Dear Friends,

I hope you and your family are remaining safe and adjusting fairly well to the changes we are all facing with this public health emergency. This newsletter has a few updates to keep you informed. Since our last newsletter, there have been several additional CONTAINMENT orders and closures as well as some measures to help us get through economic and personal impacts. The Governor is using careful, measured steps--with the input of our health experts and in consultation with local officials and business leaders--to safeguard the health and wellbeing of North Carolinians.

The number of people infected by the coronavirus continues to climb. We have been advised to expect this and to expect this to further accelerate, given that testing is more available and examples of community spread is expected to increase.
 
In today’s briefing DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen reminded us that, as the number of cases is expected to continue to rise quickly, we will face a crisis with insufficient PPE supplies for our healthcare workers and others if we don’t receive large quantities of those supplies soon. And she also said that, while we have not seen a shelter-in-place order yet, our state and county elected officials and health experts are following this rapidly evolving situation very carefully and may need to make additional restrictions soon. A number of factors are being weighed, including the huge additional economic impact, how the virus is spreading in NC, and projections on how and when our medical facilities will be more adequately equipped.

So we MUST make EVERY effort to slow the spread and continue to “flatten the curve;” the fewer people who contract COVID-19 at the same time, the better. PLEASE continue to stay home unless you must go out and follow carefully all social distancing and health protections. You can keep up with changes in the number of infections in our state by visiting the NCDHHS website or by signing up to receive email , or getting updates on your smartphone by texting COVIDNC to 898211 .

You remain in my thoughts. Continue to reach out to our office with your questions so we can stay connected with you.

Stay safe,

Cynthia
COVID-19: What's New
Yesterday

Governor Cooper issued E xecutive Order 120 which:

(1) Keeps all schools statewide closed until May 15 th
(2) Bans groups of 50 or more from gathering
(3) Requires the closing of certain businesses , including gyms, salons, movie theaters, and more by Wednesday, March 25 th at 5:00 PM
(4) Restricts visitation at long-term care facilities, except in compassion care (e.g. end-of life) situations. Essential health personnel are exempt.



Friday, March 20

Governor Cooper issued Executive Order 119 to allow:

(1) greater flexibility in providing safe child and elder care for essential personnel , including first responders, medical professionals, emergency management workers, nursing/adult home and child care staff, and others

(2) DMV offices that remain open to ensure customer safety through appropriate social distancing measures, including requiring appointments and making sure offices have enough space for DMV customers

As a preventative measure, 61 driver’s license offices have been closed , while 57 offices large enough to enable appropriate social distancing remain open—including locations in Raleigh (Avent Ferry Shopping Center, 3231 Avent Ferry Road) and Cary (1387 SE Maynard Road).

Visit the Department of Motor Vehicles website to make an appointment or see which services can be handled online.

Public Schools
The Governor has asked the State Board of Education to collaborate with the Department of Public Instruction and the Legislature to develop a plan to ensure access to quality education, provide remote learning, to ensure that janitors, teaching assistants, bus drivers and cafeteria workers will be paid.
Food Distribution

“Many children rely on schools for their meals, so we have acted quickly to make sure our children have enough food each day. This is the kind of collaboration, action and creativity we will continue to need across our state in the weeks ahead. Together, we will come through this stronger.” - Governor Roy Cooper

We have had a strong community response across all 115 North Carolina school districts, with more than 1,165 schools already serving 1.2 million meals and 6,500 snacks. And, with schools closed until (at least) May 15 th , we must continue this effort. If you are able to volunteer, please see the “How You Can Help” article below to sign up.

Wake County has a new interactive resource for families looking to find the food distribution site closest to their home. By entering a home address, the locator will access one of the 41 distribution sites and provide a map with directions to the closest site. Please share this resource with others who may be in need.

Learning at Home
WCPSS has created new resources in English and Spanish to aid parents and caregivers in transitioning to learning at home. The District will update these resources over time as new resources are explored and vetted. As the website notes, “…segments of our community do not yet have the human and technology infrastructure to rapidly accelerate a PreK-12 shift to online learning for all students within the time frame of our current circumstances.” With 162,000 students I applaud the Wake County Public Schools - as well as others across the state - for their efforts during an unprecedented time in our nation’s history.  

Wake County Public Schools: Resources for Remote Learning

And, in a statement released yesterday, the NC State Board of Education voted unanimously to seek a one-year waiver from the U.S. Department of Education for federal student testing and accountability requirements for the 2019-20 school year because of school closures ordered to combat COVID-19.

Grocery Stores Adjusting Hours
Some Retail Stores Temporarily Closing
In an effort to thoroughly clean surfaces and restock shelves, many grocery and drug stores are adjusting their hours. WRAL offers the latest list of hours (subject to change) provided by corporate offices.

Several area retail stores are also closing in order to adhere to CDC and state guidelines for social gatherings. And finally, some stores are providing hours when only seniors can shop. Again, WRAL is maintaining a list of those businesses .
Transportation
Beginning this past Monday, GoTriangle, GoDurham, GoRaleigh and GoCary have suspended fares and instituted rear boarding for those who are able to further reduce coronavirus risks. All vehicles are being maintained by the use of a fogger that administers a disinfectant throughout buses and sanitizes the rails, seats and other high-touch areas every day. Many buses are cleaned twice a day between the morning and evening peak-hour runs. According to Go Triangle Interim President Shelley Blake Curran, because GoTriangle transports health care workers, care providers at senior living facilities, people in need of medicine and many others who are vulnerable or care for people who are vulnerable, the agency also is evaluating what level of service to continue providing. Learn more about how GoTriangle is responding.


NEW! Federal and State Income Tax
Filing Deadlines Extended

Please note: Both the Internal Revenue Service and the NC Department of Revenue are encouraging taxpayers to use online services, rather than calling with questions, to the greatest extent possible.
Federal

In a March 21st announcement , the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced that the federal income tax filing due date is automatically extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020 . Taxpayers can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment tax. This payment relief applies to all individual returns, including self-employed individuals, and all entities other than C-Corporations, such as trusts or estates. IRS will automatically provide this relief to taxpayers. Taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms or call the IRS to qualify for this relief.
 


 State

The North Carolina Department of Revenue (NCDOR) announced that they are extending the April 15 tax filing deadline to July 15 for individual, corporate, and franchise taxes to mirror the announced deadline change from the Internal Revenue Service. According to the March 20 th press release, “The NC Department of Revenue (NCDOR) will extend the deadline for filing North Carolina individual income, corporate income, and franchise taxes to July 15, 2020. NCDOR will not charge penalties for those filing and paying their taxes after April 15, 2020, as long as they file and pay their tax before the updated July 15, 2020 deadline.

However, the department cannot offer relief from interest charged to filings after April 15th. Unless state law is changed, tax payments received after April 15 will be charged accruing interest over the period from April 15 until the date of payment. Several constituents have emailed asking that this also mirror Federal changes. I have referred your concerns and I suggest that you also reach out to the appointed COVID-19 Select Committee Working Groups who have been charged with preparing legislation to respond. See more information about this Committee below.



Small Business Update
I have received the following advice from the NC Department of Health and Human Services regarding requests for businesses to be placed on the Essential Services business list. The NC Department of Public Safety will handle these requests.

 In order to streamline the process for requests, businesses should email beoc@ncdps.gov . In the email, they should provide the following

(1) Business name
(2) Point of Contact including: name, email, phone number, address
(3) Nature of their business and why they are critical to continue operations
(4) Business website

I know these are very difficult times for businesses that are losing income and whose employees and owners are facing many challenges.
Other Government Updates
House Select Committee on COVID-19
The House Select Committee on COVID-19 has been appointed. The Committee members, assigned to one of 4 Working Groups—Health Care, Economic Support, Continuity of State Operations (Emergency Services, Elections & Public Safety), and Education have been announced.


The Committee is seeking input from North Carolina residents on reforms that will support families and businesses during the unprecedented emergency. I hope you will reach out directly to the chairs and members of the Working Groups with your thoughts on the legislation that we should develop. You can also submit your comments to the Committee via this online form .

NC Courts
In light of COVID-19 and the need to comply with the number of people allowed to gather in a single space, NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley issued an order calling for the continuation of most cases for 30 days. Superior and District Courts remain open. Read Chief Justice Beasley’s full order.

COUNTY & LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Our county and municipalities are aligning their restrictions with that of our state. While critical services (police, fire, EMS, sanitation) remain uninterrupted, it is important to become familiar with services available online, facility closures, and more. 
Wake County
On March 22 nd , Wake County Commission Chair Greg Ford signed a State of Emergency Declaration . The Declaration mirrors many social distancing and other measures being taken at the state level, and requires some types of businesses to close, prohibits gatherings of 50 people or more, changes visitation practices at nursing homes and restricts the use of playground equipment at local parks. The County has also set up a dedicated phone line to address business-specific questions: 919-856-7420.

City of Raleigh
The Raleigh City Council has cancelled all council district meetings, council committee meetings, and boards and commissions through April 30. These cancellations do not include Raleigh City Council meetings. Raleigh Water has suspended all water account disconnects due to non-payment of City of Raleigh utility bills. The City has published a c omprehensive list of services and their status for your convenience.

Town of Cary
Cary issued its own state of emergency on March 16 th . The March 26 th Town Council meeting is canceled, along with all boards and commissions meetings at least through April 6th. Meeting notices are posted here for your convenience.
 
Town of Morrisville
The Town of Morrisville has closed all facilities to the public, effective Monday, March 23, at 5 p.m. through April 30. The Town Council meeting on March 26 is canceled along with all boards and commissions meetings at least through the end of the month. 


How You Can Help
Blood Shortage – Please Consider Donating!

As is typical during widespread healthcare events, we are experiencing a nationwide blood shortage. You can make a difference in our community by donating if you are able. The American Red Cross has a website which provides donation center locations and hours, and allows you to make an appointment to donate.  

Blood Drive Thursday, March 26, 10 AM – 6 PM

Blood Connection, UNC Health and WakeMed are partnering together to host a community blood drive on Thursday, March 26 from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. They are working together to overcome this shortage using recommendations from the CDC and safe social distancing guidelines.
 
Donors are encouraged to go  online to schedule an appointment . Upon arrival at PNC Arena, donors will be asked to wait in their car until their appointment time; donors will receive a call or text when it is time to donate. Donation stations will be set at least six feet apart to observe social distancing guidelines and safe distances will be maintained throughout the entire process. All participants will receive a $20 gift card in appreciation for their donation.
 
We strongly encourage making an appointment BEFORE arriving at PNC. We also recommend regularly washing hands, drinking lots of fluids and eating a healthy meal prior to donations. Donors must be at least 16 years of age, feeling well and healthy; donors who are 16 years old must have written consent to donate.


Medical Professionals Needed

More than 300 medical and health care workers have already volunteered to assist in helping combat COVID-19. If you’re a qualified, available professional, please consider signing up at this NC DHHS link.


Help Feed Children

 
Food and Monetary Donations Are Being Accepted By:

Inter-Faith Food Shuttle  1001 Blair Drive, Raleigh (open 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM)
Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC 1924 Capital Boulevard, Raleigh (open 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM)

Coping With Our New "Lifestyle"
Adjusting and coping with more restricted movement and fewer face-to-face connections with family and friends is indeed a challenge. For those of us fortunate enough to have access to the high speed internet, there are an abundance of opportunities to be productive and to be entertained as well . Please take care of yourself! Here are just a few links for your perusal.
 

Beware of Scams!
Sadly, with pandemics and hurricanes come scammers.

This one-page guide from the NC Department of Justice shares information on scams related to robo-calls, miracle cure products, phishing attempts, and fraudulent charities.

The price-gouging law that protects people from scammers is also in effect in North Carolina. The North Carolina Department of Justice will be reviewing price gouging complaints from consumers closely and are prepared to take action against any businesses engaging in price gouging activities. Please report potential price gouging by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or f iling a complaint online


The FBI also warns that scammers are sending emails with malicious attachments or links to fraudulent websites to trick victims into revealing sensitive information, donating to fraudulent charities or causes, and extortion schemes. Please exercise caution in handling any email with a COVID-19 related subject line, attachment, or hyperlink, and be wary of social media pleas, texts, or calls related to COVID-19 . You can read the FBI alert about this subject

Your Reliable Sources of 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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