What You Need to Know: COVID-19 Coronavirus

On March 10th, I joined my colleagues to pass the American Rescue Plan, which has now been signed into law by President Biden. This landmark, life-saving legislation provides urgently needed resources to defeat the virus, put vaccines in people’s arms, money into families’ pockets, children safely back into classrooms and people back to work in Texas and across the United States.

Below are some highlights of this historic legislation that can help you and your family:

Stimulus Payment

The American Rescue Plan provides a new round of rescue checks of up to $1,400 for individuals. Combined with the $600 down payments enacted in December, these additional checks fulfill our promise to put $2,000 in Americans’ pockets. 

You can track your stimulus payment by using the IRS's Get My Payment tool. Those who do not usually file taxes can fill out a form on the IRS website to submit payment information for their stimulus check. If you didn’t get your Economic Impact Payment, or you received less than the full amount, you may be eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your taxes. Please visit the IRS website for more information on claiming the Recovery Rebate Credit. 

Assistance for Individuals and Families

The American Rescue Plan will help keep people in their homes and apartments with housing assistance; put food on tables with nutrition assistance for 40 million Americans; support 27 million children with an expanded Child Tax Credit and support more than 17 million workers through the Earned Income Tax Credit; and lower health care costs to help families stay covered in the pandemic.

Expanded Child Tax Credit

Parents and caregivers can claim a Child Tax Credit (CTC) to help reduce their tax bill or provide an extra cash benefit, depending on the number and ages of their dependents. The American Rescue Plan Act drastically scales up CTC: it temporarily increases the amount from $2,000 to $3,600 per child under 6 and $3,000 for children older than 6. It also alters the distribution of the CTC, by allowing families to receive the money as up-front regular payments instead of one lump sum when they file their taxes. Finally, the bill makes the credit fully refundable, meaning that even if a family doesn’t have a large federal tax liability, they will be able to enjoy the full benefit of the credit.

Emergency Rental Assitance

The American Rescue Plan Act includes $21.55 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance for state and local governments to provide financial assistance to eligible renters, which they can use to cover missed rent payments and unpaid utility and energy bills.  

Homeowners

The American Rescue Plan Act authorizes $9.961 billion for the creation of a Homeowner Assistance Fund, which will provide grants to states and other housing entities to support homeowners. These funds can be put towards mortgage payment assistance, principal reduction, broadband costs, homeowner’s insurance, flood insurance, mortgage insurance, HOA funds and condo association fees, property taxes, property insurance, utilities, and other housing-related costs.

COVID-19 Vaccine Information

The American Rescue Plan Act meets and exceeds President Biden’s request to invest $20 billion in a coordinated, nationwide vaccine program to:

  • Make sure we have enough vaccines for all Americans through research, development, manufacturing, production, and purchase.

  • Get those vaccines out to all Americans quickly and equitably through community vaccination centers, mobile vaccination units and more.
  • Improve communication to strengthen confidence in the vaccine and make sure all Americans know when, where and how they can get one.
  • It will also scale up testing and tracing, address shortages of personal protective equipment and other critical supplies, invest in high-quality treatments, and address health care disparities.

Vaccine FAQS

When will everyone else be able to get the vaccine?

The state estimates that the vaccine will be widely available in the spring, pending vaccine production levels. 

Do I have to register to receive a COVID-19 vaccine? 

The COVID-19 vaccine is now be offered in all counties across Texas. For more information about how you can recieive the vaccine, you can visit the Texas Health and Human Services website or call 2-1-1 for more information. 

Texas residents can register for the vaccine in any Texas county. Tarrant County residents can register on this website or call their COVID-19 hotline at 817-248-6299 and Dallas County residents can register on this website or call their COVID-19 hotline at 855-466-8639. 

UT Southwestern in North Texas is also offering the vaccine. For more information on how to register, visit this link.

The following pharmacies in North Texas are also offering the vaccine. Click these individual links below for more information: CVS, Kroger, Tom Thumb, and Walmart

Is the COVID-19 vaccine free? 

Yes. As part of the Cares Act, I helped to pass last spring, the COVID-19 vaccine is available free of cost to all individuals, regardless of insurance status. Check with your vaccine provider for any administrative fees. 

Where can I get the COVID-19 vaccine? 

The Texas division of Emergency Management has a statewide COVID-19 vaccine provider map of all Texas vaccine providers with available doses of COVID-19 vaccine. 

Where can I get tested for COVID-19? 

For a list of testing sites, please visit the Dallas County HHS website or the Tarrant County coronavirus website. If you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, self-isolate immediately and seek testing. 

Now that there is a vaccine, do we still have to wear masks? 

Yes. The CDC recommends continuing to wear a mask in public, practice social distancing and hand hygiene and avoid large gatherings until most of the population is vaccinated. 

Unemployment Benefits

The American Rescue Plan extends enhanced unemployment insurance until September 6, 2021, including the additional $300 that is added to all federal unemployment benefits. It also includes extensions of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which the CARES Act created to support individuals who do not qualify for regular unemployment compensation – like self-employed workers, independent contractors, and gig workers – as well as the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which allows states to provide additional weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals who previously received unemployment benefits but exhausted those benefits. 

Under the American Rescue Plan, the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits received in 2020 are tax free. 

If you lost your job due to COVID-19, you can apply for unemployment benefits by visiting the Texas Workforce Commission's website or by calling the Texas Workforce Commission’s at 800-939-6631, Sunday-Saturday from 7 AM - 7 PM CST.

SBA Assistance for Small Businesses 

Texas received approval for emergency designation from the U.S. Small Business Administration's disaster loans. Small businesses impacted by COVID-19 should apply at https://sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19.

My office has also created a resource guide for small businesses to help them through this difficult time. You can access that document here: COVID-19 Small Business Resource Guide

Additional Resources

The Dallas/Fort Worth District Office’s Small Business Administration 2019-2020 Resource Guide

Information on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act for Small Businesses

If you need help with your application, you can contact the local SBA district office: 

SBA Dallas/Fort Worth District Office

150 Westpark Way Euless, TX 76040

817-684-5500

Taxes

The IRS has extended time for Texans to file and pay their taxes to June 15, 2021 due to the February winter storm. Folks who earn less than $57,000 per year, have a disability, speak limited English, or are over 60 years old, can visit the IRS website for information on the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program. To find IRS-certified volunteers across North Texas who can help with tax preparation and filing, visit: https://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep.  

Additionally, if your income is $72,000 or below, you can file your taxes for free using the IRS’ Free File program. More information can be found on the IRS website at www.irs.gov.

Seniors and Nursing Home Resources 

Nursing Homes

Nursing homes and long term care facilities represent some of the most vulnerable and at-risk populations to COVID-19. You should always know your rights and know how this virus could impact you. To get more information please see this FAQ from AARP on COVID-19. You can also learn more about your rights or get information about filing a complaint with a long term care facility with the Texas Attorney General's office here.

Complaints

Nursing homes and other long-term care providers are regulated by the Texas Department of Aging and Disabilities (DADS). DADS licenses and inspects these facilities, which must meet stringent health and safety standards to maintain their good standing to provide long-term care in Texas.

Seniors or families with complaints about long-term care providers in Texas can contact DADS at (800) 458-9858 or e-mail CRSComplaints@dads.state.tx.us. DADS has the authority to investigate these complaints.

In addition, the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit has the authority to investigate and prosecute cases involving possible criminal abuse, neglect or exploitation of residents in Medicaid-funded long-term care facilities. Possible criminal abuse, neglect or financial exploitation can be reported by calling (512) 463-2011, or toll-free (800) 252-8011, or by e-mailing mfcu@texasattorneygeneral.gov

North Texas Area Agencies for Aging 

The Dallas Area Agency on Aging coordinates an integrated service system to ensure access to services provided to and for Dallas County older adults and their caregivers. The services provided include care coordination, family caregiver support, and benefits counseling. Contact the Agency on Aging at 214-871-5065 or impact@ccadvance.org.

The Aging and Disability Resource Center of Tarrant County coordinates an integrated service system to ensure access to services provided to and for Tarrant County older adults and their caregivers. The services provided include care coordination, family caregiver support, and benefits counseling. Contact the Agency on Aging at 855-937-2372. 

Benefits Counseling Program 

Individual in-person counseling services at senior centers have been suspended until further notice. Benefits counseling is available by phone for information and assistance with Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other public benefits. Call to speak to a benefits counselor at 214-871-5064 or 1-800-252-9240 Monday - Friday 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM.

North Texas My Ride Transporation Program 

The My Ride program can connect seniors and those with disabilities to multiple transportation options through transportation options counseling, application assistance for transportation programs, and limited transportation vouchers. If you need assistance in creating a plan to travel to work, a doctor’s appointment, or other essential activities, call My Ride Dallas at 972-855-8084 or My Ride Tarrant at 682-587-7099.

North Central Texas Aging and Disability Resource Center

The NCTADRC is funded by Texas Health and Human Services and provides information and referral to long-term service and support programs for seniors in Collin County. The NCTADRC serves as a resource connection and can provide specialized knowledge of local, state, and federal programs including Medicaid waiver programs, Medicare, SNAP, Area Agency on Aging programs for people over age 60 and their family caregivers, Veterans Administration programs, and subsidized housing for low-income older and disabled persons. They can be reached at 1-855-937-2372. 

Tips to Stay Healthy, Safe 

For updated health guidance for when you have been fully vaccinated, visit here

Visit the dallascounty.org or tarrantcounty.com COVID-19 pages for resources and information if you are a North Texas resident. 

Wear a Mask 

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, CDC recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings when around people outside of their household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

Cloth face coverings may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others. Wearing a cloth face covering will help protect people around you, including those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and workers who frequently come into close contact with other people (e.g., in stores and restaurants). Cloth face coverings are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings. The spread of COVID-19 can be reduced when cloth face coverings are used along with other preventive measures, including social distancing, frequent handwashing, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. Click here for more information from the CDC on cloth face coverings.

Other helpful resources 

Here are some preventative measures to keep you and your loved ones healthy:

  • Stay home as much as you can, especially when you are sick.
  • Avoid close contact with others and try to maintain 6 feet of distance, especially with those who are sick. 
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and help children do the same. You can also use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands).

Additionally, the CDC now recommends that gatherings and meetings over 10 people be canceled or held virtually.

If you think you were exposed to COVID-19 and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should contact your healthcare provider first. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your symptoms, and cover your nose and mouth with a mask BEFORE you enter the healthcare facility for medical evaluation.

Please visit the Tarrant County Novel Coronavrisu webpage or DCHHS Novel Coronavirus webpage for FAQs and other resources that can be shared with members of the community. These resources include information for schools, health care providers, businesses, and several other helpful documents.

Additionally, the Texas Department of State Health Services has established a hotline to serve as an additional resource for any questions about novel coronavirus:

DSHS COVID-19 Call Center: 1-877-570-9779, Hours: 7:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Monday – Friday

The North Texas Behavioral Health Authority (NTBHA) has also developed a dedicated COVID-19 mental health support line to provide trauma informed support and psychological first aid to those experiencing stress and anxiety during this time of crisis. Individuals can contact the 24/7 COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line at 833-251-7544.

Again, this is a rapidly evolving situation, and it is important for everyone to continue to monitor the situation as new information becomes available.  If you would like more information on the coronavirus or to read the most recent updates and situation, please visit the CDC website.

Travel Concerns 

If you plan to travel internationally, you will need to get tested for COVID-19 no more than 3 days (72 hours) before you travel by air into the United States and show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight, or be prepared to show documentation of recovery (proof of a recent positive viral test and a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel). You must find a COVID-19 test facility on your own. 

If you or a loved one are traveling or plan to travel outside of the United States, it is recommended that you register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. When registered, if you or a loved one have issues while traveling due to the coronavirus, the State Department will be able to contact you and provide up to date information.

Visit the State Department website for more guidance on travel.


Recurso en Español

I want to make sure that all the resources available are accessible to every North Texan, so if you, a loved one, or neighbor needs resources in Spanish, please share this with them.

Estamos unidos en la lucha contra el coronavirus (COVID-19). Tenemos que seguir los consejos de los expertos y cada persona tiene que hacer su parte en prevenir la propagación de COVID-19. Por favor consulte estos recursos útiles. Llame a mi oficina si necesita ayuda al 817-920-9086 o 214-741-1387. Hablamos español y estamos dispuestos para contestar cualquier pregunta que usted tenga. 

  • Si tiene preguntas sobre el coronavirus o quisiera saber acciones preventivas para ayudar a prevenir la propagación del coronavirus, sigue la orden Quédate en Casa, Quédate a Salvo, lávese las manos con jabón durante al menos 20 segundos. Evita contacto cercano con otros y mantenga una distancia de seis pies. Si se siente enfermo, llame a su doctor. 
  • Si perdio su trabajo debido a COVID-19, puede solicitar beneficios de desempleo de la Comisión de la fuerza laboral de Texas: https://twc.texas.gov/jobseekers/servicios-de-beneficios-de-desempleo o lllamando al telefono al: 800-939-6631, de lunes a viernes de 8 am - 6 pm. 
  • Negocios pequeños impactados por COVID-19 pueden solicitar un préstamo de desastre en: https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-orientacion-y-recursos-de-prestamos-para-pequenas-empresas. Si necesita ayuda con su aplicación, llame a mi oficina 817-920-9086 o 214-741-1387.
  • El Departamento de Estado emitió un aviso de nivel 4: No viaje, instando a los ciudadanos estadounidenses a evitar los viajes internacionales debido al impacto global de COVID-19. Si usted o un familiar están varados en el extranjero y desean regresar a los Estados Unidos, pueden llamar a mi oficina al 817-920-9086 o 214-741-1387 para obtener ayuda.
  • El Congreso proporcionó los fondos para pagos directos y poder ayudar a las personas superar esta crisis. Obtenga más información sobre esos detalles aquí.
  • Si quiere saber más de los recursos disponibles para usted y su familia durante este momento difícil, haga clic aquí.