the ongoing crisis. Keep reading to learn more about my week follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to see more updates as they happen.
Updating My Constituents on the Coronavirus Outbreak
Being Available to Help Despite Office Closures
Writing to Federal Housing Officials to Impose Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures
Noting Impact of Pandemic on Possible Blood Supply Shortages
Insisting that any Airline Bailout contain Consumer Protections
Announcing Grants to the University of Memphis, St. Jude and UTHSC
Applying for Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Assistance Loans
Staying in Touch with My Office
Weekly Health Tip
Quote of the Week
The coronavirus outbreak is serious and has reached Memphis. I am reaching out daily with updates of useful information, including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. House Democrats have been taking steps to address the crisis. First, we passed an $8.3 billion measure to strengthen Medicaid and extend Small Business Administration loans to affected businesses. Next, early on Saturday morning, we passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, now signed into law, that will provide paid leave, establish free testing, support strong unemployment benefits, expand food assistance for vulnerable children and families, and increase funding for Medicaid programs across the country. It also contains tax credits for small and medium-sized businesses affected by the relief measures. A third stimulus bill is currently being negotiated with a newly cooperative Republican Senate majority and White House, and I am hopeful we will meet pressing concerns. I encourage everyone to practice social distancing if they are out in public. I urge older Ninth Congressional District residents and those with compromised immune systems to follow the recommendation to stay home. We each have a role to play in flattening the curve and bringing this crisis to an end. Please visit my website, www.cohen.house.gov, for the latest updates, including a list of remote assessment testing sites. Late this afternoon, Shelby County Schools that were to begin food distribution next week announced they were suspending those plans when a nutrition worker tested positive for the virus. The City of Memphis is currently working to formulate a plan, and I will keep you updated.
Last week, I announced that I would be temporarily closing my Washington, D.C. and District offices and begin teleworking. I regret that this crisis requires such drastic action but, out of an abundance of caution, it seems the prudent course. Limiting exposure will help ensure my staff and I remain healthy and able to serve the people of the Ninth Congressional District. My staff will continue to be available by phone and email. Constituents should continue to call my office with their concerns [Washington: (202) 225-3265; Memphis: (901) 544-4131] and email my office via the “Contact” page on my website, www.Cohen.House.Gov. The website will also be updated regularly with information regarding this crisis, including legislative action Congress is taking to address the pandemic and its effects on our country.
This week, I joined several of my Congressional colleagues in a letter to federal housing officials, including Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, in calling for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The letter reads in part: “This is a national emergency and many occupants of federally assisted housing will not be able to afford rent or mortgage payments through no fault of their own as a direct result of emergency limitations put in place to safeguard public health.” After we sent the letter, I was pleased to learn that the Department of Housing and Urban Development will suspend foreclosures and evictions for mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration until the end of April. See the entire letter here.
This week, I became aware that blood drives are slowing as the impact of the pandemic touches on routines of even our most altruistic neighbors. This coronavirus situation may affect blood donations and those who can donate blood should know that collection centers are following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on keeping facilities sterile and safe.
This week, I joined Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia of Illinois in a letter asking Congressional leaders to include protections for workers and consumers in any financial assistance aimed at supporting the airline industry as part of the next economic stimulus package to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus. I strongly believe that any infusion of money to the airlines must have strings attached – including new rules to prohibit consumer abuses like unfair change and cancellation fees; protections for front-line workers like flight attendants, pilots, and airport workers; and special consideration for our medium-sized airports, like Memphis International Airport. It should also prohibit the funding for stock buy-backs or executive bonuses. See my release See my release and the letter here.
This week, I announced that the University of Memphis received a National Science Foundation grant to promote statistical literacy. See that release here. I also announced U.S. Department of Health and Human Service research grants to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) and St. Jude Children’s Research Center. See that release here.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Weekly Health Tip
The Covid-19 outbreak may have some people stressed out. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has some comprehensive guidance for dealing with a variety of issues, ranging from isolation to cancellations. See that guidance here.
Quote of the Week
“We owe a profound debt of gratitude to all our health professionals and everybody who’ll be on the front lines of this pandemic for a long while. They’re giving everything. May we all model our own behavior on their selflessness and sacrifice as we help each other through this.” – Former President Barack Obama, tweeting on Tuesday.
As always, I remain
Member of Congress