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‘We know this is an incredibly difficult time’

Area legislators try to reassure families that federal government aims to help during the pandemic

U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, speaks to constituents on Dec. 14 at Barrington Village Hall in Barrington about his recent trip to the 25th U.N. Climate Change Conference or COP 25, in Madrid, Spain.
U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, speaks to constituents on Dec. 14 at Barrington Village Hall in Barrington about his recent trip to the 25th U.N. Climate Change Conference or COP 25, in Madrid, Spain.

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During a virtual town hall meeting on Sunday, area legislators tried to reassure families that are starting to feel the effects of the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 outbreak that the federal government is here to help them.

“We know this is an incredibly difficult time,” U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, said during the Facebook Live Town Hall meeting, which also was hosted by U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, and U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove. “It’s incredibly difficult and unsettling. And we know that they are many, many, many families in our communities that are struggling. People are struggling to figure out how they’re going to make their mortgage payments or pay other bills.”

She also knows some people might feel they are going to be passed over.

“We know that there are a lot of people that are feeling alone right now and hear about these opportunities being extended at the federal level and are thinking, ‘Well, gee, who’s looking out for me?’ Who’s going to help me and when am I going to get some relief?’ ‘’ Underwood said. “I hear you and I understand you. And we are here to help you navigate through this. There is a lot in the CARES [Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security] Act designed to help families like yours.”

For those people who rent, Underwood noted that if their landlord has a federally backed loan, “you can’t get evicted.”

As part of the federal government’s $2.2 trillion economic rescue package, many Americans will receive a direct payment of $1,200, or $2,400 for a jointly filing married couple. They also will receive $500 per child younger than 17.

The full payment is available for individuals making up to $75,000 a year and $150,000 if you’re married. Casten said the first wave of checks should be coming the week of April 13 to those who have their direct deposit information on file with the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

“I believe that’s something on the order of 60 million Americans will get checks through that process,” Casten said.

During the week of May 4, payments by mail will begin, with those who need the money the most receiving their checks first, he said.

“The Internal Revenue Service is targeting about 5 million checks a week,” Casten said.

The stimulus package also expands unemployment insurance for workers whose jobs have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. For example, it allows states to temporarily expand access to unemployment insurance to workers who wouldn’t otherwise qualify, including those who are self-employed along with those who are independent contractors or work part time.

In addition, the legislation expands the amount of time workers can receive unemployment insurance by 13 weeks. It also increases unemployment payments by $600 a week until July 31.

The legislation also provides financial assistance to small businesses.

Underwood said she expects the federal government will have to do another round of economic assistance.

“The question is, will it be retroactive or will it be forward facing?” Underwood said.

They also answered questions from constituents. Casten addressed a question regarding states that have not passed a stay-at-home order.

“It is important for everybody, regardless of where you are, to practice these social distancing measures, to go on lockdown,” he said. “I don’t think there are any good reasons why any governor shouldn’t be implementing a lockdown. Don’t assume just because you’re in a rural safe that you’re safe.”

Foster addressed a question from a constituent who asked if hydroxychloroquine was safe to treat COVID-19. The drug is used to treat malaria, arthritis and lupus, and the president has endorsed the use of it to treat COVID-19.

“In terms of whether it is effective, the jury is still out on that,” Foster said. “There are some studies that say it has some beneficial effect, there are some studies that say it is not really effective at all. So it certainly doesn’t appear to be some magic bullet, which I think some people were hoping it was. But it is never safe to self-prescribe drugs. You do things that are recommended by your provider.”

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