COVID-19 News and Updates
The health of our employees, clients, and communities is our top priority. To protect all, we have closed our physical office. We remain committed to providing the same high quality of service that you have come to expect, and are ready and prepared to provide continuing service to new and existing clients. You may continue to reach us by e-mail and by phone. During this global challenge, we want to assure our clients that we continue to be ready to help and support them.
March 15, 2021: The American Rescue Plan Act Makes Significant Changes to COVID-Related Paid Leave and Brings Back COBRA Subsidies. On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA”). While ARPA is wide-ranging and covers a host of COVID-related needs, employers should be particularly aware of two important components.
December 27, 2020: FFRCA Ends, but Payroll Tax Credits Continue, Employment-Related Highlights from the Omnibus and COVID-19 Relief Bill. President Trump signed the FY 2021 Omnibus and COVID-19 Relief bill (the “Act”) on Sunday, December 27, 2020. There are several important employment-related provisions included in the Act.
September 11, 2020: United States Department of Labor Issues Important New FFCRA Regulations. The United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued revised regulations on Friday, September 11, 2020 (the “Revised Regulations”). The Revised Regulations go into effect on September 16, 2020.
September 2, 2020: Social Security Withholding Relief Initial Guidance Released. Employers now have some guidance on whether and how to defer employees’ FICA withholdings.
July 17, 2020: Nonprofits Now Eligible for Loans under the Main Street Lending Program. Qualified charitable organizations and veterans’ groups (501(c)(3)s and 501(c)(19)s) are now available for 5-year, non-forgivable loans through the Federal Reserve-backed Main Street Lending Program.
July 10, 2020: The Main Street Lending Program is now open, making 5-year loans starting at $250,000 available to small- and medium-sized businesses through participating lenders, with the backing of the Federal Reserve.
July 6, 2020: Grants of up to $50,000 are now available for Vermont businesses and nonprofits that have experienced a 50% or greater decline in revenue relative to last year, due to the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Relief for other business sectors in Vermont is also on the way.
June 18, 2020: Last Wednesday, the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Treasury released an updated version of the Paycheck Protection Act Forgiveness Application and, with it, a new “EZ” Application in response to calls for a less burdensome process for smaller borrowers.
June 11, 2020: The Main Street Lending Program (the “Program”) has been expanded again, this time allowing for smaller minimum loan size, larger maximum loan size, longer loan repayment terms, longer deferrals before principal repayment is required, and greater loan participation by the Federal Reserve. The Program has not launched yet, but a launch date is expected soon.
June 5, 2020: The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act extends the period during which the proceeds must be spent from 8 to 24 weeks; extends the repayment period from 2 to 5 years (but only for new loans unless the lender agrees); allows 40% of proceeds to be spent on expenses other than payroll costs and gives relief to employers who can’t true up employee numbers, either because safety restrictions prevent a full workforce or because employees refuse to return, among other changes.
May 27, 2020: Vermont Governor Phil Scott and the Vermont Legislature are working to finalize a $400 Million Vermont Economic Recovery and Relief Package, which is expected to provide $250 million in grants and loans to Vermont businesses and nonprofits, $50 million in rent stabilization and homelessness prevention, and $5 million each for technical assistance to businesses and marketing support.
May 19, 2020: Paycheck Protection Program Loan Forgiveness Application Released. The SBA released the loan forgiveness application for the Paycheck Protection Program. Loan forgiveness applications should be submitted at least eight weeks after a borrower’s loan is disbursed.
May 13, 2020: SBA Announces That Borrowers of PPP Loans of Less than $2M Will Benefit from Presumption of Good Faith When Certifying Need and Borrowers of Larger Loans Will Have an Opportunity to Correct Before Facing Enforcement. New FAQs make clear that the SBA will not question the good faith certification of need made by borrowers of PPP loans of less than $2 million. Although the SBA still expects to audit all loans greater than $2 million, borrows receiving those larger loans will not be presumed to have acted in bad faith even if the SBA later determines that other sources of liquidity rendered the loan unnecessary. The SBA will instead deny loan forgiveness and seek repayment of the loan.
May 6, 2020: Governor Scott issued Addendum 13 to his Executive Order, which declared a state of emergency in Vermont in response to COVID-19. Addendum 13 allows Vermonters to socialize and recreate in groups of 10 or fewer, so long as physical distancing and health protocols are followed.
May 6, 2020: The Treasury Department issues new guidance related to the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”). The new PPP Guidance Extends Safe Harbor Repayment Date, Caps Loans to a Corporate Group, Expands Eligibility for Loan Forgiveness, and Includes Non-US Resident Employees of Foreign Affiliates When Evaluating Business Size.
May 6, 2020: The Federal Reserve Board Expands the Main Street Lending Program. The Program will now provide credit to businesses struggling with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic but which are either too large to be eligible for Paycheck Protection Program loans or still have unmet funding needs even after receiving a PPP loan.
May 1, 2020: Governor Scott Announces “Phase 3” of Vermont’s Economic Reopening. Governor Phil Scott’s 12th Addendum to his Executive Order declaring a state of emergency in Vermont due to COVID-19 expands the number of employees that can perform on-site work, and amends several mandatory health and safety requirements previously established in Addenda 10 and 11.
April 28, 2020: Vermont Allows Remote Witnessing for Estate Planning Documents. These statutory changes dovetail with the emergency notarization rules promulgated by the Vermont Secretary of State on March 24, 2020, which will be in effect for 180 days
April 28, 2020: Treasury Department Issues New Guidance on Paycheck Protection Program Loan Disbursement Timing and Seasonal Business Payroll Calculations. The new guidance addresses the timing of disbursements (and the corresponding loan forgiveness period) and the loan amounts available to seasonal businesses.
April 24, 2020: Governor Scott Announces Phase 2 of Vermont’s Gradual Economic Reopening. Governor Phil Scott’s 11th Addendum to his Executive Order declaring a state of emergency in Vermont due to COVID-19 builds on Addendum 10, which announced Governor Scott’s plan to reopen Vermont’s economy though a “phased approach.” It also expands mandatory health and safety requirements, and establishes new mandatory training and reporting requirements.
April 21, 2020: Senate Approves $484 Billion Amendment to the CARES Act, Increasing Funding, Including $370 Billion More for Business Loans. The Senate approved another stimulus bill, which will provide an additional $484 billion in economic aid to combat the novel coronavirus and related economic distress.
April 17, 2020: Governor Scott Announces Initial Plan to Start Reopening Vermont’s Economy. Governor Phil Scott’s 10th Addendum to his Executive Order declaring a state of emergency in Vermont due to COVID-19 outlines “Phase 1” of a plan to gradually reopen Vermont’s economy. It also establishes mandatory health and safety requirements for businesses operating during the ongoing state of emergency.
April 14, 2020: Paycheck Protection Program Open to Additional Businesses with More Than 500 Employees and Other Loan Program Clarifications. The Small Business Administration and the Department of the Treasury clarified a variety of issues, including which businesses qualify for PPP loans, what counts as employee compensation for calculating payroll, what lenders must do to verify existing bank customers’ application information, and when the loan forgiveness period for each loan runs.
April 14, 2020: Update on SBA Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Applicants may apply to the Small Business Association for up to $2 million in emergency economic injury disaster loans, which may be used to pay ordinary and necessary operating expenses, including payroll, supply chain costs, COVID-19-related sick leave, rent and mortgage payments, and existing debt no longer covered by business revenue.
April 14, 2020: The United States Department of Labor Issues Additional Guidance for Employers and States on COVID-19 Response Measures. The U.S. Department of Labor issued interim enforcement guidance for Occupational Safety and Health Administration record keeping requirements as they relate to cases of COVID-19.
April 13, 2020: Paycheck Protection and Disaster Loan Programs Run Dry. The SBA-backed Paycheck Protection Program was drafted with broad eligibility requirements, and the SBA has reported that funds were exhausted after only 13 days. The sprint for funds likely favored more established businesses that already had relationships with SBA-approved lenders and ready access to legal counsel to help them navigate the complex and rapidly unfolding programs.
April 10, 2020: Main Street Lending Program: New Federally-Backed Loans and Loan Expansions for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses. The Federal Reserve announced details on the Maine Street Lending Program, a new $600 billion loan program authorized under the CARES Act to assist small and medium-sized businesses with financial needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
April 10, 2020: Governor Phil Scott Extends State of Emergency – Stay Home/Stay Safe Order. Governor Phil Scott extended the State of Emergency, the Stay Home/Stay Safe Order, and all other social distancing measures through May 15, 2020.
April 7, 2020: Agency of Natural Resources Issues Enforcement and Compliance Guidance Pertaining to the regulated community. The ANR Guidance directs that ANR may exercise enforcement discretion over Permittees whose activities were not designated critical to public health and safety by the Governor in Addendum 6 to the Executive Order declaring a state of emergency in Vermont due to COVID-19.
April 1, 2020: United States Department of Labor Issues Guidance on Implementation of FFCRA. The US Department of Labor has issued guidance for employers as they get prepared for the Paid Sick Leave and Paid Family Leave components of the FFCRA.
March 30, 2020: Governor Scott Restricts Travel into Vermont and Clarifies Lodging Restrictions. To curtail the spread of COVID-19 in Vermont and maintain Vermont’s response capabilities, Governor Scott restricted travel into Vermont and clarified restrictions on Vermont’s lodging industry set forth in his Executive Order declaring a state of emergency in Vermont due to COVID-19.
March 26, 2020: Congress Passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (“CARES ACT”). We summarize the principal provisions of the CARES Act relevant to new loans made available to small- and medium-sized businesses.
March 26, 2020: Congress and Vermont Legislature Pass Significant Expansion to Unemployment Benefits. This bulletin provides an overview of the expanded unemployment eligibility under the CARES Act, and the changes to Vermont’s unemployment insurance benefits contained in H.742.
March 25, 2020: A Message To Our Clients. Our Managing Partner, Robert H. Rushford, assures clients that we remain ready and available to provide support through the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.
March 25, 2020: What does Vermont’s Stay Home/Stay Safe Order Mean for Vermont Businesses? Governor Phil Scott’s 6th Addendum to his Executive Order declaring a state of emergency in Vermont due to COVID-19 directs Vermont residents to stay at home and businesses and nonprofits to suspend in-person business operations beginning at 5.00 p.m. on March 25, 2020, and remaining in effect until April 15, 2020.
March 24, 2020: Vermont Emergency Rules for Remote Notarization. Vermont’s Deputy Secretary of State promulgated Emergency Rules Enabling Use of Remote Notarization subject to certain conditions.
March 18, 2020: Employer Tax Credit for Wages Paid Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The Act requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide emergency paid sick leave and emergency paid family leave to qualified employees who are unable to work due to health or family care obligations related to COVID-19, and compensates employers for expenditures with a corresponding payroll tax credit.
March 18, 2020: Trump Signs Families First Coronavirus Bill – Effective on April 2, 2020. This law provides eligible employees up to 2 weeks of pad sick leave for various COVID-19 related reasons, and gives employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected, paidleave to employees unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave to care for the son or daughter because their school or place of care has been closed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency
March 17, 2020: Permitted Delay in Filing Federal Tax Returns. The IRS had previously announced a delay in the due date for making tax payments as to 2019 tax returns until July 15. Secretary Stephen Mnuchin has now stated that the due date for individual and business tax returns will be extended until July 15 as well.
March 17, 2020: Client Bulletin: Coronavirus, Contracts and “Force Majeure.” Inability to fulfill contractual obligations (or to timely deliver or perform under a contract) due to unforeseen circumstances may be excused under force majeure, either by reference to a specific contract provision or as a matter of general contract law. Our Attorneys provide a detailed review of the legal and factual considerations to evaluate when considering the application of force majeure to contracts disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.