March COVID-19 Update

03.26.2020

Congress Passes Massive COVID-19 Relief Package
Congress approved a broad COVID-19 relief package this week that will send direct payments of $1,200 to individuals, substantially expand help for the jobless, and provide hundreds of billions of dollars in loans to businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The bill referred to as the ‘‘Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act,’’ includes:
  • Payments to individuals, plus tax and retirement fund modifications benefiting individuals
  • Additional loans, economic injury grants, SBA debt relief, tax modifications, and other benefits for businesses
  • Additional unemployment benefits 
  • For a summary of the bill, click here.
  • For some initial guidance on the business provisions, click here.
  • Disclaimer: These are preliminary summaries of, and guidance on, the Act provided by Congressional offices. As more information becomes available, we will post it.  Some aspects of the Act have to be enabled before they can start. 
N95 Masks Still Needed
In response to COVID-19, Porter Medical Center is collecting donations of N95 respirator masks for our front line medical workers. These masks are regulated by the CDC, NIOSH, and OSHA and are often used in construction and industrial type jobs, as well in the healthcare environment. We have collected over 500 from many generous community members, but we need more. At this point, we are not accepting donations of home-made masks but are immensely grateful for the many offers of support. 
See right for a picture of a typical N95 mask. 
 
If you have any N95 masks or respirators to donate, please email Amy Barr at abarr@portermedical.org 
 
 
Vermont Department of Taxes provides temporary relief to Vermont businesses who owe Meals and Rooms Tax or Sales and Use Tax 
Businesses that are unable to meet the March 25 and April 25 filing deadlines will not be charged any penalty or interest for late submissions. Businesses who can meet the deadlines for filing and payment should continue to do so.
It is essential to note this is not an abatement of the Tax collected. The Commissioner of Taxes does not have the authority to provide an abatement of these taxes once they have been collected. This is also not a cancellation of these taxes moving forward. Therefore, businesses must continue to collect Meals and Rooms and Sales and Use Taxes as they usually would. 
 
For details, click here.

 

03.25.2020

Governor Issues Stay at Home Stay Safe Order
Yesterday, Governor Phil Scott issued a "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order for the closure of in-person operations for all non-essential businesses in Vermont.  The Order begins today, Wednesday, March 25th, at 5:00 p.m. and is in effect until April 15th, though may be extended or shortened as needed.  These restrictive measures are in place to minimize all unnecessary activities outside the home to slow the spread of this virus and protect the public. These actions were implemented in consultation with the Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health and his evaluation of the latest data.

The Order provides exemptions for businesses and entities providing services or functions deemed critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security. This includes, but is not limited to, health care operations; retail serving essential human needs, like grocery stores, pharmacies and hardware stores; fuel products and supply; maintenance of critical infrastructure; news media; and transportation and critical manufacturing sectors. 

View the Order here.

View the Governor's press conference here. 

Questions About Continuing Your Business Operations?
Under the order, in-person operations are no longer allowed, even using social distancing. The exemptions apply only to business operations considered to be "essential." To determine if your business or a portion of your business operations are essential:
 
1) Carefully read the Stay Home, Stay Safe order. Essential basically means critical to public health and safety.  Section 6 includes a list of essential operations that can remain open but must still operate using CDC and Vermont Department of Health guidelines. 
 
2) If you are still unsure, refer to this Guidance. Read the FAQs, refer to this business classification code (NAICS) list. Find your industry and whether the says "no" or "yes" under "critical." Note that the list includes notes regarding exceptions for some NAICS categories that might include essential operations. 
 
3) If you are still not sure, or you want to make the case for remaining open or continuing some operations, complete a Continuum of Operations Form, which will be submitted to the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. They will review and get back to you. The Agency is currently reviewing a high volume of requests.
 
Vermont Legislature Passes Bill to Provide Additional Unemployment Insurance and Benefits Relief
On March 24, the Vermont Legislature passed H.742, which contains provisions to address some unemployment insurance and benefits issues during the COVID-19 crisis. The relief bill Congress will likely pass this week will contain additional Unemployment Insurance and Benefits provisions (see below). For the employer, the bill provides that an employers’ UI rates will not increase because of benefits paid to an individual who quits employment for good cause related to certain COVID-19 reasons or if benefits are paid to employees as a result of a temporary closure of a location due to COVID 19, an order issued by the Governor or President that affects the employer, or an employee who is temporarily laid off in order to comply with a quarantine recommendation.  For UI rate relief, the employer must rehire the laid-off employees within a reasonable period of time after it resumes operations or once the employee’s period of quarantine is completed. The bill limits relief to 8 weeks of benefits or a longer period than the Commissioner of Labor determines to be appropriate.   For employees, the bill allows an individual to receive benefits if they quit employment for good cause related to COVID-19. For details, click here.
 
Additionally, due to the "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order (see above) the Vermont Department of Labor has administratively waived the requirement to seek work while receiving unemployment benefits regardless of the reason for being unemployed. This will mitigate the risk associated with contact made during work search efforts.

For more info and updates from the Department of Labor, click here.

Childcare for Essential Workers

Specific public schools and some private providers have been selected to provide care for the children of "Essential Workers."
 
For information on essential workers click here.
 
To find out which schools and providers are providing care for essential workers in Addison County, click here or contact the referral specialist at the Mary Johnson Children's Center,  office@mjccvt.org or (802)388-2853.
 
Congress Closer to Passing $2 Trillion Relief Package
The U.S. Senate was scheduled to vote on a $2 trillion coronavirus spending bill today, which must also be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill contains relief for families, individuals, and businesses. For details on this package, keep checking ACEDC's COVID-19 Update page. Additional relief bills will follow in Congress.
 
Additional Business Resources
 
 
Vt Agency of Commerce Updates and Newsletter

 

03.23.2020

Governor orders work from home for business and non-profits:
Effective on Monday, March 23 at 8:00 pm, all businesses and not-for-profit entities in the state have been directed to put telecommuting or work from home procedures into place, to the maximum extent possible.  
 
Vermont Tax Department Relief:
The Department of Taxes today announced relief for businesses who owe Meals and Rooms Tax or Sales and Use Tax until further notice.  Taxpayers who are unable to meet the March 25th and April 25th deadlines on these taxes due to COVID-19 mitigation steps, will not be charged any penalty or interest for late submissions of these taxes.

Vermonters are advised as well that income tax filing due dates for the following taxes have been extended from April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020:

·         Vermont personal income tax

·         Vermont Homestead Declaration and Property Tax Claims

·         Corporate income tax

·         Fiduciary income tax

This means taxpayers can file and pay these taxes on or before July 15, 2020 without any penalty or interest. This includes any tax year 2020 estimated payments that were due for these taxes on April 15th, 2020. Although the filing deadline has moved, Vermonters can file their returns and claims any time before July 15. Anyone expecting a refund is encouraged to do so. 

For more information visit https://tax.vermont.gov/coronavirus.

 

03.22.2020

Additional business closures ordered:
Governor Scott ordered the closure of close contact businesses and limited gatherings to 10 people, effective Monday, March 23. All other businesses not named may remain open but must work to implement CDC and the Vermont Department of Health guidance related to COVID-19, including:
  • Maintaining a distance of six feet between people;
  • Ensuring employees practice appropriate hygiene measures, including regular, thorough handwashing;
  • Ensuring that employees who are sick remain home; and
  • Regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Further, all public and private enterprises must post appropriate notices for compliance with the above-listed recommendations.
 
IRS Extends Federal Tax Filing Date
The U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced March 21 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. (Previous posts announced that only payments were extended, this is an update providing a filing extension).

Vermont Taxes:
The Vermont Department of Taxes is in discussions with the Governor’s Office and Vermont Legislature about various upcoming due dates for personal and corporate income taxes, as well as certain business taxes. The Department is looking to provide guidance as soon as possible, please check back to this Update page or this Department of Taxes page frequently for any updates in this fast-moving situation.

 

03.20.2020

Vermont Receives Disaster Declaration
On March 20, the Federal Government approved Governor Scott’s request for a disaster declaration. Click here to read the announcement from Governor Scott.
 
This means that Vermont businesses that have had adverse impacts due to COVID-19 are eligible to apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

ACEDC advises businesses to keep in mind:

  • If you completed and submitted an SBA assessment form and submitted it to commerce.covid19@vermont.gov, that form was to help Vermont get a disaster declaration, it was not a loan application. If you want to request SBA assistance, you must register and apply using the links above.  
  • SBA Disaster Loans are debt. It is not free money.
  • Not all businesses will be eligible.
  • There will likely be other State and Federal programs available. 
Before applying for an SBA loan, businesses should consult their accountants or business advisor. If you need technical assistance, please contact:
  • Sarah Kearns, Vermont Small Business Development Center Advisor for Addison County. (802)771-5820, skearns@vtsbdc.org, or
  • Fred Kenney, Addison County Economic Development Corporation. (802)777-8349, fkenney@addisoncountyedc.org
Congress Approves Families First Coronavirus Response Act
On March 18, 2020, Congress approved the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), an emergency relief bill providing financial support to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  It is anticipated the new law will take effect within 15 days, or on April 2. The FFCRA contains a number of provisions related to leave from employment, COVID-19 testing, unemployment benefits, and nutrition and food assistance programs. 

Fact Sheet on the FFCRA Bill

Fact Sheet on Emergency Paid Sick and Family Leave

Tax Credits for Paid Leave
The FFCRA further provides that employers may recapture benefits paid towards emergency paid sick leave or expanded FMLA protections through a refundable tax credit, applied against the employer’s Federal Insurance Contribution Act (or “FICA”) taxes.  The extent of these credits aligns with the amounts to be paid to eligible employees. In other words, for those employees eligible to receive emergency paid sick leave benefits up to $511 per day, the employer may claim a credit up to $511 per employee per day, and for those employees eligible to receive emergency paid sick leave or expanded FMLA benefits up to $200 per day, the employer may claim a credit up to $200 per employee per day.  These credits can be claimed by employers each quarter.    
 
IRS Extends Due Date for Federal Income Tax Payments:
The Treasury Department and IRS are extending the due date for Federal income tax payments due April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, for payments due of up to $10 million for corporations and up to $1 million for individuals - regardless of filing status – and other unincorporated entities. Associated interest, additions to tax, and penalties for late payment will also be suspended until July 15, 2020. The IRS established a special webpage on IRS.gov/coronavirus to include all of the available tax-related information. Treasury News Release:  Treasury and IRS Issue Guidance on Deferring Tax Payments Due to COVID-19 Outbreak

VT Department of Labor Improves Access to File Initial Unemployment Claims
The Vermont Department of Labor has launched an online portal for employees who may be eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits as a result of COVID-19. This new process means initial unemployment insurance claims can now be filed online.

The Vermont Department of Labor also recently created a set of COVID-19 FAQs for Employers and Employees. New updates will be posted on the Department of Labor website. If you have specific questions, you may wish to contact the Vermont Department of Labor Employer Services line at 802 828-4344. Please understand that they are experiencing high call volume. 
 
Childcare information (courtesy of Let’s Grow Kids)
The State is coordinating to match essential workers with available childcare spaces (which are available only for essential workers). The form to file with the State of Vermont for “Essential Workers” requiring childcare can be found here.

You can check out the let’s Grow Kids  COVID-19 resources webpage daily for updates:

  • For early childhood educators: Click HERE for updated information on managing child care program closure, financing during the closure period, and how to support your staff during this time.
  • For families with young children: Click HERE for resources to help you meet your family’s needs during this time and information on how to talk to your kids about COVID-19.
  • For employers: Click HERE for information on how to support your employees while child care programs are closed.

 

03.18.2020

The Vermont Department of Labor
 
The Vermont Department of Labor has added a second phone line and the ability to file an online form for initiating unemployment claims. Click here for more information. 
 
URGENT REQUEST:
The Agency of Commerce and Community Development is currently seeking manufacturers and construction companies with a supply of N95 face-masks to consider assisting in the state’s response to the COVID-19 virus by making these masks available to healthcare providers immediately.N95 face-masks are a critical tool needed to ensure our healthcare professionals are able to provide care to those most impacted by the virus. These masks have become increasingly difficult to procure and are urgently needed in our healthcare facilities. ACCD understands that many manufacturers, construction companies, and others utilize these masks in a variety of tasks.
 
What should you do?
If your company is able to support the state’s response to COVID-19 in this way,
please contact the State Emergency Operations Center as soon as possible at (800) 347-0488.
 
Business Impact and SBA Loans
Governor Scott has declared a State of Emergency and the federal government, through the SBA, can provide Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) to businesses. However, the Governor must demonstrate that enough small businesses in a disaster area have suffered substantial economic injury as a result of the disaster. This can include: economic injury; supply chain disruption; workforce disruption (including that caused by lack of childcare); business travel; visitor travel and tourism activities; remote work capabilities.
 
What should you do?
Complete an SBA assessment form, available on the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) website and return it to commerce.covid19@vermont.gov as soon as possible. This will assist the Administration to advocate for eligibility for the State. Please also copy ACEDC so we can continue to advocate for businesses in our region. 
 
Labor Guidance
The Department of Labor is updating guidance for Employers and Employees daily, including information on the potential impact on unemployment insurance benefits, employee sick-time and other issues as a result of COVID-19. 
 
What should you do? 
Check The Department of Labor website often for the latest information.
 
Additional Business Resources:
  • Vt Small Business Development Center: Sarah Kearns, Addison County Advisor, (802)771-5820 or skearns@vtsbdc.org
  • ACCD COVID-19 hotline: (802) 461-5143. Staffed Monday through Friday, 7:45 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. 
  • Unemployment Insurance Info: UI Employer Services - 802-828-4344 
 
Potential Vermont Legislation 
The House passed H.681 to provide relief to employers regarding Unemployment Insurance rates and employees in regards to unemployment benefits. The bill is now in the Senate for consideration.
 
What can you do?
Contact Senators Christopher Bray and Ruth Hardy to ask for their support for this bill. 

 

03.17.2020

GOVERNOR PHIL SCOTT ANNOUNCES NEW GUIDANCE ON COVID-19 COMMUNITY MITIGATION MEASURES, INCLUDING THAT ALL BARS AND RESTAURANTS MUST CLOSE OR OFFER TAKEOUT ONLY.

Effective at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Governor Scott has ordered the closure of all bars and restaurants statewide. Establishments can continue to offer food takeout and delivery service. This measure is effective beginning 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 17 and is in effect until April 6, though this could be extended. 

Details on the specific actions taken are outlined in the Governor’s Executive Order, which is available by clicking here. Addendum 1, reducing gathering size, is available by clicking here and Addendum 2, closing bars and restaurants are available by clicking here.

See the full press release

 

03.15.2020

The Federal Government has made $30 billion available through the SBA to qualifying businesses and the State of Vermont is also working on programs to help businesses. 

Please review this information for businesses from the Vermont Agency of Commerce and help the Administration access negative business impacts through the email address: commerce.covid19@vermont.gov.   

Businesses with questions about how the Governor’s Executive Order might impact them directly (for instance…do I need to cancel an event?) should contact the State Emergency Operations Center directly at 800-347-0488.
 
Please feel free to also contact ACEDC with any business-related questions. If you send information to the Agency of Commerce or complete the SBA assessment, please copy ACEDC so we can track your information and advocate on your behalf. 
 
 
 
COVID-19 BUSINESS UPDATE – 3/13/20

As a follow up to the Governor’s Executive Order, the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) and the Department of Labor are assessing and responding to the community impacts of COVID-19 on Vermont businesses.

First and foremost, ACCD and the Department of Labor urge all businesses and their employees to follow the latest guidance from the Vermont Department of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  The most current information can be found here: healthvermont.gov/COVID-19

Department of Labor Guidance 

The Department of Labor will be issuing guidance for Employers and Employees, including information on the potential impact on unemployment insurance benefits, employee sick-time and other issues as a result of COVID-19. More information and further updates can be found at labor.vermont.gov.

Business Impact and SBA Loans

ACCD is asking any Vermont business impacted by the response to the COVID-19 virus to share these impacts with the Agency through a dedicated email address: commerce.covid19@vermont.gov.

In addition, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act recently passed by Congress expanded the Small Business Act’s definition of a disaster to include Coronavirus (COVID-19).  As a result, the SBA will be able to provide Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) under a Governor’s Certification Disaster Declaration. In order for the SBA to consider an EIDL declaration, the Governor must demonstrate that at least five small businesses in a disaster area have suffered substantial economic injury as a result of the disaster. 

The Agency is working to identify businesses that meet the Small Business Administration’s threshold for SBA disaster loan assistance. Businesses are asked to complete an assessment form (available on the ACCD website at https://accd.vermont.gov/content/sba-worksheet) and return it to commerce.covid19@vermont.gov as soon as possible to help us advocate for eligibility. Our goal is to gain information in each of the 14 counties across the state.  We are looking for data on impacts in the following areas:
  • Economic Injury
  • Supply Chain
  • Workforce (Including that caused by lack of childcare)
  • Business Travel
  • Visitor Travel and Tourism Activities
  • Remote Work Capabilities
The Agency has also established a hotline so that businesses may call to report impacts and be directed to resources: (802) 461-5143. The hotline will be staffed Monday through Friday, 7:45 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. 
 
Stay Up to Date
 
ACCD and the Department of Labor are working to keep you updated whenever new information becomes available.  We encourage you to sign-up for our Business and Economic Response to COVID-19 Newsletter.

For more information on Unemployment Insurance:
UI Employer Services - 802-828-4344

For general Department of Labor Questions:
Department of Labor Commissioner’s Office – labor.commissioner@vermont.gov

 

03.13.2020

Addison County's small businesses are experiencing and will continue to experience a significant decrease in business amidst this public health emergency and the disruptions expected this Summer. Our local small businesses are critical to the region's economy. We urge everyone to follow the Vermont Department of Health recommendations. But, please support our local businesses in whatever way you can! Many retailers are able to take orders over the phone and either ship or coordinate a local pickup/delivery. Several have online stores and most of our local restaurants offer takeout. Or, you can call (or go online in some cases) and purchase gift cards to use at a later time-- this brings much-needed revenue into the business right now and gives you the flexibility of when to spend it. Think of how important our businesses are to our community and give them a call if you have any questions about how to continue to support them during these challenging times!

Addison County Economic Development CorporationAddison County Chamber of CommerceBetter Middlebury PartnershipBristol Core and Vergennes Partnership

 

03.12.2020

At ACEDC we are concerned first about the health and safety of our friends and neighbors in Addison County and want to do everything we can to promote activities that will slow the spread of this virus.  Please look at the links below and take precautions early rather than late.  We realize that the coronavirus will have a disruptive impact on businesses and individuals in our region.  We believe getting informed and being prepared is the best defense.
 
To help you rationally prepare, here is some information from official sources, most of which is being updated daily:'
 
For everyone:
Vermont Department of Health: 2019 Novel Coronavirus 
UVM/Porter Hospital: Coronavirus
 
For businesses and Employers:
U.S. CDC (regularly updated webpage): Guidance for Business Response
Vt Department of Health Poster for Employers: Stop the Spread of Germs
 
At ACEDC we are evaluating our response based on a position of protecting the health and safety of our employees, members, and the public. We are encouraging remote work, avoiding large gatherings, and advising people to stay home if sick and attend meetings remotely when possible. We are evaluating each of our workshops and events on a case-by-case basis and will inform you if we are canceling events.  
 
ACEDC will be working with our regional partners throughout this event and will coordinate responses with appropriate partners when everything settles down. Watch out for your neighbors and remember our local businesses, especially downtown Middlebury who now will need to get through a severely reduced customer base this Spring as well as the construction disruption this Summer.     
 
Please keep ACEDC informed (FKENNEY@ADDISONCOUNTYEDC.ORG) about any impact on your business due to this pandemic, including supply shortages, supply chain disruptions, the severe decline in sales/customers, or other negative impacts. State and Federal government organizations often come to us asking about impacts as they prepare to deploy programs. For example, the U.S. SBA may deploy small business disaster loans
 
We are here to help make sure you and your business continue to operate as smoothly as possible through this outbreak. Please let us know if there is any way ACEDC can help.