News/Press Releases March 30-April 5, 2020

 

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April 3, 2020

4/3 VA Gov. Northam COVID-19 Update

UPDATED NUMBERS –
2,012 cases and 46 deaths. There are 312 hospitalizations and 19,005 people tested.
CDC has listed Virginia as a state with widespread community spread, mostly in NOVA, Central VA, and Peninsula Health Districts.

Field Hospitals and PPEs –
Dulles Expo Center is the new, better site for NOVA field hospital (315 acute or 510 non-acute beds), other two sites are Hampton Convention Center (360 acute or 580 non-acute) and Richmond Convention Center (432 acute or 758 non-acute beds). These facilities can be ready in 6 weeks and will free up capacity in existing hospital systems. Administration is committed to finding any amount of PPEs to ensure we have the tools necessary to deal with outbreak and care for those as the surge comes. We have also ordered ventilators from the national stockpile and the private sector to get enough for patients.

Unemployment Applications –
As of the end of March, 114,104 people have applied for unemployment benefits. By next week the number will be much larger. Virginia has upgraded the state’s VEC website and server capabilities, and expanding call center capacity by 20%. National Dept. of Labor will provide benefits to those that are self-employed or independent contractors.

State Budget and Preparations for a Recession –
Virginia is facing a recession that will have major impacts on state budget. We expect to have significantly less revenue than even the most pessimistic forecasts all while still having to make investments to respond to COVID-19. Federal funding will help but not fully fix the problem. In response, State Agencies have been directed to freeze hiring for all classified and wage jobs not exempted as essential, but to avoid layoffs as they cost the state money. Additionally, Agencies have been directed to eliminate discretionary spending, prepare for cuts in the next two years, avoid new spending initiatives, and to be cautious about discussing new spending with local governments and advocacy groups.

Nursing, Long-term Care and Assisted Living Facilities –
These places house very vulnerable populations that struggle to slow and eliminate community spread. One of the hardest hit facilities, Canterbury (Henrico) tested all residents. Of those tested, 53 positives were asymptomatic. This shows that it is critical to stay away from others because it is possible to carry the virus with no symptoms. It is heartbreaking but we must protect ourselves and others by socially distancing.

DCR and DGIF –
Many Virginians are using the state parks and preserves to get outside. Unfortunately some are not following the safety guidelines and rules around gathering while using these facilities. If people do not abide by social distancing, Governor will have to shut all parks and state outdoor resources.

Major Disaster Declaration –
Yesterday VA received a Major Disaster Declaration to aid in the response to COVID-19. The designation provides federal public assistance for all areas affected by COVID-19 at a federal cost share of 75%. This allows state agencies, local governments, and certain non-profit organizations to purchase additional supplies and receive reimbursements for COVID-19 related costs under its Public Assistance program. In addition, the Major Disaster Declaration authorizes federal agencies to provide direct emergency assistance to Virginia.

Homeless Population –
Governor announced an initial $2.5 million in emergency funding for temporary housing for the 1,500 homeless Virginian. The funding also covers those in shelters that need to be quarantined or where social distancing isn’t feasible. Funding will be used for hotel and motel vouchers, case management, food, cleaning supplies, and medical transportation. FEMA will provide partial funding to support individuals experiencing homelessness who are 65 and older, those with other pre-existing conditions, and those who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Rent Relief –
Variety of tools available. VA Supreme Court has suspending eviction proceedings. VA Housing and Development Authority is using all tools possible to help individuals.

Cloth Masks –
While unlawful to cover your face in public under normal circumstances, law enforcement isn’t going to be enforcing that rule during this time. PPEs need to be available for health care providers. As for cloth masks, scarves, etc, we know that it can be helpful to protect those who are out of their houses for an essential reason. Governor encourages those to use cloth masks/protection to protect themselves.


April 2, 2020

Business Loan Info & Other Resources re: COVID-19

The National Federation of Independent Business shared the different business loans and several tax advantages that are probably getting overlooked.

Below you’ll find several documents to assist small businesses. Click the links below to find the NFIB summaries of the CARES Act (legislation referred to as “COVID-III”) sections prepared by the NFIB Research Center and Federal Government Relations team:

  • Small Business Loans Side by Side Comparison (probably the most helpful document)
  • Paycheck Protection Program Forgivable Loans
  • Treasury updated the PPP section today, click here
  • SBA updated the PPP application section today, click here
  • PPP application form
  • Starting Friday, April 3, 2020, small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply.
  • Starting April 10, 2020, independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply.
  • We encourage you to apply as quickly as you can because there is a funding cap.
  • Current list of banks and financial institutions in Virginia who are able to offer PPP forgivable loans (this list will likely be updated as more lenders are approved by the SBD to offer assistance)
  • Business and Individual Tax Provisions

NOTE: These summaries may not be relied upon for tax and legal advice

COVID Small Business Loan Side by Side
Paycheck Protection Program Forgivable Loans
Business and Individual Tax Provisions


April 2, 2020

Coalition pushes Northam to delay bills
Businesses need time to ‘rebuild’ after outbreak

by Kimberly Pierceall, Staff Writer

A consortium of 27 industry groups, the Coalition for a Strong Virginia Economy, want Gov. Ralph Northam to delay enacting several bills passed in the last legislative session it believes will further harm businesses already crippled by actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The group wants the governor to delay seven bills for at least a year, including legislation that would begin to increase the minimum wage annually starting Jan. 1, 2021, making it $9.50. The group wants that to be delayed until at least Jan. 1, 2022.

The legislation, as written, would increase the minimum wage to $15 by Jan. 1, 2026.
“This action will give Virginia’s businesses, large and small, manufacturers, retailers, construction, housing and agricultural and forestry industries an opportunity to rebuild our businesses, restore our customer base and rehire our employees before taking on more government mandates,” the group says in its letter dated March 31. “There is a strong possibility that many of these committed and long-standing businesses will not survive, and, if they do survive, it’s hard to say how long it will take for them to see their operations return to a level near to that of the pre-COVID-19 environment.”

The group also wants delays put on bills that:
Eliminate restrictions on which municipalities can tax items, such as admissions and cigarettes, as well as the amount of tax that can be levied, including transient occupancy taxes for lodging.

Allow local and state agencies to require bidders on public works developments to enter into project labor agreements.

Allow collective bargaining among public sector employees.

Would require 100% of state’s electricity to be produced from renewable energy sources by 2050.

Establish a carbon dioxide cap and trade program to cut emissions at power sites.
Among the members who signed the letter are the Hampton Roads Chamber and Virginia Peninsula Chamber, the Virginia Manufacturers Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, Virginia Retail Federation and the Virginia Trucking Association.
At a Wednesday press conference to update residents on coronavirus, Northam said he’s talking with the patrons of several bills as well as labor unions, the business community and others, and will make a decision on what to do. The General Assembly reconvenes April 22.

The state’s Republican leadership in the Senate, including Sen. Tommy Norment (R-James City County) had earlier written to Northam saying any legislation that “increased taxes or fees, added regulation, or placed new limits on free commerce and economic growth should either be vetoed or amended,” as a result of the coronavirus. They reiterated that request this week.


April 1, 2020

4/1 VA Gov Northam COVID-19 Update

Fundamental message – STAY HOME. What does it mean? Only leave your home when you need to, not when you want to. Virginia is at the beginning of this virus. If we stay at home, we don’t give the virus a chance to infect others. Local law enforcement will enforce the 10 or fewer rules.

UPDATED NUMBERS –
1484 total cases (234 new cases since yesterday). 34 total deaths (7 more since yesterday). 305 hospitalizations (145 in ICU and of those individuals, 108 are on ventilators).
Cluster of cases in NOVA (Arlington Fairfax, Loudoun, PW), Central VA, Peninsula area.
VA working on modeling to determine peak and plan for the stress to hospital resources. Current expected peak in May.

Alternative Care Sites –
In preparation for the surge of patients, Virginia National Guard has identified several sites across the Commonwealth for temporary/field hospitals should the need arise. To date, they have narrowed locations to the Exxon Mobile facility in Fairfax, Hampton Convention Center in Hampton Roads, and a Richmond area site. This is in addition to hospitals expanding their own surge capacity, onsite or near site. As for military and VA Hospitals, these providers are preparing to provide any services possible in addition to caring for active duty and veteran population.

PPEs and Testing –
Virginia received our third shipment of PPEs from the national stockpile and continue to work all available options to get more PPEs. The needs are great and Virginia is competing against 49 other states and the federal government to find enough resources. Virginia has more tests, increased testing capacity, and has broadened the testing criteria but there are still constraints. Cannot due broad based testing so the focus is still on high risk populations. With the elderly populations, most risk is in assisted living, nursing homes, and hospitals.

Census –
April 1 is Census Day in USA. Since Census workers will not be going door-to-door to help complete the count, it is critical for all Virginians to participate via mail or online. The count helps determine how federal funding is distributed to states, helps communities plan public safety plans, and determines the number of members in Virginia’s congressional delegation.

Upcoming Elections –
May and June elections are essential and, at this point, will not be moved. While the Governor’s team determines how to handle voting in-person, they implore Virginians to vote absentee for both the local (May) and federal (June) elections. Virginia will update people on how in-person voting will be allowed. Candidates will have to find new ways to connect with voters and must abide by the rules about gatherings and social distancing.

Rent/Mortgage Payments –
Encourage anyone who has lost their job to apply for unemployment. Deferring loan payments for those with federal loans. Suspending evictions for anyone in public housing. Courts have suspended evictions proceedings through April 26th.

Religious Events –
On Friday, faith leaders will have announcements as to how people can participate in upcoming holidays and celebrations.

Homeless Population –
Working to secure financing to pay for housing for homeless population across the Commonwealth.

Local Government Budget Issues –
There are a number of bills the Gov is looking at in light of the current business environment. Working with business community, unions, workers, and bill patrons to make a decision that is in the best interest of Virginia. As for local budgets, every action taken will be in support first responders, hospitals, etc while trying to balance economic needs. Health crisis must be dealt with first. Virginia must keep a balanced budget and we have to meet our revenue projections, otherwise cuts to services will occur.

Dept of Corrections –
Inmates and staff have tested positive at two facilities in Virginia. DOC is following CDC guidelines to limit the spread. VA Parole Board working overtime and, to date, have released 96 individuals on parole.


April 1, 2020

FTC Extends Comment Deadline for Funeral Rule Review to June 15

Washington, D.C. – The Federal Trade Commission is extending by 60 days the deadline to submit comments as part of the agency’s review of its Funeral Rule. The deadline was originally April 14, 2020; it is now June 15, 2020.

The FTC announced in February that it would accept comments on a wide range of issues related to the Funeral Rule. In response to requests from potential commenters for an extension due to the coronavirus pandemic, the FTC will soon publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing the comment deadline extension.

The FTC is soliciting comments about the efficiency, costs, benefits and regulatory impact of the Funeral Rule as part of its systematic review of all cur- rent commission regulations/guides. All interested persons are hereby given notice of the opportunity to submit written data, views and arguments concerning the rule, which defines unfair and deceptive practices in the sale of funeral goods and services and prescribes preventive requirements to protect consumers against these practices.

Write “Funeral Rule Regulatory Review, 16 CFR part 310, Project No. P034410” on your comment. Your comment, including your name and state of residence, will be placed on the public record of this proceeding, including, to the extent practicable, at regulations.gov.

Postal mail addressed to the FTC is subject to delay due to heightened security screening. Because of this, the FTC encourages the public to submit comments online. To make sure the FTC considers your online comment, you must file it through regulations.gov by following the instructions on the web-based form provided.

If you file your comment via the mail, write “Funeral Rule Regulatory Review, 16 CFR part 310, Project No. P034410” on your comment and the envelope, and mail to:
Federal Trade Commission
Office of the Secretary
600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite CC-5610 (Annex B)
Washington, DC 20580
Comments can also be delivered directly to the FTC,
Office of the Secretary, Constitution Center, 400 Seventh St. SW, Fifth Floor, Suite 5610, Washington, DC 20024.

If possible, submit your paper comment to the commission by courier or overnight service.


March 31, 2020

Our association was asked this question today, which I thought was a good question with good resources. The VFDA asked the NFDA legal counsel for clarification and resources.

Question:
There is a concern in Virginia that if a director transports into another state and returns the same day they will need to quarantine for 14 days. Do you have any guidance or know what others are doing in this situation?

Response:
This is a fluid situation because these orders are being issued and changed daily. However, all of the state quarantine orders I have seen exempt persons traveling through and not stopping in a state as well as travelers to the state who are essential businesses or who are carrying on essential activities. Since funeral homes are essential businesses and funeral service is an essential activity, there should not be an issue here. In addition, in this particular case, no state order has of yet required a resident of a state that briefly travels into another state to self-quarantine upon their return to their home state.

The NFDA website also has resources that you may find helpful regarding transfers:
https://www.nfda.org/covid-19/transfers-arrangements

There is also Certification of Employment document” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>a letter you can issue your staff verifying they are critical workers.


March 31, 2020

Paycheck Protection Program Guidance and Application

With $349 Billion in Emergency Small Business Capital Cleared, Treasury and SBA Begin Unprecedented Public-Private Mobilization Effort to Distribute Funds

WASHINGTON – Following President Trump’s signing of the historic Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin today announced that the SBA and Treasury Department have initiated a robust mobilization effort of banks and other lending institutions to provide small businesses with the capital they need.
The CARES Act establishes a new $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program. The Program will provide much-needed relief to millions of small businesses so they can sustain their businesses and keep their workers employed.

“This legislation provides small business job retention loans to provide eight weeks of payroll and certain overhead to keep workers employed,” said Secretary Mnuchin. “Treasury and the Small Business Administration expect to have this program up and running by April 3rd so that businesses can go to a participating SBA 7(a) lender, bank, or credit union, apply for a loan, and be approved on the same day. The loans will be forgiven as long as the funds are used to keep employees on the payroll and for certain other expenses.”

“This unprecedented public-private partnership is going to assist small businesses with accessing capital quickly. Our goal is to position lenders as the single point-of-contact for small businesses – the application, loan processing, and disbursement of funds will all be administered at the community level,” said Administrator Carranza. “Speed is the operative word; applications for the emergency capital can begin as early as this week, with lenders using their own systems and processes to make these loans. We remain committed to supporting our nation’s more than 30 million small businesses and their employees, so that they can continue to be the fuel for our nation’s economic engine.”

The new loan program will help small businesses with their payroll and other business operating expenses. It will provide critical capital to businesses without collateral requirements, personal guarantees, or SBA fees – all with a 100% guarantee from SBA. All loan payments will be deferred for six months. Most importantly, the SBA will forgive the portion of the loan proceeds that are used to cover the first eight weeks of payroll costs, rent, utilities, and mortgage interest.

The Paycheck Protection Program is specifically designed to help small businesses keep their workforce employed.

Visit SBA.gov/Coronavirus for more information on the Paycheck Protection Program.

The new loan program will be available retroactive from Feb. 15, 2020, so employers can rehire their recently laid-off employees through June 30, 2020.

LOAN TERMS & CONDITIONS

Eligible businesses: All businesses, including non-profits, Veterans organizations, Tribal concerns, sole proprietorships, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors, with 500 or fewer employees, or no greater than the number of employees set by the SBA as the size standard for certain industries

Maximum loan amount up to $10 million

Loan forgiveness if proceeds used for payroll costs and other designated business operating expenses in the 8 weeks following the date of loan origination (due to likely high subscription, it is anticipated that not more than 25% of the forgiven amount may be for non-payroll costs)

All loans under this program will have the following identical features:
o Interest rate of 0.5%
o Maturity of 2 years
o First payment deferred for six months
o 100% guarantee by SBA
o No collateral
o No personal guarantees
o No borrower or lender fees payable to SBA

Visit treasury.gov/cares for more information on SBA’s assistance to small businesses.

March 30, 2020

Message today is to STAY HOME! Governor issues a new Executive Order.

UPDATED NUMBERS –
1020 confirmed cases, 25 deaths. More than 12,000 Virginians have been tested and 136 hospitalizations. No age group is immune and half of the positive cases are found in those under the age of 50.
NOVA has the most cases, followed by Hampton Roads, then Central VA.
VA’s current positive tests results are based on how people behaved 2-3 weeks ago. Compliance with the orders now, will ensure that we flatten the curve.

Executive Order –
Governor issued a “Stay at Home Order” for all Virginians that will remain in effect until June 10, 2020 (unless amended). Virginian’s should limiting leaving home except for a very limited list of reasons such as food, supplies, work, medical care or exercise (list included in the EO). All gatherings over 10 are prohibited. Non-essential businesses need to comply with 10 order limit as well. The order closes overnight stays at campgrounds and beaches. All Colleges and Universities will cease in person classes. If an employee can work remotely, then they should do so. Virginians should only go out if they HAVE to go out. If someone enters VA from another state, they must self-quarantine for 14 days. Failure to comply with any of the provisions of the EO is considered class 1 misdemeanor. Local governments have the ability to enforce the Executive Order.

Workplace Safety –
OSHA sets standards in workplaces around COVID-19. Once VA Dept of Labor has guidance from OSHA, they will enforce and, when necessary, take action against a business. Gov asks any employees who have concerns to voice them to their Supervisor. If they feel they are working in an unsafe environment, they should lodge a complaint with the State Dept. of Labor.

Extra Hospital Beds –
Right now VA only has 2000 ICU beds. People’s actions now, will help ensure there are enough going forward. Virginia will face a surge in COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks. Hospital Systems are working to find temporary beds and space to meet the growing demands. (ex. Opening shuttered buildings/hospitals, using Dormitories) National Guard is working on a plan for 5 field hospitals across VA, in case the need arises.

Title 32 Status –
Approved Friday night, the Federal Gov will pay for National Guard costs associated with addressing the state’s needs to battle COVID-19.

Federal Major Disaster Status –
Virginia is applying for Federal Major Disaster Status which, if approved, will provide funding for food assistance, transitional shelter assistance, unemployment benefits, and more.

Dept. of Agriculture –
Federal support will allow Virginia Food Banks to serve 200k Virginians who need help. www.vafoodbanks.org or 211.

Domestic Violence Services –
Services are available 24/7 at 1-800-838-8238.


March 30, 2020

Letter Verifying Critical Infrastructure Worker Status

Since the Governor has issued a stay at home order today, the VFDA is sharing the NFDA’s Certification of Employment document you can show to authorities verifying your status as a critical infrastructure worker.

This Certification of Employment document (clicking the link will download a Microsoft Word document) should be printed on funeral home letterhead, filled out completely, and signed by an owner or manager of the funeral home.

Please contact the VFDA office for more information.


March 30, 2020

Dear VFDA Members:

We want to ensure that you receive Cozen O’Connor’s comprehensive analysis of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act is the “phase three” legislative response to the COVID-19 crisis. At $2.2 trillion (more than 10 percent of U.S. GDP), the CARES Act is the most significant piece of federal disaster and economic relief ever passed in American history. The 880-page bill provides economic aid to individuals, businesses, and industries and additional support for hospitals, health care workers, and other elements of the health care system. It will be important to watch how the government does in implementing a number of time-sensitive and much-needed provisions, including rebate checks for individual Americans, expanded unemployment insurance benefits, small business loans, and distressed industries lending. Timely and effective implementation will play critical roles for the ultimate efficacy of the CARES Act and its impact on the economic landscape as well as company and industry specific outlooks.

The Cozen O’Connor analysis breaks the legislation’s key elements into the following groups:

Small Business Relief
Distressed Industries
Tax Provisions
Health Care
Employers
Real Estate Industry
Emergency Appropriations
Energy Industry

If you have any comments or questions, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Thank you to Cozen O’Connor for putting this information together.


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