In Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Restaurant Zoom Call Documents:


Governor Lamont’s administration released rules for businesses under the first phase of CT’s Reopening plans amid COVID-19. The first phase–which includes the business sectors specified below–is currently planned to take effect beginning May 20.

Documents containing the rules for the first phase of reopening have been published on the state’s coronavirus website – ct.gov/coronavirus – and are available to download directly at these links:
In tandem with the release of this guidance, DECD Commissioner David Lehman announced that his office is launching an ad hoc task force that will provide support to small businesses on how to implement these new regulations.
The Reopen Connecticut Small Business Implementation Task Force will be chaired by Lyle Wray of the Capitol Region Council of Governments. Other members will include:
  • Cindy Bombard, Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce
  • Joe Brennan, Connecticut Business and Industry Association
  • Nancy Cowser, seCTer
  • Joe Ercolano, Small Business Development Center
  • Cathy Graves, New Haven Small Business Academy
  • David Griggs, MetroHartford Alliance
  • Kim Hawkins, HEDCO
  • Larry McHugh, Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce
  • Patrick McMahon, CT Main Street
  • Julio Mendoza, Spanish American Merchant Association
  • Dan Onofrio, Bridgeport Regional Business Council
  • Fran Pastore, Women’s Business Development Council
  • Garrett Sheehan, Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce
  • Tony Sheridan, Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut
  • Lynn Ward, Waterbury Regional Chamber of Commerce

City of New London

The City of New London understands that there is a tremendous amount of uncertainly during these difficult times. The Administration and Office of Economic  Development will continue to gather up the latest information and post the information below. The following websites are useful tools like information on disaster relief loan programs, restaurants that that are still delivering and even surveys for the state to understands the magnitude of this pandemic.

Small Business Relief Help Center:

Economic Impact Survey:

City of New London Relief Website:


Useful Links to help navigate you to the source of information

SBA Relief Programs:

CT State Department of Economic & Community Development:

AdvanceCT: Connecticut Economic Development Partners


Local & Municipal Resources

New London Main Street: Community Partner on helping our Downtown Waterfront District

Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce

Women’s Business Development Council:

Southeastern CT Enterprise Region (seCTer)

Office of Economic Development & Planning


Federal Stimulus Package: Cares Act Summary

The Senate has passed a roughly $2 trillion coronavirus response bill intended to speed relief across the American economy. This is the third aid package from Congress and is meant to keep businesses and individuals afloat during an unprecedented freeze on the majority of American life.

Helpful Website:


Small Business Relief Programs (note: information changes daily)

Small Business Relief Grants

PPP: The Paycheck Protection Program

This program prioritizes millions of Americans employed by small businesses by authorizing up to $349 billion toward job retention and certain other expenses. Small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations, Veterans organizations, and Tribal businesses described in the Small Business Act, as well as individuals who are self-employed or are independent contractors, are eligible if they also meet program size standards.

Helpful Link for: (Overview, application, frequently asked questions, and lenders)

Check List:

Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Advance Notice: New Eligibility

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, small business owners in all U.S. states, Washington D.C., and territories were able to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance of up to $10,000. This advance is designed to provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. This loan advance will not have to be repaid.

SBA has resumed processing EIDL applications that were submitted before the portal stopped accepting new applications on April 15 and will be processing these applications on a first-come, first-served basis. SBA will begin accepting new Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance applications on a limited basis only to provide relief to U.S. agricultural businesses.

The new eligibility is made possible as a result of the latest round of funds appropriated by Congress in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Agricultural businesses includes those businesses engaged in the production of food and fiber, ranching, and raising of livestock, aquaculture, and all other farming and agricultural related industries (as defined by section 18(b) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 647(b)).

At this time, only agricultural business applications will be accepted due to limitations in funding availability and the unprecedented submission of applications already received. Applicants who have already submitted their applications will continue to be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. For agricultural businesses that submitted an EIDL application through the streamlined application portal prior to the legislative change, SBA will process these applications without the need for re-applying.

To apply for a disaster loan unrelated to COVID-19, please go to https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/


Arts, Culture, and Community Funding


Hospitality

  • Restaurant workers, gig workers and other hourly workers are facing unprecedented economic hardship from the coronavirus crisis.  It’s our turn to serve them.

https://ofwemergencyfund.org/

https://ofwemergencyfund.org/ayuda

Another Round, Another Rally :

Hospitality workers are facing unprecedented hardships, but Another Round Another Rally is here to help. If you are a chef, server, bartender, dishwasher, sommelier, manager or someone who holds any other type of hospitality role, we’re here to lend a hand.

We’re offering $500 relief grants for hospitality workers who lost their jobs or had their hours slashed in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. We’re also collecting donations from community members willing to help their hospitality-industry friends and neighbors stay afloat in this time of uncertainty. Due to a high volume of applicants, we pause our applications from 5pm PST Friday to 9am PST Monday so that our team vetting applications has a chance to catch up. To apply for a grant or make a donation, use the links below.

Restaurant Worker’s Community Fund:

HOW DO INDIVIDUAL RESTAURANT WORKERS APPLY FOR DIRECT CRISIS RELIEF?

Individuals seeking RWCF’s direct assistance should go to the Southern Smoke Application Form to submit their information and needs. Please note that Southern Smoke will evaluate each case based on the state of an applicant’s emergency, prioritizing issues like medical needs.

Southern Smoke is a nonprofit 501c3 charitable foundation. Our Emergency Relief Program provides emergency funding to those employed by or own restaurants or bars or are employed by a restaurant or bar supplier that are faced unforeseen expenses that cannot or will not be covered by insurance. We stand with those in our community and are committed to “taking care of our own”.

The PBA COVID-19 Relief Fund:

With generous support from our industry partners, the Professional Beauty Association (PBA) and PBA Charities have created a new fund to help our industry during this unprecedented crisis.

Will provide $500 to licensed beauty professionals who are unable to work due to COVID-19. The funding, if awarded to you, is intended to be emergency aid for short-term immediate needs such as food and bills.


Bartender Emergency Assistance Program


The Day: Free Multimedia Advertising Packages

The Day has played an integral role in our community for the past 139 years, and continues to do so each and every day. Our journalistic commitment is unwavering, but we also recognize now as a time we can help businesses as they face the challenges of this unprecedented COVID-19 crisis.

They are now offering free multimedia advertising packages to help businesses get the word out to their customers.

  • No hook. No gimmick.
  • Just support when your business needs it.
  • By taking advantage of this free offer*, you will receive:
    • Two B&W print ads (2 col x 3″) in The Day or a Times weekly publication of your choice
    • 20,000 impressions on theday.com (300x250px, 728x90px)

Fill out this form to get started.

A media consultant will follow up, assisting you with the messaging and creation of your print ad for The Day or one of our weekly Times publications, along with your digital ad on theday.com.


FEDERAL FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE– Traditional Capital Access and Taxes

SBA Loans

Regular capital loans – SBA provides a number of loan resources for small businesses to utilize when operating their business. For more information on loans or how to connect with a lender, visit: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans

  1. 7(a) program offers loan amounts up to $5,000,000 and is an all-inclusive loan program deployed by lending partners for eligible small businesses within the U.S. States and its territories. The uses of proceeds include: working capital; expansion/renovation; new construction; purchase of land or buildings; purchase of equipment, fixtures; lease-hold improvements; refinancing debt for compelling reasons; seasonal line of credit; inventory; or starting a business.
  2. Express loan program provides loans up to $350,000 for no more than 7 years with an option to revolve. There is a turnaround time of 36 hours for approval or denial of a completed application. The uses of proceeds are the same as the standard 7(a) loan.
  3. Community Advantage loan pilot program allows mission-based lenders to assist small businesses in underserved markets with a maximum loan size of $250,000. The uses of proceeds are the same as the standard 7(a) loan.
  4. 504 loan program is designed to foster economic development and job creation and/or retention. The eligible use of proceeds is limited to the acquisition or eligible refinance of fixed assets.
  5. Microloan program involves making loans through nonprofit lending organizations to underserved markets. Authorized use of loan proceeds includes working capital, supplies, machinery & equipment, and fixtures (does not include real estate). The maximum loan amount is $50,000 with the average loan size of $14,000.
  6. Exporting Assistance – SBA provides export loans to help small businesses achieve sales through exports and can help these businesses respond to opportunities and challenges associated with trade, such as COVID-19. The loans are available to U.S. small businesses that export directly overseas, or those that export indirectly by selling to a customer that then exports their products.
  7. Export Express loan program allows access to capital quickly for businesses that need financing up to $500,000. Businesses can apply for a line of credit or term note prior to finalizing an export sale or while pursuing opportunities overseas, such as identifying a new overseas customer should an export sale be lost due to COVID-19.
  8. Export Working Capital program enables small businesses to fulfill export orders and finance international sales by providing revolving lines of credit or transaction-based financing of up to $5 million. Businesses could use a loan to obtain or retain overseas customers by offering attractive payment terms.
  9. International Trade loan program helps small businesses engaged in international trade to retool or expand to better compete and react to changing business conditions. It can also help exporting firms to expand their sales to new markets or to re-shore operations back to the U.S.

IRS RELIEF (Taxes)

Federal Tax Filing Extensions: The Internal Revenue Service has extended deadline for filing and payments to July 15, 2020. 2019 Taxpayers will get a three-month reprieve to file and pay the income taxes they owe up to $1 million in tax Corporate filers would get the same length of time to pay amounts due on up to $10 million in taxes owed. There is also guidance on high deductible health plan and cost related to the COVID19. The IRS will continue to monitor issues related to the COVID-19 virus, and updated information will be posted on a special coronavirus page on IRS.gov.


FEDERAL ASSISTANCE FOR COVID-19

  • LEGISLATION– There are over 130 bills that have been introduced in the 116th Congress that relate to COVID19.

Passed into law

  • PUBLIC LAW 116-123 (R.6074), titled: “Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020”. The programs funded by the bill address issues that include loans for affected small businesses. This bill provides $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • PUBLIC LAW 116-123 (R. 6201), titled: “FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT” – the bill under Division A, Title II includes $5 million for the Department of Labor to administer the emergency paid sick days program. Under Division D – creates a new federal emergency paid leave benefits program as Title VI of the Social Security Act. Under Division E – provides $1 billion in 2020 for emergency grants to states for activities related to processing and paying unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, under certain conditions.

The Act will take effect not later than 15 days after the date of its enactment.

Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act

From the effective date of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act through December 31, 2020:

  • Eligible employees are entitled to take 12 workweeks of leave if they are unable to work due to a need for leave to care for the son or daughter under 18 years of age of such employee if the school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID-19.
  • To be eligible for this leave, an employee need only have been employed for at least 30 calendar days.
  • The first 10 days of leave may be unpaid, unless the employee elects to substitute available accrued vacation, sick or personal leave.
  • After the initial 10 days, an employer must provide paid leave at a rate of 2/3 of the employee’s regular rate of pay for the number of hours the employee would otherwise be normally scheduled to work, but only up to $200 per day and $10,000 in total.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act

Under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave provisions of the law, full time employees will be entitled to 80 hours of paid sick leave for certain qualifying reasons outlined below. Part-time employees will be eligible for paid leave for a number of hours equal to the number of hours that such employee works, on average, over a 2-week period.

The Paid Sick Leave is available where an employee is unable to work because:

  1. The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.
  2. The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
  3. The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
  4. The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to an order as described in subparagraph (1) or has been advised as described in paragraph (2).
  5. The employee is caring for a son or daughter of such employee if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions.
  6. The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.

Paid sick leave is calculated based on the employee’s regular compensation, except that it is capped at $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate for a use described in sections (1), (2), or (3) above; and $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate for a use described in sections (4), (5), or (6) of section 5102(a). An employer may not require an employee to use other available paid leave prior to using this sick time.

Employers will be required to post a notice concerning this law in a conspicuous location. A model notice shall be prepared by the Secretary of Labor.


STATE OF CONNECTICUT – ASSISTANCE FOR COVID-19

The State of CT Department of Economic and Community Development – The state, working with its federal partners, has several programs and initiatives in place to assist businesses during this difficult period.

DECD’s COVID-19 Business Emergency Response Unit: The Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) has created a COVID-19 Business Emergency Response Unit dedicated to assisting businesses navigate resources and develop new resources. For specific questions related to small business, email the Joint Information Center at COVID19.JIC@ct.gov, or call the DECD small business hotline at 860-500-2333. Individuals can call 2-1-1 for more informationFor the most updated information, check ct.gov/coronavirus.com. For information on business resources DECD Portal

  • Legislation
    • There is no legislation pending at this time
  • Financial Assistance
  • Economic and Manufacturing Assistance Act (MAA): This act makes available low-interest loans and incentive-driven direct loans for projects when there is a strong economic development potential. Funding may be used for purchase of equipment, furniture and fixtures, construction, leasehold improvements, training and other eligible project-related activities.
  • Minority Business Revolving Loan Fund: This fund provides loans and lines of credit to Connecticut businesses owned by minorities and/or women. Through this program, eligible applicants can apply for term loans and lines of credit from $10,000 to $100,000 with a fixed interest rate of 4%.
  • Department of Labor Programs:
    1. Unemployment Benefits is temporary income for workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own and who are either looking for new jobs, in approved training, or awaiting recall to employment. The funding for unemployment insurance benefits comes from taxes paid by employers. Workers do not pay any of the costs. To qualify for unemployment benefits, you must have earned sufficient wages during a specified time (monetary eligibility). To collect benefits, you must meet certain legal eligibility requirements. For more information on COVID-19 unemployment questions: http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/DOLCOVIDFAQ.PDF
    2. Shared Work program to CT Business that offers an alternative to laying off of employees. The Shared Work Program helps to save jobs and retain skilled workers. The program allows employers to temporarily reduce employee hours and supplement lost wages with the help of partial unemployment benefits. Under the program, all employers with two or more employees can participate. When business upturns, employees resume regular hours and employers are able to ramp up quickly with an experienced team in place.

For more information please Call: 860.263.6660. People can also make inquiries by email: DOL.SharedWork@ct.gov

  1. Connecticut Insurance Department:
    • Business Interruption Insurance: A business interruption insurance policy should list or describe the types of events it covers. Events that are not described in the policy are typically not covered. It is important to review the policy exclusions, coverage limits, and applicable deductibles with your agent, broker or insurer. The Connecticut Insurance Department has an FAQ that provides more information.
  1. Access Health Connecticut (AHCT)
    • AHCT is Connecticut’s official health insurance marketplace is now enrolling residents for healthcare coverage.It was established to meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare), and created to help people shop and enroll in the health insurance plan that is right for their needs. Based on their annual income, individuals can see what type of Financial Help is available to help them buy health insurance.

This special enrollment period ends April 2nd. Connecticut residents can call 855.365.2428 to sign up for healthcare coverage.

  1. Other Statewide/Regional Lending Partners
  1. Community Economic Development Fund (CEDF): provides loans and technical assistance to Connecticut small business owners, primarily in low-to-moderate income communities, who are not able to obtain traditional bank financing.
  1. Connecticut Community Investment Corporation (CTCIC): provides access to capital that may not be available elsewhere as well as financing opportunities for expanding businesses looking to purchase real estate and/or machinery and equipment.
  • BDC Capital: pools money from many financial institutions to share the risks of helping promising companies expand. BDC Capital provides financial assistance with loans, mezzanine and equity investments, guarantees, and financial services to businesses of every type and description.
  • Other Statewide Small Business Help
    1. The Women’s Business Development Council (WBDC)is converting its entrepreneurial programs and business counseling to virtual classrooms via Zoom or on-demand webinars. You can find all the information you need on the website, https://ctwbdc.org. WBDC is also prepared to assist clients who will apply for the SBA Small Business Disaster Relief Loan (hot link). Please contact us at info@ctwbdc.org
  • Economic Impact Assessment

The Department of Economic & Community Development (DECD) and the City of Stamford are conducting a survey to better understand the economic impact on local businesses.

Please take time today and fill out the “Economic Injury Worksheet” found online. Under the “Estimated Adverse Economic Impact” we are requesting businesses calculate loses on a


HAVE YOU BEEN LAID OFF AND NEED INSURANCE? COMPARE PRICES TO YOUR COBRA PLAN

Access Health CT, is the official Connecticut State marketplace for health insurance under Obamacare. You can use Access Health CT to apply for cost-assistance, compare prices of plans, change plans, and enroll in a plan that best suits you, your family or your small business.

As the Coronavirus crisis continues, Access Health CT (AHCT) announced a NEW Special Enrollment Period for qualified uninsured Connecticut residents. (Normally the only time you can enroll is at the end of the calendar year.) This new Special Enrollment period will be open through April 2, 2020. Enrollment is available by phone only. The Access Health call center will be helping people enroll Monday through Friday, from 8am to 5pm. Dial 855-805-4325 (TTY: 1- 855-365-2428) to begin your enrollment.

If you lose your job, you may have a couple of healthcare options – including COBRA continuation coverage. Make sure you check with Access Health CT before choosing COBRA coverage. They may offer a better; less expensive choice for you and your family because they are the only place you can get financial help to pay for your health insurance.

Open Enrollment 2020

Open Enrollment began on November 1, 2019 and ended on January15, 2020. Outside of this time period, you will need to apply for a Special Enrollment Period for health insurance. Enrolling in or changing your healthcare coverage during the year will depend on your personal situation. There are three distinct opportunities that allow you to enroll in healthcare coverage through Access Health CT (AHCT):

  • Enroll any time during the year
    *If you are eligible for federal programs or are a member of a federally recognized ethnic group, you may enroll in health coverage at any point during the year if you need it.
  • Medicaid (HUSKY Health) or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
    *If you qualify for Medicaid (Husky A or D) or CHIP (Husky B), you can enroll any time. Find out if you’re eligible for these programs by entering your household information, including your 2020 projected Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) at AccessHealthCT.com.
  • American Indians and Alaska Natives
    *Members of federally recognized tribes and Alaska Natives can enroll in coverage at any time of the year. They can also change plans or carriers during the year without a Qualifying Life Event.Special Enrollment Period
    If you or someone in your household has a Qualifying Life Event(QLE) during the year, you may be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period. During this time, you can enroll in healthcare coverage through Access Health CT or change your current plan or carrier choice, even outside of the Open Enrollment Period.Qualifying Life Events include:
  • Getting married
  • Having or adopting a child
  • Moving to Connecticut from another state
  • Divorce or Legal Separation
  • Job change
  • Aging off parents’ plan once reaching 26th birthday
  • Expiration of COBRA continuation coverage
  • No longer eligible for Medicaid/HUSKY
  • No longer eligible for Advanced Premium Tax Credits(APTCs) or a Cost-Sharing Reduction (CSR) due to a change in income or household status
  • Decertification of employer provided health plan due to non-compliance with ACA standards
  • Cancellation of employer healthcare coverage for employees of their beneficiaries

How long does the Special Enrollment Period last?
If you have a Qualifying Life Event, your Special Enrollment Period will generally last 60 days from the date of the event. During this time, you can sign up for healthcare coverage or change your plan if you already have coverage.


QUESTIONS ABOUT PAID FMLA / SICK TIME

The federal Department of Labor (DOL) continues to update its Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) FAQ leading up to the April 1, 2020 implementation. Over the past week, the DOL has supplemented the FFCRA FAQ several times to provide guidance and clarifications concerning lingering questions. Some of the recent clarifications we find helpful are below.

Documentation to support emergency FMLA or paid sick leave.

According to the DOL, employees must provide employers with documentation to support emergency FMLA or Paid Sick Leave (PSL). The FFCRA is silent about verifying leave requests, so any guidance is useful. For example, an employee would need to provide a quarantine or isolation order if taking leave for that reason, or a school notice advising of a closure.

Notably, the DOL states an employer is “not required to provide leave if materials sufficient to support the applicable tax credit have not been provided.”

The DOL advises employers to retain employee-provided documentation if they will claim tax credits under FFCRA. The IRS will apparently issue applicable forms and instructions with additional information.

The DOL also advises that “all existing certification requirements under the FMLA remain in effect if you are taking leave for one of the existing qualifying reasons under the FMLA. For example, if you are taking leave beyond the two weeks of emergency paid sick leave because your medical condition for COVID-19-related reasons rises to the level of a serious health condition, you must continue to provide medical certifications under the FMLA if required by your employer.”

When is someone unable to telework?

The emergency FMLA and PSL qualifying events generally require that an employee must be unable to work or telework to qualify for FFCRA leave. The DOL states an employee is unable to telework when an employer provides the employee with work that can be performed at home, but the employee can’t do the work because of one of the FFCRA qualifying reasons. This would include taking care of a child because of a school or child care closure, although the DOL cautions, “to the extent you are able to telework while caring for your child, paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave is not available.”

Note the DOL also states that an employee can telework where the employee and the employer agree that the employee can work the normal number of hours, but outside of the normally scheduled hour (e.g., early in the morning or late at night).

How are “Health Care Provider” and “Emergency Responder” interpreted?

The FFCRA allows employers to exempt “health care provider” and “emergency responder” employees from the emergency FMLA and PSL benefits. FFCRA, however, does not define either term.

The DOL takes an expansive view of “health care provider” for purposes of the exemption as “anyone employed at any doctor’s office, hospital, health care center, clinic, post-secondary educational institution offering health care instruction, medical school, local health department or agency, nursing facility, retirement facility, nursing home, home health care provider, any facility that performs laboratory or medical testing, pharmacy, or any similar institution, employer, or entity. This includes any permanent or temporary institution, facility, location, or site where medical services are provided that are similar to such institutions.” The definition includes “any individual employed by an entity that contracts with any of the above institutions, employers, or entities institutions to provide services or to maintain the operation of the facility. This also includes anyone employed by any entity that provides medical services, produces medical products, or is otherwise involved in the making of COVID-19 related medical equipment, tests, drugs, vaccines, diagnostic vehicles, or treatments. This also includes any individual that the highest official of a state or territory, including the District of Columbia, determines is a health care provider necessary for that state’s or territory’s or the District of Columbia’s response to COVID-19.”

The DOL defines “emergency responder” as “an employee who is necessary for the provision of transport, care, health care, comfort, and nutrition of such patients, or whose services are otherwise needed to limit the spread of COVID-19. This includes but is not limited to military or national guard, law enforcement officers, correctional institution personnel, fire fighters, emergency medical services personnel, physicians, nurses, public health personnel, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, emergency management personnel, 911 operators, public works personnel, and persons with skills or training in operating specialized equipment or other skills needed to provide aid in a declared emergency as well as individuals who work for such facilities employing these individuals and whose work is necessary to maintain the operation of the facility. This also includes any individual that the highest official of a state or territory, including the District of Columbia, determines is an emergency responder necessary for that state’s or territory’s or the District of Columbia’s response to COVID-19.”

When does the small business exception apply?

Employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from providing emergency FMLA or PSL if doing so would jeopardize the viability of the small business as a going concern. A small business may claim this exemption if an “authorized officer” of the business has determined that:

The provision of paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would result in the small business’s expenses and financial obligations exceeding available business revenues and cause the small business to cease operating at a minimal capacity;
The absence of the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would entail a substantial risk to the financial health or operational capabilities of the small business because of their specialized skills, knowledge of the business, or responsibilities; or
There are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, and qualified, and who will be available at the time and place needed, to perform the labor or services provided by the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, and these labor or services are needed for the small business to operate at a minimal capacity.

Until further notice, employers claiming this exemption should document their decision-making process and hold pending further instruction. Do not submit any documents to the DOL.

Intermittent use of PSL or emergency FML. Generally, employees may use emergency FMLA intermittently when teleworking. If, however, an employee is working at the employer’s place of business, the employee may only use intermittent leave with the employer’s permission.
As for PSL, unless an employee is teleworking, PSL must be taken in full-day increments. Practically speaking, employees may only use intermittent emergency PSL if they are caring for a child whose school or daycare provider is closed because of COVID-19 reasons.

Layoffs, Furloughs, and Closures. If an employer closes a worksite on or after April 1 (the FFCRA effective date), but before an employee goes out on leave, the employee is not entitled to PSL or emergency FMLA leave. That point seemed clear prior to the DOL’s guidance.

What happens when an employer closes an employee’s worksite while the employer is on protected FFCRA leave? The employer must pay the employee for benefits used before the employer closed, but as of the date of the worksite closure the employer is no longer liable for FFCRA benefits. This remains true even where the employer intends on reopening in the future.

Are furloughed employees entitled to FFCRA benefits?? The DOL says “no.”

If an employer reduces an employee’s work schedule, can the employee use PSL or emergency FMLA to make up the hours he or she is no longer scheduled to work? No, because the employee is not prevented from working those hours due to a COVID-19 qualifying reason.

Supplementing FFCRA Paid Leave. The DOL says that, absent employer-employee agreement, an employee cannot use preexisting leave entitlements and FFCRA leave at the same time so that the employee can make up the gap between capped FFCRA paid leave and his or her normal wages. Unless an employer agrees to such use, the employee must choose one type of leave. If the employer does allow an employee to supplement FFCRA leave with preexisting leave entitlements, an employer won’t be eligible for FFCRA tax credits on the supplemental paid leave (only the FFCRA paid leave).
Also note that an employer cannot force an employee to supplement FFCRA paid leave with existing paid leave. Any supplement must be agreed upon.

Regular FMLA remains unpaid. The DOL clarified that the only type of paid leave per the Family and Medical Leave Act is the single scenario identified in the FFCRA, i.e., an employee must care for a child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 reasons. So, the usual FMLA qualifying events remain unpaid job-protected leave. Of course, employers must still consider the FFCRA’s emergency PSL. Source: Murtha Cullina Law Offices

March 31 Update:

STATE SALES TAX AND ROOM OCCUPANCY TAX EXTENSIONS

  • Last night, the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services granted small businesses an automatic extension of filing and payment deadlines for state sales and room and occupancy taxes.
  • March and April monthly and quarterly payments are now due May 31, 2020.
    Businesses must have $150,000 or less in annual sales tax or occupancy tax liability—based on the 2019 calendar year—to qualify for the extension.

What small business taxpayers qualify for this relief?

  • Taxpayers that have $150,000 or less in annual Sales Tax liability qualify for an automatic extension of time to file and pay. Similarly, taxpayers that have $150,000 or less in annual Room Occupancy Tax also qualify for this relief. A taxpayer that collects both Sales Tax and Room Occupancy Tax must evaluate each tax separately to determine eligibility for relief.

How does a taxpayer determine if it is a qualified small business?

  • Taxpayers are required to utilize a calendar year look back period of January 1, 2019, through December 31, 2019. Any taxpayer that reported $150,000 or less in tax during that period qualifies for the relief.

What returns are covered by this extension?

  • For monthly Sales Tax and Room Occupancy Tax filers: returns and payments due March 31, 2020, and April 30, 2020, are extended to May 31, 2020.
  • For quarterly Sales Tax and Room Occupancy Tax filers: returns and payments due April 30, 2020, are extended to May, 31, 2020.

Taxpayers who file and pay on or before the extended deadlines will not be subject to any penalties or interest.
More information can be found here: https://portal.ct.gov/DRS/COVID19/DRS-COVID-19-Response-FAQ

QUESTIONS ABOUT PAID FMLA / SICK TIME

The federal Department of Labor (DOL) continues to update its Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) FAQ leading up to the April 1, 2020 implementation. Over the past week, the DOL has supplemented the FFCRA FAQ several times to provide guidance and clarifications concerning lingering questions. Some of the recent clarifications we find helpful are below.

Documentation to support emergency FMLA or paid sick leave.

According to the DOL, employees must provide employers with documentation to support emergency FMLA or Paid Sick Leave (PSL). The FFCRA is silent about verifying leave requests, so any guidance is useful. For example, an employee would need to provide a quarantine or isolation order if taking leave for that reason, or a school notice advising of a closure.

Notably, the DOL states an employer is “not required to provide leave if materials sufficient to support the applicable tax credit have not been provided.”

The DOL advises employers to retain employee-provided documentation if they will claim tax credits under FFCRA. The IRS will apparently issue applicable forms and instructions with additional information.

The DOL also advises that “all existing certification requirements under the FMLA remain in effect if you are taking leave for one of the existing qualifying reasons under the FMLA. For example, if you are taking leave beyond the two weeks of emergency paid sick leave because your medical condition for COVID-19-related reasons rises to the level of a serious health condition, you must continue to provide medical certifications under the FMLA if required by your employer.”

When is someone unable to telework?

The emergency FMLA and PSL qualifying events generally require that an employee must be unable to work or telework to qualify for FFCRA leave. The DOL states an employee is unable to telework when an employer provides the employee with work that can be performed at home, but the employee can’t do the work because of one of the FFCRA qualifying reasons. This would include taking care of a child because of a school or child care closure, although the DOL cautions, “to the extent you are able to telework while caring for your child, paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave is not available.”

Note the DOL also states that an employee can telework where the employee and the employer agree that the employee can work the normal number of hours, but outside of the normally scheduled hour (e.g., early in the morning or late at night).

How are “Health Care Provider” and “Emergency Responder” interpreted?

The FFCRA allows employers to exempt “health care provider” and “emergency responder” employees from the emergency FMLA and PSL benefits. FFCRA, however, does not define either term.

The DOL takes an expansive view of “health care provider” for purposes of the exemption as “anyone employed at any doctor’s office, hospital, health care center, clinic, post-secondary educational institution offering health care instruction, medical school, local health department or agency, nursing facility, retirement facility, nursing home, home health care provider, any facility that performs laboratory or medical testing, pharmacy, or any similar institution, employer, or entity. This includes any permanent or temporary institution, facility, location, or site where medical services are provided that are similar to such institutions.” The definition includes “any individual employed by an entity that contracts with any of the above institutions, employers, or entities institutions to provide services or to maintain the operation of the facility. This also includes anyone employed by any entity that provides medical services, produces medical products, or is otherwise involved in the making of COVID-19 related medical equipment, tests, drugs, vaccines, diagnostic vehicles, or treatments. This also includes any individual that the highest official of a state or territory, including the District of Columbia, determines is a health care provider necessary for that state’s or territory’s or the District of Columbia’s response to COVID-19.”

The DOL defines “emergency responder” as “an employee who is necessary for the provision of transport, care, health care, comfort, and nutrition of such patients, or whose services are otherwise needed to limit the spread of COVID-19. This includes but is not limited to military or national guard, law enforcement officers, correctional institution personnel, fire fighters, emergency medical services personnel, physicians, nurses, public health personnel, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, emergency management personnel, 911 operators, public works personnel, and persons with skills or training in operating specialized equipment or other skills needed to provide aid in a declared emergency as well as individuals who work for such facilities employing these individuals and whose work is necessary to maintain the operation of the facility. This also includes any individual that the highest official of a state or territory, including the District of Columbia, determines is an emergency responder necessary for that state’s or territory’s or the District of Columbia’s response to COVID-19.”

When does the small business exception apply?

Employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from providing emergency FMLA or PSL if doing so would jeopardize the viability of the small business as a going concern. A small business may claim this exemption if an “authorized officer” of the business has determined that:

The provision of paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would result in the small business’s expenses and financial obligations exceeding available business revenues and cause the small business to cease operating at a minimal capacity;
The absence of the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would entail a substantial risk to the financial health or operational capabilities of the small business because of their specialized skills, knowledge of the business, or responsibilities; or
There are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, and qualified, and who will be available at the time and place needed, to perform the labor or services provided by the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, and these labor or services are needed for the small business to operate at a minimal capacity.

Until further notice, employers claiming this exemption should document their decision-making process and hold pending further instruction. Do not submit any documents to the DOL.

Intermittent use of PSL or emergency FML. Generally, employees may use emergency FMLA intermittently when teleworking. If, however, an employee is working at the employer’s place of business, the employee may only use intermittent leave with the employer’s permission.
As for PSL, unless an employee is teleworking, PSL must be taken in full-day increments. Practically speaking, employees may only use intermittent emergency PSL if they are caring for a child whose school or daycare provider is closed because of COVID-19 reasons.

Layoffs, Furloughs, and Closures. If an employer closes a worksite on or after April 1 (the FFCRA effective date), but before an employee goes out on leave, the employee is not entitled to PSL or emergency FMLA leave. That point seemed clear prior to the DOL’s guidance.

What happens when an employer closes an employee’s worksite while the employer is on protected FFCRA leave? The employer must pay the employee for benefits used before the employer closed, but as of the date of the worksite closure the employer is no longer liable for FFCRA benefits. This remains true even where the employer intends on reopening in the future.
Are furloughed employees entitled to FFCRA benefits?? The DOL says “no.”
If an employer reduces an employee’s work schedule, can the employee use PSL or emergency FMLA to make up the hours he or she is no longer scheduled to work? No, because the employee is not prevented from working those hours due to a COVID-19 qualifying reason.

Supplementing FFCRA Paid Leave. The DOL says that, absent employer-employee agreement, an employee cannot use preexisting leave entitlements and FFCRA leave at the same time so that the employee can make up the gap between capped FFCRA paid leave and his or her normal wages. Unless an employer agrees to such use, the employee must choose one type of leave. If the employer does allow an employee to supplement FFCRA leave with preexisting leave entitlements, an employer won’t be eligible for FFCRA tax credits on the supplemental paid leave (only the FFCRA paid leave).
Also note that an employer cannot force an employee to supplement FFCRA paid leave with existing paid leave. Any supplement must be agreed upon.

Regular FMLA remains unpaid. The DOL clarified that the only type of paid leave per the Family and Medical Leave Act is the single scenario identified in the FFCRA, i.e., an employee must care for a child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 reasons. So, the usual FMLA qualifying events remain unpaid job-protected leave. Of course, employers must still consider the FFCRA’s emergency PSL.
Source: Murtha Cullina Law Offices

HAVE YOU BEEN LAID OFF AND NEED INSURANCE? COMPARE PRICES TO YOUR COBRA PLAN

Access Health CT, is the official Connecticut State marketplace for health insurance under Obamacare. You can use Access Health CT to apply for cost-assistance, compare prices of plans, change plans, and enroll in a plan that best suits you, your family or your small business.

As the Coronavirus crisis continues, Access Health CT (AHCT) announced a NEW Special Enrollment Period for qualified uninsured Connecticut residents. (Normally the only time you can enroll is at the end of the calendar year.) This new Special Enrollment period will be open through April 2, 2020. Enrollment is available by phone only. The Access Health call center will be helping people enroll Monday through Friday, from 8am to 5pm. Dial 855-805-4325 (TTY: 1- 855-365-2428) to begin your enrollment.

If you lose your job, you may have a couple of healthcare options – including COBRA continuation coverage. Make sure you check with Access Health CT before choosing COBRA coverage. They may offer a better, less expensive choice for you and your family because they are the only place you can get financial help to pay for your health insurance.

Open Enrollment 2020

Open Enrollment began on November 1, 2019 and ended on January15, 2020. Outside of this time period, you will need to apply for a Special Enrollment Period for health insurance. Enrolling in or changing your healthcare coverage during the year will depend on your personal situation. There are three distinct opportunities that allow you to enroll in healthcare coverage through Access Health CT (AHCT):

  • Enroll any time during the year
    *If you are eligible for federal programs or are a member of a federally recognized ethnic group, you may enroll in health coverage at any point during the year if you need it.
  • Medicaid (HUSKY Health) or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
    *If you qualify for Medicaid (Husky A or D) or CHIP (Husky B), you can enroll any time. Find out if you’re eligible for these programs by entering your household information, including your 2020 projected Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) at AccessHealthCT.com.
  • American Indians and Alaska Natives
    *Members of federally recognized tribes and Alaska Natives can enroll in coverage at any time of the year. They can also change plans or carriers during the year without a Qualifying Life Event.Special Enrollment Period
    If you or someone in your household has a Qualifying Life Event(QLE) during the year, you may be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period. During this time, you can enroll in healthcare coverage through Access Health CT or change your current plan or carrier choice, even outside of the Open Enrollment Period.Qualifying Life Events include:
  • Getting married
  • Having or adopting a child
  • Moving to Connecticut from another state
  • Divorce or Legal Separation
  • Job change
  • Aging off parents’ plan once reaching 26th birthday
  • Expiration of COBRA continuation coverage
  • No longer eligible for Medicaid/HUSKY
  • No longer eligible for Advanced Premium Tax Credits(APTCs) or a Cost-Sharing Reduction (CSR) due to a change in income or household status
  • Decertification of employer provided health plan due to non-compliance with ACA standards
  • Cancellation of employer healthcare coverage for employees of their beneficiaries

Cancellation of employer contributions toward coverage

How long does the Special Enrollment Period last?
If you have a Qualifying Life Event, your Special Enrollment Period will generally last 60 days from the date of the event. During this time, you can sign up for healthcare coverage or change your plan if you already have coverage.

MORTGAGE PAYMENT RELIEF FOR 90 DAYS

Governor Ned Lamont today announced that his administration has reached an agreement with over 50 credit unions and banks in Connecticut to offer mortgage relief to the state’s residents and businesses who continue to face hardship caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Under the agreement, the following relief policies are being offered by participating financial institutions:

  • 90-day grace period for all mortgage payments: Participating financial institutions are now offering mortgage-payment forbearances of up to 90 days, which will allow homeowners to reduce or delay monthly mortgage payments. In addition, the institutions will:
    • Provide a streamlined process for requesting forbearance for COVID-19-related reasons, supported with available documentation;
    • Confirm approval and terms of forbearance program; and
  • Provide the opportunity to extend forbearance agreements if faced with continued hardship resulting from COVID-19.
  • Relief from fees and charges for 90 days: For at least 90 days, participating financial institutions will waive or refund mortgage-related late fees and other fees including early CD withdrawals.
  • No new foreclosures for 60 days: Financial institutions will not start any foreclosure sales or evictions.
  • No credit score changes for accessing relief: For those taking advantage of this COVID-19-related relief, late or missed payments will not be shared with credit reporting agencies.

How do I get mortgage relief and/or forbearance?
You should contact and work directly with your mortgage servicer to learn about and apply for available relief. Please note that financial institutions and their servicers are experiencing high volumes of inquiries.

How long will the forbearance last?
Participating financial institutions are now offering mortgage-payment forbearances of up to 90 days, which will allow homeowners to reduce or delay monthly mortgage payments.

What effect will this have on my credit report?
Financial institutions will not report derogatory information (e.g., late payments) to credit reporting agencies but may report a forbearance, which typically does not alone negatively affect a credit score.

How long will these programs last?
It is still unclear how severe or how long the COVID-19 impacts will be. Financial institutions have committed to necessary relief and will be assessing the ongoing conditions and necessity of continuing relief.

What if my financial institution isn’t offering this relief?
At this time, Webster Bank, American Eagle Financial Credit Union, Liberty Bank, Charter Oak Federal Credit Union, Bank of America, Nutmeg State Financial Credit Union, and Peoples United Bank, in addition to over 50 other federal and state-chartered banks, credit unions, and servicers are supporting these commitments. The state will welcome any other institution that would like to meet the moment and provide much-needed financial relief to Connecticut residents. The Department of Banking will publish a list of participating financial institutions on its website in the coming days.

What if I already made a payment or was hit with a fee because of COVID-19?
These measures go into effect as of March 31, 2020.

Is the mortgage relief available to businesses?
The relief is currently only available for residential mortgages.

What if my mortgage servicer is not communicative or cooperative?
You can file a complaint with the Department of Banking through the complaint form on the department website or by contacting the department at 860-240-8299 or 1-800-831-7225 (9:00 am to 5:00 pm EST Monday through Friday).

What impact does the CARES Act have?
The CARES Act has important protections for renters and homeowners. In particular, homeowners with mortgage loans that are backed by the federal government through the FHA, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, or other agencies can receive significant forbearance.

How about commercial loans and commercial mortgages?
Commercial loan or commercial mortgage customers should know that all financial institutions are working proactively with each commercial borrower experiencing challenges. Any bank or credit union commercial customer having financial difficulty, whether for-profit or nonprofit, should call their financial institution as soon as possible. Several important governmental actions have and will provide relief to businesses.

March 20 Update:

  • Permits certain restaurants and other eating establishments to sell alcohol with take-out food orders under certain conditions: The order permits any business with an active restaurant, café or tavern liquor permit issued by the Department of Consumer Protection to sell sealed containers of alcoholic liquor for pick up at such restaurant, café or tavern under the following conditions: (i) the sale shall accompany a pick-up order of food prepared on the premises; (ii) the type of alcoholic liquor sold for off-premise consumption shall be the same as what the permit type would have permitted for on-premise consumption prior to Executive Order 7D, and (iii) the hours of such sales that include alcoholic liquor as part of the take-out order shall be the same as those for a package store. Delivery of alcoholic liquor by licensees with these permit types is not permitted. Businesses with manufacturing permits, such as craft breweries and similar establishments, may sell alcohol for off-premise consumption according to the existing terms of their permits.
  • Directs the temporary closure of barbershops, hair salons, tattoo or piercing parlors, and related businesses: Effective at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, March 20, 2020, the order directs the temporary closure to the public of all establishments rendering services by barbers, hairdressers and cosmeticians, nail technicians, electrologists, estheticians, eyelash technicians, and tattoo and piercing providers, including, but not limited to, barbershops, beauty shops, hairdressing salons, nail salons, spas, kiosks, and tattoo or piercing establishments. The commissioner of Public Health may issue any order she deems necessary to implement or modify such prohibition.