COVID-19 Updates

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Federal
 

COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide

The UDSA has put together a COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide that outlines programs that are available to support rural businesses and individuals. A copy of the guide can be found here.

 

Reviewing Coronavirus Food Assistance Program Details for Direct Assistance to Farmers

The USDA announced the details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to America’s farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Beginning May 26, the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) will be accepting applications from agricultural producers who have suffered five-percent-or-greater price losses or significant market losses due to COVID-19. Full program details for CFAP can be found here.

 

The American Farm Bureau Federation has put together an initial review of the program and what it might mean for producers across the country and those in New York. 

 

Farmers Can Now Apply for Financial Assistance through USDA CFAP

Agricultural producers can now apply for USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which provides direct payments to offset impacts from the coronavirus pandemic. The application and a payment calculator are now available online, and USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) staff members are available via phone, fax and online tools to help producers complete applications. Applications will be accepted through August 28, 2020.

 

Financial assistance is available to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a 5%-or-greater price decline or who had losses due to market supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 and face additional significant market costs. Eligible commodities include:

 

Non-specialty Crops: malting barley, canola, corn, upland cotton, millet, oats, soybeans, sorghum, sunflowers, durum wheat, and hard red spring wheat; Wool; Livestock: cattle, hogs, and sheep (lambs and yearlings only); Dairy; Specialty Crops: Fruits: apples, avocados, blueberries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, kiwifruit, lemons, oranges, papaya, peaches, pears, raspberries, strawberries, tangerines, tomatoes, watermelons; Vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, dry onions, green onions, peppers, potatoes, rhubarb, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, taro; Nuts: almonds, pecans, walnuts Other: beans, mushrooms.

 

USDA is also establishing a process for the public to identify additional commodities for potential inclusion in CFAP. Specifically, USDA is looking for data on agricultural commodities, that are not currently eligible for CFAP, but producers believe to have either: suffered a five percent-or-greater price decline between mid-January and mid-April as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; shipped but subsequently spoiled due to loss of marketing channel, or not left the farm or remained unharvested as mature crops. A copy of the Notice of Funding Availability can be found here.

 

Producers can download the CFAP application and other eligibility forms from farmers.gov/cfap. Producers of all eligible commodities apply through their local FSA office.


USDA to Provide $1 Billion in Loan Guarantees for Rural Businesses and Ag Producers

The USDA has announced that it is making available up to $1 billion in loan guarantees to help rural businesses meet their working capital needs during the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, agricultural producers that are not eligible for USDA Farm Service Agency loans may receive funding under USDA Business & Industry (B&I) CARES Act Program provisions included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

 

B&I CARES Act Program loans must be used as working capital to prevent, prepare for or respond to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The loans may be used only to support rural businesses, including agricultural producers, that were in operation on Feb. 15, 2020. USDA announced the expanded B&I CARES Act Program authorities in a notice published in the May 21 Federal Register (PDF, 217 KB). Program funding expires Sept. 30, 2021.

 

 

Federal Coronavirus Assistance Legislation 

The CARES Act includes provisions which benefit farmers including a $14 billion increase in USDA’s borrowing authority under the Commodity Credit Corporation, consistent with a long history of the CCC being tapped to support agriculture in times of crisis, and $9.5 billion to assist specialty crop producers, direct retail farmers and livestock operators. An updated fact sheet with a summary of the bill’s provisions and implications for farmers can be found here.

 

Financial Assistance Reminder for Farmers

Farmers are reminded of several programs that can provide financial assistance due to impacts on farm businesses due to COVID-19.

 

  • The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan, provided through the Small Business Administration’s 7(a) program, will help businesses to cover payroll costs and other specified business expenses for qualifying employers with less than 500 employees. Farms are eligible for the program. Information regarding the PPP can be found here. Farmers should check with their banks and lending institutions for assistance with applying. USDA has indicated that funds received under the PPP will not impact payment eligibility for any USDA assistance.
  • The Employee Retention Credit is a refundable tax credit for 50% of up to $10,000 in wages paid by an employer whose business has been financially impacted by COVID-19. The credit applies to wages paid after March 12, 2020, and before January 1, 2021. Self-employed individuals are not eligible for this credit. An employer may not claim Employee Retention Credits if it receives a Small Business Interruption Loan under the Paycheck Protection Program. Additional information can be found here.
  • The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers loans and other programs to provide assistance to businesses impacted by COVID-19. Questions have arisen regarding agriculture and farm eligibility for SBA loans. The SBA recently published an application guide for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program, which can be found here
  • USDA Farm Service Agency and USDA Rural Development Offices have loan programs that farmers may qualify for. Though they are on enhanced telework, they are available by phone appointment and applications are still being processed. To find your local USDA service center, click here.
  • USDA has also issued a FAQ website pertaining to a multitude of COVID-19 related issues concerning agriculture including a section on PPP. The USDA website can be found here.

Info on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

SBA and Treasury have clarified a significant number of common questions and concerns about the program via Interim Final Rule and Frequently Asked Questions.  

The PPP is a guaranteed loan program for small businesses to keep their employees on the payroll or cover expenses for sole-proprietors/ self-employed. Eligible businesses include agriculture enterprises with 500 or fewer employees whose principle place of residence is in the United States. Loans are capped at $10 million but can include up to eight weeks of the business’s average monthly payroll costs from the last year plus an additional 25 percent for non-payroll costs for businesses that was operational on February 15, 2020. Seasonal and new businesses will use different calculations and require different documentation. The PPP will be available through June 30, 2020.

 

Paycheck Protection Program Updates

The Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Department of Treasury have put out a loan calculator document for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) maximum loan amounts for a wide variety of business types. Click here to access the document. There has also been a new FAQ document released by the SBA and Treasury Department with additional guidance.

 

President Signs Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act

Today, President Trump signed H.R. 7010, the Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act. The Senate passed the measure on Wednesday following the House’s action last week. The bipartisan legislation is narrowly focused and provides numerous technical updates to the SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The bill includes the following provisions:

  • Extends the PPP loan forgiveness period to include costs incurred over 24 weeks after a loan is issued or through Dec. 31, whichever comes first.
  • Establishes a minimum loan maturity period of five years following an application for loan forgiveness, instead of the current two-year deadline set by the SBA.
  • Extends the period in which loans can be forgiven if businesses restore staffing or salary levels that were previously reduced from June 30 to Dec. 31. The provision would apply to the worker and wage reductions made from Feb. 15 through 30 days after the enactment of the CARES Act, which was signed into law on March 27.
  • Maintains forgiveness amounts for companies that document their inability to rehire workers employed as of Feb. 15, and their inability to find similarly qualified workers by the end of the year. Under the modified measure, companies would be covered separately if they show that they couldn’t resume business levels from before Feb. 15 because they were following federal requirements for sanitization or social distancing.
  • Extends the deadline to apply for a PPP loan to Dec. 31 from June 30.
  • Reduces the minimum amount of loan forgiveness that comes from payroll costs from 75 percent to 60 percent.
  • Repeals a provision from the CARES Act that barred companies with forgiven PPP loans from deferring their payroll tax payments.
  • Allows borrowers to defer principal and interest payments on PPP loans until the SBA compensates lenders for any forgiven amounts, instead of the current six-month deferral period. Borrowers that don’t apply for forgiveness would be given at least 10 months after the program expires to start making payments.

 

Farmers should consult with their accountant, tax preparer, and/or financial advisor about the PPP application and loan forgiveness form to ensure all the proper documentation has been completed and reviewed.

 

SBA Reopening EIDL for Agricultural Businesses Impacted by COVID-19 Pandemic

The Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that agricultural businesses are now eligible for SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance programs. SBA’s EIDL portal will reopen on May 4, 2020 as a result of funding authorized by Congress through the Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act. The legislation provided additional funding for farmers and certain other agricultural businesses affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Agricultural businesses include businesses engaged in the legal production of food and fiber, ranching, and raising of livestock, aquaculture, and all other farming and agricultural related industries (as defined by section 18(b) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 647(b)). Eligible agricultural businesses must have 500 or fewer employees.

 

The SBA will begin accepting new EIDL applications on a limited basis only, in order to provide unprecedented relief to agricultural businesses. For agricultural businesses that submitted an EIDL loan application through the streamlined application portal prior to the legislative change, SBA will move forward and process these applications without the need for re-applying. All other EIDL loan applications that were submitted before the portal stopped accepting new applications on April 15 will be processed on a first-in, first-out basis. For more information, please visit: www.sba.gov/Disaster.

 

Employee Retention Tax Credit Guidelines

The Employee Retention Credit is a refundable tax credit for 50% of up to $10,000 in wages paid by an employer whose business has been financially impacted by COVID-19. This credit was created by the CARES Act.This credit applies to wages paid after March 12, 2020, and before January 1, 2021. Self-employed individuals are not eligible for this credit. The credit is available to employers regardless of size, tax-exempt 501(c) organizations when business operations are fully or partially suspended by government order due to COVID-19, or to employer’s whose gross receipts are 50% less than the comparable quarter in 2019. Qualifying wages are based on the average number of a business’s employees in 2019. If the employer had 100 or fewer employees the credit is based on wages paid to all employees, regardless if they worked or not. If the employer had more than 100 employees, then the credit is allowed only for wages paid to employees who did not work. Employers can immediately reduce required deposits of Social Security payroll taxes that have been withheld from employees’ wages. If the tax credit exceeds the amount of taxes that the employer would have deposited (calculated quarterly), the employer can request a payment for the difference. An employer may claim tax credits for both the Employee Retention Credit and for paid leave and sick leave tax credits created by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) — but not for the same wages paid. An employer may not claim Employee Retention Credits if it receives a Small Business Interruption Loan under the Paycheck Protection Program. Additional information can be found here.

 

Revised Guidance on Employee Retention Credit

The IRS issued an updated FAQ regarding the Employee Retention Credit, which explains that eligible employers may treat health plan expenses as qualified wages even if the employees are not working and the eligible employer does not pay its employees any wages for the time they are not working. The Employee Retention Credit is a fully refundable tax credit for employers equal to 50 percent of up to $10,000 per quarter of wages (including qualified health plan expenses) that eligible employers pay their employees. This Employee Retention Credit applies to wages paid after March 12, 2020, and before January 1, 2021. This new information can be found at question 62 in the FAQ. The IRS had previously said employers must be still paying wages in order to receive the credit. The IRS FAQ is linked here.

 

Resource Reminder:

The SBA and Treasury Department released the following resources. Please review these links for specific information:

CCE Factsheet on PPP and EIDL for Agricultural Producers

Cornell Cooperative Extension has created a factsheet with the latest update on the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and opportunities for farms. The factsheet contains information regarding recent interpretation and guidance that the Small Business Administration has released in regards to both programs and how those impact farmers applying for the program. A copy of the factsheet can be found here.

 

USDA Adds Flexibility for Crop Insurance

USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) is authorizing additional flexibility due to coronavirus state of emergency. Working through Approved Insurance Providers, RMA is ensuring that crop insurance will be delivered. RMA is providing support to producers working through Approved Insurance Providers (AIPs) to deliver services, including processing policies, claims and agreements. These flexibility include enabling producers to send notifications and reports electronically; extending the date for production reports and providing additional time and deferring interest on premium and other payments. Further information regarding ths flexibility can be found here.

 

FSA Reminds Producers of Ongoing WHIP+ Program Signup

The USDA has started making payments through the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program – Plus (WHIP+) to agricultural producers who suffered eligible losses because of drought or excess moisture in 2018 and 2019. Signup for these causes of loss opened on March 23, and producers who suffered losses from drought (in counties designated D3 or above), excess moisture, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, snowstorms or wildfires can still apply for assistance through WHIP+.

 

To be eligible for WHIP+, producers must have suffered losses of certain crops, trees, bushes, or vines in counties with a Presidential Emergency Disaster Declaration or a Secretarial Disaster Designation (primary counties only) for the following named natural disaster events: hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, snowstorms, wildfires, and now excessive moisture that occurred in 2018 or 2019. Also, losses located in a county not designated by the Secretary as a primary county may be eligible if the producer provides documentation showing that the loss was due to a qualifying natural disaster event. A list of counties that received qualifying declarations and designations is available here. For more information, visit the this link or contact your local FSA office. USDA Service Centers, including FSA county offices, are open for business by phone only, and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing.

 

Farmers Encouraged to Keep Records of Losses

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact farmers and cause losses, be it milk or produce, farmers are encouraged to keep records of any losses. These records can be helpful for any assistance programs that the federal government provides to businesses including farmers. Last Friday, the USDA announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) which will provide direct support to farmers impacted by COVID. A summary of the program can be found here.

 

American Farm Bureau Federation Offering COVID-19 Updates

Similar to NYFB’s new webpage devoted to the latest on the Coronavirus, AFBF is also offering a clearinghouse of information on its website. Click here for additional stories and messages from the national organization.

 

New York State
 

Workers' Compensation During COVID-19

While the COVID-19 pandemic may have changed the way we do business, many of us are able to continue to serve our clients’ insurance needs. An Executive Order mandated that no insurance policies would be canceled, and the insurance world has taken that to heart. Not only have all fees--including late charges and interest fees--been waived, but New York State Insurance Fund (NYSIF) has been working diligently to assist all policyholders with adjustments to payrolls, lenient payment arrangements and continued communications to answer all policy-related questions.The NYSIF Spring 2020 Workers’ Comp Advisor just issued outlines on how NYSIF can help and the steps they’ve taken to assist policyholders. Click here for more information. NYSIF policyholders should check their email or mail for the Advisor soon.

 

As an employer, you know that the safety and well-being of your employees is vital to the continued operations of your business. But, do you know what to do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19? And, how to tell if it would be a work-related occurrence? NYSIF has put together a COVID-19 page on the website as well as a COVID-19 NYSIF’S FAQ document providing guidance.

 

If you have any questions regarding workers’ compensation coverage, whether a policyholder of NYFB Safety Group 486 or just curious, call our specialists Michele Bates at 518-431-5608 or Lucy Tefft at 518-431-5629, or email wcinfo@nyfb.org.

 

Unemployment Insurance in New York Under the CARES Act

On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the third emergency response package to deal with the economic fallout of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Included in this Act are a series of provisions to strengthen and extend unemployment insurance (UI) benefits known as the Relief for Workers Affected by Coronavirus Act. There are three significant provisions to this Act:  

• Increased benefit amounts

• Extended time for benefits

• Extended coverage for individuals who are not typically eligible for unemployment benefits.

 

NYFB has prepared an extensive Fact Sheet for members on unemployment benefits under the CARES Act and procedures to apply to the NYSDOL which can be found here.

 

NYS DOL Unemployment Insurance Frequently Asked Questions

NYS Department of Labor has issued a FAQ document to answer questions regarding unemployment insurance for those impacted by COVID-19. Click here to read.

 

NY State Website for Questions About Emergency Paid Family Leave and Disability

New York State employers have a new paid time off mandate for any of their employees under a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation issued by the state of New York, the Department of Health, local board of health, or any government entity duly authorized to issue such an order due to COVID-19. This does not apply to any non-essential business closed as a result of any executive order, layoff, or any other employee leave request. This new required emergency sick time is (for employers of less than 100 employees) supplemented by enhanced Paid Family Leave (PFL) and NYS Disability (DBL) benefits.

 

The state has created a new website to answer your questions about this new program that can be found at this link. This should be your first resource for questions regarding the new New York State Emergency Paid Sick Leave Law.