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U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander message to his fellow Tennesseans

 

U.S. SenateWashington, D.C. – Sweeping relief is on its way to help keep paychecks coming for Tennessee workers and relieve financial burdens for Americans hurt by Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Across our state, people are anxious and many are struggling. I cannot remember a time in my life, or in our nation’s history, when the government has temporarily shut down the country or individual states in order to contain a disease, but that is what we have seen this month. And if the federal government is going to close parts of the economy, for the safety of the people, the federal government needs to pay for it.

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander

The United States Congress passed, and President Donald Trump signed into law, unprecedented legislation that will provide $1,200 checks for individuals, increase unemployment compensation, defer tax and student loan payments, generate trillions of dollars in economic support to keep businesses open, and provide billions of dollars to help hospitals buy medical supplies and speed the development of tests, treatments and vaccines.

You can find more information at my websitehttps://www.alexander.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/covid-19-response-and-resources-for-tennesseans – to help you take advantage of this federal assistance package, as well as resources on how Tennesseans can contain the spread and impact of this virus.

These are trying times, but Tennesseans are resilient. As chairman of the Senate health committee, I will continue to work to bring much needed relief to Tennessee as we fight to deal with the impact and containment of this disease.

Below is an op-ed I wrote for the Tennessean  that explains the new law and what Congress is doing to help Americans during this crisis.

– Lamar Alexander, U.S. Senator for Tennessee

The government has temporarily shut down the economy because of the COVID-19 coronavirus, and the government must help those who are hurt by it.

Here is an email I received from the owner of a kennel in Blount County, one of hundreds I’ve received from Tennesseans wanting to know how the new federal law to help Americans hurt by Coronavirus (COVID-19) affects them:   

“We are suffering a massive drop off in our business as a result of the coronavirus. I fear we may have to close our doors for a month or two. …I am currently trying to secure around $50,000 in loans to supplement our dwindling reserves to see us through until May or June. …We’re not seeking charity, just a business loan for $30,000 to $50,000 to secure our business until this passes. We always pay our way.”

The first goal of this new law is to keep paychecks coming, so there are small business loans that may be forgiven to help businesses like the kennel in Blount County, and there are also loans for large businesses to help stabilize the economy and keep their employees working.

 


How the law helps businesses and workers

Here is how the new law will help keep paychecks coming:

  • A loan to cover 8 weeks of payroll: Small businesses can get a loan of up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll.  Their expenses for payroll, employee benefits, rent, utilities and interest on a mortgage during this 8 week period will be forgiven. The Treasury Department will approve many lenders to make these loans, and could be the bank you already use, or a nearby bank.
  • Paid Sick leave: Employers with fewer than 500 employees must pay two weeks of sick leave up to $511.00 per day for any employee who is sick, quarantined, is caring for someone who is sick, or is caring for a child whose school is closed. The employer must pay for 10 more weeks of family leave, up to $200.00 per day, for an employee who is caring for a child whose school has closed or their childcare provider is unavailable.  The federal government will reimburse employers for the full cost of this sick and family leave and advance funds to employers who do not have the cash to pay it.
  • Unemployment compensation: The federal government is giving states an extra $600.00 to add to every laid off employee’s unemployment compensation check for 16 weeks. In Tennessee, the maximum weekly benefit is $275.00; with an additional $600.00 it will be $875.00.

How the law provides economic relief to Americans

The second goal is to relieve the financial burden on as many Americans as possible.

If an individual made less than $75,000 in 2019, they will receive a $1,200 check, or $2,400 per couple, with an additional $500.00 for each eligible child. The Secretary of the Treasury said he hopes these checks will begin to arrive within three to four weeks. This one-time payment does not have to be paid back and is in addition to your paycheck, unemployment benefits, disability or Social Security checks.

Federal income taxes don’t have to be filed until July 15, estimated tax payments can be delayed until October 15th, and it will be easier to use retirement savings without a penalty.            

Student loans payments are delayed without interest or penalty for six months for 95 percent of borrowers.

 


How the law fights the coronavirus

The third goal is to contain the disease. Here is how this bill will help:

  • All Coronavirus (COVID-19) tests are now free; 
  • $100 billion is provided to help hospitals, including hospitals in Tennessee
  • $16 billion to buy more protective equipment, ventilators and medical supplies
  • $11 billion to speed up new treatments and hopefully a vaccine.
  • $33 billion to help schools and colleges that had to close early and to provide immediate assistance to child care centers.

The most frequent question I’ve received is when can we go back to work and out to eat and travel again? There are different opinions about this. Governors, listening to the advice of public health and medical professionals, should say when we safely can relax restrictions on traveling, dining and working. 

My hope is that, by listening to public health experts and making millions more tests available, we will be able to quickly identify those who have the virus so they can quarantine and seek care and those who do not have the virus can feel comfortable going back to work and out to eat using common sense hygiene and other precautions including social distancing. 

It will likely not happen all at once, and there will be places where we have to pause again. But we will get there.

Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, is chairman of the U.S. Senate health committee.  


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