Hours after the U.S. House of Representatives approved a $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue bill to help mitigate the impact of the continued pandemic, President Donald Trump signed the historic bill. It’s slated to greatly relieve the devastating toll on the U.S. economy and health care system. The president announced earlier Friday that he planned to sign the bill at 4 p.m. By about 4:30, Trump confirmed he had signed what has been dubbed the CARES Act. I just signed the CARES Act, the single biggest economic relief package in American History – twice as large as any relief bill ever enacted,” the president proclaimed via his Twitter page. “At $2.2 Trillion Dollars, this bill will deliver urgently-needed relief for our nation’s families, workers, and businesses.” The House passed the sprawling measure Friday afternoon after almost five hours of debate, by a voice vote. The measure will ship payments of up to $1,200 to millions of Americans, bolster unemployment benefits, offer loans, grants and tax breaks to businesses large and small and flush billions more to states, local governments and the nation's all but overwhelmed health care system. “Today we've all acknowledged our nation faces an economic and health emergency of historic proportions,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. President Donald Trump said he would sign the bill immediately. »COMPLETE COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS Democratic and Republican leaders were working in tandem and hoping to quickly pass the measure by voice vote to accommodate members scattered around the country and reluctant to risk flying back to the Capitol. There were hand sanitizers at the end of each aisle in the chamber, where most lawmakers sat scattered apart from one another. There was little doubt the House would give overwhelming final congressional approval to the largest economic bailout legislation in U.S. history. But U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., was threatening to slow action by demanding a roll call vote. »MORE: Meet the man who tried to stop Congress from passing virus relief package That would have forced many lawmakers to make the journey to Washington to cast a vote on legislation that is certain to pass anyway, and it infuriated President Donald Trump and lawmakers from both parties. On Friday morning, Trump decried Massie on Twitter. After the House vote, Massie called for a voice vote and then a quorum vote, both attempts to delay the bill’s passage. Massie’s motion to call for a voice vote failed, and the House confirmed there was a quorum present. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Thursday the economy 'may well be in recession' already and the government reported a shocking 3.3 million burst of weekly jobless claims, more than four times the previous record. The U.S. death toll has surpassed 1,000 from the virus. Pelosi said Thursday issues like more generous food stamp payments, aid to state and local governments, and family leave may be revisited in subsequent legislation. 'There's so many things we didn't get in ... that we need to,' Pelosi told reporters Thursday. »MORE: 3.3 million Americans file weekly jobless claims, obliterating previous record The legislation will pour $1,200 direct payments to individuals and a flood of subsidized loans, grants and tax breaks to businesses facing extinction in an economic shutdown caused as Americans self-isolate by the tens of millions. It dwarfs prior Washington efforts to take on economic crises and natural disasters, such as the 2008 Wall Street bailout and President Barack Obama's first-year economic recovery act. But key elements are untested, such as grants to small businesses to keep workers on payroll and complex lending programs to larger businesses. Millions of rebate payments will go to people who have retained their jobs. »MORE: Speaker Nancy Pelosi spends 80th birthday discussing stimulus bill Policymakers worry that bureaucracies like the Small Business Administration may become overwhelmed, and conservatives fear that a new, generous unemployment benefit will dissuade jobless people from returning to the workforce. A new, $500 billion subsidized lending program for larger businesses is unproven as well. Leaders in both parties had hoped to pass the measure with a sparsely attended voice vote so scattered lawmakers don't have to risk exposure by travelling back to Washington. Wednesday night's unanimous Senate vote on the bill was especially striking — a united front that followed days of sometimes tumultuous negotiations and partisan eruptions. Democrats twice voted to block the bill to seek further add-ons and changes. »MORE: White House Senate reach deal on $2 trillion virus stimulus bill 'The power of the argument that we had — that you need a strong government to solve these problems, both health and economic — carried the day,' Schumer told The Associated Press on Thursday. 'Had we not stood up on those two votes it wouldn't have happened.' Underscoring the effort's sheer magnitude, the bill finances a response with a price tag that equals half the size of the entire $4 trillion-plus annual federal budget. The $2.2 trillion estimate is the White House's best guess of the spending it contains. The rescue bill would provide one-time direct payments to Americans of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child. »MORE: America surpasses 1000 mark for deaths virus infections near 500,000 worldwide Unemployment insurance would be made far more generous, with $600 per week tacked onto regular state jobless payments through the end of July. States and local governments would receive $150 billion in supplemental funding to help them provide basic and emergency services during the crisis. 'We call them checks in the mail, but most of them will be direct deposits,' Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Thursday. 'It will be within three weeks. We're determined to get money in people's pocket immediately.' The legislation also establishes a $454 billion program for guaranteed, subsidized loans to larger industries in hopes of leveraging up to $4.5 trillion in lending to distressed businesses, states, and municipalities. All would be up to the Treasury Department's discretion, though businesses controlled by Trump or immediate family members and by members of Congress would be ineligible. There was also $150 billion devoted to the health care system, including $100 billion for grants to hospitals and other health care providers buckling under the strain of COVID-19 caseloads. »MORE: Wall Street stock broker tests positive for coronavirus Republicans successfully pressed for an employee retention tax credit that's estimated to provide $50 billion to companies that retain employees on payroll and cover 50% of workers' paycheck up to $10,000. Companies would also be able to defer payment of the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax. A huge tax break for interest costs and operating losses limited by the 2017 tax overhaul was restored at a $200 billion cost in a boon for the real estate sector. An additional $45 billion would fund additional relief through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for local response efforts and community services. Most people who contract the new coronavirus have mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Oconee County Commissioners have declared a local state of emergency as cases of coronavirus continue to spread across Georgia. From the Oconee Co government website… The Oconee County Board of Commissioners has issued a Local Emergency Order under the Emergency Management Ordinance, in accordance with Governor’s Kemp’s executive order, which remains in effect through April 6. The Oconee County Emergency Order will take effect at 5 p.m., Thursday, March 26, and remain in effect until Monday, April 6, at noon. When Governor Kemp issued a state-wide state of emergency, Oconee County’s Emergency Management Ordinance was activated, placing Oconee County in a local state of emergency. During this state of emergency under this order: Restaurants and other eating establishments within Oconee County will cease offering dine-in and/or outdoor/patio service, and may continue to prepare and offer food to customers through delivery, takeout, and/or drive-thru service only. This is in accordance with guidance provided by the Department of Public Health: https://www.oconeecounty.com/DocumentCenter/View/9985/COVID-19-Guidance-for-Restaurants_3232020-. All persons ordered by the Department of Public Health to isolate, quarantine, or shelter in place within their homes or place of residence shall comply with such executive order or administrative order. In accordance with the Governor’s executive order, the following populations are specifically included: residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities, those with chronic lung disease, individuals undergoing cancer treatment, those with confirmed or suspected cases of Coronavirus, or those who have had contact with an individual diagnosed with Coronavirus. No business, establishment, corporation, non-profit, or organization shall allow more than ten people to be gathered at a single location, unless individuals can maintain six feet of separation at all times. This applies to all businesses and organizations, including gyms. All residents of Oconee County are strongly urged to remain at home unless they are engaged in necessary and vital business. We encourage all citizens to follow CDC and national taskforce recommendations on limiting groups to no more than ten people, maintaining at least six feet of separation and utilizing drive-through, pick-up, or delivery options for food. We urge all residents to remain in their home except to conduct vital business. With the closure of restaurant dining areas, park recreational fields and additional businesses such as movie theaters closing, Oconee County no longer has areas of significant public gathering. We support Governor Kemp’s order and we will work to make the order successful. The restrictions on gatherings of groups larger than ten and the requirement of social distancing with a six-foot minimum will, along with the order for medically fragile individuals to shelter in place, help prevent the transmission of this virus, especially to those who are most vulnerable. We have and will continue to collaborate with other governments in the region, including Barrow, Jackson, Walton, and Gwinnett, to develop a regional strategy to combat COVID-19 and support Governor Kemp’s Executive Order. Please continue to visit our website www.oconeecounty.com and our social media channels for updates on this evolving situation. Please also sign up for CodeRED emergency updates at: https://tinyurl.com/oconeega. Complaints about restaurant operation can be directed to Environmental Health at 706-769-7060. Parks: All use of recreational fields and courts at Oconee Veterans Parks, Herman C. Michael Park, Bogart Sports Complex and Heritage Park, including soccer, softball, baseball, tennis courts, basketball courts, disc golf and playground is prohibited. Staff have posted closure signs on the facilities. Park walking trails will remain open provided social distancing requirements are maintained. Additionally, patrons in parks are required to adhere to national recommendations of limiting groups to a maximum of ten people and maintaining six feet of separation. All other pickup recreation games in park spaces are also prohibited. Failure to comply with these rules after staff enforcement may result in being banned from all Oconee County parks for a period of one year. Restaurants and Businesses: We want the community to continue to support local businesses, but in a responsible manner. The Tourism and Visitors Bureau has developed an evolving list of restaurants offering drive-thru/pick-up/delivery options to limit social interactions. Please see the link below: https://www.facebook.com/107016329327480/posts/3396839740345106/?d=n Additionally, we will be waiving penalties on late Occupational Tax Certificates until May 1 and deferring payment of alcohol excise taxes until September 1. Solid Waste Collection Site/ Recycling Centers: All Oconee County solid waste collection sites/recycling centers have been operating on a limited schedule since Friday, March 20. The sites will be open for self-service on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. In order to limit contact between sanitation personnel and the public, attendant assistance and Pay-As-You-Throw bag sales will be unavailable at these locations. You can still purchase PAYT bags at retail locations (grocery stores and convenience stores). Please do not leave trash or other items outside the gate when the sites are closed. Also, make sure to dispose of your items in the proper bins. Please do not mix trash with the recycling! In order to maintain enough storage space for everyone, we ask that you limit your use to disposal of normal household items only. The following direct links for common transactions may be helpful: Pay water bill: https://www.oconeecounty.com/498/View-andor-Pay-your-Bill Renew vehicle registration: https://eservices.drives.ga.gov/_/ Pay property taxes: https://oconeecountyga.governmentwindow.com/tax.html Pay traffic ticket: https://www.ezcourtpay.com/Tix/Default.aspx Sign up for CodeRED notifications: https://tinyurl.com/oconeega In response to the emerging COVID-19 situation, the Water Resources Department is temporarily halting the disconnection of water service for non-payment. As always, you may also email or call county staff with questions; departmental and staff contact information is available on our website. For more information about Coronavirus, visit the Georgia Department of Public Health at https://dph.georgia.gov and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.
Coronavirus is forcing City Hall to make adjustments to the way the Athens-Clarke County Board of Assessors handles property tax returns and conservation use applications. From the Athens-Clarke Co government website… In response to coronavirus COVID-19 and the need to protect residents and employees from the potential spread of the virus, the Clarke County Board of Assessors is closed to the public until further notice. The Clarke County Board of Assessors requests that all personal property tax returns and conservation use applications be mailed to their office at 325 E. Washington St. Room 280, Athens, Georgia, 30601. All personal property tax returns and conservation use applications must be postmarked by April 1, 2020. The Clarke County Board of Assessors will accept 2020 returns/applications that are sent via email by April 1, 2020. They will require the original signed personal property tax returns and conservation use applications for filing purposes. However, those can be mailed after the April 1 deadline. If you need a conservation use application, call their office at 706-613-3140 or email firstname.lastname@example.org they will mail or email you one. Please note, all applications must be notarized and sent back to their office by April 1, 2020. If you have any questions regarding personal property tax returns or conservation use applications, please call 706-613-3140. Questions regarding homestead applications or real property returns can be directed to the Tax Commissioner’s Office at 706-613-3120.