COVID-19 Bulletin 6/29/20

UPDATE: WNY Cleared to Enter Phase 4 Tomorrow

Western New York has been approved to enter Phase 4 of reopening tomorrow, Tuesday, June 30th.

New York State released Guidelines for Phase 4 Industries last week.

The guidelines issued for Phase 4 industries also include a Business Safety Plan Template. Having a clear and available re-opening safety plan is a critical part of this process. This plan should be posted in your workplace, available for review, and communicated to employees.

In addition, the guidelines also contain a Business Affirmation Form that allows a business to acknowledge it has read the guidance and understands its obligation to operate accordingly.

Western New York businesses in Phase 1Phase 2 and Phase 3 of reopening are currently allowed to operate and must follow detailed guidance specific to the industry.   

New York has also issued guidance on industries/activities that can reopen on a statewide basis

For help determining if your business is eligible to reopen, use the New York Forward Business Reopening Tool


UPDATE: Employer Responsibility Under Traveler Quarantine

As we told you last week, New York State has imposed a 14-day quarantine for people traveling to New York from states with high COVID-19 infection rates. This quarantine is being rolled out in coordination with the states of New Jersey and Connecticut and applies to residents and non-residents alike.

The Cuomo administration has modified its original travel quarantine Executive Order to make an employee ineligible for paid sick leave benefits from their employer if they voluntarily travel to a state on the quarantine list.


Paid sick leave is also not required if an employee travels to a country with high COVID-19 infections per the CDC.

States on the quarantine list will be adjusted based on current health metrics. States currently impacted are: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah, and Texas.

This list will be dynamic, and the state is currently creating a dashboard to provide updates.


COVID-19 Bulletin 6/24/20
UPDATE: NYS has Released Guidelines for Phase 4 Industries
Western New York is scheduled to enter Phase 4 of reopening next week - Tuesday, June 30th - assuming key COVID-19 health metrics including hospitalization and infection rates continue to trend downward.   
The newly released information contains detailed guidance for the following industries: 

  • Higher Education
  • Low-Risk Outdoor Arts & Entertainment
  • Low-Risk Indoor Arts & Entertainment
  • Media Production 

Several industries/businesses expected to be a part of Phase 4 including indoor shopping malls, movie theatres and gyms are not included in this guidance.   
The guidelines issued for Phase 4 industries also include a  Business Safety Plan Template. Having a clear and available re-opening safety plan is a critical part of this process. This plan should be posted in your workplace, available for review, and communicated to employees. 
In addition, the guidelines also contain a Business Affirmation Form that allows a business to acknowledge it has read the guidance and understands its obligation to operate accordingly. 
Western New York businesses in Phase 1Phase 2 and Phase 3 of reopening are currently allowed to operate and must follow detailed guidance specific to the industry.   
New York has also issued guidance on industries/activities that can reopen on a statewide basis
For help determining if your business is eligible to reopen, use the New York Forward Business Reopening Tool
Traveler Quarantine
New York State is imposing a 14-day quarantine for people traveling to New York from states with high COVID-19 infection rates.  This quarantine is being rolled out in coordination with the states of New Jersey and Connecticut. 

States on the quarantine list will be adjusted based on current health metrics.  States currently impacted:  Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah, and Texas.

COVID-19 Bulletin 6/15/20

UPDATE: WNY Cleared for Phase 3 Reopening 
New York State has cleared Western New York to reopen Phase 3 of our economy tomorrow, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. 

Phase 3 industries are as follows:

  • Food Services 
  • Personal Care 

Guidance for Phase 3 industries can be found HERE.
Phase 3 business join industries approved to reopen in Phase 1 and Phase 2 four and two weeks ago, respectively. 
The guidelines issued for all industries approved to reopen also include a Business Safety Plan Template. Having a clear and available re-opening safety plan is a critical part of this process. This plan should be posted in your workplace, available for review, and communicated to employees. 

In addition, the guidelines also contain a Business Affirmation Form that allows a business to acknowledge it has read the guidance and understands its obligation to operate accordingly. 
For help determining if your business is eligible to reopen, use the New York Forward Business Reopening Tool
New York has also issued guidance on industries/activities that can reopen statewide.  

COVID-19 Bulletin 6/9/20
UPDATE: New York State has Released Guidelines for Phase 3 Industries
Western New York is scheduled to enter Phase 3 of reopening next week – Tuesday, June 16th - assuming key COVID-19 health metrics including hospitalization and infection rates continue to trend downward.   

The newly released information contains detailed guidance for Phase 3 industries

  • Food Services 
  • Personal Care 

The guidelines issued for Phase 3 industries also include a Business Safety Plan Template. Having a clear and available re-opening safety plan is a critical part of this process. This plan should be posted in your workplace, available for review, and communicated to employees. 

In addition, the guidelines also contain a Business Affirmation Form that allows a business to acknowledge it has read the guidance and understands its obligation to operate accordingly. 
Western New York businesses in Phase 1 or Phase 2 of reopening are currently allowed to operate and must follow detailed guidance specific to the industry.   

New York has also updated its guidance on industries/activities that can reopen on a statewide basis, including:  

  • Child Care and Day Camps 
  • Religious and Funeral Services 
  • Dentistry 
  • Public Transportation 
  • Lakes and Ocean Beaches 
  • Professional Sports Training Facilities 

For help determining if your business is eligible to reopen, use the New York Forward Business Reopening Tool. 

COVID-19 Bulletin 6/5/20
UPDATE: Paycheck Protection Program Update
Congress and President Trump have come together to make significant changes to Paycheck Protection Program loans. 
The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act:

  • Extends the loan term from 8 weeks to 24 weeks giving employers more time to rehire employees and qualify for loan forgiveness
  • Lowers the percentage of loan proceeds that must be used on payroll from 75% to 60%
  • Allows PPP recipients to also be eligible for payroll tax deferral
  • Extends the PPP program from June 30 to Dec. 31, 2020

These changes were critical because of the inability of many business owners to use the PPP loan funds given the prolonged economic shutdown of many industries. 

Since Congress created the Paycheck Protection Program back in March, nearly 4.5 million businesses have received loans across the country totaling more than $510 billion.  A new poll shows most small businesses are now at least partially open across the United States, but many believe it will take more than six months to recovery economically. 


June 2, 2020 UPDATE PHASE 2 Reopening

New York State has officially cleared Western New York to reopen Phase 2 of our economy today, Tuesday, June 2, 2020.  Phase 2 industries are as follows: 

  • Offices 
  • Real Estate 
  • Essential and Phase II In-Store Retail 
  • Vehicle Sales, Leases, and Rentals 
  • Retail Rental, Repair, and Cleaning 
  • Commercial Building Management 
  • Hair Salons and Barbershops  

Guidance for Phase 2 industries can be found HERE

Phase 2 industries join industries approved to reopen in Phase 1 two weeks ago. 

The guidelines issued for Phase 2 industries also include a Business Safety Plan Template. Having a clear and available re-opening safety plan is a critical part of this process. This plan should be posted in your workplace, available for review, and communicated to employees. In addition, the guidelines also contain a Business Affirmation Form that allows a business to acknowledge it has read the guidance and understands its obligation to operate accordingly. For help determining if your business is eligible to reopen, use the New York Forward Business Reopening Tool.

Video: Compliance with NYS Guidelines
The Partnership has produced a video tutorial on the steps employers need to take, including what forms need to be filled out on the NYS website, to be in compliance with the state’s reopening protocols. Watch it here.
Keep Buffalo Niagara Working - A Guide to Reopening Your Business-Download HERE
The Partnership has created your one source to access the latest information, guidelines, and resources to find answers to your questions and recommendations for taking on the challenges you face in reopening.  Keep Buffalo Niagara Working brings together connections to CDC guidelines, New York state specific requirements and other leading sources, as well as unique insights and best practices from Partnership members.   

Updated May 21st

Phase-one is here! That being said, navigating reopening, taking advantage of PPP and other benefits, and just operating as a business continues to be complicated and fraught with many potential pitfalls. We’ve provided the latest guidance and reminders below to help you during this time, but remember to reach out to your HR Rep for additional questions, or if you are interested in a quote on an HR Services package to receive detailed help moving forward.

Very Significant PPP Updates are here!

  1. The Forgiveness application is out. This itself helps provide guidance on how forgiveness will work, but we’ve also summarized the most significant updates on this below.
  2. Additional guidance on how the total forgiveness amount will be determined has been provided. Businesses are eligible for a forgiveness amount that is the lesser of:
    • Your full PPP loan amount or;
    • The sum of all forgiveness-eligible costs as reduced for employee compensation and FTE headcount reductions (more info below), or;
    • Payroll costs during the covered period divided by 0.75 (such that the amount forgiven is not less than 75% payroll costs). This appears to mean that you could have determined you could not spend a full 75% of what was disbursed on payroll, and still be eligible for full forgiveness of what you did spend based on reworking the numbers for this consideration.
  3. You can choose to (slightly) modify the spending period for eligible payroll costs only in order to better align the period with your payroll schedule.
    • New guidance indicates you can choose either the 8-week (56-day) period from the date of disbursement OR, if more convenient to align with your payroll schedule, an alternative 8-week period that begins on the first day of your first pay period following the loan disbursement. Note this “alternative period” cannot be set for non-payroll costs used for PPP.
  4. More detailed definitions of “eligible forgiveness costs” and terms have been provided.
    • Eligible Payroll Costs: In general, payroll costs must be paid rather than incurred during the decided PPP period. Payroll costs are considered paid on the day that paychecks are distributed or the Borrower originates an ACH credit transaction. Payroll costs are considered incurred on the day that the employee earns the pay.
    • Eligible Non-payroll Costs: These qualifying costs must be paid or incurred during the PPP period and paid on or before the next regular billing date, even if the billing date is after your PPP period. This suggests that costs allocable to the period prior to the PPP period, but paid during the PPP period are eligible non-payroll costs.
  5. New clarification has been provided on how the forgiveness amount will be calculated.

The amount of your PPP loan forgiven will be determined based on:

  1. First and foremost, the loan will be reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount of any salary cut for anyone employed during your PPP period that is in excess of 25% of such employee’s total salary or wages for the January 1, 2020 to March 31, 2020 period and either (i) did not receive annualized compensation of $100,000 or more in any pay period in 2019; or (ii) was not employed by employer in 2019.
  2. The second major reduction factor will be for any reduction in the average number of FTE (full-time equivalent) employees during your PPP period compared to the average number of FTE employees per month during a reference period that you select. You can select one of the following reference periods: 2/15/19 – 6/30/19, 1/1/20 – 2/29/20, or, in the case of seasonal employers, average number of FTE employees per month between 2/15/19 – 6/30/19.
    • Any scenario where you made a written effort (offer, etc.) to rehire an employee during your PPP period which was rejected by the employee.
    • Any employee who, during your PPP period was: fired for cause, voluntarily resigned, or voluntarily requested and received a reduction of hours.
    • Note that for these exceptions, you cannot include this FTE for situations where you replaced the employee with a new employee (this new employee will already have taken that FTE’s place and this would be “double-dipping”).
    • Pro-tip: these scenarios only exist if you can document that they actually happened! Make sure you are using our resources and letters to document these occurrences.
    • The following exceptions apply to the FTE reduction (meaning you can still count the lost headcount if the following scenarios apply):
  1. There does still seem to be an ultimate-forgiveness caveat tied to the 6/30/2020 date.
    • If you reduced your FTE count or salaries/pay in the period during COVID (between 2/15 and 4/26), but then you returned these levels to their “normal” state by 6/30/2020 (even if they were not “normal” during your PPP period) any reductions in these numbers during your PPP period appear as if they will be overlooked. Note, this appears to be an all-or-nothing caveat, so unless you 100% return to normal levels, any other scenarios will not qualify you for the exemption. Further clarity is still needed here to understand exactly how this will be determined, and we will provide updates we get more info.
    • Finally, the forgiveness application seems to indicate another all-inclusive way to avoid forgiveness reduction: if you have not reduced either the number of employees; or the average paid hours of your employees between 1/1/20 and the end of your PPP period, then it seems there will be no reduction in your forgiveness amount. Further clarity to come.
  2. We finally know what FTE means!
    • Average FTE during your PPP period is determined using the average number of hours paid per week, divided by 40, and rounded to the nearest tenth. This calculation is done on an employee-by-employee basis and the maximum FTE for each employee is capped at 1.0. If you do not want to do this exact calculation in situations where it would be burdensome, you can use a simplified method that assigns a 1.0 for employees who work 40 hours or more per week and 0.5 for those who work fewer, but should note that doing so may understate FTEs.

You must have a plan put together before you can reopen!

  • You need a safety plan to reopen that considers NYS, DOL, OSHA, CDC and other requirements and input. This is now a requirement in NYS and you are subject to audits of this plan and penalties if you do not take proper steps to plan for keeping people safe and reacting appropriately when needed.
    •  Payroll and HR Services can help facilitate material for you to assemble a plan yourself, however considering the legal and other ramifications potentially tied to his matter, we highly recommend getting a quote for our expert-safety services to help assemble the most air-tight plan possible.

Other Developments/Reminders:

  • Remember your obligations to still provide leaves for COVID and COVID-related issues.
    • On a similar note, ADA (disability) accommodation-type requests are likely to sky rocket during this time, so make sure you are handling these very carefully to avoid legal issues (documentation, making reasonable accommodations, etc.)
    • This includes FFCRA leave (don’t forget to put the poster up), but also DBL, ADA, PFL, and plain old FMLA. Remember to properly document all leave requests and other communications for legal protection but also federal reimbursement purposes (FFCRA).
  • The deadline for EEO reporting has been delayed.
    • Employers required to complete this reporting (generally those with 100 or more employees) are not required to complete any reporting until 2021. This includes EEO-1, EEO-3 and EEO-5 reports.
    • In the meantime, you can prepare by making sure you are tracking EEO info for employees as required (demographic info).


Check out all the info HERE at New York Forward:

https://forward.ny.gov

UPDATE: New York State has cleared Western New York to reopen Phase One of our economy tomorrow, Tuesday, May 19, 2020. 

Improving health metrics and the identification and training of necessary personnel to achieve the region’s COVID-19 contact tracing objectives have allowed for the reopening.

Phase One industries are as follows:

  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Retail – Curbside Pickup
  • Wholesale Trade
  • Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting

 New York State has released detailed guidelines for both non-essential businesses allowed to reopen tomorrow and essential businesses throughout the state that were previously permitted to remain open.

The guidelines also provide a Business Safety Plan Template. Having a clear and available reopening safety plan is a critical part of the reopening process.  Please review the template provided by New York State as your company makes decisions.

In addition, the guidelines also contain a Business Affirmation Form that allows a business to acknowledge it has read the guidance and understands its obligation to operate accordingly.

A breakdown of the criteria WNY is meeting and how we compare to other regions in NYS can be found HERE.


COVID-19 Business Assistance Program

FREE from US itek - Click the link above

To assist local businesses, US itek is able to offer some services at no cost until the end of 2020. We hope greatly that these tools will be able to serve you and your immediate needs, and we look forward to being a trusted partner and valuable resource for you as we ALL continue to work towards a better outcome on the other side of crisis.


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