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COVID-19 Updates: Facial coverings, School Opening, and Fact Sheets

COVID-19 Updates: Facial coverings, School Opening, and Fact Sheets

The Governor ordered today, July 28th, that schools should not open until September 8th to make sure that school personnel have more time to prepare school classes and programs.  

The Vermont Department Health has issued fact sheets that employers and employees may find useful if someone in a business or organization contracts the disease or comes into contact with someone who has tested positive.  These sheets are combined at this link.

On July 15th, Governor Scott renewed and amended the Original Executive Order to respond to the Covid- 19 pandemic to extend it to August 15th.  On July 24th, an additional amendment was made that required masks of facial cloth coverings everywhereas of August 1st with some specific exceptions that are detailed HERE.  the summary of all the Orders issued up until now and it can be seen HERE.  The State of Vermont will continue to  make changes to the phased restart of the economy.  Recent updates changes the quarantine requirements for visitors depending from where they are traveling. Lodging establishments can now operate at a rate of 50% occupancy or have 25 guests and staff on the premised based on qualifying conditions.

BADC advises all businesses and entites impacted by the pandemic to go the Agency of Commerce's Covid-19 Recovery Resouce Center to know as much as possible and to learn about programs that may assist them. It is: https://accd.vermont.gov/covid-19

Effective Monday, June 8th, restaurant indoor operations are limited to 25% of approved fire safety occupancy or 10 total customers and staff combined, whichever is greater.  Reservations or call ahead seatiing is required and bar seating and food production areas are closed for dining and drinking. All changes are still subject to social distancing and CDC guidelines.  For specific information and guidance go the Vermont's Agency of Commerce and Community Development web page that details the phased restart by economic sector. The latest update was July 3rd and it is notated in RED.  It can be viewed HERE

All employees, including those already working (except healthcare workers, first responders, and others already trained in infection control, personal protection/universal precautions), must complete, and employers must document, a training on mandatory health and safety requirements as provided by VOSHA, or another training program that meets or exceeds the VOSHA-provided standard by May 4, 2020.

The Training content is in this downloaded file. 

All businesses must follow Vermont Department of Health and CDC guidelines which are detailed  HERE

UPDATE: The SBA's PPP and EIDL loan programs, described below, have been refunded.  It's highly recommended to apply immediately if it's appopriate for your business. New Applications for the EIDL are on hold as SBA is waiting clear a backlog.  Go HERE to see if an application is available.  Check daily to see if funds will be available.

UPDATE Regarding Unemployment Insurance Claims.

To manage UI claims, the VT Department of Labor issued this schedule to make claims.

At a virtual Town Hall on April 7th, the  Vermont Department of Labor informed attendees that the in-house platform to accept applications and administer the CARES Act benefits was under development.  Based on the criteria established by US Department Labor, Vermont officials believed almost all self-employed and independent contractors would be eligible for the expanded pandemic unemployment insurance compensation program.  As more information becomes available, it will be posted at this VTDOL page. For those who have already have applied, and received notifications of being ineligible, that information will hopefully be transferred to the platform within a week to two weeks.  Applicants are advised to sign-up for updates.

As a result of the COVID-19 virus, including the recommendations and the measures taken by government to close schools urging work at home, social distancing and the banning of  service at bars and restaurants, almost all businesses will suffer economic consequences. Below are summaries and links to important information to help businesses and employees. Please visit this page at least twice a week since Government Agencies may change rules, forms, instructions and web sites.

It is important to note that self-employed individuals are eligible to file for unemployment benefits if they are not working as a result of the coronavirus.  Additionally, sole proprietors and independent contractors can appy directly for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans described below.

For clarification, the PPP program below, only specified tax exempt non-profits can apply including all that are organized 501 (c) (3).  For SBA EIDL loans any non-profit organized as tax exempt under 501 (c) (d) or (e) can apply,

It's likely that many of the many measures to protect the public and employees will remain in place for many months with some easing for work and exposure that is classified as lower risk. The U.S. Dept of Labor's Occupation and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a workplace Guidance Document and employers may find OSHA's Covid-19 web page useful whenever it's time call employees back to work.

SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) 

The link above is a fact sheet issued by the US Dept. of Treasury for an SBA forgiveable loan program based on retaining paid employees. The program is a loan but if payroll is retained, 8 weeks of payroll expenses and other specified operating expenses will be be forgiven upon request of the Borrower to the Lender. More information is provided by SBA HERE.   A proposed loan application is also available,for downloading   All applications must be made through an approved SBA Lender.  In Barre, they are Community National Bank, Northfield Savings Bank, Peoples United Bank, Citizen's Bank, N.A., Keybank. N.A., TD Bank, N.A. and North Country Federal Credit Union.  SBA will reportedly start accepting applications from lenders on Friday, April 3rd and from small businesses and sole proprietors and commencing on April 10th from independent contractors and self-employed individuals.  To assist in calculating loan request amounts, and amounts that can be forgiven, a 2 tab spreadsheet can be downloaded from BADC.

SBA Disaster Assistance Loan Applications 

     SBA is now accepting Disaster Assistance Loan Applications that can be found at the link above, and can be uploaded from the same web page.  Mailing instructions are at the bottom of the SBA page. The federal legislation passed on March 27th, includes the opportunity to receive up to a $10,000 Advance on an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), see below,  for emergency capital. BADC has downloaded all of the forms and anyone who problem in obtaining them from SBA, they can contact info@badc.com or call 476-0660.

IRS Tax Relief and Payroll Assistance. 

     Additional clarification for this federal Act is described in the link above. In addition to the deferral of returns and any taxes due until July 15th, this announced program is now accepting applications. In addition to the deferral to tax returns and payments, businesses and non-profit entities can provide up to 80 hours of paid leave to employees who qualfiy under the federal Act resulting from COVID-19 virus and be reimbursed fully up to $511 per day for 10 days for each employee. Employers should take note that it has been widely reported that the U.S. Department of Labor has ruled that broad government Executive Orders to stay at home do not qualify employees for paid leave under the Act.  There are benefits for paid family leave for a employee who must care for quarantined family member or for a parent has to care for a child as a result of a school closure.  Additionally, money set aside for payroll taxes for all employees, both the employer contribution and employee withholdings, can be used to make payments to employees. Available funds spent over above what is deducted and contributed by the employer will be reimbursed.Those details are provided in the link, and the form andinstructions  to claim the credit are  now available for review. 

State of Vermont Tax Deferral for Returns and Payments

     The State of Vermont's Tax Department is deferring income tax returns until July 15h and will not charge penalties and interest for meal, rooms and sales taxes that are not made when due on March 25th or April 25th.

Deferment on Existing SBA Disaster Loans

     The U.S. Small Business Administration has announced changes to help borrowers still paying back SBA loans from previous disasters. Deferments through December 31, 2020 will now be automatic, so borrowers of home and business disaster loans do not have to contact SBA to request deferment.

SBA Emergency Loans Available to All Vermont Small Businesses  

       SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) offer up to $2 million in assistance per business, providing economic support to overcome temporary loss of revenue.  EIDLs may be used for working capital to make-up for lost revenue, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. To get started, a tutorial can be downloaded. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for private non-profit organizations, which are also eligible for EIDLs. Upto $10,000 of the loan is an Advance which will be forgiven if used for payroll, but The U.S. Small Business Administration's Massachusetts District Office announced in a bulletin on April 6 that, nationwide, the SBA has decided to implement a $1,000 cap per employee on the advance, up to a maximum of $10,000.

For small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private nonprofit organizations, the SBA offers EIDLs to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster.  EIDL assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any physical property damage.

SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon each borrower’s ability to repay.  Small businesses with credit available elsewhere may not be eligible.

To apply online, visit https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/ Documents that may be requested when applying include recent federal tax return, profit-and-loss statement and balance sheet.

Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD)  

The State of Vermont's COVID-19 web site with latest developments.

Business Impact Summary.  A form to help the State assess business impact.  To receive notices from the Agency about programs and assistance, sign-up here.

BADC urges businesses and their employees get prepared to provide information as necessary to receive assistance.  Below are some recommenations.

Businesses:

  • Gather 2018 and 2019 tax returns, paper and digital versions, to document previous income and expenses frrom prior years. Owners of businesses who rely on the salaries, wages or profits of the businesses for  themselves should also have their personal returns readily available.
  • Put together a list of all fixed costs that have to be paid going forward: utility bills, insurance, rents, taxes that are not deferred, and payments to creditors and banks.
  • Payroll records to confirm the identity and wages of employees.
  • Preparing comparative statements of income and expenses from previous year to now.  For example, matching March 2019 figures to whatever is known from the beginning of this March to whenever an application if filed with a government entity for help.

For former Employees laid-off or with reduced wages:

  • Gather W-2 tax statements from 2019 and two recent pay stubs that reflect the highest income earned so far in 2020.
  • Make a list of all living expenses: rents, food, utilities, transportation, debt payments, child care, child support, student loans, health insurance and anything else.
  • File for unemployment benefits.  Download a guide to getting started: https://uipublic01.labor.vermont.gov/Claimantportal/GuideToFiling.pdf

Some assistance may be funneled through Vermont state government.  Chances are that for many the help cannot come fast enough, but being prepared will help expedite any benefits that are available..

 

 

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