"This information was compiled to help you get the answers and resources you need to stay safe, healthy and economically secure during this time of uncertainty."

- State Senator Dick Harpootlian

Frequently Asked Questions

Direct Payments to Individuals

How will I get paid? Single adults with Social Security numbers who have an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less will get the full amount of $1,200. Married couples with no children earning $150,000 or less will receive a total of $2,400. And taxpayers filing as head of household will get the full payment if they earned $112,500 or less. Above those income figures, the payment decreases until it stops altogether for single people earning $99,000 or married people who have no children and earn $198,000. According to the Senate Finance Committee, a family with two children will no longer be eligible for any payments if its income surpassed $218,000. What if I claim myself as a dependent? You can’t get a payment if someone claims you as a dependent, even if you’re an adult. In any given family and in most instances, everyone must have a valid Social Security number in order to be eligible. There is an exception for members of the military. When will the payments be made? Payments have started to hit accounts this week (April 13th). Do I need to apply to get paid? You will not need to apply to receive a payment. If the Internal Revenue Service already has your bank account information, it will transfer the money to you via direct deposit based on the recent income-tax figures it already has. What happens if I don’t get paid, but believe I was supposed to? You will get a paper notice in the mail no later than a few weeks after your payment has been disbursed. That notice will contain information about where the payment ended up and in what form it was made. If you couldn’t locate the payment at that point, it would be time to contact the I.R.S. using the information on the notice. I have not filed my tax return recently. Is that a problem? If you have not filed your tax returns recently, it could affect your ability to get a payment. If you have not filed, file a return immediately, at least for 2018, according to the I.R.S. website. “Those without 2018 tax filings on record could potentially affect mailings of stimulus checks,” the site says. What about money on returns I cannot pay? If you’re worried about money that you owe that you cannot pay, the I.R.S. recommends consulting a tax professional who can help you request an alternative payment plan or some other resolution. Do I have to pay taxes on the payment? You will not have to pay taxes on the payment.

Unemployment Benefits

How do I apply for unemployment? The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) has advised individuals filing initial unemployment claims to visit dew.sc.gov and click on the MyBenefits Login in the upper right hand corner. In this system the claimant submits their initial claim where it is adjudicated and, when eligible for benefits, the individual will log back in each week to certify that they are still unemployed. For the regular unemployment insurance process, once the claimant has filed their initial claim, they would be required to conduct two job searches per week in the SC Works Online Services system. South Carolina has waived the work search requirement temporarily so individuals will not have to work in both systems. They will only need to use the dew.sc.gov website. According to SCDEW, in the last three weeks, 150,000+ South Carolinians have successfully filed new claims. On their website, they have created a COVID-19 Resource Hub where information and guides are updated daily. How has unemployment changed? The plan wraps in far more workers than are usually eligible for unemployment benefits, including self-employed people and part-time workers. The bottom line: Those who are unemployed, are partly unemployed or cannot work for a wide variety of coronavirus-related reasons will be more likely to receive benefits. How much will I receive above what is normally paid? Benefits will be expanded in an attempt to replace the average worker’s paycheck. The average worker earns about $1,000 a week, and unemployment benefits often replace roughly 40 to 45 percent of that. The expansion will pay an extra amount to fill the gap. Under the plan, eligible workers will get an extra $600 per week on top of their state benefit. I am self-employed. Am I eligible? Yes, self-employed people are newly eligible for unemployment benefits. Benefit amounts will be calculated based on previous income, using a formula from the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program. Self-employed workers will also be eligible for the additional $600 weekly benefit provided by the federal government. I am a part time worker who lost my job. Am I eligible? Yes. Part-time workers are eligible for benefits. My child’s day care shut down and I cannot work. Am I eligible? If you rely on a school, a day care or another facility to care for a child, elderly parent or another household member so that you can work — and that facility has been shut down because of coronavirus — you are eligible. I have been told to self quarantine by a health care professional, or I cannot go to work because of mandatory stay at home orders. Am I eligible? People who must self-quarantine are covered. The legislation also says that individuals who are unable to get to work because of a quarantine imposed as a result of the outbreak are eligible. I work at a business that was shut down because of the coronavirus. Am I eligible? Yes. If you are unemployed, partly unemployed or unable to work because your employer closed down, you’re covered under the bill. Who is not covered? Workers who are able to work from home, and those receiving paid sick leave or paid family leave are not covered. New entrants to the work force who cannot find jobs are also ineligible. How long are the payments for? South Carolina provides unemployment payments for 20 weeks. The bill provides all eligible workers with an additional 13 weeks. How long is this in effect? Expanded coverage would be available to workers who were newly eligible for unemployment benefits for weeks starting on Jan. 27, 2020, and through Dec. 31, 2020. I’m already receiving unemployment benefits. Will I receive any help? Yes. Even if you’re already receiving unemployment benefits for reasons unrelated to the coronavirus, your state-level benefits will still be extended by 13 weeks. You will also receive the extra $600 weekly benefit from the federal government. My unemployment just ran out. Can I sign up again? Yes. If you’ve exhausted your benefits, eligible workers can generally reapply. But how much you get and for how long depends on the state where you worked. Everyone gets at least another 13 weeks, along with the extra $600 payment. I am still working, but cannot access child care. Is there a resource available to me? As part of the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) funding, DSS is offering child care assistance for parents that work in businesses that have been deemed essential based on Governor McMaster's Executive Orders during the COVID-19 Pandemic. In order to qualify, you must be currently working at an essential business, you must need child care so you may continue to work, and you must complete a child care application. You do not have to meet any income guidelines for this limited program. More information is available here.

Student Loans

What is being done for student loan forgiveness?
Before this bill was passed, the federal government had already waived two months of payments and interest for many federal student loan borrowers. Now, until Sept 30th, there will be automatic payment suspensions for any student loan held by the federal government. Check your account online in the coming weeks. Once you are logged in, look for the current amount due. There, you should be able to see if the servicer has reset its billing systems so that you are showing no payment due. Am I eligible?
If you’ve borrowed money from the federal government — a so-called direct loan — in the past 10 years, you’re definitely eligible. According to the Institute for College Access & Success, 90 percent of loans (in dollar terms) will be eligible. Older Federal Family Educational Loans (F.F.E.L.) that the U.S. Department of Education does not own are not eligible, nor are Perkins loans, loans from state agencies, or loans from private lenders like Discover, Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo. The holders of all those kinds of loans may be offering their own assistance programs. Will I get a notice or will this be automatic? Within a few weeks, you are supposed to receive notice indicating what has happened with your federal loans. You can choose to keep paying down your principal if you want. Then, after Aug. 1, you should get multiple notices letting you know about the cessation of the suspension period and that you may be eligible to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan. Will there be additional interest charged during this time? The bill says that interest “shall not accrue” on the loan during the suspension period. At the end of the suspension, keep a close eye on what your loan servicer does (or does not do) to put you back into your previous repayment mode. Servicer errors are common. Where can I find out more information? This link is a federal resource for parents and students to figure out how to get relief on education loans: https://studentaid.gov/announcements-events/coronavirus

Retirement Accounts

I have heard some retirement rules are suspended. Which ones? For the calendar year 2020, no one will have to take a required minimum distribution from any individual retirement accounts or workplace retirement savings plans, like a 401(k). That way, you aren’t forced to sell investments that may have fallen in value, which would lock in losses. If you don’t need the money now, you can let the investments sit and hope that they recover. Pensions are not impacted. What if I have to take money out of my I.R.A. or workplace retirement plan early? You can withdraw up to $100,000 this year without the usual 10 percent penalty, as long as it’s because of the outbreak. You will also be able to spread out any income taxes that you owe over three years from the date you took the distribution. And if you want, you could put the money back into the account before those three years are up, even though the rules may normally keep you from making a contribution that large. This exception applies only to coronavirus-related withdrawals. You qualify if you tested positive, a spouse or dependent did or you experienced a variety of other negative economic consequences related to the pandemic. Employers can allow workers to self-certify that they are qualified to pull money from a workplace retirement account. Can I still borrow from my 401(k) or other workplace retirement plan? Yes, and you can take out twice the usual amount. For 180 days after the bill passes, with certification that you’ve been affected by the pandemic, you’ll be able to take out a loan of up to $100,000. Usually you can’t take out more than half your balance, but that rule is suspended.

Charitable Contributions

I want to help people who are suffering from the pandemic. Does the bill do anything about charitable donations? Yes. The bill makes a new deduction available — and not just for 2020 — for up to $300 in annual charitable contributions. It’s available only to people who don’t itemize their deductions, and you calculate this new one by subtracting the amount you give from your gross income. To qualify, you have to give cash to a qualified charity and not to a donor-advised fund, which is a charitable account that affluent people often use to bunch contributions in a particular year in order to maximize deductions. If you’ve already given money since Jan. 1, that contribution counts toward the $300 cap.

Small Business Support

What loan is available? Any business with less than 500 employees is eligible for a tax free, federal guaranteed (no-interest) loan. Who is eligible for the loan? All states and territories are eligible. Self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and sole proprietors are also eligible. Priority will be given to businesses in under-served and rural markets, including veterans and members of the military community, women, socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, and businesses that are less than two years old, reads the text of the bill. When do I have to pay the loan back? The loan is forgivable, meaning it doesn’t have to be paid back, during what is called a “covered period.” This period is eight weeks, chosen by the small business owner and the lending agency, between February 15, 2020 and June 30, 2020. All loan payments are deferred for one year. How much am I eligible to loan? The total amount of this forgivable loan, which is more akin to a grant, is 2.5 times the businesses’ monthly payroll. The maximum amount that can be given to a single business is $10 million. All operating costs, including employee payroll (and other forms of compensation), employee health care, interest on mortgage, rent, utilities, and debt payments are included. The quarterly payroll cost for an employee cannot be more than $33,333 (i.e., the equivalent of an annual salary of $100,000). I had to lay off employees. How will that impact my loan amount? If a small business had to lay off employees during the covered period, the forgivable amount of the loan will also be reduced proportionally. For example, if a small business cut back half of their workforce, the amount of the loan will be reduced by 50%. If employee salaries were reduced by more than 25%, the loan will be reduced proportionally. But, if all employees are rehired and their full salaries restored by June 30, no reduction of loan will occur. How quickly will the loans be available? To expedite the loan process, personal guarantees have been waived. All that is required is a “good faith certification” that your business has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the funds will be used according to the guidelines. Senator Marco Rubio told Forbes that they hope to make the loans available two weeks after bill passage, around April 8th. Where do I apply for a loan? You can apply by visiting the Small Business Administration’s Disaster Loan Assistance site, which you can find here. What is the 50 percent refundable payroll tax credit? Employers are eligible for a 50 percent refundable payroll tax credit on wages. The credit is available to employers whose businesses were disrupted due to virus shutdowns and those that had a decrease in gross receipts of 50 percent or more when compared to the same quarter last year. The credit can be claimed for employees who are retained but not currently working due to the crisis. The amount of the tax credit is 50% of the qualifying wages of the employer. Qualifying wages for each employee are limited to $10,000 for all quarters and wages paid to certain employees are subject to additional limitations or exclusions. In addition, the credit is not available if the employer is a borrower under the Payroll Protection Loan Program. How are Social Security payroll tax payments impacted? The CARES Act permits employers and self-employed individuals (other than taxpayers who have had indebtedness forgiven under the CARES Act) to delay payment of the 6.2% employer share of the Social Security tax (but not the 1.45% employer share of the Medicare) until January 1, 2021, with 50 percent owed on December 31, 2021 and the other half owed on December 31, 2022. What resources are available in South Carolina specifically? The South Carolina Small Business Development Center’s mission is to advance South Carolina’s economic development by helping entrepreneurs grow successful businesses and they are working to help business owners. Online they have a COVID-19 specific resource page with service offerings and resources to protect small businesses. Their network of consultants throughout the state is available via phone, email and online to provide disaster assistance should your business experience economic injury or other unintended consequences. The best contacts for Richland and Lexington County residents are Allen Brown ( browna89@mailbox.sc.edu) and Cheryl Salley ( csalley@sc.edu). Where can I find more information? Additional resources have been assembled by the Small Business Investor Alliance, and can be found here. The U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship has put together a list of frequently asked questions that can be found here. Forbes’ Small Business Relief Tracker, with additional funding, grants and resources for small business owners, can be found here. What support is available to rural communities? Perdue today unveiled a one-stop-shop of federal programs that can be used by rural communities, organizations and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide is a first-of-its-kind resource for rural leaders looking for federal funding and partnership opportunities to help address this pandemic.

Foreclosures and Evictions

What protections are in place to protect me from losing my home? The bill includes housing protections against foreclosures on mortgages and evictions for renters. The bill states that anyone facing a financial hardship from coronavirus shall be given a forbearance on a federally backed mortgage loan of up to 60 days, which can be extended for four periods of 30 days each. The legislation says that servicers of federally backed mortgage loans may not begin the foreclosure process for 60 days from March 18. The bill also does not allow fees, penalties or additional interest to be charged as a result of delayed payments. It includes similar protections for those with multifamily federal mortgage loans, allowing them to receive a 30-day forbearance and up to two 30-day extensions. Those with federally backed mortgage loans who have tenants would also not be allowed to evict tenants solely for failure to pay rent for a 120-day period, and they may not charge fees or penalties to tenants for failing to pay rent.

Local Services for Those with Food Insecurity

What resources are available? Harvest Hope Food Bank is open from 9am-1pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday with curbside pickup. More information can be found here. There are a series of other food pantries open and assisting people during this time of need. You can find additional information here. What is available to seniors in Richland County for seniors? Residents 60 or older can receive five free meals per week from Senior Resources. The Emergency Senior Nutrition Meal Distribution plan will run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Meals will be distributed on a first come, first serve basis. In order to be eligible, people must be at least 60 years old and be a Richland County resident. They must also have a state-issued ID and provide their name, address and phone number at pickup. People taking meals to seniors can also make the pickup. Each meal pack will contain five meals for the week. Individuals will be limited to one pack per week. The packs will be distributed at 12 locations using a drive-thru system. Meals can be picked up from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., with a limit of two packs per car. For more information and meal pick-up locations please visit the Senior Resources website. What resources are available in Lexington County for seniors? Residents 60 or older, and those who are home-bound or unable to prepare food, may qualify to receive free or reduced-price meal delivery through the Lexington County Recreation and Aging Commission’s Meals On Wheels program. Those who qualify receive five meals delivered once a week, for no charge. Don’t know if you qualify? Call 803-356-5111 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday - Friday and ask for a community resource specialist who can conduct an intake interview over the phone. The first step should take about 15 minutes. After that, a case manager will finalize the process. New clients should receive meals within 48 hours of completing the referral process. Those senior citizens who do not qualify for free Meals on Wheels deliveries also have the option of signing up for a paid version. On that plan, seniors receive five meals for $7.59 a piece, or about $40 per week.
For more information about what resources are available for seniors during the coronavirus, call 803-356-5111 or visit www.lcrac.com. Can I still get access to the WIC Program? The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced today that all Women Infant and Children (WIC) nutrition services will be issued remotely. Starting Monday, April 13, South Carolina WIC participants will no longer be required to visit WIC clinics. Appointments and the issuance of nutritional services will instead be made over-the-phone. To help address WIC product shortages that have occurred due to COVID-19, WIC participants may now also choose from expanded options in a variety of food categories. Participants can see what is currently available at www.scdhec.gov/WIC. To apply for WIC, call 1-855-472-3432 to make an appointment. If you are a WIC participant and have any questions or concerns, please contact your local WIC office.

What can I do to help my community right now?

I am a retired or out of work health care professional. Can I help? The South Carolina Hospital Association is working to identify resources for a potential surge in COVID-19 patients, including equipment and personnel. If you are a retired or out of work health care professional please consider volunteering to support South Carolina hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. You can find more information and sign up via this website: https://scha.org/helpnow/. Where can I donate extra medical supplies? Prisma Health - The health care system’s Columbia-area hospitals are in need of N-95 masks, surgical masks, splash-guard face shields, goggles, non-latex gloves, reusable or disposable isolation gowns, no-contact infrared thermometers calibrated for humans, and ventilators. Contact Berri Heinz, manager of procurement and supplier diversity, at Berri.Heinz@PrismaHealth.org. Lexington Medical Center - The Lexington Medical Center Foundation is accepting donations of important supplies for hospital staff, including powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs), N-95 masks, 3-ply polypropylene earloop face masks, disinfecting cleaning wipes, hand sanitizer, face shields, disposable isolation gowns. Contact community outreach manager Thomas Tafel at 803-791-2540 or email tetafel@lexhealth.org. Where can I donate food? Senior Resources, which is providing meals to Richland County seniors through the crisis, is asking people to donate from a list of non-perishable food items and toiletries. Donations can be delivered to the Senior Resources headquarters, 2817 Millwood Ave., between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The non-profit is also seeking monetary donations to its COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund. The United Way is taking donations for a COVID-19 Response Fund to meet basic needs of people affected, like food, shelter, and rent and utility assistance. The fund will be available for people in Richland, Lexington, Fairfield, Newberry, Orangeburg and Calhoun counties. United Way will partner with Community Impact Partners to identify those with the highest priority cases. Applications can be made online. Harvest Hope Food Bank. Between March 16 and March 20, Harvest Hope fed 4,000 people in the Columbia area out of the emergency food pantry. The food bank says it expects the number to increase due to the pandemic. It’s the largest one week demand for food Harvest Hope has seen since the 2015 flood. The highest needs are for monetary contributions and non-perishable food items. Volunteer opportunities are also available.

Recommendations and Orders to Prevent the Spread

What is the guidance on wearing masks? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. The CDC is asking Americans not to buy surgical masks or N95 respirators – which may be most effective against transmitting droplets – to reserve them for health care workers and first responders. Instead, they are recommending individuals learn how to make your own face mask using household materials. More information and three different mask making techniques can be found here. What are the orders in South Carolina? Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order mandating that residents must stay at home except for essential reasons. Per the order, all residents and visitors of the State of South Carolina are required to limit social interaction, practice ‘social distancing’ in accordance with CDC guidance, and take every possible precaution to avoid potential exposure to, and to slow the spread of, COVID-19. People will still be able to leave their homes to engage in exercise, obtain essential supplies such as food or medicine and care for family members. Governor Henry McMaster issued Executive Order 2020-17, which orders the closure of non-essential businesses, as defined by the executive order, throughout the state in order to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The list of businesses that are closed are here.
In addition, the Governor has issued executive orders recommending those who travel to South Carolina from other states to self quarantine for 14 days, and for no gatherings of people that are more than 3 people. For an entire list of his Executive Orders, you can visit his site here.

Resources for Health Professionals and First Responders

For information from the CDC, including lab information, updated national guidance, crisis and emergency risk communication, and more, visit the CDC's Resources for Emergency Health Professionals page. For information from DHEC, including a Physician's F.A.Q., South Carolina specific guidance, and more visit the DHEC Resources for Healthcare Professionals (COVID-19) page here. If you would like to alert Senator Harpootlian to any issues or problems you are experiencing in the field, fill out this form here. While your information will be kept anonymous, you do not have to fill out any contact information to submit a report here.

Access to Care

Who can I call to get questions about care? DHEC has set up a care line for general COVID-19 questions. To reach them, you can call 1-855-472-3432. The Care Staff is answering calls everyday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., in both English & Spanish. Patients with Alzheimer's People with Alzheimer's and other dementias are a vulnerable population for coronavirus infection. As such, their caregivers are under incredible stress during this time. Their 24/7 Helpline is open with master's level case managers, ready to assist, support, and educate anyone, anywhere, anytime. That number is 1-800-272-3900.

Avoiding COVID - 19 Scams and Fraud

As cases of coronavirus-related fraud are on the rise, consumer watchdogs and law enforcement are offering tips to avoid becoming a victim. The Federal Trade Commission reported that through March 31, Americans filed complaints about losses to coronavirus-related fraud totaling nearly $6 million. The Food and Drug Administration has issued warning letters to more than 15 companies selling unproven treatments or tests. Some more tips:

  • Ask questions and research the investment and person offering it. Information can be confirmed by the state Securities Division by calling 803-734-9916.
  • Avoid fraudulent charity schemes. Criminals may pose as charities soliciting money for those affected by COVID-19. The South Carolina Secretary of State has guidance on informed charitable giving on its website.
  • Be wary of schemes tied to government assistance or economic relief. The federal government is scheduled to directly deposit payments or send checks as part of an economic stimulus effort. Those do not require the prepayment of fees or any other type of charge.
  • Don’t give out personal information. Government officials already have your information. No federal or state agency will call and ask for personal information. Agencies contact people by mail, not by phone, text, social media or email.
  • Question email and text requests that seem to be from friends or relatives, asking you to buy gift cards from a third party promising to forward the cards to them, the Associated Press says.

COVID - 19 Town Hall

On Thursday, April 16th, Senator Harpootlian hosted a live town hall with Dr. Emily Smith, an epidemiologist and professor of public health at The George Washington University in Washington D.C. Her research focuses on generating and translating evidence for global public health practice and policy. She generally focuses on maternal and newborn health, and has previously worked on norovirus, rotavirus, and HIV/AIDS in the U.S. and globally. Dr. Smith founded COVID-101.org as a way for doctors and scientists to provide up-to-date, short scientific summaries for the public. During the town hall, they discussed the current situation, ways to stay safe, and what more we can be doing during this time.

Information on this page was taken from articles available on CNN, the New York Times and Forbes that outline the bill.

Have additional questions for State Senator Dick Harpootlian? Submit them here:

Paid for by Dick Harpootlian for Senate