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Archive | March, 2020

City to use ZOOM to hold meetings during lockdown

The City of Cedar Springs is holding a special meeting tonight, March 26, for their annual fiscal year budget workshop. They mayl also consider bond authorization, and Fire Station Bid, and any other business that may come before the City Council.

You can find a meeting packet at www.cityofcedarsprings.org.

What’s different about this meeting is that the general public cannot be on site. But they will still be able to give input.

From the city: “To mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, protect the public health, and provide essential protections to City of Cedar Springs residents; the City of Cedar Springs boards and commissions are conducting all meetings by video teleconference with limited public access to participate at the meeting location in accordance with public health gathering crowd size limitations, social distancing recommendations and Michigan Governor’s Executive Order 2020-21. It is the intention to of the City to be in compliance with EO 2020-21, EO 2020-15 and also the Open Meetings Act in order to promote government accountability and fostering openness in government to enhance responsible decision-making.


  • Public comments may be submitted to the City Manager by email at any time prior to the meeting at manager@cityofcedarsprings.org Comments submitted will be read aloud during the public comment portion of the meeting.
  • Members of the public who attend at the location of the meeting may address the members during the public comment period via videoconference.
  • Any member of the public wishing to listen to the proceedings or provide public comment may do so by using the following internet connection or phone numbers and pass code:

Internet: https://zoom.us/j/428142184 Meeting ID: 428142184

Phone Options: 1(646)558-8656 Meeting ID: 428142184#
or 1(312)626-6799 Meeting ID: 4281421845#

ACCESSBILITY FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES: Meetings of the Cedar Springs Boards and Commissions are available on the City of Cedar Springs YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/…/UCoShqbamJ4TUESE_ykoK_PA/playlists YouTube provides real time closed caption transcriptions of the Board’s meetings. Enable captions by clicking the “Closed Captioning” or “CC” icon on the bottom bar. Please contact the City Clerk’s office at (616) 696-1330 Ext. 101 prior to the meeting if additional assistance is needed to assist individuals with accessibility.

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School bond election postponed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education passed a resolution during a special meeting on Friday, March 20 to postpone the school bond election scheduled for May 5, 2020.

“In light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our community, the Board determined that it was not the right time to ask our community to vote on such a significant issue,” said Superintendent Scott Smith. “Their decision to postpone the election was out of respect to the current degree of health and financial uncertainty in our community.”

The Board is considering its options about moving the date of the election to August 4, 2020.

Rather than increasing taxes, the District is asking residents to approve an extension of the current tax levy of 7.0 mills for an additional 18 years. 

If voters approve the bond proposal, there would be NO tax rate increase expected for property owners. This bond would generate $68,000,000 for district-wide improvements to all school buildings and would impact every student. The cost of the new proposal is 16 percent less than the plan from November 2019.

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Severe weather awareness week

March 22-28

While the state is taking proactive steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan, we want to remind residents that severe weather season is approaching. This includes tornados, flooding, high winds, and other severe weather that could disrupt our daily lives.

While we are practicing social distancing, Michigan State Police Emergency management does not encourage you to congregate in groups for drills, but ask that you review what your plan is in the event of severe weather.

Disasters don’t plan ahead, but you can!

More information from Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security at https://www.michigan.gov/miready/. Click on Severe weather awareness week to learn more.

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Suspect charged in 36-year-old cold case homicide

Richard Atwood disappeared from White Cloud, Michigan nearly 37 years ago.

Nearly 37 years after 25-year-old Richard Atwood disappeared from White Cloud, Michigan in Newaygo County, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel along with Newaygo County Prosecutor Worth Stay have jointly charged Roy Leando Snell, 55, with his murder. Atwood’s body has never been found.

Snell, 55, was arrested in Minneapolis by the Minneapolis Violent Criminal Apprehension Unit. He is being charged in Newaygo County with one count of homicide felony murder, punishable by life without parole, and one count of weapons felony firearm, punishable by two years in prison to be served consecutively and preceding any term of imprisonment imposed. Snell was in custody in Hennepin County Jail in Minnesota and was extradited last weekend.

Atwood was last seen on Aug. 10, 1983; his brown 1975 Pontiac Trans-Am was recovered in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area two months later. Snell was reported as the last person to be seen with Atwood.

Roy Leando Snell

Snell and another man, Walter Sanders, were reportedly driving around with Atwood that day. While Atwood was out of the car, Sanders told police that Snell showed him a gun and said, “Let’s rob Ricky.” Sanders said Atwood dropped him off and that was the last time he saw Atwood. Snell was still in the car.

When police recovered Atwood’s car, they found blood and tissue belonging to him on the seat, center console, and in the trunk.

Snell later told another man he killed Richard Atwood, and he told a cell mate about killing a guy and putting him in the trunk, which is consistent with the blood/DNA evidence police found. 

“Working cold cases would be an impossible task without all hands on deck,” said Michigan State Police Detective First Lt. Mike Anderson. “I’m very proud of the persistent determination shown by the Detectives and Prosecutors over the last two years. The Michigan State Police are proud to once again partner with the Newaygo County Prosecutor, Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office and the Michigan Attorney General to seek justice for the family of Richard Atwood. The arrest of Roy Snell is a very gratifying first step.”

Newaygo County Sheriff Mendham concurred. “The Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office is pleased to help bring some relief to the Atwood family. The hard work and dedication of all officers and agencies involved throughout the years should be commended.”

“I would like to thank the Michigan State Police, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office and Prosecutor Stay for all their hard work on this,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “Cold cases are difficult cases to investigate, which makes good teamwork that much more important.”

MSP Detective F/Lt. Anderson thinks there are still people out there that might have information helpful to this case. “Sometimes an arrest and the passage of time gives witnesses with information about a crime the courage to come forward,” he said. “Although 36 years have passed, we feel there are still people in West Michigan who have information about this case that could benefit both the detectives and prosecutors; we would like to hear from them. Even though the information may seem insignificant, it can be the missing piece of the puzzle investigators are looking for.”

Information about the murder of Richard Atwood or any West Michigan cold case can be given in a variety of ways including:

  • Speaking with a detective in person or by phone at the Michigan State Police Hart Post at (231) 873-2171 or the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office at (231) 689-7303. 
  • A call to the Michigan State Police Cold Case Tip Line at (989) 775-9302. 
  • An anonymous tip can be left at Silent Observer of West Michigan by calling (616) 774-2345 or online at silentobserver.org http://www.silentobserver.org

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Kent County Deputies confiscate stolen truck full of T.P.

By Lois Allen

There’s hoarding and then there’s HOARDING. Stealing a truck that’s hauling about 18,000 pounds of bathroom paper products during a global pandemic during which the commodity has become invaluable to the panicked public likely falls into the all-caps category.

On Wednesday, March 25, deputies from the Kent County Sheriff’s office said they came across the 18-wheel tractor trailer as it was traveling on U.S. 131 near Cedar Springs. 

It is unclear why they decided to follow the vehicle, but deputies said the excursion paid off. They followed the truck to a warehouse/dock facility near the interstate. 

“After further investigation, it was determined the 53’ foot Hyundai dry-van trailer was reported stolen locally and was being utilized to transport nearly 18,000 pounds of bathroom paper products,” the department said. 

Officials said it is an ongoing investigation and that no arrests have yet been made. 

News of the discovery comes as grocery stores, big box chains and other retailers are struggling to keep toilet paper stocked on shelves by limiting purchases per customer, and lawmakers are trying to wipe out price gouging in cities across the country. 

Kent County officials explained, “A convenience store touted toilet paper at $10 a roll next to a sign reading: ‘This is not a joke.’”

Not only is it not funny, the Justice Department has ordered U.S. attorneys to appoint specials coronavirus fraud coordinators. The department also rolled out a central fraud hotline (1-866-720-5721 or disaster@leo.gov) to report consumer abuses.

Ok, you might be wondering if this really happened. Something similar did happen, just not here. The real incident happened in Guildford County, North Carolina, believe it or not. Just google toilet paper truck and it should pop up.

If you happen to not have enough T.P. for now, don’t worry, they are making more every day right here in the USA. There will be more toilet paper. I’m getting low right now. Unfortunately, all stores remain completely out of stock. Hopefully it’s coming soon! Where’s the truck? In the meantime, I’ll be using tissue. In the old days, people used a good ole corn cob. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that. If so, there’s plenty here in Cedar Springs just laying out there in the fields.

I’m sure this is having a psychological effect of all of us. Many years from now our grandchildren will be asking us, “Why do you keep so much toilet paper?” And then we can tell them about the time of COVID-19 and the great toilet paper shortage.

Have a happy April Fool’s Day? Maybe next year.

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Special tents set up outside emergency departments

To triage incoming patients for COVID-19 symptoms 

Photo from newsroom.spectrumhealth.org

GREENVILLE and LAKEVIEW, Mich., March 25, 2020—Spectrum Health United and Kelsey Hospitals are taking additional steps to care for the community and keep patients and team members safe by opening COVID-19 triage tents, as the need arises, as an extension of its emergency departments. 

In accordance with the CDC, Spectrum Health recommends those with mild COVID-19 symptoms stay home and self-quarantine.

Tents will be erected this week adjacent to hospital emergency entrances and will not be for “drive through” use.

When the tent is in use, patients coming to the emergency departments will be met by a team member who will help them navigate to either the main ED entrance or through the COVID-19 tent entrance. Patients entering the COVID-19 tent will be asked to wear a mask and sanitize hands, which will provide the safest means for staff to offer service while avoiding unnecessary exposure. 

“The tent ensures continued patient access to emergency services for those with non-COVID-19 conditions while also ensuring those with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 are cared for appropriately,” said Carol Dwyer, chief nursing officer of both hospitals. “We’ve been preparing for this for months with a rapid uptick in those preparations in the last few weeks.” 

Patients will be evaluated by an emergency department provider. Those with mild symptoms, no breathing difficulties and stable vital signs will be directed home and provided education on COVID-19 care. People with mild symptoms should stay home and self-quarantine, watching for worsening symptoms. If you are concerned about your symptoms, call for a free phone screening at 616-391-2380.   

People coming to the emergency department triage tent will be charged for the visit. Most insurers have indicated they will waive the charges for screening so future reimbursement is expected.

For more information about COVID-19, including information on symptoms and prevention, visit www.spectrumhealth.org/covid19.

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Blood donation exempt from stay-at-home order

People need people, wherever they are; as a partnership of blood centers in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio, we can save more lives together. First and foremost your blood stays local; however, we’re better positioned to help if ever donations are low in another state or a hospital patient is in need of a rare blood type. Your blood donation today can help save lives tomorrow: www.versiti.org #SaveLivesDonateBlood

Grand Rapids, Mich. – March 23, 2020 – With the stay-at-home directives now implemented in Michigan, the Federal government has issued a guidance around COVID-19 related to blood donation. That guidance reminds the public that Versiti Blood Center of Michigan donor centers and community blood drives across the state remain open because of the critical nature of blood donation to our country. Healthy donors are still needed to ensure an adequate blood supply.  

According to the governor’s executive order, individuals are allowed to leave their residence for Healthcare and Public Health Operations. This includes “organizations collecting blood, platelets, plasma, and other necessary materials.”
Our dedicated teams are committed to serving donors and collect life-saving donations in environments which often will involve more than ten people within a physical space. This exception is supported by the agency noted above, as well as the directors of agencies such as HHS, FEMA, the Food and Drug Administration, and CISA of the Department of Homeland Security. 

“This is an extraordinary time in our country and for the healthcare community, of which Versiti Blood Center of Illinois is a critical partner,” said Chief Medical Officer Thomas Abshire.  “Versiti Blood Center of Michigan supplies blood to nearly 80 hospitals across the state. It is critically important to maintain an adequate blood supply so these hospitals can deliver life-saving blood products to trauma patients and cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.” 

Ensuring blood donor and staff safety

Staff at our donor centers and community blood drives are using precautions consistent with the CDC and the American Association of Blood Banks recommendations while collecting donations. These include: prescreening both staff and donors for COVID-19 symptoms, complying with social distancing throughout the donation process, beds six feet apart and/or separated by a partition, wiping down surface areas and beds, and providing only packaged snack and drinks.
Due to the generous response from blood donors, it is best to schedule an appointment, call 1-866-642-5663 or visit Versiti.org/Michigan   

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Call for volunteers to help with bird conservation efforts

A vigilant adult black tern watches closely as Audubon Great Lakes staffers band her newly hatched chicks. Photo taken by David Fuller.

All of our MI Birds partners are dedicated to bird conservation in Michigan, and many need your help. Several organizations are seeking community science volunteers for different projects across the state. Learn more about each program and sign up to volunteer below.

Safe Passage Great Lakes (March 15 – May 31)

Each year nearly 1 billion birds die from bird-building collisions in the U.S. alone. Volunteers are needed to monitor buildings in urban areas in Michigan that may pose a danger to migrating birds twice weekly between March 15and May 31. The data collected is then used to start conversations with building owners and city officials about making the city a more bird-friendly community.

Interested in becoming part of this community science project?

  • In Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, please contact Heidi Trudell and Alice Elliott at Washtenawsafepassage@gmail.com. 
  • At Wayne State University in*Detroit, please contact Ava Landgraf at alandgraf@detroitaudubon.org. 
  • In Lansing, please contact Linnea Rowse at lrowse@michiganaudubon.org. 
  • If you live somewhere else, but still want to participate, you can submit bird collision observations anywhere using the Global Bird Collision Mapper https://birdmapper.org/app/?utm_campaign=mi+birds+volunteers&utm_medium=mkt+email&utm_source=govdelivery app

Adopt-A-Nest Osprey Monitoring Program (March 23 – July 17)

Volunteer community scientists, like you, can adopt an osprey nest and help monitor these beautiful predatory birds for the summer. Participation in this program requires little effort. All ages and experience levels are welcome.

A minimum commitment of three 15-minute nest visits between the end of March and early July is all it takes to determine if there is a nesting attempt, if birds are actively nesting and if there are any chicks in the nest. You can visit more often if you’d like. Binoculars are adequate for most observations, but a spotting scope is useful to determine the number of chicks. Most nests are located on cell towers and are easily viewable from public roads.

Volunteers are needed only in the following counties: Alpena, Benzie, Calhoun, Cass, Clare, Crawford, Emmet, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Kalkaska, Lenawee, Manistee, Missaukee, Montmorency, Muskegon, Osceola, Oscoda, Presque Isle, St Clair, St Joseph, Wexford.

Sign up to adopt an osprey nest.  https://act.audubon.org/onlineactions/fArVY3PBDUCNXfYzzYHYsQ2?utm_campaign=mi+birds+volunteers&utm_medium=mkt+email&utm_source=govdelivery 

Black tern nest platform-building workshops (April – May)

Join MI Birds and Detroit Audubon as we construct nesting platforms to install at St. Clair Flats State Wildlife Area on Harsens Island. Black terns are a Michigan species of special concern and have seen population declines since the 1960s. These nesting platforms aim to help increase hatching success of black tern nests within St. Clair Flats. A presentation on black terns will be given prior to platform construction, and light refreshments will be served.

Workshops are scheduled at:

Secretive marsh bird surveys at St. Clair Flats State Wildlife Area (May 1 – June 15)

Audubon Great Lakes recently was awarded a Michigan DNR Wildlife Habitat Grant to improve the wetlands at St. Clair Flats State Wildlife Area on Harsens Island, which doubles as an Audubon Important Bird Area. This habitat work aims to benefit breeding and migratory waterfowl, but also secretive marsh birds.

We are seeking four to six marsh bird survey volunteers to search for these secretive birds during three morning surveys between May 1and June 15. Volunteer training, including bird identification by sight and sound, and supplies will be provided. Volunteers should have their own binoculars.

Volunteer training will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 4 at St. Clair Flats State Wildlife Area. This is the same day as the DNR’s spring birding tour explore the wildlife area in the morning and then join us for the volunteer training session.

Register to volunteer for the secretive marsh bird survey. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/secretive-marsh-bird-surveys-volunteer-training-session-tickets-96986754995?utm_campaign=mi+birds+volunteers&utm_medium=mkt+email&utm_source=govdelivery

Black tern monitoring at Wigwam Bay State Wildlife Area and St. Clair Flats State Wildlife Area (May – July)

Black terns, a common colonial waterbird species in steep decline, are a Michigan species of special concern. The Michigan DNR, Audubon Great Lakes, Detroit Audubon, Common Coast Research, the University of Michigan and several other partners are working together to monitor these birds throughout the state.

Volunteers are needed to assist staff in the field on various dates, as they search for black tern nests and record data. In June, black tern capture and banding begins. No previous experience is necessary, but you must be comfortable working in a boat (kayak or canoe), be able to lift 40 pounds and be able to commit to a full, eight-hour day in the field.

  • Wigwam Bay State Wildlife Area: Volunteers needed Wednesday, May 20or Thursday, May 21and Monday, June 15or Tuesday, June 16(weather permitting). Please contact Erin Rowan at erin.rowan@audubon.org if interested. 
  • St. Clair Flats State Wildlife Area: Monitoring occurs most Fridays between May 20and July 31. Please contact Ava Landgraf at alandgraf@detroitaudubon.org if interested. 

Ives Road Fen Preserve workday and bird walk with The Nature Conservancy (May 16) 

Join us as we explore and improve the Ives Road Fen Preserve in Britton Saturday, May 16. After our bird walk, well remove invasive plant species and enjoy some snacks.

We’ll start the day at 8:45 a.m. with a bird walk through the fen and floodplain along the River Raisin as we search for migratory songbirds and waterfowl. Well then cut shrubs in the fen and pull knapweed from the planted prairie. At noon we’ll stop work to enjoy some snacks and beverages.

Cutting and digging tools and work gloves will be provided but bring your own if you have some that you like. Bring your own binoculars if you have them. A few extra pairs will be available if needed.

Sign up for the Ives Road Fen Preserve workday and bird walk. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/96972885511?utm_campaign=mi+birds+volunteers&utm_medium=mkt+email&utm_source=govdelivery. Space is limited.

MI Birds is a public outreach and engagement program created by Audubon Great Lakes and Michigan Department of Natural Resources that aims to increase all Michiganders’ engagement in the understanding, care and stewardship of public lands that are important for birds and local communities.

Visit MI Birds https://gl.audubon.org/conservation/bird-friendly-communities/mi-birds?utm_campaign=mi+birds+volunteers&utm_medium=mkt+email&utm_source=govdelivery.

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Pandemics in Nature

By Ranger Steve Mueller

The beautiful purple loosestrife is an example of a non-native species that causes a pandemic loss of life in nature to natural species by crowding them out. Photo by Linda Wilson University of Idaho Bugwood.org.

When a species causes massive illnesses or deaths to members of another species, a pandemic is the result. Some that cause obvious and immediate economic harm receive widespread attention. The emerald ash borer that arrived in Detroit in 2002, spread rapidly killing ash trees in a widening radius. It cost communities, businesses, and private property owners billions of dollars. The financial burden gained human attention. 

The loss of an ash tree’s life did not result in the same concern caused by the loss of a human neighbor or family member to coronavirus. The death of people in China has not disturbed people in our region as much as the death of people in Washington state. People contracting the disease in Michigan created even higher concern. This is perhaps because we recognize the virus might personally make us ill or kill us. 

When the concern is not likely to kill us personally, we do not elevate actions immediately. The emerald ash borer spread as a pandemic through forests killing most ash trees. The beetle likely arrived in wood pallets and moved to live trees that had not developed evolutionary defenses. When native species are investigated and tested by other species, they develop defenses through co-evolution. One tries to feed on the new food source and the other tries to prevent being fed upon. If successful both survive by developing ecological adaptations. 

The sudden appearance of a species from another part of the world adapted to feed on a similar species, might find easy pickings when introduced to exploit a region like occurred with the ash borer. People lost trees in their yards, forests lost timber that could have been harvested, and cities found public land full of trees that presented public safety hazards. The general public took notice because of economic and safety concerns.

The loss of life of an individual tree in the yard does not bring a similar emotional response that comes with the death of a person dying next door. When the borer beetle pandemic spread, few people realized the impact on forest economics for other species. It closed the tree “restaurants” used by hundreds of other species similar to how human restaurants closed. Tree bark was home to mosses and lichens that lost their residence like business owners might lose their residences. 

People are not well attuned to the economic, social, environmental impacts that result from the successful establishment of exotic species. The stock market would fluctuate more greatly if we did. The American Chestnut blight caused economic harm and adversely affected businesses in the early 1900’s. Dutch elm disease in the 1950’s created similar devastation and had the added danger from DDT used to control the vector beetle that carried the killer fungus. Economic stress cannot be separated from environmental impacts that result in social harm that undermines community health and sustainability. Many economic woes can be traced to inadequate environmental policies. Sound environmental laws protect our economy and health.

Pandemic loss of native species is caused by more than diseases. Beautiful flowering species like purple loosestrife crowd other species from wetland habitats and remove ecosystem foundations essential for maintaining community health. Basically non-native loosestrife removes grocery stores, banks, apartments, construction warehouses, hardware stores, and pharmacies in wetland habitats needed by native species. Invasive species simplify the community and bring about instability. The long-term impact eventually harms human financial community health when we have not taken adequate care of environmental and social needs. 

Few exotic species have been addressed here. About 180 exotics are causing havoc in the Great Lakes and costs billions of dollars in damage to our economy. Two decades after zebra mussels were discovered in the Great Lakes, some scientists call the foreign mollusks the most harmful exotic species to invade the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem. Zebra and quagga mussels have caused more profound changes in the lakes than sea lamprey that decimated lake trout and other native fish species in the mid-1900s. The mussels are two of 185 exotic species in the Great Lakes. About 120 of those species were imported by ocean ships that discharged ballast water from foreign ports into the lakes. Invasive species result in pandemic losses.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Tax day now July 15

Treasury, IRS extend filing deadline and federal tax payments regardless of amount owed

WASHINGTON—The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced today that the federal income tax filing due date is automatically extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020.

Taxpayers can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment tax.

Taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms or call the IRS to qualify for this automatic federal tax filing and payment relief. Individual taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the July 15 deadline, can request a filing extension by filing Form 4868 through their tax professional, tax software or using the Free File link on IRS.gov. Businesses who need additional time must file Form 7004.

The IRS urges taxpayers who are due a refund to file as soon as possible. Most tax refunds are still being issued within 21 days.

Even with the filing deadline extended, we urge taxpayers who are owed refunds to file as soon as possible and file electronically, said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. Filing electronically with direct deposit is the quickest way to get refunds. Although we are curtailing some operations during this period, the IRS is continuing with mission-critical operations to support the nation, and that includes accepting tax returns and sending refunds. As a federal agency vital to the overall operations of our country, we ask for your personal support, your understanding  and your patience. Im incredibly proud of our employees as we navigate through numerous different challenges in this very rapidly changing environment.

The IRS will continue to monitor issues related to the COVID-19 virus, and updated information will be posted on a special coronavirus page  https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus on IRS.gov.

This announcement comes following the Presidents emergency declaration last week pursuant to the Stafford Act. The Stafford Act is a federal law designed to bring an orderly and systematic means of federal natural disaster and emergency assistance for state and local governments in carrying out their responsibilities to aid citizens. It was enacted in 1988.

Treasury and IRS will issue additional guidance as needed and continue working with Congress, on a bipartisan basis, on legislation to provide further relief to the American people.

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