Frequently Asked Questions on Government Response to COVID-19

NetworkPeninsula / Frequently Asked Questions on Government Response to COVID-19

Special thanks to the office of Congressman Robert “Bobby” Scott for this information.

Important websites to bookmark:

Testing for COVID-19

How does the Families First Coronavirus Response Act expand access to affordable diagnostic testing for COVID-19?
H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, requires health insurers and employer-sponsored health plans to cover COVID-19 testing and related services without cost-sharing and without prior authorization requirements. This protection applies across private health coverage, including the individual and the employer-sponsored market.

Does the free testing protection apply to people who get coverage through their job?
Yes.

Does this law apply to federal health care programs?  
Yes, H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, also ensures that those who receive coverage through federal programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, TRICARE, Indian Health Service, the V.A. and the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program will have access to testing without cost-sharing. 

Will I have to meet my deductible before I can access free testing? 
Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, testing must be available to the patient for free – this includes no copayments, coinsurance, or deductible payments. 

The test is free, but will consumers have to pay for the office visit?
A visit to the doctor’s office for COVID-19 testing is covered by your insurance.

Can states already require coverage of testing?
Several states have also announced emergency orders to require coverage of testing. However, due to federal law (“ERISA preemption”), states are unable to apply this requirement to self-funded employer-sponsored health plans, which cover more than 90 million people, or about 60 percent of workers. 

Will the uninsured have access to testing as well?
Yes, in addition to expanding cost-free testing through both private and public health coverage, H.R. 6201 provides coverage of COVID-19 testing for the uninsured.

Paid Leave and Unemployment Coverage

Am I eligible for unemployment coverage?
Virginia has expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits and has waived the one-week waiting period for benefits as well as the job search requirement. If you are quarantined, caring for a family member who is ill or under quarantine, or caring for a child whose school or day care was closed you may be eligible for benefits. To find out if you are eligible for benefits or to apply for benefits please visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website found here: http://www.vec.virginia.gov/.

Am I eligible for emergency paid sick leave?
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act created emergency paid sick leave for those employees at companies with fewer than 500 employees.

Unlike the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which is unpaid, eligible employees are entitled to 12 weeks of paid job-protected leave with the first two being unpaid and the following ten being paid. Employees may use this leave to take care of their children.

Relief for Small Business

What if my small business cannot afford to pay sick leave? 
H.R. 6201 includes a refundable payroll tax credit to reimburse small businesses for paid sick leave and family and medical leave. Click here for an explanation of who is eligible.

I am worried about my small business. Will there be relief available?
H.R. 6074, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, provides $1 billion in loan subsidies to be made available to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small aquaculture producers, and nonprofit organizations which have been impacted by financial losses as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Click here for more guidance from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Access to Meals

How did the Families First Coronavirus Response Act affect WIC benefits?
H.R. 6201 provides half a billion dollars for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to help low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lose their jobs or are laid off due to the coronavirus emergency. While it is normally required to certify and recertify in person, H.R. 6201 allows for that requirement to be waived.

How did the Families First Coronavirus Response Act address the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)?
H.R. 6201 provided $400 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to assist local food banks, $100 million of which can be used to cover the cost of food distribution.

Where can seniors get meals?
H.R. 6201 provided $250 million to provide approximately 25 million additional home-delivered and pre-packaged meals to seniors who depend on Senior Nutrition programs in their communities.

The Food Bank of the Virginia Peninsula is currently providing food at their Mobile Food Pantry Programs and posting updates on their website. The Food Bank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore is working to meet seniors’ needs safely by closing foodbanks to visitors and distributing food at satellite locations. Please see their website for more information. Additionally, Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia’s Meals on Wheels clients will continue to receive meal deliveries. Please note that Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia congregate meal sites are closed at the current time and workshops have been delayed. You can call them for more information at 757-461-9481.

Where can children get meals?
H.R. 6201 includes the COVID19 Child Nutrition Response Act, which allows child and adult care centers to offer food to-go and gives the Secretary of Agriculture flexibility to grant permission to providers to ensure that meals are distributed in a way that avoids the spread of coronavirus.

Along with the Food Bank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore and the Food Bank of the Virginia Peninsula, school districts in Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District are providing “grab-n-go” bagged meal services on weekdays while schools are closed. Please click the following links to find out more and note that children may need to be present to pick up meals.

  • Franklin City Public Schools – Lunches and snacks will be provided at S.P. Morton Elementary School from 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon.
  • Newport News Public Schools – Lunches and breakfasts for the following day can be picked up at a number of school and mobile locations.
  • Portsmouth Public Schools – Breakfasts can be picked up from 8 AM to 9 AM at three school locations. Lunches can be picked up between 12 PM and 1 PM.
  • Chesapeake Public Schools – Breakfasts and lunches can be picked up between 10 AM and 11:30 AM at a number of school and mobile locations.
  • Hampton City Schools – Children are eligible to pick up two meals on weekdays from 11 AM to 12:30 PM from a number of school locations.
  • Norfolk Public Schools – Two meals a day can be picked up each weekday at a number of school and mobile locations.
  • Suffolk Public Schools – Breakfasts and lunches can be picked up from 9 AM to noon each weekday at King’s Fork High School and a number of mobile locations.
  • Isle of Wight County Schools – Breakfasts and lunches can be picked up each weekday at a number of school and mobile locations.

What is Pandemic EBT (P-EBT)? 
Pandemic EBT is an option for states to provide food benefits to all children who would have otherwise received a free or reduced-price meal at school in the event of school closures lasting five or more days.

Who is eligible for P-EBT? 
All children who would have otherwise received free or reduced-price meals are eligible for P-EBT if their school is closed for five or more days due to COVID-19, if their state takes up the program. This includes all children in schools implementing the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).

How will the P-EBT benefits be received? 
For children in households that already receive SNAP, the benefits will be added to their existing EBT card.  For children who do not already receive SNAP, state agencies will provide these children with new EBT cards.

Would P-EBT benefits be retroactive to an application date, or some other date, as they are now with SNAP?  
Yes, benefits may be issued retroactively.

What kinds of foods will be available for households to purchase with P-EBT?  
Households will be able to purchase the same foods that are available through the SNAP program.  Details are available on the FNS website.

Do states need to submit a plan for P-EBT?
Yes, states will need to submit a plan to USDA for implementation of P-EBT in order to utilize the program.

Questions Regarding Schools, Businesses, Federal & State Agencies

Will schools in Virginia re-open this year?
No. Governor Northam announced on March 23, 2020 that all K-12 schools in Virginia will remain closed for the remainder of the school year.

Are stores and restaurants closing? 
All grocery stores, pharmacies and ABC stores will remain open. Restaurants must move to carry-out/drive-thru options only. Dine-in service has been banned in Virginia. Governor Northam has called for the closure of non-essential businesses, including hair salons and barbershops, bowling alleys and theaters. Some retail stores will remain open if they have 10 or less people inside, including staff.

Has the tax filing deadline changed? 
Yes, tax filing deadline for federal taxes is now July 15, 2020.  The Virginia Department of Taxation has extended the due date for Virginia individual and corporate income taxes to June 1, 2020. Please note that interest will still accrue on any delayed tax payments to Virginia, so taxpayers who are able to pay by the original May 1st state tax filing deadline should do so.

I need to visit the Social Security Administration office but it is closed. What can I do? 
All Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices are closed to the public due to coronavirus safety concerns for both employees and visitors. To contact your local office, please use this  website: https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp#officeResults or you can call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213. If you are having difficulty with SSA, my office may be able to assist. For more information on how my office can assist you, or to open up a case, please click here.

Will the DMV be open? 
All 75 DMV customer service centers are closed and all DMV 2 Go and DMV Connect services postponed until at least April 2, 2020.

To minimize customer inconvenience, DMV, at the direction of Governor Ralph Northam, has extended the validity of Virginia DMV credentials:

  • Driver’s licenses and identification cards set to expire between March 15 and May 15 are extended 60 days from the original date of expiration. This includes credentials for individuals aged 75 and older who are typically required to make an in-person visit to renew.
  • Vehicle registrations that expire in March and April are extended for 60 days.

Virginians eligible to renew their licenses, identification cards, or vehicle registration online are encouraged to take advantage of those services. Mail-in options are also available for a number of transactions, such as vehicle registration, original title transactions, and driver’s license renewal, if mailed a notice.

Will any of my utilities be shut off if I cannot make a payment? 
The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) issued an order directing utilities it regulates, such as electric, natural gas, and water companies in Virginia, to suspend service disconnections for 60 days to provide immediate relief for any customer, residential and business, who may be financially impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

What if I have an upcoming court date? 
Governor Northam requested, and the Supreme Court of Virginia granted, a judicial emergency in response to COVID-19. From Monday, March 16, 2020 through Monday, April 6, 2020 non-essential, non-emergency court proceedings in all district and circuit courts are suspended absent a specific exemption. This includes a prohibition on new eviction cases for tenants who are unable to pay rent as a result of COVID-19. All non-exempted court deadlines are tolled and extended for a period of 21 days.