April 9, 2020
Mark your calendar for our telephone town hall meeting Thursday, April 16, at 6:15 p.m. CT
The SSMRC will hold a telephone town hall meeting next Thursday, April 16, at 6:15 p.m. Central Time. Our leaders will discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting our council, and we also want to hear from you. Speakers will include:

  • Wayne Jennings, SSMRC Executive Secretary-Treasurer Wayne
  • Dennis Donahou, UBC Southern District Vice President
  • Buddy Carter, U.S. Representative from Georgia
  • Jay Youngdahl, SSMRC Attorney
  • Rick Halford, SSMRC Political Director

You will have a chance to ask questions during the phone call. On April 16, you will receive a call at the phone number we have on file for you. Please call us at 866-SSMRC11 (866-776-7211) or email us at info@southernstatesmillwrights.org if you need to update your phone number. Include your UBC ID number, the phone number you want us to call, and whether it is a mobile number or land line. Also stay tuned for information on how to join the call via a computer or other device.
Regular video messages to begin next week
EST Wayne Jennings will begin recording regular video messages for members next week. If you don't get a chance to ask questions at the telephone town hall meeting or if you have questions later, please send them to info@southernstatesmillwrights.org or leave a message at 866-SSMRC11 and EST Jennings will answer as many as possible during these recordings. We will respond directly to additional questions as well.
Details you need to know about relief available through new federal programs
Two new federal laws the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) include programs and provisions that could help our members and their families weather the coronavirus crisis. These benefits include expanded unemployment programs, Recovery-Act payments, child-care options, mortgage- and rent-payment assistance, student-loan deferment, and more.

The links below contain a wealth of information. We also want to share some frequently asked questions and answers based on information our parent organization, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, provided this week.

Q: How will I receive my Recovery-Act payment?

A: The CARES Act provides economic recovery payments of $1,200 for most adults with up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income (or AGI of $112,500 for heads of household and $150,000 for married couples filing jointly). There is an additional $500 for each child under age 17.

In most cases, no action is required for tax payers to receive payments. If you have a bank account on file with the IRS (for receiving a previous refund, etc.), the payment will be automatically deposited in this account. If the IRS does not have your bank-account information, a check will be mailed to you. The IRS is working on a web-based portal so you can provide your banking information online and receive your payment more quickly. Payments are being made in an order based on income, with the lowest-income individuals and families receiving payments first.

Read more about Recovery-Act payments through the "Summary of assistance and protections for SSMRC/UBC members" link below.

Scams related to Recovery-Act payments are already occurring. Know that the IRS will never call, text, email, or send social-media messages asking for personal or financial information. See below for more information about avoiding coronavirus-related scams.

Q: Do I need to apply to get the extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits?

A: No. Apply for unemployment with your state as you normally would. Your state will then notify you if you are eligible for the extra payments.

Q: Why wouldn't I be eligible for the extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits?

A: While the federal government is funding these payments, your state has to enter into an agreement with the federal government in order for people in your state to receive the payments. So far, about two-thirds of states have done this. Eligible individuals will receive payments based on the date their state signed an agreement with the U.S. government.

If you are part of a supplemental state unemployment program, you might not qualify for the additional federal payment. Check with your state.

Q: What else should I know about additional unemployment payments from the federal government?

A: Child support will be deducted from these payments in the same way it is deducted from ordinary unemployment payments.

However, these payments will not be considered income in relation to Medicaid or state child health insurance programs. The payments will not disqualify anyone from these programs.

Quitting work in an attempt to take advantage of additional unemployment benefits is fraud.

Q: Can I receive paid sick leave or Family/Medical Leave Act benefits if I have not worked for my employer at least 12 months?

A: Yes, but you have to meet requirements of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) or the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA). (See the "Summary of assistance and protections for SSMRC/UBC members" link below for full requirements.)

The EPSLA applies to an employee of a covered employer regardless of how long the employee has worked for the employer.

The EFMLEA applies to employees of covered employers if such employees have been employed by the employer for at least 30 calendar days.
Q: Can I take advantage of expanded paid sick leave and Family Medical Leave Act provisions if I lost my job?

A: No. These provisions only apply to those who are currently employed.

Q: Do provisions related to child care apply during the summer?

A: The CARES Act and FFCRA provide unemployment, paid-sick-leave and family/medical-leave benefits for workers who must stay home to take care of a child whose school or place of care is closed because of the virus. See the "Summary of assistance and protections for SSMRC/UBC members" link below for details.

Currently, benefits only apply in relation to school-age children during the period in which children would be in school. This excludes the summer months.

You also cannot take advantage of the benefit if a co-guardian is available to take care of the child/children.

Q: Which tax-filing deadlines are affected?

A: The deadline for filing forms and making payments are extended to July 15 for 2019 annual filings/payments and for 2020 estimated quarterly payments (if you are required to file quarterly payments) typically due April 15. Second-quarter 2020 payments due June 15 are not affected.

State income-tax changes are listed here.

Q: Do I still have to make my credit-card payments?

A: Yes, unless you request and receive a forbearance or modified-payment agreement from your credit-card provider.

The CARES Act prohibits banks, lenders, and other entities that provide information to credit reporting agencies from treating a deferment, partial payment, or a credit forbearance requested by a consumer as a result of the coronavirus pandemic as negative credit information.

However, this provision only applies for consumers in good standing who fulfill all terms and requirements of a forbearance or modified-payment agreement. The prohibition will remain in place until 120 days following the end of the declared COVID-19 national emergency.

Q: Do I or my children still have to make student-loan payments?

A: The CARES Act defers student loan payments, principal, and interest through Sept. 30 for all borrowers of federally owned loans. In addition:

  • People who drop out of school because of the pandemic will not be required to return portions of any Pell Grants or federal loans they received.
  • If students drop out due to the pandemic, the current academic term doesn’t count toward their lifetime eligibility limit for receiving Pell Grants or subsidized federal loans.

Q: Am I protected from eviction or foreclosure if I can't pay my rent or mortgage?

A: Maybe. The CARES Act prohibits landlords from commencing eviction procedures for nonpayment of rent for 120 days after March 27, 2020. The provision only applies to properties where the landlord's mortgage is for a multifamily (five or more dwelling units) property and the mortgage is insured, guaranteed, supplemented, or protected by federal agencies or programs.

For home owners, the CARES Act prohibits mortgage lenders from foreclosing on any federally backed mortgage for a 60-day period following March 18, 2020. This only applies to mortgages insured or guaranteed by HUD, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Veterans Affairs Department, and the Agriculture Department.

Additional information and resources:

COVID-19 Preparedness course available online
We encourage eligible members to complete the COVID-19 Preparedness Qualification online course. This course is designed to educate members on how to protect themselves and their fellow workers at job sites. These qualifications also help assure public officials that job sites can remain open safely.

If you complete the 10- to 15-minute course and successfully pass the quiz, this qualification will be in your training history and listed on your Training Verification Card. You also can take a screen shot of your results for immediate verification at job sites.

To access the course, follow the instructions below that apply to you.

If you don't currently have a carpenters.org account:

  • Log in or create an account by clicking in the “Members: Update Your Contact Information” box here: https://www.carpenters.org/resource-hub/for-our-members/. Please use the email address our council has listed for you in Personify. If you are not sure of this email address, contact your business agent.

  • Verify your account via email.

  • Visit https://ubc-citf.carpenters.org/ and click “Log in with Carpenters.org.” (Don't use the main log-in boxes on this page.) If you create an account and cannot immediately access courses, wait about an hour and try again. If you still have access problems, click here to get in touch with the UBC Help Desk.

If you already have an account:

CDC updates guidelines for critical infrastructure workers who might have been exposed to COVID-19
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its guidelines for when essential workers can return to their jobs after being exposed to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Previously, essential workers who were in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus, or who was suspected to be infected, were advised to stay home for 14 days.

Under the new guidance, CDC states people in these jobs can still go to work so long as they don't have symptoms and do the following things: take their temperature before work, wear a mask for two weeks, keep at least 6 feet away from co-workers, routinely disinfect work spaces, and go home immediately if they have any sign of illness. To read the guidelines, click here.
Message from EST Wayne Jennings: America's energy workers and millwrights are fueling the fight against COVID-19
Recently, Mike McCormick, president of Siemens Generation Services, sent me and other UBC leaders an article that points out how important energy-industry workers are, not just in times of pandemics, but in the everyday life and the operations of our great country.

Click here to read a summary of the commentary by Daniel Turner, executive director of Power The Future, along with my own thoughts about our current situation and how energy workers, including SSMRC millwrights, are helping our country in its time of need and every day.
Job sites updates
Western Region:

The General Motors job in Arlington, Texas, is starting up next week and should put about 150 millwrights to work. Power-industry work is occurring almost daily. Most other work is slow and steady or on hold, with owners working skeleton crews and focusing on minimizing exposure risks.

Central Region:

The central region is seeing temporary plant closures and temporary layoffs. Many sites are maintaining current crews, but have delayed in the hiring of new employees.

The Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, has been temporarily shut down due to COVID-19. Tennessee Valley Authority Nuclear outages for the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant near Spring City and Sequoyah Nuclear Plant near Soddy-Daisy have been postponed until fall. The Plant Sequoyah MOV Project is still underway, with an estimated completion date of May 1.

The Toyota/Mazda construction project in Huntsville, Alabama, also is continuing, although new hiring is suspended. Toyota, Blue Springs, Nissan, Canton, GM, Honda, and Bridgestone have shut down production temporarily. Some auto-manufacturing plants have put crews in place to produce medical face shields.

Southern Company has implemented contingency plans and crews to get through the pandemic. Some upcoming power-generation projects are being pushed back to fall, and only essential employees are allowed on sites.

Eastern Region:

The UPS St. Croix job site in the U.S. Virgin Islands has postponed any new hires traveling to the island until further notice. Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4 construction project is continuing, with workers who have high-risk conditions offered extra precautions or paid leave upon review of such requests.
Let us know how COVID-19 is affecting your job, daily life, and family
Please tell us about essential work you are performing as a millwright and let us know how you and your family are doing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We want to bring together our SSMRC community and let public officials know how COVID-19 is affecting our members. To do this, we will share stories about the vital work millwrights are doing to keep power-generation plants, oil/gas facilities, and manufacturing operations running, as well as information about how COVID-19 is impacting members' jobs, daily lives, and families. Please send written updates or links to video messages on Facebook, YouTube, etc. to info@southernstatesmillwrights.org or share them by sending a message through our Facebook page. You also can call 866-SSMRC11 (866-776-7211) to tell your story.

We hope these messages will help all members feel less alone in their struggles during this difficult time.
What to do if you are laid off +
State unemployment benefits updates
If your job has ended or you have been laid off because of COVID-19, immediately contact your business representative. If there are no additional opportunities for employment through your union, then file for unemployment benefits as soon as possible.

Several states in our region are changing their unemployment rules regarding waiting periods, job searches, etc. Click here to see updates from every state, and start here to begin the application process:

General Information about the Unemployment Insurance Program: http://www.labor.alabama.gov/uc/
To file a UI claim online: https://labor.alabama.gov/uc/ICCS/
To file a claim by telephone number: https://labor.alabama.gov/uc/phone.aspx

General Information about the Unemployment Insurance Program: https://www.dws.arkansas.gov/unemployment/
To file a UI claim online: https://www.ezarc.adws.arkansas.gov/
To file a claim by telephone number: https://www.dws.arkansas.gov/unemployment/ark-line/

General Information about the Unemployment Insurance Program: http://www.floridajobs.org/job-seekers-community-services
To file a claim by telephone number: 1-800-204-2418
Florida has multiple means of filing an Unemployment Claim Online:   https://connect.myflorida.com/Claimant/Core/Login.ASPX
Florida has upgraded its website to better handle unemployment benefit applications. Click here to access it.

General Information about the Unemployment Insurance Program: https://dol.georgia.gov/unemployment-benefits
To file a claim by telephone number: 404-232-3180

General Information about the Unemployment Insurance Program: https://www.louisianaworks.net/hire/vosnet/Default.aspx
To file a claim by telephone number: Call 1-866-783-5567

General Information about the Unemployment Insurance Program: https://www.mdes.ms.gov/unemployment-claims/claims-information/
To file a claim by telephone number: 1-888-844-3577

North Carolina
General Information about the Unemployment Insurance Program: https://des.nc.gov/apply-unemployment
To file a claim by telephone number: 1-888-737-0259

General Information about the Unemployment Insurance Program: https://www.ok.gov/oesc/Claimants/
To file a UI claim online: https://unemployment.state.ok.us/W2.aspx

South Carolina
General Information about the Unemployment Insurance Program: https://dew.sc.gov/individuals/apply-for-benefits/claims-process
To file a claim by telephone number: To File an Out of State claim by phone, residents should call the Interstate Unit at 1-800-529-8339.
To check the status or get information on your claim: https://dew.sc.gov/individuals/manage-your-benefits/payment-status

General Information about the Unemployment Insurance Program: https://www.tn.gov/workforce/unemployment.html
To file a claim by telephone number: Telephone Support for Unemployment Insurance Filing: 844-224-5818
Tennessee also has an emergency cash assistance program. Click here to learn more.

General Information about the Unemployment Insurance Program: https://www.twc.texas.gov/jobseekers/unemployment-benefits-services
See these additional tips for Texans.
SSMRC offices closed through April 30;
Contact business agents via phone or email
SSMRC local offices will remain closed through April 30. Please continue to stay in touch with your business agent through the contact information below, and let him know of any COVID-19-related job changes you experience. As always, we will provide all forms of service and support to our members. For locals that do not have an online dues payment system in place, a staff member will go into the office one or two days a week to process dues payments. Local leaders will inform members of scheduled operation days.
SSMRC business agent contact info
Eastern Region
Cliff Tucker, Local # 1000 (Florida): 813.990.9857; ctucker@ssmrc4070.org
Paul L. French, Local #2411 (Florida-Jacksonville): 904-534-925; pfrench@ssmrc4070.org
Michael Hamilton, Local # 1263 (Georgia & Carolinas): 770-883-7525; mhamilton@ssmrc4070.org
Charles Smith, Local # 1263 (Georgia & Carolinas): 704-303-2932; clsmith@ssmrc4070.org
Central Region
Clint Smith, Local #1192 (Alabama): 205-789-9299; csmith@ssmrc4070.org
Lessie Roberts, Local #1192 (Alabama): 251-454-5771; lroberts@ssmrc4070.org
William W Condon III (Tennessee-Chattanooga): 423-320-2306; wcondon@ssmrc4070.org
Steven C. Williams, Local #1554 (Tennessee-Nashville): 615-474-9696; swilliams@ssmrc4070.org
Western Region
Matthew Nowlin, Local #216 (Arkansas): 479-747-6279; mnowlin@ssmrc4070.org
Donnie Newton, Local #216 (Oklahoma): 405-365-1909; dnewton@ssmrc4070.org
Mike Hines (Mike), Local #729 (Louisiana): 713-305-5477; khines@ssmrc4070.org
Keith Branham, Local #1421 (Texas-Arlington): 682-251-6066; kbranham@ssmrc4070.org
Dwight G Murrah, Local #2232 (Texas-Houston): 281-468-1035; dmurrah@ssmrc4070.org
Victor G Sanchez, Local #2232 (Texas-Houston): 832.835.8090; vsanchez@ssmrc4070.org
How to help your community
If you would like to help your community respond to COVID-19, there are many volunteer opportunities. Meals on Wheels, which delivers meals to senior citizens, needs help in all communities it serves. Delivering meals to retired union members and gathering N-95 masks to take to hospitals are also options. Additional volunteer opportunities are available through the sites below. Please keep your business agent and our communications director, Olivia McMurrey ( omcmurrey@ssmrc4070.org), updated on your volunteer activities.

Be aware of state and local health orders
Many parts of our 11-state region are under shelter-in-place or safer-at-home orders. Click here to see which states, counties, and cities are affected. In addition, Arkansas banned public and private gatherings of 10 or more people effective March 27.

Please consult the specific order(s) in place in your area, but, in general, shelter-in-place and safer-at-home orders mean you should:

  • Stay home (stay unexposed and do not expose others) except to report to your essential job (you can report to our partners’ job sites unless otherwise notified), buy food, and seek medical care.

  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others.

  • Don’t gather in groups.
Get ready to vote this fall
With the COVID-19 crisis taking up so much of everyone's bandwidth, it's easy to forget this is a major election year. Here are four things to do now to make sure your voice is heard this fall.

Verify your voter registration.
Use this verify tool to make sure you’re registered to vote at your current address. If you’ve moved, changed your name, or haven’t voted in a while, you might need to re-register to vote.

Be aware of election changes.
There have been a number of election changes because of the coronavirus. This voting & COVID-19 page can keep you in the loop.

Fill out your census form.
The census is only taken every 10 years, and 2020's census also will decide our future. Completing the census online takes only a few minutes. Information collected in the census is used to allocate billions of dollars in federal funding every year and to determine how many seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives. An accurate census will help ensure a more representative government.

If you need one and are eligible, apply for an absentee ballot.
Voting by absentee ballot is safe and secure. Each state has its own rules about who can vote absentee, but some states have expanded eligibility because of the coronavirus . Applying for an absentee ballot at vote.org/absentee-ballot takes only 2 minutes.

SSMRC partner Southern Company working with distillery to provide hand sanitizer to first responders
When COVID-19 began affecting the United States, leaders of Old Fourth Distillery in Atlanta sprang into action and began making hand sanitizer using its high-proof alcohol and aloe. To support a local business and communities in the area it serves, Southern Company partnered with Old Fourth and is assisting in its efforts.

Shipments of Old Fourth’s essential product are moving from Georgia Power Material Distribution Center in Forest Park to first responders in critical locations across the Southern Company system. The distillery also is providing hand sanitizer to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. Click here to read more.
How to recognize coronavirus scams
Scammers are taking advantage of COVID-19-related fear and misinformation. Here are some tips to help keep malicious actors at bay:

  • If you get an email from anyone (including people you know) that seems off and includes an attachment or link, don’t open the attachment or follow the link. Call the sender to verify the email is legitimate. Do not call the number in the email signature; an impersonator could have changed it. If the information in the email sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If the CDC or another health organization had a free vaccine, you would hear about it on the news, not in an email attachment. Learn more here.

  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home-test kits. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges, prescriptions, or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure COVID-19 — online or in stores. At this time, there also are no FDA-authorized home test kits for the Coronavirus. Visit the FDA to learn more.

  • Know who you’re buying from. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies when, in fact, they don’t.