Here is today’s update:

  • My staff continues to communicate with the State Department regarding the processing of passport applications and renewals.  Here is the latest update:
    • Per a conference call with the State Department yesterday, we have been advised that the State Department has now deemed employees who process passports as “mission critical” employees.  So, employees that are not high risk have returned to work.
    • However, there will still be significant delays in processing passports.  The State Department stopped processing passports on March 19 except for life and death emergencies.  There is a backlog is 1.7 million passports.  They will start processing passports on a first in, first out basis.  
    • After June 17, constituents can call the National Passport Information Center for an update on the status of a passport.  TheNational Passport Information Center can be reached at 1-877-487-2778 or 1-888-874-7793
    • Right now, the information isn’t available but the State Department assured us that they anticipate having the information available by the close of business June 17.
    • At this time, there is no avenue for expediting a passport except for a life and death emergency.

  • The IRS is reminding taxpayers that the new July 15 tax filing deadline – postponed earlier this year from April 15 – is drawing near, and recommending taxpayers that still haven’t filed their 2019 tax return to file electronically now and include their direct deposit information so they can receive their refunds promptly.  As a reminder, taxpayers whose income was $69,000 or less last year are eligible to use IRS Free File software. 

  • The Southern Farm Days Show, held every year in Columbus County and previously postponed from earlier in the year until mid-June, has been cancelled.  Organizers say that the show would not be able to follow the guidelines laid out by the governor’s three-phase reopening process.  Mark your calendars for March 19-21, 2021, for next year’s show!  More information from their website here.

  • The Federal Reserve announced earlier this week that it is expanding access to the Main Street Lending Program, created by the CARES Act to help medium-sized businesses too large for Paycheck Protection Program loans to access the capital they need to survive the crisis.  The Fed lowered the minimum loan amount, raised the maximum loan limit, adjusted the principal repayment schedule to begin after two years, and extended the term to five years, providing borrowers with greater flexibility in repaying the loans.  More information from the Federal Reserve is available here.

  • Some good news on the testing front: the FDA has issued an emergency use authorization for the first COVID-19 test utilizing next generation sequence technology.  This will not only expand the array of tests available; the use of next generation sequencing will help researchers monitor how the virus changes and mutates over time, which will be critically important to defeating the virus in the future.  More information from the FDA available here.

For today’s good news story, I’m highlighting the town of Garland, which is honoring its graduating seniors this summer with banners along U.S. 701 with their names and pictures.  Each community is finding a way to celebrate the Class of 2020 despite the COVID-19 outbreak, and it’s clear the students appreciate it!

As always, stay tuned to Coronavirus.gov and the NC Department of Health and Human Services’ website for the latest on the outbreak.