Conaway Chronicle: Coronavirus Update

Texans shall, except where necessary to provide or obtain essential services, minimize social gatherings and minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household." -- Governor Greg Abbott

Congressman Mike Conaway 

Texas Insider Report: WASHINGTON, D.C. – Over the last week, we have all personally felt the effects of COVID-19 in our communities as the virus has now touched every corner of the country. Under the advice of medical professionals, President Trump extended his Slow the Spread guidelines until the end of April. We must all do our part to protect our communities by closely following the guidelines:
  • Listen and follow all directions from your state and local authorities.
  • Avoid social gatherings, especially those with more than 10 people.
  • Practice strict personal hygiene. Wash your hands and avoid touching your face. Sneeze or cough into a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
  • Use pickup or delivery options instead of eating at restaurants or bars.
  • Work from home if at all possible. Do not go to work if you feel sick.
  • If someone in your household tests positive for Coronavirus, keep the entire family at home and contact your medical provider.
  • Read the complete list of guidelines here.
Additionally, Governor Abbott issued an executive order mandating that Texans "shall, except where necessary to provide or obtain essential services, minimize social gatherings and minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household." You can read his entire executive order here.

These next few weeks will be challenging for all of us as we adjust to this new way of life. However, we must realize that these are temporary measures we must closely comply with to beat this unprecedented public health crisis.

Relief for Small Businesses
Among those most critically impacted by this crisis are the small businesses that have been forced to close their doors to any in-person services. Although we have seen many business owners get creative to provide take-out and drive-through services, there remains many who do not have this option, or may still have been hurt by a decrease in customers.

To mitigate the financial strain imposed by the guidelines, the CARES Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump last week provides federal financial assistance to small businesses with less than 500 employees.

Economic Injury Disaster Advance Loan
  • In response to COVID-19, small business owners are eligible to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance of up to $10,000.
    • This advance will provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. Funds will be made available within three days of a successful application.
    • Apply for the loan advance here.
Paycheck Protection Loans- Apply Now!
  • The CARES Act creates a new Paycheck Protection Loan program administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA).
    • Under this program, the federal government will forgive 8 weeks of cash flow, rent, and utilities at 100% up to two and a half times the average monthly payroll. 
    • As of today (Friday, April 3rd), the application for this loan is OPEN. Please find more information and apply here.
Payroll Tax Credit
  • The CARES Act creates an Employee Retention Credit, a refundable payroll tax credit equal to 50% of up to $10,000 in wages per employee (including health benefits) paid by employers.
    • The credit is available to employers whose operations were fully or partially shut down by government orders limiting commerce, travel, or group meetings due to coronavirus, or whose quarterly receipts are less than 50% for the same quarter last year.
    • The credit is for wages paid by eligible employers from March 13, 2020 through December 31, 2020.
Additional Relief
  • The CARES Act also authorizes employers to:
    • Delay the payment of their 2020 payroll taxes until 2021 and 2022
    • Carry back their losses from previous years to access tax refunds
    • Access tax refunds now for investments they made in 2018 and 2019
Questions? Contact my office.
  • If you are a small business owner and have any questions or require assistance accessing any of these benefits, please reach out to my office here.
Individual Assistance
To further assist American families, the CARES Act provides several avenues of assistance for individuals.

Stimulus Rebate Payment  
In the next few weeks, a one-time payment of cash assistance will be rolled out to Americans based on income level and family size.
  • Individuals earning less than $75,000 annually will receive a payment of $1,200.
    • Those earning between $75,001 and $98,999 will receive a payment reduced by $5 for each $100 above $75,000.
    • The credit is completely phased out at the individual income level of $99,000.
  • Joint filers earning less than $150,000 will receive an economic impact payment of $2,400.
    • Joint filers earning between $150,001 and 197,999 combined will receive a payment reduced by $5 for each $100 above $150,000.
    • The credit is completely phased out for joint filers making more than $198,000.
  • Parents will also receive an additional $500 for each child. 
    • For example, a typical family of four would be eligible for $3,400 payment. 
    • Any child who is a qualifying child for the purposes of the Child Tax Credit is also a qualifying child for the purposes of the recovery rebate.
    • In general, a child is any dependent of a taxpayer 17 years of age or younger.
The Treasury Department is working hard to process payments as quickly as possible, and anticipates filers to begin receiving payments within 2-3 weeks from now. Most Americans do not need to take any action to receive their payment.

Payments will be based on your 2019 income tax filing. If you haven't filed yet, it will defer to your 2018 filing. The department is prioritizing those who already filed their 2019 tax returns and have opted for direct deposits. If you haven't filed your taxes for this year yet, it is highly encouraged that you do so as soon as possible. If you haven't filed a tax return yet, you may do so online for free at this link.

Expanded Unemployment Insurance
The CARES Act expands the size and scope of unemployment benefits for Americans who are out of work due to the coronavirus.
  • The bill makes benefits more generous by adding a $600/week across-the-board payment increase to existing unemployment insurance amounts through the end of July.
    • In addition, for those who need it, the bill provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits beyond what states typically allow.
  • Unemployement benefits have also been expanded to cover more workers who do not usually qualified for unemployment.
    • This includes self-employed and independent contractors like gig workers and Uber drivers.
    • The bill also includes support to state and local governments and nonprofits so they can offer unemployment benefits to their employees. 
  • The expansion in unemployment benefits expires at the end of 2020 in recognition of the temporary nature of this challenge.
For more information on Texas unemployment, please visit the Texas Workforce Commission's website here.

What can We Do?
We are all in this together. It is our duty to respect our neighbors and those in our communities by closely following the guidelines set by our local, state, and federal leaders. Please continue to limit your exposure to those outside of your household as much as possible.

Additionally, you can help our small businesses by picking up take-out from local restaurants, purchasing gift cards to use in the future, and shopping local businesses online.

As this situation continues to evolve, please refrain from spreading rumors and false narratives. To help you monitor the situation, I have put together a page with trusted resources for your reference. You can access that here.

Final Thoughts
Thank you for reading. I hope we can take advantage of these quiet hours while we're staying at home to reflect on our own faith and ask God to show us the areas in our lives that need refining.

In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God gives us a promise: "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear them from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 

Our nation has never needed that promise as much as she needs it today. I have all the confidence in the world that if we, as a nation, put down our partisan jerseys and rally to our flag and our God, we will overcome this challenge and re-emerge stronger than ever.

As always, you can follow me on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
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