Managing the Disruption
I hope this finds you healthy at the end of what has been a tough week. I’ve heard this week from a lot of people, our friends and neighbors, who have been laid off. I’ve heard from small business owners struggling to make payroll. I’ve heard from working parents who are adjusting to new routines and learning that kids at home don’t follow your conference call schedule—Liz and I are experiencing that firsthand. And I’ve heard from health care professionals wondering when or even if the help the federal government has promised is on the way. My team and I are getting your emails, comments, and calls, and I hope today’s update helps answer some of those urgent questions.
So far, more Americans are feeling the economic effects of this virus than the health effects: while we may not yet know someone who has become sick with COVID-19, we likely all know someone who has been laid off or is struggling to make payroll. On Monday alone, more 20,000 people applied for unemployment in Massachusetts. That is more than the entire month of February. Our friends and family on the verge of retirement are watching years of planning disappear as the stock market falls off a cliff.
The most important thing we can do to get the economy back on track is to end the health crisis; therefore, that must remain our top priority. So make sure you are following all the guidelines from the CDC and our office first and foremost. But while you’re practicing social distancing and washing your hands, here’s what you need to know if you’re worried about your job, your small business, or if you’ve already been laid off.
Applying for Unemployment
If you recently lost your job, and if it is of any comfort, know that you’re not alone. There’s no shame in being temporarily out of work. The coronavirus pandemic has caused economic disruption on a global scale not seen in decades—it’s already worse than 2008. Jobs will come back, but it may be a few weeks or even months before they do. In the meantime, the government is stepping in, and more help is coming.
Here are some resources for you to get assistance while people are putting economic decisions on hold:
- Unemployment Insurance is administered by the state. Here is the Massachusetts website, which walks you through whether you are eligible.
- Once you’ve checked it out, you can apply for unemployment here.
- If you have questions about the application process, you can ask them here.
You may have seen in the news this week that there are plans to help the economy by cutting checks directly to Americans. That’s an excellent idea, and I support it in principle. It will get people help directly and fast. But, don’t count on that chicken before it hatches. None of those plans have become law yet. I’m going to keep pushing, but if you’re unemployed and eligible for unemployment insurance, I strongly urge you to apply online or by phone. The Commonwealth has been slammed, so know up front that applying is going to require some patience and persistence. If you need help, my team works for you. Give us a call or reach out online at moulton.house.gov.
Assisting Small Businesses
People are getting laid off because demand for goods and services—especially those that require a lot of personal interaction like getting a haircut or going to a restaurant—has temporarily dried up. That’s financially disastrous for businesses and many workers in the short term. I’ve heard from a lot of service-sector workers and business owners who are comparing the economic consequences of the virus to the type of devastation a hurricane causes. I think that’s pretty accurate, but there’s also a silver lining: The more we are able to feel this pain up front, the more it means people are working together to flatten the curve of this outbreak by staying home. It will require sacrifices right now, but in the long run that is better for us economically, because the faster we can get this back under control, the faster we can get back to work. In the meantime, state and federal assistance is available for businesses that are struggling with the economic shutdown.
If you are a small business owner, here is what you need to know:
The governor recently announced that Massachusetts has designated $20 million for small business disaster relief loans. Businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 50 employees can apply for loans totaling as much as $75,000 from the Small Business Recovery Loan Fund. I know there are a lot of small businesses that have more than 50 employees as well, so we’re encouraging the governor to raise that limit a bit.
The state will make the loans immediately available to eligible businesses and no payments due for the first 6 months. Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC) will administer the loans. Businesses can learn more about the program and apply here.
The federal government has also activated small business disaster loans to help those of you who are struggling to make payroll or keep the lights on. Many Massachusetts small businesses and nonprofits are now eligible to apply for disaster loans from the US Small Business Administration (SBA) as well.
- The SBA has published general information here.
- You can find applications for disaster assistance here.
- And if you have additional questions, you can reach the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 1 (800) 659-2955 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you need an interpreter, we are hearing from the SBA that they are available once you call in and reach a customer service specialist. (Asistencia de Desastre de la SBA en Respuesta al Coronavirus)
- If you are deaf or hard-of-hearing, you can call 1 (800) 877-8339 for assistance.
The SBA’s Massachusetts office is conducting training webinars for resource partners/lenders and small businesses on the SBA EIDL loan program.
There’s an additional tip the SBA asked us to pass on: Many business applicants are not checking the correct option when applying and consequently getting kicked off the Disaster Loan Application Portal. The SBA believes this is because applicants are selecting an incorrect option for the type of loans for which they are applying. Sole proprietors MUST select the Economic Injury (EIDL) Loan Option, in order to proceed with applying for the EIDLs for the coronavirus. According to the SBA, if you select the wrong option, you do not have to re-register but you’ll need to start the application again.
Congress has passed two bills so far that include protections that will help people who are unemployed because of the pandemic. A third is on the way. I’ll keep you up to date via this newsletter as Congress negotiates the final draft of the bill.
Making Ends Meet
I know that many of you are grappling with how to make ends meet without a job or side gig you were counting on. This is going to be tough, but know that there are a lot of people at work to have your back.
In addition to the unemployed and those who are most at risk for contracting coronavirus, I’m especially concerned for families that rely on school lunches to make ends meet or seniors who are counting on meals on wheels.
Schools are stepping up to ensure students continue to receive meals. To find the location nearest you, visit the Project Bread website, which has a helpful page called: COVID-19: Hunger & Food Resources for Households.
No one should go hungry. If you need assistance accessing meals, but don’t know where to begin, call Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at 1 (800) 645-8333.
Many Massachusetts residents do not realize they are eligible for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which is often called LIHEAP. If you can’t afford to heat your home, call the Cold Relief Heatline at 1 (800) 632-8175 to find out more, or visit the DHCD Resource Locator to get started.
Eversouce and National Grid are suspending collections activities during the pandemic, but payments are still due as scheduled. National Grid has a website with more information about relief that it might be able to offer. Eversource updates can be found here.
The Treasury Department is extending the deadline for you to file your taxes by three months. You can file them without interest or penalty until July 15th.
Staying Busy and Educating your Kids
You may have kids at home and be concerned about their lost learning time because schools are closed. Or maybe you’re just wondering how to make the most of your time at home together. A member of my team who served with Teach For America before joining Team Moulton collected some ideas from local and national partners that can help you balance your child’s time at home. And, if internet access is a barrier for you, some of the Internet Service Providers in the area are providing free internet access to new subscribers during the COVID-19 pandemic if a K-12 or college student lives at home with you.
Your kids (and you) may find the next few weeks to be particularly stressful. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as staying physically healthy. The CDC shared some helpful guidance on managing anxiety and stress.
You also may wonder how to talk to kids about the coronavirus. PBS offers some advice on how to talk to young kids about COVID-19, and the CDC has recommendations for all ages, including seniors who are most at risk.
It can be stressful just finding enough activities to fill your child’s day and support their learning during school closures. Here is some advice from a former physician and veteran homeschooling parent on structuring your kid’s time and removing the stress, as well as PBS’s recommendations on de-stressing during the coronavirus.
And as you’re looking for ideas for fun (and stealthily educational) activities to share with your kids, we’ll be keeping a “For Kids” section updated on our website.
Here’s a sneak peak:
- People are getting creative about how they spend their time at home. For example, WDRB in Kentucky has provided a list of 50 activities you can do around the house.
- Live Science has curated a list of activities that are both fun and educational for your kid during the school closures.
- BrainPOP is also offering free online learning activities for families during school closures, and Scholastic has resources broken down by grade level.
- The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has partnered with WGBH to provide TV and digital distance learning options. Check here for broadcast times and online resources.
Education Elements will be hosting a series of free webinars, coffee chats, and 1:1 office hours—all virtual—on topics like planning for long-term virtual learning, equity and school closings, and why psychological safety is more important now than ever.
The Information Technology Industry Council has also curated digital resources to use with your students.
If you just finished a good book and you are looking for things to read to stay busy, here is an op-ed I published on the leadership I’d like to see coming from Washington.
I recently formed an Advisory Team to help me answer your questions. There will be more about that in my update early next week, but one of the members is Dr. Paul Farmer, whose work around the world combating disease and empowering people inspires my team and me. He published a hopeful op-ed this week in The Boston Globe that is worth a read.
That’s all for now. Please check in with each other. Stay home as much as you can to do your part to keep this virus from spreading. And finally, if you know a health care worker, first responder, or member of the national guard, please thank him or her for serving the country right now on the front lines.
Member of Congress
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