03/26/2020: Update on COVID-19 Coronavirus Response

Update # 2 on COVID-19 Coronavirus Response

 
March 26, 2020
 
Aloha,
 
As we continue to fight the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, here are a few updates.
 
Yesterday, I held another telephone town hall where I was joined by Lt. Gov. Josh Green as well as representatives from the Health Care Association of Hawai‘i and the Small Business Administration. We had over 11,000 people join the call, and answered questions on topics ranging from financial assistance for workers and small businesses, to the ways we can keep our ‘ohana safe and healthy during this time.
 
We will be regularly holding more telephone town halls, and updates will be sent through my e-newsletter announcing the time and call-in information for each call ahead of time.
 
The third round of direct assistance legislation will pass Congress soon — I’ll be sending you an update shortly on exactly what new and extended benefits are available to all who are being impacted by this crisis. The benefits listed below for unemployment insurance and small business benefits will be expanded and updated in the next few days. Stay tuned. 
 
I and my team remain hard at work and available should you have any questions or if you are in need of assistance. Please call me at (808) 541-1986 or email me at TulsiOffice@mail.house.gov.
 
Visit my website for more news and resources at:
 
With Aloha,
 
Tulsi Gabbard
Member of Congress (HI-02)
 

Keeping Connected With You Through Telephone Town Halls

 
Yesterday, I hosted a telephone town hall with over 11,000 Hawai’i residents to share updates on the fight to defeat the COVID-19 coronavirus threat. You can listen to yesterday’s telephone town hall here.
 
This follows a telephone town hall I hosted last week on March 18 with Lt. Gov. Green in which over 10,000 people joined the call. You can listen to last week’s telephone town hall online.
 
We will be hosting regular telephone town halls to keep you informed of developments and help answer questions you may have. You will receive updates via this newsletter on when the calls will take place. 
 
The next telephone town hall will take place next Wednesday, April 1st, at 4:00 p.m. HT and you can call (888) 476-4187 at that time to directly join the call.
 

Stay-at-home Restrictions

 
It is important to remember that the lives, health, and well-being of the people of Hawai’i and our country are most important. Decisions made about the restrictions to travel, stay-home orders, and quarantines must be made with that in mind. If restrictions are lifted prematurely, it will make this pandemic even more costly in the long-run — with more infected and sick people placing greater strain on our already stretched thin public health infrastructure, and creating greater costs to families with sick loved ones.
 
The stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and emphasis on personal hygiene measures are in place to help prevent the spread of the virus. They will have an impact on businesses and our economy, but without a healthy community, we will have an even more difficult time recovering.
 
I recently sent a letter calling on President Trump to issue a minimum two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order — a proven, effective solution to slowing the spread of the virus.
 
Working with Hawai‘i’s Congressional Delegation, I sent two letters calling on President Trump to Hawai‘i’s request for medical equipment, supplies and resources for our state. 
 
Congress has passed two emergency relief funding bills — both of which I supported. The first provided $8.3 billion of additional funding to several Federal departments and agencies as well as reimbursements to the states for costs they had incurred fighting the first cases of the outbreak. The second focused on providing emergency relief to families and workers across America by helping to make sure testing is accessible and free for all, as well as funding paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, food for seniors and more.
 
Some Federal funds are already reaching Hawai‘i. The first coronavirus emergency funding bill that I helped pass in Congress has now led to over $750,000 being allocated to 14 community health centers in our district.
 
Late yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the third Congressional emergency relief package. It includes direct cash payments to Americans, assistance for those who are out of work due to the outbreak, funding for small businesses, hospitals, and health care workers, and state and local governments, including at least $1.2 billion for Hawai‘i. The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on this bill tomorrow or Saturday.
 
I was the first Member of Congress to introduce legislation, H.Res.897, that would provide a direct, cash benefit to Americans in response to the pandemic. While I believe the bill passed by the Senate does not go far enough, it is a step in the right direction and I will continue to fight for more aid getting directly into the hands of those hit hardest by this crisis. 
 

Follow Best Health Practices

 
Here are some basic steps that you and your loved ones can take to keep yourselves safe and healthy. 
  • The best way to prevent illness is to avoid exposure. 
  • Clean your hands often with soap and water, or hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. 
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. 
  • If you are sick, stay home and isolate yourself from those around you.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick. 
  • Put at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and other people
 
 

Assisting U.S. Citizens and Permanent Legal Residents Abroad

 
The COVID-19 coronavirus global pandemic has left stranded many Americans abroad. If you need assistance in this regard, please call my Hawai‘i office at (808) 541-1986 and leave a message or email me at TulsiOffice@mail.house.gov.
 
In the meantime, please visit the State Department website and enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to assist in moving the process forward. We are regularly checking messages and will follow up with you. If you are unable to leave a message due to the large volume of calls we are fielding, please try back again as we want to be sure to connect with you.
 

COVID-19 Hawai‘i News

 
2020 Census Be counted! Making sure everyone is counted in this year’s census is critical, as it will determine the public health funding that our community gets for the next decade, as well as funding for schools, roads, public infrastructure, and political representation. You can fill out the census by mail, by phone, or online.
 
You can learn more about completing the 2020 Census online and more about the 2020 Census by visiting 2020census.gov.
 
Unemployment Insurance — If you are out of work and not being paid due to the coronavirus pandemic, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance. To file for unemployment insurance as a claimant or employer, visit huiclaims.hawaii.gov/#/. The Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has also set up a call center to assist applicants (available Monday-Friday 7:45 AM - 4:30 PM). Call (808) 762-5752 to make an appointment for an over-the-phone application. Visit https://labor.hawaii.gov/ui/ to learn more. 
 
Hawai‘i Small Business Disaster Loans The SBA approved a certification request submitted by Gov. David Ige, clearing the way for Hawai‘i small businesses to participate in the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Assistance Program. The loans can be used to pay fixed debts, payroll and other bills that can’t be paid because of a disaster’s impact. You can visit their websites for more information about these and other programs for eligible businesses. However, due to an increased volume of requests, local SBA officials urge you to email at hawaiigeneral@sba.gov and call them at (808) 541-2990 in order to help connect you with SBA staff more quickly.
 
Testing in Hawai‘i To date, there are 106 individuals in Hawai‘i who have tested positive for COVID-19, which includes 11 new cases announced today -- three of which officials say cannot be linked to any recent travel, providing evidence of further localized community spread. There are still not anywhere near enough tests available for all Hawaii residents who need it, and the criteria for testing remains too narrow. Only with large scale testing can we truly understand the scope of infection in Hawai‘i. 
 
Farmers Maintaining a Local, Healthy Food Supply — Healthy fresh food provided by local farmers will continue to be available through this outbreak, supplying the islands with locally-grown healthful food. The Hawai‘i Farm Bureau is providing information for farmers and families, including on farm safety during the health crisis, which farmers markets are open, and financial resources for farmers. Visit the Hawai‘i Farm Bureau website, https://hfbf.org/covid-19-updates-resources/, to learn more.
 
Honolulu Has a New Hotline, Changes to Transportation and Parking Rules The City and County of Honolulu just launched 768-CITY, a new hotline to help address coronavirus concerns. The city’s Department of Environmental Services is suspending in-person customer service until April 30. And, Honolulu has made several changes to transportation and parking rules as people adjust to stay-at-home measures and changes to local business flow.
 
All Hawai‘i Counties to Follow Governor’s Proclamation Ordering “Stay at Home” Measures Across the state, “stay at home” measures are now in effect. Kaua’i explained the “stay at home” measure, its impact, and why it is important in its March 25 video briefing taking into account concerns and questions expressed by residents. You can view the video via Facebook (you can view it without a Facebook account).
 
The federal income tax filing date has been postponed. The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced today 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. Read more at IRS.gov ...
 
Learn more about IRS actions during the pandemic: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus.
 
Hawaiian Electric announced on March 17, 2020 that it will suspend service disconnections for 30 days so customers who are financially challenged by the coronavirus pandemic don't have to worry about losing electric service. Read more at HawaiianElectric.com …
 

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