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Report 7: Together Apart, Coronavirus & Appalachia

May 8, 2020

Stress Reduction: 7 Steps: How to get a good night’s sleep during Covid-19: https://thesleepdoctor.com/sleep-pandemic-tr/

Stimulus Payments for Individuals and Couples: The IRS seems to have made progress in getting stimulus payments to individuals and married couples by direct deposit in accounts or by check. There is a technological inequality gap that will have to be examined. If you are still waiting for your check, you can go to the IRS and check your status at: https://sa.www4.irs.gov/irfof/lang/en/irfofgetstatus.jsp You can also find out if the government needs more information to determine your eligibility by going to https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment

Unemployment Assistance: Check your state’s status for unemployment funds and your eligibility. We shared the information for Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia in previous issues of Together Apart. “Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Jeff McCord said during a news conference April 23 that self-employed Tennesseans and others reliant on federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will begin receiving their benefits within days

Right to Refuse to Return to Work? A big question being asked is “Can I refuse to return to work and still get my special Covid unemployment benefits?” From Tennessee Labor & Workforce Development: “If you fail to return to work or accept suitable work when offered you are no longer eligible for unemployment benefits.” This appears to be similar to other states. Please share anything you hear differently. An exception would be obviously unsafe working conditions but that involves getting inspections and the risk of losing the benefit. It is not clear whether workplace safety trumps employer orders during the pandemic.

Small Business Administration: The Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (separate from the Paycheck Protection Program) lending program for small businesses has been drastically limited because of the number of applications. Congress put $50 billion into the program which hoped to give up to $2 million to approved applicants. Program has now been cut to $150,000 per recipient. The Small Business Administration has not announced this decision at this date.

Absentee Voting/apply now for ballots: Kentucky: “voters are strongly urged to apply for and vote by absentee mail ballot.” https://elect.ky.gov/Voters/Pages/Absentee-Voting.aspx

Tennessee: “…eligible Tennesseans can request a ballot to vote absentee by-mail for the Aug. 6 State and Federal Primary and County General election without ever leaving their home.” Limitations are subject to legal challenge. https://www.sos.tn.gov/products/elections/absentee-voting

Virginia: “The Virginia Department of Elections encourages voters to protect their health during COVID-19 outbreak.” Absentee procedures have been simplified. https://www.elections.virginia.gov/casting-a-ballot/absentee-voting/West Virginia: “Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, all voters in West Virginia are eligible to vote absentee in the 2020 Primary Election.” The primary is June 9. For details about the primary ballots and other elections:


Seven Million Strong: grants available for an initiative for civic engagement and voter registration of young people: https://roddenberryfoundation.org/our-work/catalyst-plus/7-million-strong

Covid and Non-Profits: A second webinar in the “COVID-19 and Nonprofits” series, hosted by the Building Movement Project and Solidarity Is. This webinar, called “We’ve Been Here Before: Community-Based Nonprofits Confront Crises,” will take place on Wednesday, May 13th from 3 pm – 4:30 pm eastern time. https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_SCQgaHD1RxOZIK_fM7gBzw

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA): President Trump has announced his intention to terminate the Affordable Care Act (referred to as “Obamacare”) during this pandemic. But if you have ACA Marketplace coverage, it is still the law of the land. If you have experienced serious change like job loss, you may be eligible for health coverage at a modest premium. Go to Healthcare.gov and find local help in or near your zip code. In Tennessee, call the Tennessee Health Care Campaign to see if you qualify at 844-644-5443.

Domestic workers/trabajadores domésticos: Are you a domestic worker? Do you clean homes or take care of children/elders? The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) invites you to sign up to join our support network for domestic workers during the COVID-19 crisis. They will provide important information, tools, and resources and you will be able to connect with other domestic workers to build community and build power together. https://www.tnimmigrant.org/

Drive-through Covid testing: You might see tents at certain for-profit commercial medical offices. Reliable tests are being run but be sure that you ask about costs. They may require health insurance (and preapproval) or cash in your hand. These are not the testings promised by state health departments.

The Trevor Project, https://www.thetrevorproject.org/. a national nonprofit that focuses on LGBTQ youth in crisis, released a white paper outlining the “serious implications” the COVID-19 crisis could have on the mental health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer young people.

Douglas-Cherokee Meals on Wheels program received extra helpers as hundreds of meals were loaded and delivered. The Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority reaches into six counties of East Tennessee. For more information in upper east TN, visit mealsonwheelsamerica.org or call FTHRA at (423) 461-8217 or Douglas-Cherokee at (423) 318-6935. In other Central Appalachian communities, find your Meals on Wheels contact by going to this page and entering your zip code: https://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/find-meals

VIRTUAL CAFÉ NOIR: May 15, 7 pm. Join for a night of music, poetry, and light! Grab your favorite drink, make your favorite snack, and enjoy! Register now for the link! Poets, sign-ups are open now up until the day of the event! Don’t be afraid to bless the virtual stage! Wherever you are, Carpetbag Theater invites you. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/virtual-cafe-noir-tickets-103980235684

NAMI National Alliance on Mental Illness is replacing its important fundraising walks with virtual walks. You can find out more and maybe get some ideas for your own virtual event: https://www.namiwalks.org/\
The Restaurant Strong Fund (Samuel Adams and The Greg Hill Foundation and individual athletes) includes Tennessee in its emergency funding: https://www.restaurantstrong.org/about/index.html

No surprise billing: With normal health care needs and the Covid-19 care that may be required, it is not a time where we want people who can’t afford it to have unexpected costly billings for health care not covered by insurance or mentioned at time of care. A bill before Congress referred to as No Surprises is being supported by an online letter: http://nosurprisescampaign.org/2020/04/22/no-surprises-letter-congress-should-include-surprise-billing-protections-in-pandemic-response/

Previous issues of the Together Apart Reports are available upon request. Please send any updates or corrections to information appearing here to walter@appalachiancommunityfund.org.