Coronavirus Resource Guide

 Our Team is updating this daily as more information becomes available to support you, your business, and your employees.  

Table of Contents

Statewide Mask Mandate Effective August 1st, 2020

Governor Phil Scott has signed an executive order that states, effective August 1st, masks will be required to be worn inside public places and outside if it is not possible to practice social distancing. This requirement will apply to everyone over the age of 2 years, except when eating, drinking, exercising or participating in strenuous activity. Additionally, those with medical reasons not to wear a mask will also be exempt; no written documentation will be required in order to preserve the medical privacy of individuals.

The Agency of Commerce and Community Development has published the following guidance on the order:

VRGA strongly encourages members to:

As you Reopen:

All Industries

Additional health and safety consideration for all business, non-profit and government operations:

Mask Use for Employees

Food Retail (General stores, convenience stores, etc)

Retail Operations

Retailers may begin to reopen concurrent to ACCD sector guidance including:

Bars, Restaurants and Food Service

For more resources related to reopening head to the ACCD website: Restart Vermont Resources

Useful Print Outs

Cleaning:

State of Emergency Extended to August 15th; Be Smart , Be Safe Order Issued

View the full order New Work Safe Additions as of 5/15/20Executive Orders Summary

Click here to view the VRGA/VSFA Summary of the Stay Home, Stay Safe Order 

The Governor has ordered all non-essential/non-critical businesses to shut down, unless included in the current implementation of the “restartvt” phased reopening plan, and directs all non-essential residents of the state to remain at home throughout the duration of the order, leaving only for essential reasons. While we cannot provide legal advice on whether your specific business can stay open, we can steer you in the right direction.

Find out here what businesses are deemed Critical and Essential. 
We have also compiled a list of businesses in the state providing shopping hours for vulnerable members of the community, curbside pickup and other services in response to this pandemic. As stores in the state reopen, these services are expected to change. It is always wise to check with a store directly before going to it. If your business is offering special services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please reach out to us to be added to this list. This list also includes businesses accepting 3SquaresVT (SNAP) and WIC benefit payments. Thank you to Hunger Free Vermont for helping us with this list!

Please check this list for a store near you
Businesses deemed critical to public health and safety are urged to offer Curbside Pickup to the extent possible. We strongly encourage you to offer this service. If it is not possible, here are ways to limit exposure to your employees and customers along with helpful links.

Mandatory Health & Safety Requirements for all Business, Non-Profit & Government Operations

As detailed in Governor Phil Scotts recent order, the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Agency (VOSHA) has developed training and other materials to inform Vermonters on appropriate safety measures necessary to return to work amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Training and other materials were developed in conjunction with the Vermont Department of Health and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

VOSHA ResourcesGuidelines for Businesses from CDC and Vermont Department of Health

Beginning May 4th, businesses that are open to the public will be required to conduct pre-screening or health survey to verify each employee has no symptoms of respiratory illness (fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath), including temperature checks to the extent possible, prior to the start of work each day. 

Employees will be required to 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.

This training is available here. 

Federal Response

The most recent federal response bill, The HEROES Act, has passed the house. The $3 trillion dollar bill includes a broad range of provisions: $875 billion for state and local governments affected by COVID-19, a second round of $1200 stimulus checks, $75 billion for expanded testing, $75 billion in mortgage relief, $100 billion for rental assistance, student loan forgiveness up to $10,000 per borrower, and expansions to federal nutrition and unemployment programs. The bill is expected to be rejected by the Senate in its current form.

Here are the highlights of the new bill:

Changes to PPP

Recently, changes to the PPP Program have been made with the intention of making the use of PPP funds more flexible. The changes are still being examined for their impact. VRGA will provide members with a summary when it is available.

Recurring PPP Webinars with the SBA Vermont District Office 

Key Takeaways from the PPP Flexibility Act:

Remember, you must follow the treasury and SBA guidelines for loan use to qualify for loan forgiveness. We urge you to contact your bank as well, to ensure you collect the right documents to present when asking for loan forgiveness.

You can find answers to questions frequently asked by borrowers in this SBA FAQ: PPP FAQ

Consider this set of guidelines from the SBA as well: SBA Guidelines for Use of the PPP

Important to note generally:

You should use the proceeds from these loans on your:

Payroll costs include:

Please Note: You must keep documents to prove your use of the loan is in accordance with these guidelines if you are going to seek loan forgiveness. We urge you to contact your bank and find out exactly what documents they will want from you down the road.

PPP Program Forgiveness Information

The SBA has issued instructions for requesting forgiveness of PPP loans, as well as an application for doing so.

The application has four components: (1) the PPP Loan Forgiveness Calculation Form; (2) PPP Schedule A; (3) the PPP Schedule A Worksheet; and (4) an (optional) PPP Borrower Demographic Information Form.  Borrowers are required to submit items (1) and (2) to their lender.
The SBA’s guidance provides for four broad categories of costs that are eligible for forgiveness: (1) payroll costs; (2) business mortgage interest payments; (3) business rent or lease payments; and (4) business utility payments.  Subject to some exceptions, forgiveness is generally available for costs incurred with respect to these items during the borrower’s “Covered Period,” which is the eight-week period that begins on the date the PPP loan was disbursed.  As with prior guidance, the SBA requires that at least 75% of the forgiven amount be attributable to payroll costs.

To ease your fears about keeping up with payments on your current or potential SBA loan, You may want to review immediate relief to small businesses with non-disaster SBA loans, in particular 

EZ Forgiveness Applications

Some businesses may qualify for an “EZ Forgiveness Application”. The SBA has prepared this checklist form to help determine if you qualify. If you can check at least one of the form's three boxes, submit it to your lender (or the lender that is servicing your loan). Borrowers may also complete this application electronically through their lender. If you are unable to check one of the boxes, you cannot use SBA Form 3508EZ and instead you must apply for forgiveness of your PPP loan using SBA Form 3508

CARES Act

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The comprehensive aid package includes direct payments to Americans, an expansion of unemployment insurance and billions in aid to large and small businesses. We are closely monitoring the passage of this bill and will provide a summary of the final passed bill when it is available. VSFA Associate Member Gravel & Shea, a Burlington-based law firm, has provided this explanation on eligibility, terms of loans, and forgiveness opportunities.

Read the current CARES Act bill

Small Business Owners Guide to the CARES Act: This guidance document will help you determine if you’re eligible, how much you can apply for, and how you can use it.

CARES ACT FAQs: Small Business from Senator Sanders Office also provides significant information. 

FFCRA Act

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act included a number of provisions related to paid family/medical leave and paid sick leave, including a tax credit for employers intended to fully cover the cost of leave: The effective date of this legislation is April 1st, 2020 and will remain in effect until December 31, 2020. The second of three bills passed by Congress in response to COVID-19 creates emergency paid sick leave along with paid family leave for individuals impacted by coronavirus/COVID-19. Employers can claim a 100 percent refundable tax credit against payroll taxes for employers and sole proprietors.

Read the full FFCRA Act 

Click here for a quick overview of the FFCRA

View this Document for more information on Paid Sick Leave/Medical Leave/Family Leave

Read the FAQ on the FFCRA Act here.

Department of Labor recorded a webinar on the FFCRA. Please continue to frequent this web address regularly as the Department will continue to update the compliance assistance information available there.

General COVID-19 Updates:

Liquor Licensing Renewal Required 

In response to the COVID-19 shutdown, the Division of Liquor Control has provided this on-line method of starting the renewal process.  Please submit this form prior to April 27, 2020 to ensure you are placed on the Valid After Expiration list.  The Department issued a letter to all licensees describing the process in more detail. 

To read the letter that was sent out, please click here. If you have questions or problems filing this form, please contact the Division of Liquor Control's Licensing office at (802) 828-2339. If you have not shared your intent to renew your license, you can do so on this online form

Childcare

Childcare organizations, day summer camps and afterschool programs must follow the Vermont Department of Health, Agency of Education and Department for Children and Families guidance surrounding the reopening of childcare programs, summer programs and afterschool programs.

 

State of Vermont makes web-based form available to help ensure Childcare for essential workers.

The State, with the help of Let's Grow Kids, has developed a web form to more easily collect information to connect the families of essential workers with childcare in schools and licensed childcare programs that are operating to provide services now through April 6, 2020, while school dismissal and general childcare service closures are in effect. Families can also call 2-1-1 ext. 6 or 1-877-705-9008 to speak to a childcare referral specialist. Eligible families can complete the form and the State, through the Agency of Education for school-aged children through grade 8, and Child Development Division for younger children, will work to connect essential workers who need childcare with options for their children.

CDC Mass Gathering Guidance

Continue to monitor the CDC's Resources for Large Community Events & Mass Gatherings website
Considerations for Postponing or Cancelling a Mass Gathering - review the CDC's guide here.

Alcohol Sales: Take Out, Curbside and Delivery Orders Allowed 

Expires June 15th (follows expiration of State of Emergency)

Per a directive from Governor Phil Scott, a temporary allowance has been made for take out, curbside and delivery sales of spirits, spirit based, malt and vinous beverages given the following:

If you are considering offering this, we strongly encourage you to contact your Insurance agent to discuss your current Liquor Liability coverage.

The permissible hours for delivery shall be from 10:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. For deliveries, the licensee shall be able to travel from town to town or from place to place carrying orders for delivery of any alcohol product they are licensed to sell and authorized to deliver hereunder without a delivery permit, provided the following conditions are met:

Bottle Redemption

ANR has rescinded their prior waiver allowing stores to selectively receive bottle bill redeemables, effective June 22nd 2020. ANR expects full compliance with the bottle bill on June 22nd. In limited circumstances, ANR may consider exercising enforcement discretion. Unless you have specifically received notice of enforcement discretion applied to your business, be prepared to restart redeemables collection on open of business, June 22nd, 2020. The full text of the announcement can be found here

For questions about Vermont’s bottle bill, or this pause in enforcement, contact Becky Webber with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation at 802-522-3658, or rebecca.webber@vermont.gov. 

Labor Issues

CURRENT LABOR LAW: The Vermont Department of Labor has issued guidance to staff. "Staff shall not deny claims for able and available issues due to a claimant being isolated or quarantined at the direction of a health care official due to potential or verified exposure to the COVID-19 disease. These individuals shall be treated as temporarily unemployed through no fault of their own, and able and available, for the purpose of UI benefits."

Associate Member Gravel & Shea, a Burlington-based law firm, has provided this overview of the expanded employment benefits that have been recently passed by the Vermont Legislature and Congress.

Refusal to Return to Work

The Department of Labor reminds unemployment claimants who have been placed on temporary layoff or furlough related to COVID-19 that they must return to work if called back by their employer. Refusal to return to work, when being offered the normal rate of pay and number of hours per week, may result in the termination of unemployment benefits and the need to repay certain benefits.

If your employees have refused to return to work and are instead continuing to draw unemployment benefits, you must report this to the state Department of Labor. Employers should complete the online refusal to work form.

New Alphabetized Structure

The Vermont Department of Labor has implemented an alphabetized structure for the intake of weekly claims and inquiries, designating specific days of the week for individuals to contact the Department, based on the first letter of their last name. The structure will take effect on Sunday, April 12, 2020. View the new structure and find out more here.

DOL to Accept Unemployment Claims from Self-Employed and Others

The Department of Labor has announced that the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program (part of the federal CARES Act) is now available to accept unemployment claims from those not eligible for the regular Unemployment Insurance program (self-employed, sole proprietors, independent contractors).

Find More information on the PUA application process and eligibility
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance info

Pandemic Unemployment Claims (PUC)

Department of Labor to Accept Unemployment Claims from Self-Employed and Others

The Department of Labor has announced that the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program (part of the federal CARES Act) is now available to accept unemployment claims from those not eligible for the regular Unemployment Insurance program (self-employed, sole proprietors, independent contractors).

More information on the PUA application process and eligibility

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance info

Watch this Vermont Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Demo: A How to fill out the form  

What VRGA is doing for YOU

VRGA has been in touch with many state officials asking questions on your behalf, once the question has been answered it will be on our FAQ Page. Our Team is working around the clock to make sure we have up-to-date information for you. Here are some of the requests, press releases, and questions we are bringing to the conversation with your state officials.

What Our Members Are Doing: Be Creative. Be Safe.

Many of our members have tried to come up with creative ways to provide the goods people need while limiting their exposure to COVID19. Try thinking outside the box, react in the moment but prepare for the coming months. As stores begin to reopen, it is important to stay vigilant for changes from the CDC and the Governor's office.

Visit this webpage on downtown districts and see what Vermont is doing and support your local retail/grocer!

 

Setting Up Shop Online

We understand that many businesses are shifting their focus to trying to increase their online sales in order to make sure they can stay afloat. We have compiled a few resources that you may want to look into to help navigate that world.

Resources

VRGA Webinar Page

CDC WebinarKeeping Employees SafeLet's Grow Kids Childcare Options

FDA Daily UpdatesThe Wage and Hour Division FAQ

NRF Guidance for Essential Retail ServicesSmall Business Administration Disaster Loans

Tips from the Attorney General and Business Leaders

Attorney General's CAP Small Business HelpGuidance for Preparing the Workplace

HR Compliance Bulletin on CoronavirusCovid 19 What you need to know

Stop the Spread of Germs PrintoutEmployee Work from Home Guide

Coronavirus and the WorkplaceHR Communicable Disease

 OSHA COVID 19 Prevention and InformationAgricultural Related COVID-19 Resources