The coronavirus pandemic is developing very quickly, and I know many people have questions and concerns. I will try to answer some of them below.
These are incredibly stressful times for all Michiganders. I am working, along with my staff, around the clock, seven days a week to answer your questions, provide community resources and provide up-to-date, accurate information. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office anytime by calling (810) 238-8627.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has updated the epidemic order that restricts social gatherings and other group activities. Indoor activities where Michiganders can remain masked, including in-person learning at high schools, indoor entertainment venues and indoor group exercise and non-contact sports are allowed. Restaurants and bars are now allowed to reopen at 50% capacity (up to 100 people) with safeguards in place beginning March 5, 2021 through April 19, 2021. The order also increases gathering and capacity limits and allows for expanded visitation at residential care facilities. More information can be found here.
The IRS has announced that the 2021 tax filing season will open on February 12. The IRS is encouraging individuals to file electronically to speed up their refunds.
In the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, Congress approved $600 Economic Income Payments for eligible indviduals and children. The IRS has begun issuing these payments through direct deposit, paper checks or debit cards. Information on these payments, including eligibility, changing your personal information with the IRS or claiming an unreceived or less than expected amount can be found here. To check the status of your payment, use the Get My Payment portal on the IRS.gov website.
Michigan has started paying out the federal supplemental $300 per week unemployment benefit, which was established in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. All Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claimants can now reopen or certify their claims. These individuals may receive an additional 11 weeks of benefits, payable retroactively for the weeks ending January 2, 2021 through March 13, 2021. More information can be found here.
U.S. Small Business Administration will restart the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) this week for new borrowers and previous, eligible borrowers. More information can be found here.
On January 21, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education under the Biden administration extended its pause in federal student loan interest accrual and payment collections through September 30, 2021. Borrowers can find more information on the U.S. Department of Education's website.
CORONAVIRUS VACCINE UPDATE
Governor Whitmer announced the state was in phase 1b of the coronavirus vaccination distribution. Those who are currently eligible for the vaccine include: health care works, long term care residents and staff, Michiganders age 65 and older, frontline essential workers, teachers, childcare providers, and congregate care facilities.
More information about the coronavirus vaccine and Michigan's vaccine distribution plan can be found here and answers to frequently asked questions can be found here.
Michigan local health departments will schedule coronavirus vaccinations. You can figure out the name of the local health department for your county using this map. A list of the local health departments in Michigan's fifth district include:
Arenac County -- (989) 773-5921
Bay County -- (989) 308-1828, Leave a voicemail with your name, age, phone number
Genesee County -- (810) 257-3612
Valley Area on Aging -- (810) 239-7671
Iosco County -- (989) 345-5020
Saginaw County -- (989) 758-3800
Tuscola County -- (989) 673-8114
On December 21, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which includes a nearly $1 trillion emergency relief package to support American workers, families and small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. More information can be found here.
On October 1, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an updated version The Heroes Act. These new provisions are essential to supporting our schools, small businesses, restaurants, performance spaces, airline workers and others. More information can be found here.
On August 22, the U.S. House of Representatives passed The Delivering for America Act, to fund the U.S. Postal Service and prohibit changes to operations until the pandemic has ended. More information can be found here.
On May 12, the U.S. House of Representatives passed The Heroes Act. The Heroes Act includes a number of key policies I have advocated for, including additional direct payments to families and seniors, expanding unemployment insurance, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, and funding to prevent water shutoffs. More information can be found here.
On May 15, I introduced a bipartisan bill, The Recharge and Empower Local Innovation and Entrepreneurs Fund for Main Street Act (RELIEF for Main Street Act), with Reps. Evans (D-PA), Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Upton (R-MI). The bill creates a $50.5 billion Small Business Local Relief Program to provide direct federal support to cities, counties and states in order to seed and scale local relief funds and target small businesses with 20 employees or fewer, or with 50 employees or fewer located in low-income neighborhoods. More information can be found here.
Congress also passed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, The CARES Act, Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act to help families and health care facilities respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
CORONAVIRUS TESTING UPDATE
The Governor has expanded testing opportunities for Michiganders to access testing in their own backyards. More information can be found here.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched a website and app with a coronavirus screening tool and resources to help people protect their health. The website can be found here and the app can be accessed here.
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE RESOURCES UPDATE
The Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) provided additional guidance to workers and employers who may be affected COVID-19. Michiganders who were on unemployment, went back to work, and are now temporarily unemployed again due to COVID-19 can reopen their claim online. More information can be found here.
UIA is now offering telephone appointments for customers with specific claim issues. By scheduling a phone appointment, customers will be able to get assistance with issues at their convenience. Phone appointments are available Monday through Friday from 8:15 a.m. -- 4:25 p.m. More information can be found here.
On May 1, I introduced The Strengthening UI for COVID Impacted Workers and Students Act to expand unemployment insurance for American workers, which was included in The Heroes Act. For more information, visit here.
Unemployment Insurance Benefits: Individuals should apply online at www.Michigan.gov/UIA or call 866-500-0017 and are encouraged to follow a filing schedule based on last name and use off-peak times (8 p.m. -- 8 a.m). The UIA offers resources to help workers resolve online technical issues with their account. More information can be found here.
Governor Whitmer created the Eviction Diversion Program, which outlines a process for renters to get fast rental assistance or establish a manageable payment plan to help them stay in their homes. The program also includes assistance to landlords. More information can be found here.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have a website to help renters and homeowners understand their housing assistance options. This includes information on mortgage and rental relief as well as resources for additional help that may be needed. More information, including step by step videos, can be found here.
Congress extended the CDC moratorium on evictions of renters based on non-payment of rent through January 31, 2021. For individuals that have questions on how this moratorium works or how they can access help, the National Low Income Housing Coalition has put together an overview of the order here, while Michigan Legal Help has more tools and information here.
COMMUNITY RESOURCES UPDATE
The SBA has put out a step by step guide for businesses with a PPP loan on how to apply for loan forgiveness. More information can be found here.
The Governor announced low-income residents, seniors, schools and homeless shelters will benefit from the MI Mask Aid partnership that is part of the Mask Up Michigan Campaign. More information can be found here.
Personal Protective Equipment: The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has launched a platform to help re-opening businesses acquire PPE. More information can be found here.
Michigan's Virtual Food Bank: Seniors in need of food support can sign up for assistance, including meal delivery, delivery of non-perishable food items, and daily wellness-check calls, through the MDHHS coronavirus website, or by contacting their local Area Agency on Aging. More information on the virtual food bank can be found here.
Flint Cares Help Centers: The city of Flint is offering resources and services including bottled water and food assistance. Services will continue to be provided from two semi-trailers staged in church parking lots across the city to distribute items directly to cars as residents drive through. For more information please call 810-410-2020 or visit here.