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Vermont Governor and Legislature Working to Finalize $400 Million Vermont Economic Recovery and Relief Package

Last week, Vermont Governor Phil Scott announced plans for a $400 million economic recovery and relief package for businesses and nonprofits throughout Vermont impacted by the coronavirus pandemic (the “Relief Package”).  The Relief Package, which will be funded with money the State of Vermont received from the CARES Act, is being developed jointly by Governor Scott’s Administration and the Vermont Legislature.  The Legislature will need to pass a bill approving the final Relief Package before funds will be available to aid the Vermont economy.  The information that follows describes the Relief Package as proposed by the Governor, but remains subject to change based on input from the Legislature.

The Relief Package includes two phases.  The majority of funds would be spent in Phase 1, which allocates $310 million across four main areas:

  • Financial assistance: $250 million in grants and loans to businesses and nonprofits
  • Housing assistance: $50 million in rent stabilization payments and homelessness reduction efforts
  • Technical assistance: $5 million in business restart and recovery assistance andmental health counseling and wellbeing resources
  • Marketing support: $5 million for promotional marketing assistance and grants to regional Vermont tourism groups.

The remaining $10 million of the Relief Package will be used in Phase 2.  Phase 2 is still under development, but programs may include additional financial assistance, broadband expansion, retraining programs for unemployed Vermonters, and permitting modernization.

Financial Assistance

The financial assistance portion of Phase 1 includes three programs:  (1) Emergency Action Grants; (2) Vermont Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Grant Program; and (3) Vermont Restart Loan and Grants.  According to representatives from the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (the “ACCD”) and the Vermont Department of Taxes, the three programs are designed to ensure that all Vermont businesses or nonprofits negatively impacted by the pandemic qualify for assistance from at least one program, subject to the availability of funds.

At $150 million, the Emergency Action Grants are the largest portion of the financial assistance program.  They will only be open to the food, accommodation, retail, and agriculture sectors.  $40 million is reserved for dairy farms grants, and $10 million for secondary dairy production businesses, such as cheese and ice cream makers.  Emergency Action Grants are designed to assist with paying fixed costs, such as rent, mortgage, existing loan payments, and inventory costs.

Emergency Action Grants will be open to businesses in the applicable sectors that have average annual revenue of $2.5 million or less, which experienced at least a 40% revenue decrease for any month between March and August 2020 (inclusive) relative to the same month in 2019 or 2018.  The published program details do not specify loan amounts, but in industry webinars, the ACCD said that grant amounts would equal 10% of the average quarterly revenue of a qualified business.  Under that formula, the largest grant available under the Emergency Action Grant program would be $62,500.

The Vermont Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Grant Program will be open to any Vermont business or nonprofit that saw significant revenue losses due to the pandemic, such as hair salons, theaters, and manufacturers.  This $80 million fund will be administered by the Vermont Economic Development Authority (“VEDA”), which will provide priority access to businesses and nonprofits that did not receive Emergency Action Grants.  Economic Injury Disaster Grants can be sought to cover three months’ of fixed costs during a partial or full shutdown due to COVID-19.  No cap on grant amounts or formula for determining the grants has been issued yet.  After grant funds are exhausted, loans of up to $150,000 will be offered.  The loans will have a 2% interest rate, with interest deferred for the first year, and repayment terms as long as 20 years.

The final financial assistance program, the Vermont Restart Loan and Grant Program, targets sole proprietors and businesses with less than $1 million in annual revenue and five or fewer employees.  It will make $20 million available to assist businesses by providing grants up to the lower of $15,000 or three months’ fixed cost expenses, or 5-year, 0% interest loans of up to $20,000.

All financial assistance funds in the Relief Package may be reduced or offset by Paycheck Protection Program funds or other federal coronavirus aid a business or nonprofit received.  Initial statements from the ACCD suggest that federal relief will only offset state relief if state funds are sought for the exact same purpose and federal funds fully satisfied that need (e.g. covered the full mortgage interest payment), but additional details are needed to clarify the offset rules.

Housing Assistance

The housing assistance fund will be divided into two pools:  a $42 million Rental Housing Stabilization Fund and an $8 million Re-Housing Recovery Fund.

The Rental Housing Stabilization Fund will provide residential property owners up to three months’ rent to cover rent and arrearages a tenant is unable to pay.  These payments will provide property owners the funds they need to pay their mortgages and maintain properties, as well as preventing the eviction and potential homelessness of tenants who are unable to pay rent.  The Rental Housing Stabilization Fund will be open to all residential property owners whose tenants are unable to pay rent or have rental arrearages.  Larger property owners do qualify, but only for payment on up to 20 rental units.

The Re-Housing Recovery Fund will provide emergency housing rehabilitation grants and forgivable loans to assist property owners with updating and repairing property.  This program will make up to 250 new housing units available to families and individuals currently experiencing homelessness.

Technical Assistance

The technical assistance component of the Relief Package is designed to offer businesses and employees that were greatly affected by state-mandated closures with technical support on safe, viable operations, and with mental and emotional support in trying times.

Technical assistance will include manuals with information about how to apply for grants off-line for those with limited internet access and how to help with new business issues, such as reconfiguring business layout to minimize close contact between patrons.  Professional service providers, such as software consultants and business turnaround experts who are selected by a state request for proposal, may also be available to advise eligible businesses and nonprofits on how to restart operations safely and efficiently.

In recognition of how stressful and uncertain the pandemic and rapid economic downturn is, the State of Vermont will also extend access to the Invest EAP Centers for Wellbeing employee assistance program to all businesses with 50 or fewer employees.  For three months, qualified businesses, their employees, and families will all be eligible to receive free mental health counseling (currently available by videoconference), plus resource referrals for a variety of issues, such as substance abuse, elder care, childcare, and family or workplace issues.

Marketing Support

The marketing support component of the Relief Package will include two main initiatives.  First, the state will make promotional materials available to local businesses, nonprofits, and communities to use for marketing themselves as a part of the statewide “Restart. Respect. Rediscover” marketing campaign. Second, there will be marketing and consumer stimulus grants available to help chambers of commerce, downtown districts, and similar regional tourism groups spur consumer spending.  Grant recipients may receive a menu of promotional packages to choose from, such as a gift card match program, to help infuse funds into their local economy.

Additional details on the proposed Relief Package are available here.  The Scott Administration hopes to pass a final Relief Package in early June, and to begin disbursing funds as early as July.  We will monitor for updates, and provide new information, applications, and guidance as they become available.

Click here to read COVID-19 News and Updates

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FOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information about the Vermont Economic Recovery and Relief Package, please contact your attorney at Gravel & Shea PC or Heather Hammond (hhamond@gravelshea.com) or Catherine Burke (cburke@gravelshea.com).

Gravel & Shea PC May 27, 2020

Paycheck Protection Program Loan Forgiveness Application Released

The Small Business Administration (the “SBA”) has released the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan forgiveness application (the “Forgiveness Application”).  The Forgiveness Application, SBA Form 3508, is available here.

PPP borrowers must submit Forgiveness Applications and all required documentation to the lenders who disbursed their PPP loans in order to obtain loan forgiveness.  There is currently no deadline for submitting Forgiveness Applications, but a borrower cannot submit its Forgiveness Application until at least eight weeks after its PPP loan was disbursed, because of the need to list and document covered expenses from the eight-week period following the loan disbursement.  In the case of borrowers who received more than one loan disbursement, the eight-week period begins on the date of their first PPP loan disbursement.

The PPP provides borrowers until June 30th to bring their employment levels and employee wages to pre-pandemic levels before their loan forgiveness amounts are reduced to reflect reductions in headcount or wages.  Borrowers with fewer employees now than during the base period or who have reduced the wages of any employee who earned $100,000 or less by more than 25% should wait until after June 30th to complete their Forgiveness Applications.  For most borrowers, the base period is either February 15-June 30, 2019 or January 1-February 29, 2020, but see this post for more information about the base periods for seasonal employers.

When a borrower is prepared to begin its Forgiveness Application, we recommend completing it in the following order:

  • collect documentation listed on page 10 (and be sure to retain copies for 6 years after loan forgiveness or full repayment);
  • complete PPP Schedule A Worksheet or get a report that provides that information from your payroll system or payroll processor;
  • complete PPP Schedule A;
  • complete PPP Loan Forgiveness Calculation Form;
  • optional step: complete PPP Borrower Demographic Information Form; and
  • complete and sign the certification/signature page.

Costs eligible for loan forgiveness are:  payroll costs, mortgage interest payments, rent payments (for real estate and leased business equipment or other personal property), and utility payments (including electricity, gas, water, transportation, telephone, or internet access) of the business for the 8 weeks after the loan was disbursed.  Mortgages, lease agreements, and utility services must predate February 15 for those expenses to be eligible for forgiveness.  Remember that payroll costs include other items besides salaries and wages, but that forgivable cash compensation is capped at $15,385 per employee (which equals 8 weeks of a $100,000 salary). Borrowers may also count commissions and tips; payment for vacation, sick or family leave not covered by other coronavirus tax relief credits; dismissal or separation payments; employer payments of group health care costs, including health insurance premiums; employer payments of retirement benefits; and payments of state and local taxes on employee wages.  The Forgiveness Application includes a calculation to ensure that at least 75% of total forgiven costs are eligible payroll costs.

Although the loan forgiveness period is only eight weeks long, it covers both actual expenditures paid in that timeframe and costs incurred during those eight weeks but paid on or before the next regular payroll date or due date for a mortgage, rent, or utility payment.  Employers who pay biweekly or more often may elect to count their payroll costs from the first pay period after the eight-week period begins to the date eight weeks later, instead of pro-rating between pay periods, but should use the actual eight-week period following immediately after disbursal for other covered expense calculations.

The Forgiveness Application includes instructions for reducing loan forgiveness based on reductions in full-time employee equivalents (“FTEs”) or reductions of more than 25% in any employee’s salary or wages relative to the base period.  It also explains several exceptions to the FTE reduction rules.  If a former employee refused an equivalent offer of rehire, or if an employee was fired for cause, voluntarily resigned, or voluntarily requested and received a reduction in hours, the borrower may still include that employee in its FTE calculation, unless a new employee who filled the post has been counted instead. Employees who earn more than $100,000 per year are excluded from the reduction in loan forgiveness based on wage reductions.

The SBA may instruct lenders to disapprove a Forgiveness Application if it does not include all requested documentation or if the SBA determines that the borrower was not eligible for the PPP loan it received.  The SBA may also request additional information for purposes of determining loan forgiveness, and failing to provide that information could result in a denial of the loan forgiveness request.  The SBA is permitted to review borrower documentation related to PPP loan forgiveness for up to six years after a PPP loan is forgiven or repaid in full, so borrowers should retain copies of all relevant documents, even those that did not need to be submitted with the Forgiveness Application, such as documentation of rejected rehire offers.

Click here to read COVID-19 News and Updates

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FOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information about the Paycheck Protection Program, please contact your attorney at Gravel & Shea PC or any of the following attorneys at the firm:

Chip Mason (cmason@gravelshea.com), Cassandra LaRae-Perez (claraeperez@gravelshea.com), Oliver Goodenough (ogoodenough@gravelshea.com), Keith Roberts (kroberts@gravelshea.com), Pauline Law (plaw@gravelshea.com), or Catherine Burke (cburke@gravelshea.com).

Gravel & Shea PC May 19, 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

When applying for PPP loans, all borrowers must certify in good faith that “[c]urrent economic uncertainty makes [the] loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the Applicant.”  In recent weeks, additions to the U.S. Treasury FAQs cast doubt that small businesses owned by larger concerns and businesses owned by private equity firms or hedge funds could make the certification of need in good faith, notwithstanding their eligibility under the size requirements.

This, followed by the recent announcement by the Small Business Administration that it would conduct a full audit of any PPP loan of more than $2 million, sent small companies holding smaller loans scrambling to consider the risk of the audit, even if their need was genuine.

The Small Business Administration and the U.S. Treasury today issued an FAQ extending an automatic safe harbor to borrowers receiving PPP loans with an original principal amount of less than $2 million. These borrowers “will be deemed to have made the required certification concerning the necessity of the loan request in good faith.” The SBA states that “borrowers with loans below this threshold are generally less likely to have had access to adequate sources of liquidity in the current economic environment than borrowers that obtained larger loans.”

The FAQs can be read here. The document itself is not new, but new FAQs are periodically added to the end.

Borrowers that received PPP loans for amounts over $2 million may also be able to certify in good faith their need for the loan, but they will be subject to review and, likely, full audits by the SBA for compliance with program requirements, including the certification of economic need.  In prior communications, the SBA threatened sanctions if such need was determined to been improperly claimed, but the SBA now states that even larger borrowers will have a chance to make corrections before facing sanctions.  “If the SBA determines in the course of its review that a borrower lacked an adequate basis for the required certification concerning the necessity of the loan request, SBA will seek repayment of the outstanding PPP loan balance and will inform the lender that the borrower is not eligible for loan forgiveness. If the borrower repays the loan after receiving notifications from SBA, SBA will not pursue administrative enforcement. . . .”

The deadline for borrowers with access to other sources of capital to return the funds has been extended to Monday, May 18 to provide borrowers additional time to determine if they qualify for the new $2 million safe harbor.

Click here to read COVID-19 News and Updates

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FOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information about the Paycheck Protection Program, please contact your attorney at Gravel & Shea PC or any of the following attorneys at the firm:

Chip Mason (cmason@gravelshea.com), Cassandra LaRae-Perez (claraeperez@gravelshea.com),  Oliver Goodenough (ogoodenough@gravelshea.com), Keith Roberts (kroberts@gravelshea.com), Pauline Law (plaw@gravelshea.com), or Catherine Burke (cburke@gravelshea.com).

Gravel & Shea PC May 13, 2020

Governor Scott Opens Outdoor Recreation and Outdoor Fitness Facilities

On 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.

Additionally, Addendum 13 allows businesses that offer outdoor recreation and outdoor fitness activities that require low or no direct physical contact to begin operations.  These include parks, recreation associations, trail networks, golf courses, tennis, skate parks, boating, photography and guided expeditions.  These businesses must implement the following measures:

  1. Require an “arrive, play and leave” mentality.  No congregation before or after activities.
  2. Post signs and institute registration processes that reinforce that that the businesses are only open to Vermonters or those from out-of-state who have quarantined for 14 days.
  3. Post signs discouraging contact games.
  4. Eliminate services that result in person-to-person interactions.
  5. Reduce high contact surface areas such as waiting areas, picnic tables, play structures and rental shops.
  6. Offering only rental equipment that can be disinfected between users.
  7. Close indoor facilities that require in-person transactions.
  8. Open restrooms only if they can be regularly cleaned and disinfected.

Businesses must follow the Restart Guidance provided by ACCD, including all training and safety plan requirements.

The Addendum became effective on May 7, 2020, and updated guidance from ACCD can be found here:  https://accd.vermont.gov/news/update-new-work-safe-additions-stay-home-stay-safe-order

Click here to read COVID-19 News and Updates

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Please contact Heather Hammond (hhammond@gravelshea.com) at Gravel & Shea PC if you have questions or would like assistance.

Gravel & Shea PC May 11, 2020

May 6, 2020: Main Street Lending Program Expansion Includes Some Larger Businesses and the Addition of a New Loan Facility

On April 30, the Federal Reserve Board announced the expansion of the Main Street Lending Program (the “Program”).  The Program, which has not yet launched, is designed to 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 (“PPP”) loans or still have unmet funding needs even after receiving a PPP loan.  Our original post on the Program is available here.  Please note that certain eligibility rules and loan terms have changed, as outlined below.

When the Program opens, interested businesses can apply for full-recourse, non-forgivable loans or loan expansions directly from eligible lenders.  The Federal Reserve has not announced a Program start date or released a list of eligible lenders.  It has, however, stated that it will release the names of borrowers, the amounts they borrow, interest rates, and other Program details.

The Program expansion involved creating a new loan facility—the Main Street Priority Loan Facility (the “MSPLF”)—and expanding eligibility for the Main Street New Loan Facility (the “MSNLF”) and Main Street Expanded Loan Facility (the “MSELF”).

The expanded eligibility opens all Program loans to businesses that either have up to 15,000 employees or $5 billion or less in annual revenue (increased from 10,000 employees and $2.5 billion in revenue).  Employees and revenue are both calculated on an aggregate basis with affiliated businesses.  The minimum loan size for the MSPLF and MSNLF was reduced from $1 million to $500,000, but a $10 million minimum applies to the MSELF.  In response to public comments, the Program will no longer using SOFR to set interest rates.  Interest rates for all three loan types will be set to equal LIBOR + 3%, but loan contracts should explain what rate will apply if LIBOR rates are no longer published during the term of the loan.

MSPLF loans can range in size from $500,000 to the lesser of $25 million or the amount that, when added to a borrower’s outstanding and undrawn available debt, does not exceed six times the borrower’s adjusted 2019 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (“EBITDA”).  MSPLF loans (like MSNLF and MSELF loans) will have four-year terms, with payments deferred for the first year.  For MSPLF loans, 15% of the principal will be due at the end of years 2 and 3, and a balloon payment of 70% of the principal will be due at maturity.  Lenders will retain a 15% share of MSPLF loans.  Borrowers will pay lenders an origination fee of 100 basis points, and lenders may also pass on the 100 basis point transaction fee charged by the Federal Reserve to borrowers.

The Program requires borrowers to “make commercially reasonable efforts to retain employees” during the term of Program loans.  There is no set percentage of employees that must be retained, but borrowers must demonstrate good-faith efforts to comply with this requirement, in light of their need for labor, resources, and the overall economy.

Term sheets for each of the Program’s loan facilities are available here, along with FAQs about the Program, which include details about restrictions on stock repurchases, capital distributions, and repayment of other loans during the term of Program loans.  A chart summarizing the terms of each loan facility is also available here.

The Program is not open to nonprofits.  However, likely in response to comments received on the initial Program details, the Federal Reserve Board stated that it “recognizes the critical role that nonprofit organizations play throughout the economy and is evaluating a separate approach to meet their unique needs.”

Click here to read COVID-19 News and Updates

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FOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information about the Main Street Lending Program, please contact your attorney at Gravel & Shea PC or any of the following attorneys at the firm:

Chip Mason (cmason@gravelshea.com), Cassandra LaRae-Perez (claraeperez@gravelshea.com),  Oliver Goodenough (ogoodenough@gravelshea.com), Keith Roberts (kroberts@gravelshea.com), Pauline Law (plaw@gravelshea.com), or Catherine Burke (cburke@gravelshea.com).

Gravel & Shea PC May 6, 2020

May 6, 2020: 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

The Treasury Department continues to issue new guidance related to the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”).  The latest developments include:  the PPP safe harbor loan repayment deadline has been extended to May 14; loans are capped at $20 million per corporate group; and certain laid-off employees who refuse offers to be rehired do not reduce their employers’ headcounts for loan forgiveness purposes.

The Treasury Department previously clarified that PPP borrowers must certify, in good faith, that “‘[c]urrent economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the[ir] ongoing operations”, considering their access to other sources of liquidity.  Borrowers who applied for a PPP loan before April 24 and fully repaid their loans by May 7, 2020, would be deemed to have made that certification in good faith.  On May 5, the Treasury Department extended that safe harbor repayment date to May 14, 2020.  (See question #43 here.)

A new interim rule released on April 30 also limits each corporate group to no more than $20 million in PPP loans, regardless of the loan amounts for which individual businesses in the corporate group otherwise qualify.  For this rule, all businesses that have the same direct or indirect majority owner are in a common corporate group, even if those businesses are not treated as affiliated businesses for purposes of counting employees on their PPP loan applications.  The $20 million cap went into effect on April 30, and applies to all PPP loan applications pending or submitted on or after that date, as well as to loans that were only partially disbursed as of April 30.

Applicants must notify their lenders if they applied for or received a PPP loan that does or could push the total received by their corporate group to over $20 million.  Those loan applications must be cancelled or withdrawn or the loans repaid.  (The interim rule did not provide the option of amending a loan application to reduce the total PPP loan requested by a corporate group to $20 million.)  Retaining a loan that violates the corporate group limit counts as an unauthorized use of PPP loan funds, making the loan ineligible for any forgiveness.

Although the corporate group rule could reduce loan forgiveness for some borrowers, FAQ #40 could increase loan forgiveness for others.  Section 1106(d)(2) of the CARES Act reduces the amount of PPP loan forgiveness borrowers are eligible for if the average number of full-time employees they have or the total salaries and wages they pay eight weeks after the loan is disbursed dip below the numbers from their base period.  However, the new guidance says that if a laid-off employee refuses an offer of rehire by its employer, as long as that offer was for the same salary/wages and hours the employee had before, the employee headcount is not treated as lower for purposes of reducing that employer’s loan forgiveness amount.

FAQ #44 makes a significant change to the SBA Interim Final Rule for any applicant business that has a foreign-based affiliate or affiliates. The SBA Interim Final Rule released April 2 and the early FAQs released by the U.S. Treasury (FAQ #3) made clear that a business “is eligible for a PPP loan if it has 500 or fewer employees whose principal place of residence is in the United States.”  This led many to conclude that employees of foreign affiliates who are resident outside the United States are not counted for the purposes of PPP eligibility. FAQ #44 sweeps those employees back into the count by requiring that for the purposes of the 500-or-fewer employees size standard, an applicant must count not only the employees of its U.S.-based affiliates, but also the employees of affiliates based overseas.

Any qualified business, nonprofit, sole proprietor, or veteran or tribal organization seeking a PPP loan should apply as soon as possible to ensure that funds are still available.  These financial institutions can accept PPP applications.

New PPP guidance is issued regularly, so please check our COVID-19 news page or ask your attorney for updates.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information about the Paycheck Protection Program, please contact your attorney at Gravel & Shea PC or any of the following attorneys at the firm:

Chip Mason (cmason@gravelshea.com), Cassandra LaRae-Perez (claraeperez@gravelshea.com),  Oliver Goodenough (ogoodenough@gravelshea.com), Keith Roberts (kroberts@gravelshea.com), Pauline Law (plaw@gravelshea.com), or Catherine Burke (cburke@gravelshea.com)

Gravel & Shea PC May 6, 2020

May 1, 2020: Governor Scott Announces “Phase 3” of Vermont’s Economic Reopening

On Friday, May 1, 2020, Governor Phil Scott issued Addendum 12 to the Executive Order
declaring a state of emergency in Vermont due to COVID-19. Addendum 12 incorporates expanded
guidance (Click here to view Addendum 12).
from the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (“ACCD”), issued in consultation with the Vermont Department of Health (“VDH”) and the Department of Public Safety/Vermont Emergency
Management (“DPS/VEM”).

Addendum 12 builds on Addenda 10 and 11 by announcing “phase 3” of Governor Scott’s plan to reopen Vermont’s economy. It also amends several mandatory health and safety requirements previously established in Addenda 10 and 11, and expands the mandatory training and reporting requirements first
discussed in Addendum 11. State inspectors will ensure businesses have the information needed to
comply with the health and safety requirements required by Addendum 12.

Phase 3: Continuing the Phased-Reopening of Vermont’s Economy

The business practices authorized in Phases 1 and 2 remain acceptable during “Phase 3.” Beginning Monday, May 4, 2020, unless otherwise stated below, the following business practices will become permissible, so long as mandatory health and safety, training, and reporting requirements are observed.

  • Outdoor businesses: Those who work exclusively or largely outdoors (such as civil engineers, site work, exterior construction, skilled trade, public works, energy and utility work, mining, forestry, environmental monitoring, landscaping, painting, tree work, park maintenance, recreational maintenance, and delivery work) may operate with crews of 10 or fewer persons per location/job.
  • Interior residential construction: May occur in uninhabited structures with 10 or fewer workers in any one location, so long as (i) they are “low density”; and (ii) ensure employees remain 6 feet apart whenever possible. “Location” is defined as any address, regardless of partitions, separation of workspace, or different function. However, starting on May 11, 2020, construction operations may resume with as few employees as necessary to permit full operations while continuing to maintain health and safety, as discussed in more detail below.
  • Interior commercial construction: Indoor construction may occur in “discrete, isolated sections of buildings” and unoccupied structures with 10 or fewer workers. Employers must provide “designated entrances and sanity (hand washing and bathroom) facilities.” However, starting on May 11, 2020, construction operations may resume with as few employees as necessary to permit full operations while continuing to maintain health and safety, as discussed in more detail below.
  • Exterior construction: May operate with crews of 10 or fewer persons per location/job site. However, starting on May 11, 2020, construction operations may resume with as few employees as necessary to permit full operations while continuing to maintain health and safety, as discussed in more detail below.
  • Manufacturing and distribution: Manufacturing and distribution operations may resume if (i) they are low-density; (ii) there are 10 or fewer employees per location; and (iii) employees are able to maintain six feet apart at all times. “Location” is defined as any address, regardless of partitions, separation of workspace, or different function. However, starting on May 11, 2020, manufacturing and distribution operations may resume with as few employees as necessary to permit full operations while continuing to maintain health and safety, as discussed in more detail below.
  • Supporting operations: May continue with the minimum number or workers necessary to support curbside pick-up and delivery services.

Employees who reside in another State and work in Vermont may travel to Vermont for work provided that: (1) their employer adopts the mandatory health and safety requirements described in Addenda 10, 11 and 12, and the related ACCD guidance; (2) the employer trains all employees in accordance with Addendum 12 and related ACCD guidance; (3) the employer complies with other limitations on the number of workers/type of work that can be done, as outlined in Addenda 10, 11 and 12, and the related ACCD guidance; and (4) the employees commute directly to and from work each day. Out-of-state construction crews and property management/landscaping crews are not included in this revised guidance. Those employees must self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to Vermont.

To the extent possible, businesses must continue to support work from home and telecommuting. Businesses are encouraged to continue strategies, procedures, and practices to maximize their telephone and online presence, telephone and web-based service delivery, orders, and curbside pick-up and delivery.

Amended Mandatory Health and Safety Requirements

All businesses must follow VDH and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) guidelines. Beginning Friday, May 1, 2020, businesses operating during the state of emergency must:

  • Designate an on-site health officer for each shift. The health officer is responsible for ensuring compliance with Executive Order 01-20, the addenda to that Order, and the ACCD guidance. The health officer must have the authority to stop and modify activities to ensure such compliance.
  • Provide and document that all employees complete mandatory training on health and safety requirements provided by Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“VOSHA”), or as otherwise required by Addenda 12 and related ACCD guidance. This requirement is discussed in greater detail below. It does not apply to healthcare workers, first responders, or others already trained in infection control, personal protection, and universal precautions.
  • Pre-screen and survey each employee prior to each shift by checking their temperature and determining whether they have symptoms of respiratory illness (e., fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath). Employers are required to immediately order, and use their best efforts to obtain non-contact thermometers to conduct temperature checks.
  • Prevent an employee from attending work if they have come into contact with a COVID-positive employee or other person. The employee must quarantine for 14 days.
  • Post signs at every entrance clearly indicating that no person may enter if they have symptoms of respiratory illness (e., fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath).
  • Provide good air circulation to any indoor workspace where three or more employees are working. The ACCD recommends opening doors and windows to increase air flow, and limiting the number of people occupying a single indoor space.
  • Limit occupancy of common areas, such as break rooms and cafeterias, so that all employees remain at least 6 feet apart. Employers must also require employees to wipe down a common area after use, or ensure cleaning of common areas at “regular intervals throughout the day.”
  • Regularly clean and disinfect all workplace common spaces and equipment (including bathrooms, frequently touched surfaces, doors, tools, other equipment, and vehicles), and, when possible, prior to transfer from one person to another.
  • Prevent employees from reporting to work or remaining at work if they are sick or symptomatic (e., with fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath).
  • Require that employees remain at least 6 feet apart from others while on the job. To the extent possible, businesses are required to ensure that all on-site customers remain at least 6 feet apart from others.
  • Require that employees wear non-medical cloth face-coverings over their nose and mouth when in the presence of others. Retail cashiers may forego a cloth face-covering in lieu of a translucent shield or “sneeze guard.” Businesses may require customers or clients to wear face masks.
  • Provide employees with easy and frequent access to soap and water or hand sanitizer during the duration of work. Provide access to hand washing and/or hand sanitizer for vendors and customers, to the extent possible.
  • Require employees to wash or sanitize their hands before entering and leaving the job site.
  • Prevent 3 or more people from occupy any one vehicle when conducting work.
  • Discourage “to the maximum extent possible” use of shared workspaces, desks, offices, etc.
  • Limit face-to-face staff meetings and limit staff travel between multiple work sites.
  • Consider staggering work shifts and break times, as well as expanding hours to reduce the number of individuals working together and to reduce contact with the public.
  • Ensure a safe process to receive supplies and deliveries.
  • Consider accommodations for employees at higher risk from COVID-19 to work remotely or minimize public interaction.

Enhanced Mandatory Training and Reporting Requirements

  1. VOSHA Training and Reporting Requirements

By Monday, May 4, 2020, all employers must provide and document employee training on standard operating procedures developed by VOSHA in consultation with VDH. Employers also must provide employees with a printed copy of those standards. Employees and/or employers who require translated versions of the training and reporting materials shall have an additional week from the date of release of the translation to complete and document the training.

The English language VOSHA training materials are available online in PDF format .  The certificate of completion is also available online in PDF format.

  1. Employer-Specific Health and Safety Training Plan

All businesses with 10 or more employees at any one office or site, and that suspended operations for 7 or more days under the Stay Home/Stay Safe Order, “shall have on file a health and safety training plan prior to reopening.”  An ACCD template for that plan is available online.   Employers must make their finished plan available to VOSHA and employees upon request.

Employers with 9 or fewer employees at any one office or site “may elect to implement the VOSHA training” rather than creating and implementing an enhanced health and safety training plan. Those smaller employers must nonetheless comply with all other health and safety guidelines addressed in addenda 10, 11, 12, and the ACCD guidance.

Because the VOSHA training materials merely establish minimum standards that will not be sufficient for all businesses, businesses shall adopt a training program prior to reopening that includes additional customized policies and procedures that incorporate at least the following:

  • Adopting a phased-approach to reopening by initially using “a low density and low contact environment before making incremental changes needed to accommodate more moderate density activity while continuing to maintain health and safety.”
  • Updating physical and administrative safety systems to incorporate VDH, CDC, and VOSHA guidelines; and to accommodate health monitoring, including temperature checks, cleaning, sanitizing, and social distancing measures.
  • Taking appropriate steps to protect employees at greater risk of contact due to their duties or their job setting.

Click here to read COVID-19 News and Updates

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Please contact Heather Hammond (hhammond@gravelshea.com) at
Gravel & Shea PC if you have questions or would like assistance.

 

Gravel & Shea PC May 4, 2020

April 28, 2020: Vermont Allows Remote Witnessing for Estate Planning Documents

On April 28, 2020, Governor Scott signed into law amendments to various statutes that allow for the remote witnessing and notarization of wills, powers of attorney and deeds. These amendments dovetail with emergency notarization rules promulgated by the Vermont Secretary of State on March 24, 2020, which will be in effect for 180 days. A similar statutory amendment should soon be enacted to allow remote witnessing of Vermont Advance Directives for Health Care.

We have been working with clients to update or implement estate planning documents but, until now, options for signing documents were limited by the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order and related guidance. With the new remote witnessing rules, we can now attend to the remote witnessing of estate planning documents via videoconference.

Depending on Vermont’s re-opening schedule, we may soon be able to attend to signing documents in person, either outdoors or in a controlled indoor setting and following recommended protocols. Nonetheless, we will offer remote witnessing as an option for as long as the remote witnessing rules are in effect.

Click here to read COVID-19 News and Updates

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FOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information, you may contact any member of our estate planning group: Jeanne Blackmore (jblackmore@gravelshea.com), Livia DeMarchis (ldemarchis@gravelshea.com), Kate Murphy (kmurphy@gravelshea.com), or Nancy Mongeon (nmongeon@gravelshea.com).

 

 

 

Gravel & Shea PC May 1, 2020

April 28, 2020: Treasury Department Issues New Guidance on PPP Loan Disbursement Timing and Seasonal Business Payroll Calculations

The Treasury Department issued new guidance yesterday related to the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”), which addresses the timing of disbursements (and the corresponding loan forgiveness period) and the loan amounts available to seasonal businesses.

The eight weeks after a PPP recipient receives its loan is period for which some, or all, of the loan expenditures could be forgiven. Determining when that eight-week period ends is critical for planning when to pay expenses and hire or rehire employees in order to maximize loan forgiveness. An interim rule issued yesterday requires each PPP loan to be disbursed in a single lump sum within ten days of approval, and clarifies that the loan forgiveness period begins immediately upon loan disbursement. For PPP loans authorized but either not disbursed or not fully disbursed by April 28, full disbursement must occur by May 8, and the eight-week period for forgivable loan spending begins (or began) on the date of the first disbursement. The interim rule also clarifies that if a borrower fails to provide all of the documentation the lender needs in order to disburse a PPP loan within twenty days of the loan approval, the PPP loan will be cancelled.

PPP loan amounts are set at 2.5 times of the borrower’s total payroll costs for a defined period. In recognition of the fact that not all seasonal businesses share the same seasonal employment peak, the Treasury Department also announced an interim ruling providing an alternate average payroll calculation period for seasonal businesses. Now seasonal businesses may request loans 2.5 times the size of either their average monthly payroll for February 15-May 10, 2019 or from any twelve-week period between May 1, 2019 and September 15, 2019. Previously, the CARES Act had only permitted seasonal businesses to take loans 2.5 times their average monthly payroll costs either for the twelve-week period beginning on February 15, 2019 or March 1-June 30, 2019.

Qualified businesses, nonprofits, veterans and tribal organizations seeking PPP loans are urged to apply as soon as possible, because the replenished PPP fund is expected to be exhausted soon. PPP applications are accepted directly by the financial institutions listed here.

Click here to read COVID-19 News and Updates

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FOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information about the Paycheck Protection Program, please contact your attorney at Gravel & Shea PC or any of the following attorneys at the firm:

Chip Mason (cmason@gravelshea.com), Cassandra LaRae-Perez (claraeperez@gravelshea.com), Oliver Goodenough (ogoodenough@gravelshea.com), Keith Roberts (kroberts@gravelshea.com), Pauline Law (plaw@gravelshea.com), or Catherine Burke (cburke@gravelshea.com

Gravel & Shea PC April 30, 2020

April 24, 2020: Governor Scott Announces Phase 2 of Vermont’s Gradual Economic Reopening

On Friday, April 24, 2020, Governor Phil Scott issued Addendum 11 to his initial Executive Order, which declared a state of emergency in Vermont because of COVID-19. Addendum 11 incorporates guidance (https://accd.vermont.gov/news/update-new-work-safe-additions-stay-home-stay-safe-order) from the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (“ACCD”) issued in consultation with the Vermont Department of Health (“VDH”) and the Department of Public Safety/Vermont Emergency Management (“DPS/VEM”).

Addendum 11 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.

Phase 2: A Gradual Reopening of Certain Sectors of Vermont’s Economy

The business practices authorized in “Phase 1” remain acceptable during “Phase 2.” Beginning Monday, April 27, 2020, unless otherwise stated below, the following business practices are permitted, so long as mandatory health and safety, training, and reporting requirements are observed.

  • Outdoor businesses: Those who work exclusively or largely outdoors (such as civil engineers, site work, exterior construction, skilled trade, public works, energy and utility work, mining, forestry, environmental monitoring, landscaping, painting, tree work, park maintenance, recreational maintenance, and delivery work) may operate with crews of 5 or fewer persons per location/job.
  • Interior construction: Indoor construction may occur in uninhabited structures with 5 or fewer workers at a time, and adhering to social distancing standards.
  • Manufacturing and distribution: Manufacturing and distribution operations may resume if (i) they are low-density; (ii) there are 5 or fewer employees per location; and (iii) employees are able to maintain six feet apart at all times. “Any location” is defined as any address, regardless of partitions, separation of workspace, or different function.
  • Outdoor retail: Outdoor retail operations, such as garden centers and greenhouses, may allow in-person shopping if (i) there are 10 or fewer persons – including customers and staff – present at any one time; (ii) there is no more than one customer per 200 square feet; and (iii) the business prevents customer congregation by, for example, having customers wait in their cars until it is permissible for them to shop.
  • Libraries: Libraries may use curbside pick-up in accordance with Department of Libraries’ guidance. All orders must occur on the phone or online. Only the minimum number of employees necessary to support pick-up and delivery services are permitted.
  • Farmers’ markets: Farmers’ markets may reopen with “limited in-person operations” on May 1, 2020, so long as they comply with ACCD guidance, mandatory health and safety requirements, and so long as the applicable municipality approves the reopening. A farmers’ market authorized to reopen must (i) alter business practices to eliminate crowds and reduce contact between vendors and customers by functioning primarily as a food distribution system; (ii) use a “pre-order, local food pick-up model” to the extent possible; (iii) comply with additional Agency of Agriculture and Food Markets’ guidance; (iv) adhere to municipal ordinances, regulations, and permitting requirements; and (v) use only the minimum number of employees necessary to support pick-up and delivery services.

Employees who reside in another State and work in Vermont may travel to Vermont for work provided that: (1) their employer adopts the mandatory health and safety requirements described in Addenda 10 and 11, and the related ACCD guidance; (2) the employer trains all employees, and reports that training to the State, according to the VOSHA requirements; (3) the employer complies with other limitations on the number of workers/type of work that can be done, as outlined in Addenda 10 and 11, and the related ACCD guidance; and (4) the employees commute directly to and from work each day. , Out-of-state construction crews and property management/landscaping crews are not included in this revised guidance. Those employees must continue to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to Vermont.

To the extent possible, businesses must continue to support work from home and telecommuting. Businesses are encouraged to continue strategies, procedures, and practices to maximize their telephone and online presence, telephone and web-based service delivery, orders, and curbside pick-up and delivery.

Mandatory Health and Safety Requirements

All businesses must follow VDH and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) guidelines. Beginning Friday, April 24, 2020, businesses operating during the state of emergency must:

  • Designate an on-site health officer for each shift. The health officer is responsible for ensuring compliance with the mandatory health and safety requirements. The health officer must have the authority to stop and modify activities to ensure such compliance.
  • Provide and document that all employees complete mandatory training on health and safety requirements provided by the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“VOSHA”), or another such program that meets or exceeds the VOSHA standards. This requirement is discussed in greater detail below. It does not apply to healthcare workers, first responders, or others already trained in infection control, personal protection, and universal precautions.
  • To the extent feasible, “pre-screen” or “survey” employees prior to each shift by checking their temperatures and determining whether they have symptoms of respiratory illness (e., fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath).
  • Prevent an employee from attending work if they have come into contact with a COVID-positive employee or other person. The employee must quarantine for 14 days.
  • Post signs at every entrance clearly indicating that no person may enter if they have symptoms of respiratory illness (e., fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath).
  • Provide good air circulation to any indoor workspace where three or more employees are working. The ACCD recommends opening doors and windows to increase air flow, and limiting the number of people occupying a single indoor space.
  • Prevent all employee congregations. All common areas, such as break rooms and cafeterias, must be closed. Bathrooms may remain open.
  • Prevent employees from reporting to work or remaining at work if they are sick or symptomatic (e., with fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath).
  • Require that employees remain at least 6 feet apart from others while on the job, and instruct employees that they should refrain from touching their faces.
  • Require that employees wear non-medical cloth face-coverings over their nose and mouth when in the presence of others. Retail cashiers may forego a cloth face-covering in lieu of a translucent shield or “sneeze guard.”
  • Provide employees with easy and frequent access to soap and water or hand sanitizer during the duration of work.
  • Require employees to wash or sanitize their hands before entering and leaving the job site.
  • Clean and disinfect all workplace common spaces and equipment (including bathrooms, frequently touched surfaces, doors, tools, other equipment, and vehicles) at the beginning, middle, and end of each shift, and prior to transfer from one person to another.
  • Prevent 3 or more people from occupy any one vehicle when conducting work.

Customers, and the public in general, should wear cloth face-coverings when they are interacting with others from outside their households.

Mandatory Training and Reporting Requirements

By May 4, 2020, all employers must provide and document employee training on standard operating procedures developed by VOSHA in consultation with VDH. Employers also must provide employees with a written copy of the VOSHA standards. State inspectors will ensure businesses have the information needed to comply with the training requirements. The VOSHA training (https://labor.vermont.gov/document/protecting-safety-and-health-workers-vosha) and certificate use to report completion of the training (https://labor.vermont.gov/sites/labor/files/doc_library/Certificate%20template_FILLABLE_0.pdf) are now available.

At a minimum, the training program and written procedures must address:

  • The signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
  • An explanation of how COVID-19 is spread.
  • Appropriate social distancing.
  • Personal hygiene practices, including those set forth in Addendum 11 and ACCD guidance.
  • The types, proper use, limitations, location, handling, decontamination, removal, and disposal of personal protective equipment (“PPE”).

An employer may provide a different training program so long as it meets or exceeds VOSHA’s minimum requirements.

Click here to read COVID-19 News and Updates

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Please contact Heather Hammond (hhammond@gravelshea.com) at
Gravel & Shea PC if you have questions or would like assistance.

Gravel & Shea PC April 27, 2020