Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart

Representing the 25th District of FLORIDA

Coronavirus Updates

I have been, and will continue to be, in frequent contact with local, state, and federal officials regarding preparedness and protocol for COVID-19. At all levels of government, we’ve seen a proactive response in the efforts to contain the spread of this virus, and I will continue to maintain an open line of communication with both my constituents and those on the frontline of this issue.

Latest Developments

Governor Ron DeSantis has issued the following Executive Orders.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has issued the following Emergency Orders.

City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has issued the following Emergency Orders.

Legislative Action

Federal Government Response to Coronavirus, COVID-19

March 3: The House passed an $8.3 billion emergency supplemental appropriations package.

March 11: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded $27.2 million to Florida to support the COVID-19 response.

March 13: The House passed the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” which provides testing and paid sick leave for workers impacted by the coronavirus, and also provides additional resources to expand our testing capabilities and accessibility.

March 27: The CARES Act was signed into law. This is a $2 trillion emergency relief package that provides immediate aid to those who have lost their jobs, businesses struggling to stay open and keep their employees working, and the thousands of brave healthcare providers at the forefront of this global outbreak. 

April 23: The House passed H.R. 266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which would provide additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program while also allocating additional resources to help hospitals and increase testing capabilities.

Tax Day Extension

President Trump extended the tax filing deadline from April 15th to July 15th. He also announced that the U.S. Treasury Department may "defer tax payments, without interest or penalties, for certain individuals and businesses negatively impacted.” This covers a broad range of Americans, including small businesses that file as individuals who owe up to $1M and other categories of small businesses, sole proprietors, and corporations owing up to $10 million.

Student Loans

Federal student loan borrowers can now take a two-month break from payments without incurring interest or penalties.

Eviction Suspension

President Trump directed the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to suspend evictions and foreclosures through April.

Price Gauging

President Trump signed an executive order to prevent price gouging, hoarding of medical supplies. He also announced that FEMA is distributing 8 million N95 respirator masks and 13.3 million surgical masks across the country, focusing on the areas with the greatest need and that the agency has received donations totaling approximately 6.5 million masks from the private sector to help combat this crisis.

Local Resources

Here's a list of the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centers in South Florida.

Here are a few local resources to help you stay informed:   

Miami-Dade Florida Department of Health 

Hendry County Health Department

Collier County Health Department 

Veteran's Health Administration 

If your employment has been negatively impacted by COVID-19, you may be eligible to receive Reemployment Assistance from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

COVID-19 Resources for Individuals and Employers: https://www.floridajobsresources.com

Reemployment Frequently Asked Questionshttp://floridajobs.org/docs/default-source/reemployment-assistance-center/new-individual-faq-includes-cares-act-final.pdf 

Additional Ways to Apply for Reemployment Assistance
Beginning this week, CareerSource locations across the state will be providing paper applications and assisting Floridians with submitting their Reemployment Assistance applications. Visit www.CareerSourceFlorida.com for information and center locations.

FedEx is offering free printing and mailing of Reemployment Assistance paper applications at over 100 storefronts across the state.

Applications can be downloaded at www.FloridaJobs.org/COVID-19. Once the application is complete, individuals should mail them to:\

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
P.O. Box 5350
Tallahassee, FL 32314-5350
 

Food Assistance

South Florida residents who need food assistance, visit the Feeding South Florida site to locate a food pantry near you.

If you live in Collier or Hendry County and need food assistance, the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida, Inc. will be providing food distribution at locations throughout the counties. 

Click here for a list of Free Food Distribution Locations.

Click here for Upcoming Food Distributions in Your Neighborhood.

For Small Businesses and Nonprofits

Included in the CARES Act package is the Paycheck Protection Program, which seeks to assist small businesses struggling financially due to COVID-19. While designed to encourage small businesses to retain employees and keep them on payroll, this loan can also be used for payments toward interest on any mortgage obligation, rent, utilities, or interest on any other debt obligations incurred before 2/15/20.

Here’s a document of the most frequently asked questions:

Haga clic aquí para leer esto en español.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also compiled a list of programs providing financial assistance to small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

  • The bill also includes several small business provisions designed to help farmers stay in business and take care of their employees during this difficult time.
  • These include provisions that allow farmers to work with their trusted farm credit institutions for the purposes of securing payroll tax loans, along with 1-year deferrals, 100% guarantees, and low rates.  
  • Additional funding is provided for USDA agencies that are on the front lines of responding to COVID-19, including the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and the Farm Service Agency (FSA).   
  • USDA added flexibilities for Crop Insurance to support America’s farmers and ranchers 
  • For a complete list of the latest resources and information on USDA actions click here.

Florida small businesses impacted by COVID-19 may be eligible for short-term, interest-free loans through the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program.

The Small Business Administration has also approved Economic Injury Disaster Loans for Florida small businesses and private, non-profit organizations suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the coronavirus.

Relief for Employees

  • Creates a new, temporary program, titled Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to further assist those impacted by COVID-19.
  • This new program expands access to unemployment benefits for more people, including those who are self-employed, independent contractors, and furloughed workers. It also adds an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits for those who need it.
  • Provides an additional $600 per week payment, on top of the state’s allocation, to each recipient of unemployment for the next four months.

U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) published additional implementation guidance pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).  

The new guidance includes two posters – one for federal workers and one for all other employees – that will fulfill notice requirements for employers obligated to inform employees about their rights under the new law.  In addition, the WHD released a questions and answers document about posting requirements, as well as a Field Assistance Bulletin describing WHD’s 30-day non-enforcement policy.

As a reminder, the WHD published its first round of FFCRA implementation guidance on March 24th:

Money for American Families

Americans will receive:

  • $1200 for those with an adjusted gross income under $75,000
  • $1200 for heads of household with an adjusted gross income under $112,500
  • $2400 for joint filers who have an adjusted gross income under $150,000
  • $500 per child is added to those total amounts for those with dependents under age 17

Who is eligible:

  • Anyone who has a Social Security Number (including welfare beneficiaries, SS beneficiaries)
    • Those who do not have a legal permanent status do not qualify for this money
    • Exceptions are in place for the spouse/child of a military member or adopted child (uses Adoption Tax Identification Number)
  • No tax liability requirement
  • No earned income requirement
  • Non-Filers can receive money by:
    • Filing a tax return for 2019 tax year (deadline was extended to July 15)
    • Using the SSA-1099 form to identify those SS beneficiaries who fall below the tax filing requirements

How this Money will Reach You:

  • Taxpayers will receive this money via direct deposit to the account used on the last tax return
    • Those who did not opt-in for direct deposit will likely be sent a check to the last known address on record 
  • People will be notified by the IRS through mail to their last known address with information on how the funds were sent, the total amount given, and a point of contact at the IRS to assist if you did not receive funds. 

Limits for Single Filers:

  • If your adjusted gross income is more than $75,000 but under $99,000, the credit will be reduced by $5 for each $100 that surpasses $75,000
  • Individuals who have an adjusted gross income over $99,000 do not qualify for this money
    • There may be exceptions for single filers with children

Limits for Joint Filers:

  • If your family has an adjusted gross income over $150,000 but under $198,000, the credit gets reduced by $5 for each $100 that surpasses $150,000
  • All joint filers who have an adjusted gross income over $198,000 (and have no children) do not qualify for this money
    • There may be exceptions for married couples with children

Limits for Heads of Households:

  • For heads of household who have an adjusted gross income over $112,500, the credit gets reduced by $5 for each $100 that surpasses $112,500
  • All heads of households who make more than $146,500 and have one child do not qualify for this money

Use this calculator to estimate how much money you will be receiving. 

For Healthcare Workers and Hospitals

  • Allocates $140 billion to support our nation’s health system, including $16 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile to procure personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other supplies.
  • Gets more resources into the hands of our providers quickly
  • Expands access to telehealth services
  • Supports our public health response
  • Removes limitations employers and individuals face on their HSA-eligible plans

H2 Visa Program

During this challenging time, food security is a national security priority. Florida farmers play an important role in our domestic food supply infrastructure, which is why we must maintain the supply lines up and running. State Department announced they will continue processing H-2 visa applications with some much-needed flexibilities.  

Resources for Students

Miami-Dade Public Schools continues to distribute free hot grab-and-go meals for breakfast and lunch to all students and families who may need them. Distribution takes place from Monday through Friday between  4 p.m. to 7 p.m. For a list of all sites, please visit covid19.dadeschools.net/. Since the first day of school closures, M-DCPS has distributed more than 200,000 meals to families in need

Collier County Public Schools is also offering free meals for all children age 18 and under. The meals will be "grab-and-go" style. Students can pick up two meals (breakfast and lunch OR lunch and next day's breakfast). Pick-up locations will be open Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m., and 1:00 p.m. during the school closure.

Hendry County Public Schools is also providing breakfast and lunch to students Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m., and 1:00 p.m. A Drive-thru service is available at Clewiston Middle School, Clewiston High School, LaBelle High School, and LaBelle Elementary School.

The Florida Department of Agriculture has also designated an alternative school meal program for kids and teens 18 and under. Find your nearest center here.

To facilitate distance learning, the Smithsonian offers teachers and students access to millions of digital resources from across the Smithsonian's museums, research centers, libraries, archives, and more.

Resources for Seniors

Community centers in Miami-Dade that serve seniors remain closed.  Eligible seniors should be receiving meals at home until further notice. If you or someone you know is missing a delivery, call 311.

The Emergency Home Energy Assistance for the Elderly Program (EHEAP) helps seniors over the age of 60 pay their electric bill.

The Alliance for Aging’s SHINE program is still completing applications for the Medicaid program that pays for their monthly Medicare premium, as well as applications for the Low-Income Subsidy that reduces Medicare Beneficiary’s prescription drug costs.

For more information on these programs, visit the Alliance for Aging website or call 305-670-4357.

Resources for Veterans

Veterans who are concerned they may have symptoms of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), influenza or a cold should contact the VISN 8 Clinical Contact Center at 1-877-741-3400 (toll-free) before going to a VA facility. Additionally, this website is a single source of general information from the VA on the latest significant events and updates related to COVID-19.

Travel Assistance

If you have upcoming travel, I urge you to monitor the State Department’s website for the latest updates on travel restrictions or visit the CDC’s Travel Health Notices, or Travel Frequently Asked Questions

The U.S. Department of State issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory­­-- urging U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel.

U.S. citizens who live in the US and are currently on international travel should arrange for an immediate return.

U.S. citizens traveling abroad that do not wish to return should be prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period. 

U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel.

U.S. Citizens traveling or living abroad, are encouraged to sign up for the Smart Traveler

Enrollment Program (STEP) at https://step.state.gov/step/ to receive important info & advisories from their nearest embassy.

You should continue to take preventative measures to keep yourself safe. The CDC recommends that you:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

Here's a guide on Keeping Your House Disinfected

Avoid Scams

If you or someone you know has been a victim of an IRS-related coronavirus scam, and for tips on what red flags to look for in potential scams, visit the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration website. This page also has tips for taxpayers to know what red flags to look for in potential scams.

The Wall Street Journal also released an informative article on the COVID-19 text and phone scams that are designed to trick you during this time. To read more, click here

If you have upcoming travel, I urge you to monitor the State Department’s website for the latest updates on travel restrictions or visit the CDC’s Travel Health Notices, or Travel Frequently Asked Questions.  

If you are experiencing coronavirus symptoms, you should immediately contact your doctor, or contact the Florida Department of Health’s COVID-19 Call Center at 1 (866) 779-6121. 

I will continue to monitor this situation closely and work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure that my constituents are prepared and receive the care they need. Information will be added regularly to this page, but to obtain live updates, connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and Instagram, or call any of my offices.

To receive these weekly updates directly to your email, please subscribe to my e-newsletter.

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