Today, Governor DeSantis ordered a statewide stay-at-home order. Starting tonight at midnight, only essential services will remain open – groceries, pharmacies, and others. The list of essential services and other details are included the executive order here.
I know many of us have already been practicing stay-at-home. But in many projections, the situation here in Florida and nationwide will only get worse if we don’t do more to stop the spread.
We are now at 7,000 confirmed cases in Florida, almost double the number from four days ago. For the well-being of our neighbors, friends, and family members, all Floridians will need to stay home for the next 30 days.
Below you will find useful information and resources to help you and your family manage through this crisis.
Nightly Facebook Live Updates
Every evening at 7:00 p.m., I'll be live on Facebook giving you a daily update on our coronavirus response and highlighting some local leaders doing their part to help our community manage through this crisis.
Visit my Facebook page at 7:00 p.m. to watch and join the conversation.
If you live in Broward County, you can call this hotline to have your questions answered: 954-357-9500.
If you live in Palm Beach County, you can call this information line with your questions: 561-712-6400.
The Sun Sentinel posted drive-through testing sites in South Florida here.
Click here for a U.S. Department of Labor FAQ sheet on assistance to employers and employees.
Please be aware of financial scams. You can learn more and report them here.
Last week, Congress passed and the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a bipartisan plan to bring relief to millions of unemployed Americans, families struggling to pay bills, small businesses, student loan borrowers, and health care workers on the front lines of this crisis.
Now, I am urging the Trump Administration to quickly push out resources to individuals, businesses, and state and local governments. In Florida, the state must ensure that the Reemployment Assistance Program is prepared to process the influx of applications and distribute assistance promptly.
What does the CARES Act mean for me and my family?
Direct financial assistance to individuals and families: U.S. residents with adjusted gross incomes up to $75,000 ($150,000 for married couples) will receive the maximum benefit of $1,200 ($2,400 for couples), plus an additional $500 per child. The payments phase out up to $99,000 for individuals and $198,000 for couples.
Full paycheck protection: Americans who lose their job during the crisis can receive an additional $600 per week for up to 4 months on top of state unemployment insurance benefits, and receive an additional 13 weeks of federally funded benefits.
Assistance for gig workers and freelancers: A new, temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program will help gig workers, contractors, and self-employed individuals. I worked with Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) to include this language to help these workers who make up a growing sector of the American workforce.
The CARES Act also includes:
Support for our healthcare system: Provides an investment of about $200 billion to hospitals, health systems, and health research, including expanding funding for the personal protective equipment like ventilators, n95 masks, gowns, and gloves desperately needed by our health care workers.
Relief for small businesses: Provides more than $375 billion in small business relief, including $349 billion for forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees and keep them on the payroll; $17 billion for debt relief for current and new SBA borrowers; and $10 billion in immediate disaster grants.
Disaster Recovery: $45 billion to FEMA for response and recovery activities and reimbursement of state and local governments.
Housing Protections: 180 days of protection against foreclosure for federally-backed home loans and 120 days of eviction protection for renters in federally supported housing.
Investing in telemedicine: $200 million devoted to improving services and devices used to conduct health checkups remotely.
Funding for Florida: Over $8 billion to help the State of Florida respond to and recover from the COVID-19 outbreak.
Accountability and oversight: Special oversight requirements will be placed on financial assistance distributed to major companies and industries to ensure taxpayer dollars are used to benefit their employees rather than shareholders.
Phase I & II
On March 6, President Trump signed the first funding bill of $8.6 billion passed by a bipartisan Congress.
On March 18, President Trump signed into law the bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), which will make it easier for all Americans to do what it takes to work together to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including:
Free testing for coronavirus: All individuals who need a test, including those with private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, VA, FEHBP, and TRICARE, as well as the uninsured, will have access at no cost.
Paid emergency leave: The bill provides two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of job-protected leave to allow workers to follow quarantine recommendations and care for their family members impacted by the virus.
Food security: It expands food assistance through the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program, food banks, Meals on Wheels, SNAP, and provides electronic benefit transfer amounts to families who would usually receive free and reduced-price meals at school
Health security: It invests additional federal funding into Medicaid to give states the option to expand Medicaid coverage for COVID-19 testing.
Other Actions I’ve Taken:
This crisis requires all of us working together. That's why, from the start, I have been in regular contact with our local leaders, state leaders, and the White House. I worked with the White House to extend the tax filing deadline and to focus Justice Department efforts to stop scammers preying upon the vulnerable.
On Sunday, the entire bipartisan Palm Beach County legislative delegation, including members of the Florida Senate, Florida House, and U.S. House of Representatives, wrote to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter T. Gaynor urging them to support the recently announced Community Based Testing Site to expand novel coronavirus (COVID-19) testing access in Palm Beach County. The letter can be read here.
Last week, I joined Rep. Frankel and others in asking Governor DeSantis to help unemployed Floridians and small business owners.
Testing for COVID-19
Broward Health is now offering mobile, drive-through testing for our community. Click here for their criteria and how to make an appointment.
Palm Beach County has a drive-through testing location in West Palm Beach. To make an appointment, call the Health Care District of Palm Beach County at 561-642-1000. I have been working with state officials to offer drive-through testing in southern Palm Beach County as well.
The State of Florida continues to urge people to call their health providers or county health departments if they are concerned that they may have the virus. Until we get enough tests in Florida to test even asymptomatic people, we must continue to practice social distancing to ensure even asymptomatic carriers don’t spread the virus. That means only going out in public for essential supplies and limiting your shopping trips to one per week. When in public stay six feet away from others and wash your hands frequently.
National & State Guidelines
President Trump announced that in states with community transmission, bars, restaurants, and other venues where people congregate should be closed for the time being.
Governor DeSantis has ordered people over 65 to stay at home and individuals arriving from the New York City area to self-quarantine for two weeks. While these are important measures, I continue to call on Governor DeSantis to issue a statewide stay at home order to most effectively curb the new transmission rate.
We all have a responsibility to do our part in stopping the spread of Coronavirus. Please remember to:
- Stay home whenever possible.
- Avoid social gatherings of 10 or more people.
- Avoid dining-in or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts.
- Do not visit nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance.
Guidance for Small Businesses
As part of the federal government's response to the coronavirus crisis, guidance has been issued that impacts all Americans' daily lives. To help understand how the guidance impacts your business, the SBA has released this guidance.
Federal Small Business Disaster Loans
The SBA EIDL Program is currently available to small business owners and nonprofits in Florida that have experienced economic damage as a result of COVID-19 and do not have access to credit. You can find more information here.
The EIDL program can offer loans up to $2 million at a 3.75% rate for small businesses and 2.75% for nonprofits, which can be used to pay payroll and other expenses.
Click here to apply. Para información en español, haga clic aquí.
Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loans
The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program is currently available to small business owners located in all Florida counties statewide that experienced economic damage as a result of COVID-19. Learn more about these loans and how to apply here.
Federal Tax Information
The deadline to file federal income taxes for families and small businesses has now been moved to July 15, 2020. All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties. You can access more information here.
I have been encouraging insurers to cover telehealth to help improve access to care during this crisis.
Medicare: Medicare has temporarily expanded its coverage of telehealth services to respond to the current Public Health Emergency. Learn more here.
Florida Blue: Florida Blue’s network of primary care doctors and specialists will be able to treat patients virtually at their normal office visit rates. Visit the Florida Blue website, the Florida Blue app, the Teladoc app, or by calling Teladoc directly at 800-835-2362.
Baptist Health: Baptist Health is offering telehealth services through its Care on Demand platform. If you or someone you know has cold or flu-like symptoms, visit here using code CARE19.
Cleveland Clinic: Cleveland Clinic Florida is encouraging the use of its Express Care Online Virtual Care services as much as possible during the outbreak. Click here for more information.
Cigna: Cigna is offering COVID-19 specific resources for enrollees. Click here for more.
Humana: Humana has agreed to waive telemedicine costs for all urgent care needs for the next 90 days. This will apply to Humana’s Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, and commercial employer-sponsored plans and is limited to in-network providers delivering synchronous virtual care. More information here.
COVID-19 Public Website and Call Center
Please visit the Florida Department of Health’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage for information and guidance regarding COVID-19 in Florida.
For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, please contact the DOH’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 1-(866) 779-6121. The Call Center is available 24 hours a day. Inquiries may also be emailed to COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org.
County Health Departments
If you're concerned that you may have contracted the coronavirus, please contact your healthcare professional or county health department:
Broward County: 954-467-4700
Palm Beach County: 561-840-4500
Miami-Dade County: 305-324-2400
School Meal Programs:
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked with county school boards across the state to launch meal sites that will help feed hungry families while schools are closed. Families who receive free and reduced-price meals may search for the most convenient location by using the Summer Breakspot website.
I strongly urge everyone to continue to monitor updates with your local news organizations and follow the CDC's guidelines regarding proper hygiene and how to protect yourselves and your families.
Please stay home if you can, keep six-feet between you and other members of the public if you must be out, wash your hands regularly, do not touch your face, and do not attend gatherings of more than 10 people. Seniors are especially vulnerable to the virus and should take extra precautions. The CDC recommends all people with underlying health conditions and adults over 60 should maintain a reserve of medication and grocery items and remain home.
We are working hard to ensure everyone can respond to the coronavirus threat appropriately and keep themselves and their families safe, while protecting Americans from the costs of care and loss of pay. I will continue to work with state and local officials in South Florida to monitor the impact of this virus and support the efforts to contain it.
Please call my office at 561-470-5440 if we can be of any assistance. You can also follow my updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
I hope everyone stays safe and healthy.