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Opinion: US 7th Congressional District Representative Letter on COVID-19

Dear Friend,

A bipartisan deal on a major coronavirus relief package was reached late last night, however several members of the Senate have identified a flaw in the language relating to Unemployment Insurance.  Senator Lindsey Graham and others think the way the provision is written, workers will be incentivized to stay home and collect payment.  Senator Bernie Sanders says he will object to the bill moving forward if Graham and others get the change they want.  So we will just have to wait and see what happens.

Whenever it passes the Senate, the bill will move to the House.  Because this is an enormous bill with a $2 trillion plus price tag, I anticipate members of the House will be called back to debate the bill with passage immediately thereafter.  In the end, the language will likely change little, if any, and be sent to the President for his signature.  I will send out another newsletter a little later with some of the highlights of the deal.  The good news is most of the extraneous items that had been requested and held up a deal for the past two days never made it into the bill.

Here are some other updates for today:

  • Vice President Mike Pence said yesterday anyone who has recently visited the New York City metro area should self-quarantine for 14 days.  Of some 55,000 coronavirus cases in the U.S., more than 26,000 of them are in New York, which is rapidly becoming the nation’s biggest hotspot for the virus.
  • The President also announced that the U.S. has done more tests in eight days than South Korea has done in eight weeks.  More than 370,000 Americans have been tested for COVID-19, with 220,000 tests occurring in the last 8 days.
  • The New Hanover County Regional Medical Center is seeking to procure additional personal protective equipment to help keep healthcare workers safe.  If you are in New Hanover County and you or your business has any unused N-95 or greater masks (or any face masks), goggles, gloves or clear face shields that can be donated, contact the New Hanover Disaster Coalition.
  • FEMA has set up a website for businesses looking to donate medical supplies, equipment or services as part of the COVID-19 response, available here.
  • The Department of Labor has posted information regarding the expanded paid medical and sick leave requirements for small businesses included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the initial coronavirus relief bill signed into law by President Trump last week. Note that this pertains solely to the initial coronavirus relief bill, and more help for small businesses and workers is on the way as part of the bipartisan package I mentioned at the top of this e-mail. Here is the relevant information:
  • The U.S. Postal Service has also issued an update on delivery options for those who have concerns about accepting mail. Customers can arrange with their local Post Office to place a receptacle outside their office or home. Customers can also arrange to have their mail picked up at their local Post Office.
    • In addition, customers can open a P.O. Box at the local Post Office.  Businesses like restaurants, bars and gyms that are closed because of the outbreak may also arrange with their local Post Office to place a receptacle outside their business or pickup at their local Post Office.  They can also submit a temporary change of address.
    • To arrange one of these alternate delivery methods, contact your local Post Office. 
  • The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) has partnered with the North Carolina Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) network to launch a hotline to provide child care options for children of critical workers who do not have access to typical care because of COVID-19 closures.  Workers who need care may call 1-888-600-1685 to receive information about local options for children from infants through age 12.  The hotline is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • The COVID-19 crisis poses unique challenges for those recovering from addiction.  If you or a friend or loved one are struggling to recover from addiction, please review this flyer from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which includes a host of virtual recovery resources that can be utilized while preventing the spread of the virus.
    • Individuals coping with depression, addiction, anxiety, stress or other conditions can also call 1-800-985-5990 to reach the Disaster Distress Hotline, a national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress because of the outbreak.  You can also text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
  • We’ve had questions from constituents regarding the status of ongoing overseas adoptions.  For adoption cases impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, you can write to Adoption@state.gov with information or questions about urgent situations, such as children who are approaching age limits under U.S. or foreign law, or children with exceptional medical needs.  Please also view this page relating to adoption-based travel.

Last, I think it is important for you to know some of the great things taking place all across the 7th Congressional District during this challenging time.  Many are pulling together and helping each other through the crisis.  Here are several notables:

April and Max Sussman, owners of The Veggie Wagon in Shallotte, Brunswick County, are donating casseroles to the Federal Point Help Center in Carolina Beach for distribution to those in need — particularly those who rely on tips and are finding it a challenge to put food on the table.  Or the teachers at North Topsail Elementary School who lined up their cars into a caravan and drove into local neighborhoods to see their students and remind them that they care.  Or in Pender County, where cafeteria workers and school bus drivers are teaming up to provide meals for kids who are out of school at more than 50 locations.  They’ve served almost 9,000 meals to date.

Each of these stories — and there are countless more — serve as a reminder that we can and will get through this together.

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

Sincerely,
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