Our Team is updating this daily as more information becomes available to support you, your business, and your employees.
Table of Contents
- As you Reopen:
- State of Emergency Extended to June 15th; Be Smart , Be Safe Order Issued
- Federal Response
- General COVID-19 Updates:
- Labor Issues
- What Our Members Are Doing: Be Creative. Be Safe.
As you Reopen:
- Go Through this Re-Opening Checklist
- Create a Health and Safety Plan; We’ve created this template with the help of The Richards Group.
- Read this Keeping Employees Safe Document
- Follow these Guidelines below from the Vermont Department of Health and CDC
- Retail operations are limited to 25% of approved fire safety occupancy; or 1 customer per 200 square feet; or 10 total customers and staff combined, whichever is greater. Operators must POST their temporary occupancy limit, and which method was used to determine it, prominently on all entrances. Posting templates are available at accd.vermont.gov.
- Employees shall not report to, or be allowed to remain at, work or job site if sick or symptomatic (fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell).
- Employees must observe strict social distancing of 6 feet while on the job. Businesses and non-profit or government entities shall ensure customers observe strict social distancing of 6 feet while on location, to the extent possible.
- Limit the occupancy of designated common areas, such as break rooms and cafeterias, so that occupants maintain strict social distancing of no less than 6 feet per individual. The employer shall enforce the occupancy limit and require employees to wipe down their area after use or shall ensure cleaning of the common areas at regular intervals throughout the day.
- Employees must wear face coverings over their nose and mouth when in the presence of others. In the case of retail cashiers, a translucent shield or “sneeze guard” is acceptable in lieu of a mask. Businesses and non-profit and government entities may require customers or clients to wear masks.
- Employees must have easy and frequent access to soap and water or hand sanitizer during duration of work, and handwashing or hand sanitization is required frequently including before entering, and leaving, job sites.
All common spaces (when open) and equipment, including bathrooms, frequently touched surfaces and doors, tools and equipment, and vehicles must be cleaned regularly and, when possible, prior to transfer from one person to another, in accordance with CDC guidance.
- Prior to the commencement of each work shift, pre-screening and health survey shall be required to verify each employee has no symptoms of respiratory illness (fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell). At the present time non-contact thermometers are in short supply, however employers shall immediately order, and use their best efforts to obtain, thermometers in order to conduct routine temperature checks.
- Signs must be posted at all entrances clearly indicating that no one may enter if they have symptoms of respiratory illness.
- When working inside, open doors and windows to promote air flow to the greatest extent possible and limit the number of people occupying a single indoor space.
- No more than 2 people shall occupy one vehicle when conducting work.
- No symptomatic or COVID-19 positive workers are allowed on site and any worker(s) who have contact with a worker or any other person who is diagnosed with COVID-19 are required to quarantine for 14 days.
- All operations shall designate a health officer on-site at every shift responsible for ensuring compliance with the Executive Order and the Addenda thereto and applicable ACCD Guidance. This person shall have the authority to stop or modify activities to ensure work conforms with the mandatory health and safety requirements.
- All business, non-profit and government operations must use remote work whenever possible.
The Richards Group has provided guidance on setting up a Work from Home program available 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. Employers who need translations of the training have one week from the release of the translated training to complete this requirement.
- All businesses that have been closed for 7 or more days during the state of emergency must complete and keep on file a reopening and training plan (businesses with fewer than 10 employees at any physical location are not required to create such a plan, however, they must follow all other guidelines and employees must take the VOSHA training). VOSHA and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development have provided a template at accd.vermont.gov/covid-19/business/restart. The plan must, at a minimum:
- Adopt a phased approach to reopening which provides sufficient opportunity to operate first in a low density and low contact environment before making the incremental changes needed to accommodate more moderate density activity while?continuing to maintain health and safety.
- Update physical and administrative safety systems to accommodate COVID-19?VDH/CDC/VOSHA guidelines, health monitoring, including temperature checks, cleaning and sanitizing methods and physical distancing measures.
- Take appropriate measures to protect employees at greater risk of contact by virtue of their occupational role or setting.
- Businesses with fewer than 10 employees at any physical location are not required to create such a plan, however, they must follow all other health and safety guidelines above including taking VOSHA training.
- For all mass transit CUSTOMERS/ RIDERS (in addition to the mandatory requirement for operators and staff) face coverings are mandatory on public transit conveyances and in stations and terminals.
Additional Health and Safety Considerations
- Use of shared workspaces, desks, offices, etc. is discouraged to the maximum extent practicable.
- Face-to-face staff meetings should be limited, and physical distancing must be observed.
- Consider staggered work shifts, break times, etc. and expanding hours to reduce the number of individuals working together and reduce contact with members of the public.
- To the extent possible, provide access to hand washing and/or hand sanitizer for vendors, and
- Limit staff travel between multiple sites.
- Ensure a safe process to receive supplies and deliveries.
- Consider accommodations for employees at higher risk from COVID-19 infection (as currently
defined by the CDC) to work remotely or have a job tasks that minimize public interaction.
- Customers, and the public in general, are encouraged to wear face coverings any time they are interacting with others from outside their household. Businesses may require customers to wear facial coverings over nose and mouth.
Food Retail (General stores, convenience stores, etc)
- To the extent possible, all food retailers should operate exclusively through curbside and delivery
- Employees must wear face coverings over their nose and mouth when in the presence of others. In the case of retail cashiers, a translucent shield or “sneeze guard” is acceptable in lieu of a
- These businesses must follow the mandatory health and safety requirements in the Phased
Restart Work Safe Guidance. (Found above under “all industries”)
- Retailers, including those that operate in an outdoor setting, may conduct limited operations such as curbside pick-up, delivery services, and warehouse or distribution operations in support of curbside, or delivery.
- All orders must occur over the phone or online; no in-store transactions are allowed at this time.
- Only the minimum number of employees necessary to support curbside pick-up and delivery
services are allowed at any one store, site, or location.
- These businesses must follow the mandatory health and safety requirements in the Phased Restart Work Safe Guidance. (Found below)
Bars, Restaurants and Food Service
- Bars, Restaurants and Food Services may continue limited in-person operations
- Restaurants can continue take-out, curbside and delivery services
- Food production is deemed to be critical. Businesses that produce any food or beverage are
deemed critical. These businesses must follow the mandatory health and safety requirements in the Phased Restart Work Safe Guidance. (Found below)
For more resources related to reopening head to the ACCD website: Restart Vermont Resources
Useful Print Outs
- Read this guidance on face masks from the Vermont Department of Health
- Printable Symptoms of Coronavirus
- Know who is at risk for serious illness.
- You can Post this Food Stock Flyer if customers are worried about empty shelves
- Educate your employees about the virus, including its transmission and prevention, print this: Stop the Spread of Germs
- Hang this sign in your public/employee bathroom: Handwashing Steps
- Read this Cleaning and Sanitation Guide for Food Retail
- If needed, we have compiled a list of Commercial Cleaning Services in Vermont, VRGA is not promoting these companies, we are just compiling the information as it comes in for your benefit.
State of Emergency Extended to June 15th; Be Smart , Be Safe Order Issued
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.
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.
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:
$310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Wall Street has cautioned that even this sizable cash injection may only last a period of days. Of this amount, $60 billion will be reserved for smaller banks that cater to underserved communities. That money will be further divided between banks will less than $10 billion in assets and those with between $10 billion and $50 billion in total assets. The SBA has warned Congress it will take some time to this set-up.
- $60 billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and Grants. This incudes $50 billion for straight EIDL loans and $10 billion to restore the $10,000 emergency small business grants. Note that the SBA rationed distribution of the grants, providing only $1,000 per employee up to $10,000 per applicant. I assume this will remain unchanged with the new cash injection.
- $75 billion for hospitals and other healthcare providers. This a stop-gap until more is known about the resource situation, and another, possibly larger cash injection is likely in the next coronavirus bill.
- $25 billion for COVID-19 testing including funds for the development of nationwide and state-by-state testing strategies.
You've Received Your PPP Loan: Guidelines to Remember When Utilizing It
If you have successfully received your PPP loan payment, there are some things to keep in mind. You must follow the treasury and SBA guidelines for loan use in order 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.
Consider this set of guidelines from the SBA as well: SBA Guidelines for Use of the PPP
Key takeaways: 75% of your loan balance must go to payroll for maximum forgiveness. The remaining 25% can be used for mortgage interest, rent and utilities. These amounts can be applied to payments in the eight weeks following your receipt of the loan.
What that means:
You should use the proceeds from these loans on your:
- Payroll costs, including benefits;
- Interest on mortgage obligations, incurred before February 15, 2020;
- Rent, under lease agreements in force before February 15, 2020; and
- Utilities, for which service began before February 15, 2020.
Payroll costs include:
- Salary, wages, commissions, or tips (capped at $100,000 on an annualized basis for each
- Employee benefits including costs for vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave; allowance for separation or dismissal; payments required for the provisions of group health care benefits including insurance premiums; and payment of any retirement benefit;
- State and local taxes assessed on compensation; and
- For a sole proprietor or independent contractor: wages, commissions, income, or net earnings from self-employment, capped at $100,000 on an annualized basis for each employee.
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 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
- 7(a): Re an affordable loan product of up to $5 million for borrowers who lack credit elsewhere and need access to versatile financing, providing short-term or long-term working capital and to purchase an existing business, refinance current business debt
- 504: Provides loans of up to $5.5 million to approved small businesses with longterm, fixed-rate financing used to acquire fixed assets for expansion or modernization
- Microloans: provides loans up to $50,000 to help small businesses and certain not-for profit childcare centers to start up and expand. The average microloan is about $13,000. These can be applied for through Community Capital of VT.
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.
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.
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
Update: On 5/8/20 Governor Scott announced that Childcare facilities would be allowed to reopen in a limited capacity starting June 1st. They adhere to all CDC and VT Dept of Health guidelines, requirements from the ACCD and are limited to ten people or fewer at this time.
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.
- Essential workers who need help finding childcare should visit this website or call 2-1-1 ext. 6
- Childcare programs with questions should call or email the Child Development Division: 800-649-2642 (option 3) or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Schools with questions should contact the Agency of Education: 802-828-1130
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:
- 1st class licensees are hereby authorized to allow for take-out, curbside pickup and delivery of beverage alcohol, including spirit-based drinks and malt and vinous product accompanying food orders for off premise consumption.
- 2nd class licensees shall be authorized to allow for delivery and curbside pickup of un-opened containers of spirits, spirit-based product and malt and vinous product.
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:
- The person making the delivery is at least 18 years old and is certified to sell or
serve alcohol by the Board.
- All deliveries shall be in person to a physical building or residence.
- Licensees shall maintain an inspectable log of all deliveries made and such log shall
at a minimum include:
- Name of recipient and physical address in Vermont to where the product was
- How ID was verified;
- A signature of recipient at least twenty-one (21) years of age;
- Complete description of the product and quantity delivered;
- Time of delivery;
- The name of the employee making the delivery
- Name of recipient and physical address in Vermont to where the product was
Vermont DEC has extended their waiver allowing the closure of redemption centers, to match the length of the Extended Stay at Home Order. (June 15th). You may choose to cease operating bottle redemption at your business through June 15th without penalty from DEC. You can find the text of the extension here. Vermont DEC has taken this step in allowing retailers and redemption centers to temporarily stop redemption services to reduce unnecessary person-to-person contact and possible virus transmission and to let grocers to focus on restocking food shelves and other needed work to assure availability of groceries. Here is the original waiver.
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 email@example.com.
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."
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).
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.
Check out our FAQ Page on questions already answered.
VRGA's Letter to the Director of Vermont Emergency Management on suggestions on which businesses should be deemed Essential vs Non-Essential.
See VRGA President Erin on WCAX on March 22nd with Vt. Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts discussing the impact of the coronavirus on the state's dairy industry and food systems; Erin discussed assistance available to help small businesses and the challenges grocers are having keeping the shelves stocked.
Call to Action That All Vermont Retailers & Grocers Offering Designated Shopping Hours for Vulnerable Populations
Request to postpone the ban on single-use plastic bags which is set to take effect on July 1, 2020.
Interview with VRGA President Erin Sigrist and Peter 'Fish' Case from Great Eastern Radio
Press Release on VRGA Hosted Webinars
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.
Short Term: Curb Side Pickup, Free Local Delivery, (PLEASE CALL YOUR INSURANCE AGENCY TO LET THEM KNOW - most insurance companies are being good allowing this right now BUT you should definitely call your agent and let them know you are doing this as it may require some extra coverage), focusing on online sales or phone sales.
Long Term: Talking with their banks, learning about Small Business Loans, Cancelling Events, Focusing on Online sales if possible, staggering staff hours so that employees have little to no contact with each other.
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.
- AGH Fulfillment and A Slice of Vermont are working with VSFA members to help with shipping and e-commerce for producers.
- Uptown Cow has a comprehensive, easy to follow guide on how to set up an online platform. They also put together a Growth Guide for retailers that already have platforms.
- Pointy gets your products online instantly if you have a barcode scanner. Connect a Pointy box to your scanner or if you use a POS system you can download the free app to get your products online.