As members of the Vermont Business Roundtable, we recognize the opportunity and obligation we have, to do our share to alleviate the severity of disruption to our economic and social fabric.
We believe that limiting the impact of the COVID-19 health crisis is the most important step we should take at this time. Doing so will reduce the public health threat that must be addressed before our economy will be restored – at the state and national levels – to a new normal. Our extremely talented health care professionals and institutions are working in a coordinated fashion to serve the public. Their request of us is straightforward: 1) prepare for the long term, this won’t disappear in two weeks; 2) stay home; and, 3) for those who can’t stay home, to maximize healthy and sterile protocols. We urge all Vermonters to honor their requests. We can flatten the severity and duration of this outbreak to the benefit for everyone, if we respect the social distancing guidance of health care professionals.
We believe that our economic crisis will have a disproportionate impact on lower income wage earners. This will result in significant and disproportionate impacts on their health and vitality, in turn. A struggling economy also means that other systems are weakened as a result, including education, health care, and workforce pipelines. We respond by asking employers who are laying off workers to engage with the Roundtable’s Vermont Talent Pipeline. Through this project, we can help match that talent with employers seeking to increase their seasonal workforces or respond to spikes in demand for products and services. In addition, Roundtable members are acting quickly and decisively to protect vulnerable Vermonters through efforts such as suspension of debt collection for consumers, ceasing utility disconnections, and deferring payments on agricultural loans. And, we will be holding member-wide calls on a regular basis to find more ways, within and outside our membership, to help those most impacted.
We believe that sharing our corporate and community successes will benefit the entire state. We will communicate through a variety of platforms the successful adjustments being made by our member companies, so that others might benefit as well. During our last state emergency – Tropical Storm Irene – Vermonters learned that we are stronger when we act together, Vermont Strong, in fact. We now find ourselves in a much more urgent situation, and our survival demands that we dig deep within ourselves again.
We believe that we can do this. We are Vermont Strong.
The CEO Members and Staff of the Vermont Business Roundtable
Be Prepared: What Employers Can Do
Following is an index of important resources, announcements and employers who are hiring. For your convenience, several guidance documents are also posted here for your reference. We will continue to update this page to reflect current developments.
LATEST EXECUTIVE ORDERS AND FEDERAL GUIDANCE
[3.31.20] U.S. Senate Releases Small Business Owners Guidance on CARES Act (downloadable)
[3.28.20] In support of Governor Scott’s Stay Home / Stay Safe Order, the Agency of Commerce and Community Development Offers Sector-Specific Guidance. Visit ACCD’s Page for More.
[3.24.20] Vermont’s Governor Scott issued addendum 6 to Executive Order 01-20 (linked document), Stay Home/Stay Safe order for all Vermonters to stay at home. All businesses deemed “Non-Essential” must close. This order is in effect as of 3.25.20 at 5:00pm.
Governor Scott’s Executive Order 01-20 to Stay Home/Stay Safe directs businesses to suspend in-person business operations and transactions. In-person business operations refer to both employees and customers. A business should not operate, unless exempted within the order, if its operation requires one person to come into contact with another person.
The order includes a provision for certain industries that provide “services or functions in Vermont deemed critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security” to remain open and in operation during this current order.
Lindsay Kurrle, Secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, informed the committee of new information on the agency’s website:
* A FAQ page that is growing and helpful.
* A critical business list, the NAICS Code List, that businesses can check to see if their class of business is affected.
* The Federal Critical Infrastructure workers list of business activities and workers deemed critical by the Department of Homeland Security.
* If a business is on one of those lists, or you have a federal contract for national security, then you may continue business operations with adherence to CDC and VDH guidance.
* If a business feels they have been misclassified they can appeal by filling out a Request for Continuation of Business Operations form. The agency commits to answer within 24 hours, though Commissioner Kurrle asked for patience as they work through the caseload.
FOR BUSINESSES TEMPORARILY CLOSING:
If you are temporarily suspending your business’ operations, you should consult Vermont Department of Labor first. Unemployment Insurance (UI) laws are very complex, with many nuances. Seeking VDOL’s guidance will help to smooth the transition for your employees.
* Employers: UI Employer Services – (802) 828-4344
* General Questions: Department of Labor Commissioner’s Office – (802) 828-4301
* Existing UI Claimants: Claimant Assistance Line – (877) 214-3331
Visit the Unemployment Claim System Online: https://labor.vermont.gov/unemployment-insurance
FOR BUSINESSES STAYING OPEN:
Proactively educate your employees about the virus, including its transmission and prevention, Print this: Stop the Spread of Germs
Printable Symptoms of Coronavirus
The SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans are are now available to Vermont small businesses. [Friday, 3.20.20]
To Apply, Visit: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/
Requested documents for application may include most recent federal tax return, profit-and-loss statement and balance sheet.
For more information, call the SBA disaster assistance customer service center at 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or e-mail [email protected] gov.
- These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact.The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses. The interest rate for non-profits is 2.75%.
- 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.
- SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans are just one piece of the expanded focus of the federal government’s coordinated response, and the SBA is strongly committed to providing the most effective and customer-focused response possible.
For additional information, visit the SBA disaster assistance website at SBA.gov/Disaster.
Process for Accessing SBA’s Disaster Relief Lending [Updated 3.17.20]
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.”
Federal Response: Second Emergency Coronavirus Relief Bill Signed Into Law
The recent Emergency Coronavirus Relief Bill 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:
PAID SICK LEAVE / MEDICAL LEAVE / FAMILY LEAVE (Visit U.S. Department of Labor Site)
Who is covered?
- The expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA apply to certain public employers, and private employers with fewer than 500 employees. Most employees of the federal government are covered by Title II of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which was not amended by this Act, and are therefore not covered by the expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA. However, federal employees covered by Title II of the Family and Medical Leave Act are covered by the paid sick leave provision.
- Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.
Who is eligible?
- All employees of covered employers are eligible for two weeks of expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. Employees employed for at least 30 days are eligible for up to an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave to care for a child under certain circumstances related to COVID-19.
How long is the leave?
- Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of expanded family and medical leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis;
- Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor; and
- Up to an additional 10 weeks of expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
What does this cover?
- Employers receive 100% reimbursement for paid leave pursuant to the act.
- Health insurance costs are also included in the credit.
- Employers face no payroll tax liability.
- Self-employed individuals receive an equivalent credit.
How am I reimbursed?
- An immediate dollar-for-dollar tax offset against payroll taxes will be provided
- Where a refund is owed, the IRS will send the refund as quickly as possible.
- To take immediate advantage of the paid leave credits, businesses can retain and access funds that they would otherwise pay to the IRS in payroll taxes. If those amounts are not sufficient to cover the cost of paid leave, employers can seek an expedited advance from the IRS by submitting a streamlined claim form that will be released next week.
General COVID-19 / Coronavirus Updates:
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.
Childcare Programs with questions should call or email the Child Development Division: 800-649-2642 (option 3) or [email protected]
Schools with questions should contact the Agency of Education: 802-828-1130
CDC MASS GATHERING GUIDANCE
Due to the current situation, CDC is recommending the following application of our mass gathering guidance nationwide:
Considerations for Postponing or Cancelling a Mass Gathering. Factors to consider when determining the need to postpone or cancel a large gathering include:
- The overall number of attendees. Larger gatherings (for example, more than 250 people) offer more opportunities for person-to-person contact and therefore pose greater risk of COVID-19 transmission.
- The number of people attending who are at greater risk of more serious illness after contracting COVID-19. Older adults and persons with severe pre-existing health conditions are thought to be at increased risk.
- The density of attendees within a confined area. Based on what is currently known about the virus, spread from person-to-person happens most frequently among close contacts (within 6 feet).
- The potential economic impact to participants, attendees, staff, and the larger community.The level of transmission in your local community and the level of transmission in the areas from which your attendees will travel. To better understand the level of community transmission in your community (and in the communities from which your attendees will be traveling), consult with your local and/or state public health department.
- If there are ways in which to significantly reduce the number of attendees. For example, for sporting events or school concerts, organizers could consider holding the event but significantly reduce the number of audience members.
At a minimal-to-moderate level of community transmission, it is recommended to:
- Cancel community-wide mass gatherings (for example, >250 people; the cutoff threshold is at the discretion of community leadership based on the current circumstances the community is facing and the nature of the event)or move to smaller groupings.
- Cancel gatherings of more than 10 people for organizations that serve higher-risk populations.
Other Quick Links:
Official Federal Announcements and Resources
The President’s 15 Days to Slow Spread of Coronavirus Guidelines
CDC’s COVID-19 / Coronavirus Resources
CISA’s Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce
U.S. Small Business Administration – Small Business Guidance and Loan Resources
USDA Rural Development Stakeholder Announcement on Loan Payment Assistance [3.27.20]
Vermont’s Federal Delegation
Senator Patrick Leahy’s Coronavirus Information Page | Contact | Twitter Feed
Senator Sanders’ Statement on Coronavirus | Contact | Twitter Feed
Congressman Peter Welch’s Information on Coronavirus | Contact | Twitter Feed
Official State Announcements and Resources
Agency of Commerce and Community Development’s Guidance for Business
Vermont Department of Health Guidance
Vermont Department of Labor
Vermont Emergency Management
Vermont Small Business Development Center
Resources from VBR Members
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont – Telemedicine Guidance
Green Mountain Power’s COVID-19 Announcements
KPMG Report on Tax Developments Concerning U.S. Exempt Organizations
MVP Healthcare Statement on COVID-19
People’s United Bank Announces Initiatives to Support Individuals and Businesses
UVM Health Network Chief Executive Officer, John Brumsted, Offers COVID-19 Advice
Vermont Community Foundation Sets up VT COVID-19 Response Fund
Vermont Economic Development Authority’s News Updateson COVID-19
Employers Now Hiring Displaced Workers:
Last updated: 3/31/20 10:00am