Coronavirus Situation Update -- March 18, 2020

Below are some items of particular note as our nation continues to cope with the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, starting with a lot of detailed information related to the items included in the disaster package related to small businesses:

  • Information for Small Businesses:  There is a lot of confusion about what’s in the package related to small businesses and the mandatory leave policy for those that test positive or who have a child at home due to school closure.  This document, courtesy of the House Republican Conference, details the provisions included to help businesses with 500 and fewer employees' cash flow when employees are eligible for mandatory paid leave due to the virus.  This mandatory leave policy is a top priority of the Administration and, according to Secretary Mnuchin, the Treasury is working on regulations to front small businesses the money needed to enable cash flow. 

  • Let me also note that the U.S. Senate will very likely pass a trillion plus dollar economic aid package sometime next week.  Many of us in the House are encouraging the Senate to focus on direct aid to small businesses in the form of no-interest loans to be paid back over a long period of time starting in 2021.  

  • I also want to make you aware of a report by a cybersecurity firm about hackers in Libya that appear to be using a fake coronavirus-themed app.  In this case, the application is titled “corona live 1.1.", a spoof of a legitimate app that links users to Johns Hopkins University's coronavirus tracker.  Learn more about the scam here, and be wary of malicious apps and scams that seek to take advantage of the current situation. 

  • If you have a friend or loved one currently stranded in another country, be sure to remind them to enroll with the State Department's STEP Program, which will allow them to register their travel with the nearest embassy or consulate. It will ensure our embassies and consulates are able to remain in contact with them as the virus situation evolves or they find themselves in a country where violence has erupted.

  • Here are more details about the executive order issued by Gov. Cooper yesterday requiring North Carolina restaurants and bars to be closed to sit-down service and limited to take-out or delivery orders. The order will directly aid workers who may have lost wages in restaurants and meeting places due to mass gathering restrictions. For example, workers who lose income due to tips or scheduled work hours, but are still employed, would be eligible for benefits because of this Executive Order. Among other changes:
    • It removes the one-week waiting period to apply for unemployment payment for those workers who lose their jobs;
    • It removes the requirement that a person must be actively looking for another job during this time when many potential employers are closed and social distancing guidelines are in effect. 
    • It allows employees who lose their jobs or, in certain cases have their hours reduced due to Covid-19 to apply for unemployment benefits.
    • It directs that employers will not be held responsible for benefits paid as a direct result of these COVID-19 claims. 
    • It waives the requirement that people must apply for benefits in person; workers can apply for benefits online or by phone.

My staff this week is teleworking in accordance with recommendations by the House Office of the Attending Physician. As we are receiving a high volume of calls, please be sure to leave a message if we can be of assistance and a member of my team will get back to you.

As always, stay tuned to coronavirus.org and the NC Department of Health and Human Services' website for the latest on the state and federal response to the outbreak.