This afternoon, the Senate passed the House-passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) with an overwhelming bipartisan majority, sending it to the President’s desk. The bill will make it easier for all Americans to do what it takes to work together to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Free testing for coronavirus: All individuals who need a test, including those with private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, VA, FEHBP, and TRICARE, as well as the uninsured, will have access at no cost.
Paid emergency leave: The bill provides two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of job-protected leave to allow workers to follow quarantine recommendations and care for their family members impacted by the virus.
Enhanced unemployment insurance: It extends emergency unemployment insurance to help cover workers who are furloughed or quarantined due to an outbreak in their workplaces
Food security: It expands food assistance through the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program, food banks, Meals on Wheels, SNAP, and provides electronic benefit transfer amounts to families who would usually receive free and reduced-price meals at school
Health security: It invests additional federal funding into Medicaid to give states the option to expand Medicaid coverage for COVID-19 testing.
Congressional leaders are working with the Trump Administration on additional legislation to help our country manage the next few weeks and months. We will ensure that we help all Americans through this national emergency, including families, wage employees, small businesses, and major employers like the tourism industry.
What I’m Fighting For:
Congress must offer American households direct payments to give families the support they need in this time. As we increase testing we will learn of many more cases in our communities. This will require additional closures to help control the spread of the virus and will have a big impact on our economy. We must provide direct assistance to families to ensure that they can bear the burden of these closures.
I’m also fighting to impose a temporary moratorium on foreclosures and evictions, to ensure continued service from utilities during this crisis, and to protect the ability of small businesses to fight through these enormous challenges. We must protect every American family from the impact of the preventive actions we are taking to save lives. I will update you as we finalize the legislation.
Other Actions I’ve Taken:
Yesterday, I joined Rep. Lois Frankel and some of my other Florida colleagues to urging Governor Desantis to modify state unemployment benefit requirements to ensure Floridians will be eligible for federal emergency unemployment assistance and provide guidance to small businesses on how to access federal emergency loans.
Additionally, I cosponsored legislation that would immediately expand Social Security benefits to help vulnerable members of our community like seniors and people with disabilities who are at increased risk from COVID-19.
Testing for COVID-19
Like many of you, I have been extremely frustrated by the lack of information on how to get tested for the coronavirus. We aren’t testing nearly enough to know how far the virus is spreading in Florida. I have been pressing state and federal authorities to make more testing available in Florida.
The State of Florida continues to urge people to call their health providers or county health departments if they are concerned that they may have the virus. If you need a test, you should be able to get one. And it shouldn’t take days to get the results.
In the meantime, we must continue to practice social distancing to ensure even asymptomatic carriers don’t spread the virus.
National & State Guidelines
President Trump announced that in states with community transmission, bars, restaurants, and other venues where people congregate should be closed for the time being.
Yesterday, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that all bars and nightclubs will be closed for 30 days starting at 5pm. While this is an important step in protecting public health, we must continue to avoid ALL non-essential crowded public spaces.
We all have a responsibility to do our part in stopping the spread of Coronavirus. Please remember to:
Additionally, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced the following policy changes from the Florida Forest Service:
Effective March 20:
Day use at trailheads remain open for dispersed recreation. Hunting on state forests managed as wildlife management is allowed by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rules and seasons.
Federal Tax Information
Taxpayers can continue to file their tax returns; if you get a tax refund, it can provide you with additional funding in this challenging period. However, if you owe a tax payment, you will have the option to defer payment for three months. And I have been in contact with the White House about extending the filing deadline as well. I’ll let you know when I hear more.
Families and small businesses can defer tax payments for 90 days. This includes small businesses and certain categories of sole proprietors and corporations. Penalties and interest that would otherwise apply during this nearly three-month period will be waived.
Small Business Disaster Loans
The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program is currently available to small business owners located in all Florida counties statewide that experienced economic damage as a result of COVID-19.
Learn more here.
COVID-19 Public Website and Call Center
Please visit the Florida Department of Health’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage for information and guidance regarding COVID-19 in Florida.
For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, please contact the DOH’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 1-(866) 779-6121. The Call Center is available 24 hours a day. Inquiries may also be emailed to COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org.
Port Everglades Advisory
The Florida Department of Health (DOH) recommends all individuals experiencing symptoms who have recently traveled through Port Everglades to immediately contact their CHD or health care provider and self-isolate for 14 Days.
CDC recommends that individuals with recent travel history on a cruise monitor their health for 14 days and, if they develop symptoms, immediately self-isolate and contact their CHD or health care provider.
Nile Cruise Advisory
The Florida Department of Health is advising all individuals who traveled to Egypt for a cruise or tour on the Nile River in February or March 2020 to self-isolate for 14 days following their date of return to the United States, and if ill, immediately contact their CHD or health care provider.
County Health Departments
If you’re concerned that you may have contracted Coronavirus, please contact your healthcare professional or county health department:
Broward County: 954-467-4700
Palm Beach County: 561-840-4500
Miami-Dade County: 305-324-2400
School Meal Programs:
This week, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked with county school boards across the state to launch meal sites that will help feed hungry families while schools are closed.
Families who receive free and reduced-price meals may search for the most convenient location by using the Summer Breakspot website.
I strongly urge everyone to continue to monitor updates with your local news organizations and follow the CDC’s guidelines regarding proper hygiene and how to protect yourselves and your families.
Please stay home if you can, keep six-feet between you and other members of the public if you must be out, wash your hands regularly, do not touch your face, and do not attend gatherings of more than 10 people. Seniors are especially vulnerable to the virus and should take extra precautions. The CDC recommends all people with underlying health conditions and adults over 60 should maintain a reserve of medication and grocery items and remain home.
We are working hard to ensure everyone can respond to the coronavirus threat appropriately and keep themselves and their families safe, while protecting Americans from the costs of care and loss of pay. I will continue to work with state and local officials in South Florida to monitor the impact of this virus and support the efforts to contain it.
Please call my office at 561-470-5440 if we can be of any assistance. You can also follow my updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
I hope everyone stays safe and healthy.