April 13, 2020

Dear Friends,
As I look back on this last week – with the Christian Holy Days of Easter and Jewish Passover – I am reminded of how blessed I am. I am blessed that our Coronavirus heroes are providing essential services -- in hospitals, nursing homes, grocery stores, post offices, public buses, judicial offices, pharmacies, and more. Thanks to them, my husband and I are able to continue our work from home, and even worship on Zoom with our fellow church members on Easter. We can’t be with them, but we can communicate with our children and grandchildren who are also healthy and safe, though far away in Maryland, Connecticut and Germany. When I do go out, it’s for our daily walk where we see and wave at our neighbors, to get groceries or medicine (wearing a protective face mask as recommended by the CDC), to take food and supplies to my mother in Franklinton, or to safely drop off at the doors of friends a birthday gift or something they need.

These times are wearing on all of us. We want North Carolina’s children back in school and all workers back at their jobs. And we want to be reassured that the health crisis is under control. But, we also believe that these days of social distancing and staying at home are working, as the article below describes. 

We are not sure of the precise schedule for our upcoming legislative session on April 28th. What we do know is that the House Select Committee COVID-19 Working Groups/Sub-Committees continue to meet every week to frame legislation, and we will be considering their recommended legislation for relief when we return. (The status of the work of the four Working Groups/Sub-Committees is described below.) In coming newsletters, I will be able to share more details of the precise legislation. Please continue to reach out to me and to other legislators.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family and friends as you navigate through these challenges.  Please continue to stay home and stay healthy .


Hotline CC for Essential Workers
Issues of Importance to YOU

Our office has heard from many constituents about the impact COVID-19 has had on you personally. I wanted to address the key issues challenging some of House District 49’s constituents, with the hope that this information is useful to a wider audience.
NC Unemployment Insurance Update
As you have personally experienced or likely heard, our NC Division of Employment Security (DES) has been overwhelmed with new applications. Typically, DES receives 3,000 applications per week; with the onset of the pandemic, the volume has risen to over 20,000 per day .
UI Claims
To that end, DES is responding with the following initial steps to increase their capacity to serve North Carolinians:
  • Hiring 50 new staff
  • Adding 100 staff from Division of Workforce Solutions Career Centers
  • Contracting with an additional 200-person call center
  • Adding computer servers to ensure capacity for large number of people filing online
  • Doubling printing and mail capacity to ensure timely delivery of documents
  • Purchasing more than 500 new computers and other equipment so employees in the office and at home can work to process claims

In addition, Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 131 (see more below) will make it easier for employers to submit required documentation, which in turn, will expedite processing applications.
Federal CARES Bill

In the March 30 th newsletter , I wrote about the $2 T federal stimulus bill. Known as the CARES Act, the package includes, among many things, additional unemployment compensation for qualifying workers through three programs:
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) - Provides an additional $600 in weekly unemployment insurance benefits paid for weeks after March 29, 2020.
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) - Provides up to 13 additional weeks of state unemployment insurance benefits.
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) - Provides unemployment compensation for individuals not eligible for regular unemployment insurance or any extensions to unemployment insurance. This would provide coverage to eligible self-employed workers and independent contractors who are not typically eligible for unemployment insurance.
DES received the necessary guidance from the US Department of Labor and is developing software and training resources that will allow you to apply for these federal programs. If you do NOT already have a DES claimant ID , we have been advised that you should apply online for NC unemployment insurance, even if you do not qualify.

Please review the flowchart , 4-6-20 DES Fact Sheet Unemployment Insurance FAQs (April 6, 2020) , and of course, continue to visit the DES website for up-to-date information.

Two items of note:
  • Unemployment compensation is separate from the Economic Impact Payment for which you may qualify.
  • A 4th federal relief bill is being developed. We will share more information as it becomes available.
Economic Impact Payment

The IRS has a website dedicated to providing information about these payments. For those of you who filed tax returns in 2018 and 2019 and most seniors and retirees , the site will be updated shortly with to allow you to:

  • Check your payment status
  • Confirm your payment type--direct deposit or check—and update this information if necessary

If you did not file tax returns in 2018 and 2019 because you were not required to , you will need to enter payment information on the website . You will receive a confirming email that either acknowledges you have successfully submitted your information or that there is a problem and how to correct it.

And of course, beware of scams ! The IRS will not be contacting you to ask for personal information, so please be careful not to click on email links, or respond to calls or letters!

Visit the IRS Economic Impact Payment page and the Economic Impact Payment Information Center to learn more.

Your Health: Self-Care
In a time where our lives have been upended, I cannot stress enough the importance of self-care. Many North Carolinians have sought services to help deal with the stress and anxiety produced by COVID-19 . Isolation is a difficult thing. Please think about reaching out to family members and friends who may be alone at this time. Keeping to a schedule, exercising if you are able, and getting adequate rest are all good ways to mitigate the day-to-day impact of our new “lifestyle.” And consider taking advantage of these mental health resources and/or sharing them with others:

NC Department of Health and Human Services

  • Hope4Healers line: 919-226-2002 specifically for health care workers
  • Hope4NC line: 1-855-587-3463 is for everyone
  • Resources for Veterans

US Department of Health and Human Services

  • National Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 24/7 offers crisis counseling and emotional support 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing distress or other mental health concerns during the COVID-9 outbreak.
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: (1-800-273-TALK) l24/7 local crisis centers that free, confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress
Vehicle Registration
In these times of Social Distancing for safety, many of you have contacted our office, concerned about having to go and have your vehicles inspected before being able to renew your registration online or via mail. However, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is temporarily waiving late fees. 

Because of overwhelming concern from constituents, the NC House and Senate leadership issued a statement :

"We support passage of legislation when the General Assembly reconvenes to retroactively extend vehicle inspection deadlines. Until such legislation passes, we support bureaucratic flexibility on compliance with the existing deadlines.”

And Governor Cooper has indicated his support for this legislation.

Bottom line: If your registration is due during the Stay Home Order, you can wait on getting your vehicle inspected and paying your registration fees without penalty until a new law is passed, which is expected soon and will apply retroactively.
COVID-19 Update

NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen, MD speaking at a COVID-19 Briefing with Governor Roy Cooper
It is expected that the COVID-19 virus will peak during the next two or so weeks, which is all the more reason to follow the guidelines and recommendations set forth for all North Carolinians. Last week, a group of health care experts released a composite modeling forecast, which projects the impact COVID-19 will have on our state.

The model reinforces the need to stay at home and maintain social distancing to stem the tide of infection and help prevent our health care systems from becoming overburdened. Continuing to follow these practices through the end of May could reduce the number of infected North Carolinians from 750,000 to 250,000.
The Governor indicated that there is still great uncertainty as to when restrictions might be lifted, and close watch over data will influence that timing. So please continue to Stay Home!

New Executive Orders
I n response to this data and other information about the progression of COVID-19, Governor Cooper has issued several new executive orders . I will summarize three key orders below; you can view the entire list on the Governor’s website .
Executive Order 131 , the newest announced, includes additional requirements and recommendations for retail store operations and mandatory long-term care mitigation measures will go into effect on Monday, April 13 th at 5:00 PM . In addition, the order expedites unemployment insurance claims through measures retroactive to Wednesday, April 1 st at 12:01 AM.

Required of retail stores :
  • Limits of how many people can be in a store at one time, 5 people per 1,000 square feet of retail space or 20% of fire marshal posted occupancy limits
  • Marking 6 feet of distance for areas where people gather, such as checkout lines
  • Specific cleaning measures

Encouraged for retail stores :
  • Implementing hygiene recommendations for employees and customers, such as hand sanitizer at the doors and face coverings for workers
  • Establishing designated shopping times designated for high-risk groups
  • Creating barriers between customers and employees at checkout to lower the risk of required interactions

For nursing homes (encouraged for other long-term care facilities):
  • Canceling communal activities, including group meals
  • Taking the temperature of employees and essential personnel when they enter the facility
  • Requiring specific personal protective equipment in the facility
  • Requiring close monitoring of residents for COVID-19 health indicators like body temperature

Allows the Division of Unemployment Security to:

  • Not require that an employer filing an attached claim pay the full amount of the benefit payable to the employee at the time the claim is filed, and to also enable the Division to accept those claims by employers who do
  • Accept claims from employers who do not have a positive credit balance at the time the claim is filed.
  • Not reject claims if they are in excess of six weeks and if they are filed on behalf of employee more than once in a benefit year.

For additional information, please see Frequently Asked Questions for Executive Order 131
Executive Order 130 anticipates a rising demand in inpatient hospitalization predicted by the composite model mentioned earlier. It temporarily lifts constraints to allow an increase in:

  • Licensed bed capacity at health care facilities
  • The number of health care workers who can help fight COVID-19 (professionals who are licensed in another state, retired, or inactive; students at an advanced stage in their professional training; skilled, unlicensed volunteers)
  • Flexibility for the purpose of using or relocating equipment and other resources to treat COVID-19 patients

The Order also:

  • Suspends certain regulations that could prevent or impair providing mental health and substance use disorder treatment services and support services for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities
  • Expands the ability to offer telehealth services
  • Allows greater flexibility in how in-home care can be provided
  • Enables child care facilities to remain open to care for children of essential workers, children who are homeless, live in unsafe/unstable environments, or who receive child welfare services

For additional information, please see Frequently Asked Questions for Executive Order 130
Executive Order 124 prohibits utilities providing electric, gas, water, and wastewater services from terminating service for nonpayment through the end of May. It also orders these utilities to give residential customers at least six months to pay outstanding bills and prohibits them from collecting fees, penalties or interest for late payment.
Phone, cable and internet services are urged, but not compelled to follow the Order.

For additional information, please see Frequently Asked Questions for Executive Order 124
Other COVID-19 News

House Select Committee on COVID-19

My Legislative Assistant, Patty Williams, and I are following the remote meetings of the four working groups (now also referred to as subcommittees) as they meet. I am also receiving more detailed briefings from Democratic Caucus members on the specific subcommittees. Please note that only the House has convened a COVID-19 committee ; buy in from the Senate on bills and other recommendations will be needed to move forward . Progress is being made, as the subcommittees hear from a variety of stakeholders/experts, and draft legislation is being developed. We have also heard that that proposed legislation from these subcommittees may be first be heard by the subject matter House Standing Committees (e.g. Education K-12, Health) before moving to the full body.

These meetings are public and are being conducted online. I encourage you to follow the meetings (live or via replay) and review draft legislation and presentation materials. Here are links to access that information:

Link to the audio stream (Please note that the NCLeg.net home page shows the meeting schedule and room to link to each meeting). Please note: the meetings will also be available via video stream . Please check the NCLeg.net home page for those links; they should be live this week.

As the House Select Committee on COVID-19 will not be holding in-person public comment due to current health conditions, I encourage you to submit your comments online via the portal. And you can email subcommittee chairs and members directly (FirstName.Last.Name@ncleg.net) with questions or comments. Each committee is reviewing this input and giving consideration to feedback provided.
Health Care Subcommittee
Next meetings : Tuesday, April 14, 2020 at 10:00 AM and Thursday, April 16, 2020 at 9:30 AM

The Health Care Subcommittee has met three times since the end of March. Committee members have heard from the Dr. Mandy Cohen, NC Healthcare Association, NC Medical Society, NC Local Health Directors, NC Nurses Association, as well as experts on the impact COVID-19 is having on child care providers, EMS/first responders, and our aging population. They have also been briefed several times on the impact federal law has on health and human services. While the Subcommittee has offered no proposed legislation to date, the most urgent short-term needs are being addressed by the Governor’s Executive Orders. We anticipate new information and possibly draft legislation at the next meeting. The Subcommittee is working across the spectrum of health care challenges and working with the Governor’s Office to ensure coordination of their efforts.
Economic Support Subcommittee
Next meeting : Tuesday, April 14, 2020 at 10:00 AM

The Economic Support Subcommittee has met three times since the end of March. Committee members have had presentations from the NC Departments of Revenue and Employment Security, NC U.S. Small Business Association, Golden Leaf Foundation (administrator of the Rapid Recovery Loan Program), NC Restaurant and Lodging Association, NC Retail Merchants Association, NC Travel Industry Association, National Federation of Independent Business, and the NC Chamber. In addition, Legislative Staff has kept the Subcommittee informed regarding the implications for the Federal CARES act on our state. Committee priorities include:

·     Unemployment benefits
·     Taxpayer relief
·     Small business loans, other recovery measures
·     Federal responses and state fiscal implications

The committee has produced three bill drafts in response to these priorities, which are under consideration and may be voted on at this week’s meeting: COVID-19 UI Response Act , UI Laws Tech, Clarifying, and Admin Changes , and COVID-19 Interest Waiver Response , and we expect additional proposed legislation.
Continuity of State Operations Subcommittee
(Emergency Services, Elections, Public Safety)
Next meeting : Tuesday, April 14, 2020 at 2:00 PM

The Continuity of State Operations Subcommittee has met twice thus far and has heard from leaders representing the Department of Public Safety, NC League of Municipalities, NC Association of County Commissioners, Office of State Budget and Management, Department of Transportation, N.C. Judicial Department, Office of Indigent Defense Services, and the NC Board of Elections. The Subcommittee has been briefed on the three federal laws passed in direct response to COVID-19 and is focused on a range of high priorities, including how to maintain a high level of emergency and public safety services and how to conduct the 2020 election . (Our ability to conduct a November election that is accessible and safe is a concern for many constituents who have reached out to us.)

In the next newsletter, I will be able to give you more information on the recommended legislation from this subcommittee.
Education Subcommittee
Next meeting: Thursday, April 16, 2020 at 2:00PM

The Education Subcommittee has met three times since March 26 th . Committee members have discussed topics including:

  • Federal testing and accountability, student teaching and other waiver issues
  • School calendar flexibility and alternatives
  • Public school employee compensation
  • Potential instructional direction for the balance of the year

and they have heard from system leaders about actions taken to-date by the North Carolina Community Colleges, The University of North Carolina System, and North Carolina Independent Colleges & Universities. 

As the Subcommittee will be looking to temporarily change existing laws to address the needs of students and their educational institutions, they have reviewed with Legislative Staff current statutes related to graduation requirements, Educator Preparation Programs (EPPs), licensure and evaluations, and testing requirements.

We have been advised that recommended legislation will be presented at this week’s meeting.
Your Reliable Sources of Information

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
CDC Informational Videos


Adjusted Grocery Store Hours And Special Hours For At-Risk Shoppers
GoTriangle COVID-19 Information
American Red Cross Blood Donation Sign Up

City of Raleigh COVID Information
Town of Cary COVID Information
Town of Morrisville COVID Information

Unemployment Insurance Information
NEW: Frequently Asked Questions (April 6, 2020)
NEW: Federal CARES Act Unemployment Insurance Programs

COVID-19 Business Relief Resources
Small Business Administration Disaster Loans

Income Taxes
Federal Income Tax Information
State Income Tax Information
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or the
District 49 Legislative Assistant, Patty Williams , with your questions or concerns.
It is my privilege to serve the people of North Carolina!
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