COVID-19 Prevention and Public Safety
As has been widely reported, there has been a surge in the number of coronavirus cases across the world and it is likely we’ll see an increasing number in the United States as well. Fortunately, we have access to commonsense preventative measures and a robust public health system to help protect us. On this page, my team and I have assembled links and contact information to some of the key resources and support which can help you and your family through this pandemic and the economic challenges it's created.
If you have further questions on these issues or the materials below, please reach out to my office in Schaumburg at (847) 413-1959 or my Washington, DC office at (202) 225-3711. I will continue to provide regular updates via email and social media.
Individual Resource Pages
Full Overview Of Available Resources
Experts have been working hard to understand this new strain of coronavirus. Because new information is coming out every day, please visit the sites below to stay up to date.
The Centers for Disease Control provides updates on the virus and safety information for the public and healthcare professionals.
The Illinois Department of Health provides updates on the disease's spread within the state, as well as frequently asked questions available here. They can be reached at 1-800-889-3931.
The State Department provides a list of travel advisories for those who are planning to fly outside of the United States.
General Small Business Guidance and Resources from the Small Business Administration Health and government officials are working together to maintain the safety, security, and health of the American people. Small businesses are encouraged to do their part to keep their employees, customers, and themselves healthy.
Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loans This program offers low-interest loans through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program for small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). A fact sheet about the EIDL program is available here. Apply for the program online here.
Information On COVID-19 Prevention, Symptoms, And What To Do If You're Sick
What You Need To Know
- Washing your hands frequently is the number one way to stop the spread of this virus. Do so for 20 seconds using hot water, rinse, and dry with a clean towel, especially when you come in from outside.
- Hand sanitizer works, but washing your hands is more effective and should be your first option when available. If you use hand sanitizer, make sure it has at least 60% alcohol content, that you use enough to wet both your hands completely, and that you rub it in until your hands are dry.
- Minimize contact with your mouth, nose, and eyes.
- Frequently clean and disinfect surfaces touched by others.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home if you are not feeling well. If you have symptoms that you think may be COVID-19, call your doctor and ask for advice.
- It's always a good idea to keep an extra supply of prescription medicines and contact lenses on hand.
- Get plenty of sleep, eat balanced and nutritious meals, and drink lots of water to stay healthy.
- Staying informed is important -- but so is turning off the news, going for a walk, and taking care of yourself.
- Hoarding food or panic buying at the grocery store serves no purpose and is completely unnecessary. There is no shortage of food and shelves are being quickly restocked.
- Now is not that time to go out with friends or throw a party. Governor Baker has declared a state of emergency and prohibited people from gathering in groups larger than 25.
- Don't stop buying from local stores just because of this emergency. Buy a gift card for later use, pay for an upcoming appointment now, and order take out or delivery if you can.
- If you are symptomatic, do not go outside and do not interact with anyone, especially with the elderly or anyone with a preexisting condition or a weakened immune system.
- Even if you are healthy and do not have symptoms, you may be carrying COVID-19 without knowing it. Now is not the time to visit nursing homes, hospitals, or senior centers.
What To Do If You Get Sick
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified the following symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19):
- Shortness of breath
Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after being exposed to the virus. If you are sick, here are some helpful tips to prevent spreading the illness:
|Stay home except for medical care|
|Separate yourself from people and animals at home|
|Call ahead before visiting your doctor|
|Wear a facemask in public spaces|
|Cover your coughs and sneezes|
|Clean your hands often|
|Avoid sharing personal items|
|Clean and disinfect surfaces|
|Monitor your symptoms|
Resources for small businesses
As you know, Congress recently passed the CARES Act to extend credit access to qualified small businesses through bank loans. This bill secured $350 million inf forgivable loans and $10 billion in grants to small businesses, tribal business concerns, and certain nonprofits. It also small businesses the opportunity to apply for up to $10,000 in grants to retain workers and pay for debt obligations. Finally, the CARES Act created a new SBA 7(a) Paycheck Protection Program that would forgive loans used for payroll costs (including paid leave, health care, and other costs) to retain workers, and other expenses such as rent, mortgage interest, and utilities. Independent contractors, sole-proprietors, and other self-employed persons were to be eligible for these loans.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration made changes to the loan programs in the dark of night that sabotaged the programs and prevented companies from accessing the credit they desperately needed. As a result the Administration completely botched the roll-out of this essential program.
I am closely monitoring the implementation of these loan programs and will conduct the oversight and investigations necessary to ensure that these programs provide small businesses with the support they need. In the meantime feel free to fill out the application here and contact my office at 347 413 1959 to address your specific situation
Resources for workers
Unemployment Insurance: If you lost your job as a result of this pandemic, you may be eligible for Unemployment Insurance. You will also receive an additional $600 per week to match the average paycheck for up for 4 months of benefits. For more information about unemployment insurance benefits contact the Illinois employment insurance program here: https://www2.illinois.gov/ides/individuals/UnemploymentInsurance/Pages/default.aspx
Emergency paid leave: Many workers in Illinois currently have no paid leave and are being forced to choose between their paycheck, their health, and the health of the people around them. The emergency paid leave provisions in the CARES Act are a critical step toward protecting families’ financial security and mitigating the spread of the coronavirus. For eligibility information visit https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave if you are an employee, or https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employer-paid-leave if you are an employer.
Resources for families
Direct payments: As you may have heard, everyone will be receiving direct payments of up to $1,200, depending on your income, with an additional $500 per minor child. These payments will be issued by the IRS via direct deposit based on the bank account information that you provided in your 2019 or 2018 tax return or Social Security statement. If you did not file a tax return in 2018 or 2019 and you do not receive Social Security benefits, the IRS recommends that you file a 2018 return to receive payment. If the IRS does not have your bank account information, you should look for a letter from the IRS detailing how to receive the payment. If you receive Social Security, retirement or other social safety net benefits, you may still qualify for direct payments. These payments will not be taxable nor represent “resources” for program eligibility purposes. For more information from the IRS visit: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-operations-during-covid-19-mission-critical-functions-continue
Eviction Protections: Renters residing in public or assisted housing, or in a home or apartment whose owner has a federally-backed mortgage, and who are unable to pay their rent, are protected from eviction for 4 months. Property owners are also prohibited from issuing a 30-day notice to a tenant to vacate a property until after the 4-month moratorium ends. This protection covers properties that receive federal subsidies such as public housing, Section 8 assistance, USDA rural housing programs, and federally-issued or guaranteed mortgages. Renters whose landlord is not abiding by the moratorium should contact the relevant federal agency that administers their housing program or their local Legal Aid office.
Mortgage Forbearance: Homeowners with FHA, USDA, VA, or Section 184 or 184A mortgages (for members of federally-recognized tribes) and those with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac have the right to request forbearance on their payments for up to 6 months, with a possible extension for another 6 months without fees, penalties, or extra interest.
Energy Assistance: The CARES Act includes $900 million to help low-income Americans and their families heat and cool their homes. To learn more about the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in Illinois go to https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/communityservices/utilitybillassistance/pages/default.aspx
Food assistance: If you a struggling to put food on the table for yourself or your family during this crisis, the CARES Act makes increased investments in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps. To apply for SNAP in Illinois go to http://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=30357 or the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services Midwest Regional office located at 77 West Jackson Blvd 20th Floor, Chicago, IL 60604-3507, or call 312-353-6664
Food banks: Through the CARES Act we have secured $850 million in emergency funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to help food banks facing increasing demand due to the coronavirus. Visit http://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=30366 for more information or find a food bank near you here: https://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank. To find further food assistance near you, call the USDA National Hunger Hotline 1-866-3-HUNGRY/1-877-8-HAMBRE
School Meals: As more schools close due to coronavirus, we have provided emergency funding for Child Nutrition Programs to ensure students can still receive their free or reduced-price school meals. To learn more, about what Illinois is doing during this time visit https://www.fns.usda.gov/disaster/pandemic/covid-19/illinois#cn
Student loan relief for borrowers: If you have student loan debt, we secured several options outlined below for borrowers that help provide relief through September 30, 2020. During this period, a borrower will be able to:
- Pause payments for federal student loan borrowers who have Direct Loans and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL), which means these borrowers will not be required to make any payments toward outstanding interest or principal balance.
- Suspend interest accrual for such loans so that these balances don’t accrue.
- Avoid forced collections such as garnishment of wages, tax refunds, & Social Security benefits.
- Halt negative credit reporting.
- Ensure a borrower continues to receive credit toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Income-Driven Repayment forgiveness, and loan rehabilitation.
For additional guidance on how to apply and learn about next steps as this critical relief becomes available, please visit https://studentaid.gov/announcements-events/coronavirus
Stabilization funding for education: We secured $30.75 billion in funding for school districts, states and higher education institutions to ensure state resources and investments are not diverted from life-long learning. For additional guidance on how to apply and learn about next steps as this critical relief becomes available, please refer to the U.S. Department of Education website here: https://www.ed.gov/
Resources for Veterans
The VA has set up a dedicated COVID-19 site here.
What should veterans do if they think they have COVID-19?
Before visiting local VA medical facilities, community providers, urgent care centers, or emergency departments in their communities, veterans experiencing COVID-19 symptoms—such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath—are encouraged to call their VA medical facility or call MyVA311 (844-698-2311, press #3 to be connected). Veterans can also send secure messages to their health care providers via MyhealtheVet, VA’s online patient portal. VA clinicians will evaluate veterans’ symptoms and direct them to the most appropriate providers for further evaluation and treatment. This may include referral to state or local health departments for COVID-19 testing.
What about routine appointments and previously scheduled procedures?
VA is encouraging all veterans to call their VA facility before seeking any care—even previously scheduled medical visits, mental health appointments, or surgical procedures. Veterans can also send secure messages to their health care providers via MyhealtheVet and find out whether they should still come in for their scheduled appointments. VA providers may arrange to convert appointments to video visits, where possible.
Can visitors still access VA medical facilities?
Many VA medical facilities have canceled public events for the time being, and VA is urging all visitors who do not feel well to postpone their visits to local VA medical facilities. Facilities have also been directed to limit the number of entrances through which visitors can enter. Upon arrival, all patients, visitors, and employees will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and possible exposure.
What about VA nursing homes and spinal cord injury units?
On March 10, 2020, VA announced that its 134 nursing homes (also called VA community living centers) and 24 spinal cord injury and disorder centers would be closed to all outside visitors. All clinical staff will be screened for COVID-19 daily before entering the nursing home or spinal cord injury units, and staff will work only within those units to limit possible transmission of the virus. Exceptions to the visitor policy will only be made for cases when veterans are in their last stages of life in hospice units or inpatient spinal cord injury units.
Information About Social Security
All local Social Security offices will be closed to the public for in-person service as of Tuesday, March 17, 2020. This decision protects the population they serve—older Americans and people with underlying medical conditions—and their employees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, they are still able to provide critical services.
Services remain available at www.socialsecurity.gov. You can apply for retirement, disability, and Medicare benefits online, check the status of an application or appeal, request a replacement Social Security card (in most areas), print a benefit verification letter, and much more – from anywhere and from any of your devices. They also have a wealth of information to answer most of your Social Security questions online, without having to speak with a Social Security representative in person or by phone. Please visit our online Frequently Asked Questions at www.socialsecurity.gov/ask.
Local offices will also continue to provide critical services over the phone. They are working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local governments, and other experts to monitor COVID-19 and will let you know as soon as we can resume in-person service.
If you cannot conduct your Social Security business online, please check their online field office locator for specific information about how to directly contact your local office. Your local office still will be able to provide critical services to help you apply for benefits, answer your questions, and provide other services over the phone.
If you already have an in-office appointment scheduled, they will call you to handle your appointment over the phone instead. If you have a hearing scheduled, we will call you to discuss alternatives for continuing with your hearing, including offering a telephonic hearing. Our call may come from a PRIVATE number and not from a U.S. Government phone. Please remember that our employees will not threaten you or ask for any form of payment.
If you cannot complete your Social Security business online, please call their National 800 Number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Their National 800 Number has many automated service options you can use without waiting to speak with a telephone representative. A list of automated telephone services is available online at www.socialsecurity.gov/agency/contact/phone.html.