COVID-19 Resources

Updated as information is received.

July 22, 2020

Dear All:

In an attempt to assist the restaurant business during this COVID-19 pandemic, yesterday the Governor signed into law the bill that allows restaurants such as yours to sell cocktails as a to go/delivery item when the customer is purchasing a food order to go or for delivery.  This is in addition to the previous law enacted allowing the sale of malt and/or wines with food to go/delivery orders. 

Please note that there are various limitations which are detailed on the attached Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (“ABCC”) Advisory, and with which you must comply.  Such limitations, include but are not limited to: cocktails can only be sold in conjunction with the purchase of food (business must keep copies of receipts and produce to licensing authority for inspection); the cocktail must be prepared with the same proportions as if being prepared for on premises consumption; the cocktail must be packaged in a sealed container and if such container has a hole for a straw/sipping, that hole must be further sealed (tape is allowed); the business must ensure the purchaser and recipient of the item is at least 21 years old; each customer is limited to a maximum of 64 fluid ounces of mixed drinks per transaction; and the drinks must be transported in the trunk of the vehicle or some other area which is not considered a passenger area. 

Regardless of this and other emergency laws passed due to this pandemic, all other laws, rules and regulations regarding the sale and/or delivery of alcohol continue to apply and will be enforced.  In addition, all licensees are expected to continue to abide and comply with all of the Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, City of Cambridge Ordinances, and any rules, regulations, advisories and guidance issued by the Governor, ABCC, City of Cambridge and Board of the License Commissioners.

Click here to apply online

July 15, 2020

Today, Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and City Manager Louis A. DePasquale announced that the City of Cambridge Relief and Recovery Programs, the Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund for small businesses, and the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) Zero-Interest Loan program is distributing nearly $3.6 Million to Cambridge small businesses financially impacted by the COVID-19 public health crisis.
For more information click here

July 9, 2020

We’re excited to present our second Summer Series Webinar focused on issues of reopening after COVID-19, presented with our friends at UTCA.
 
On Tuesday July 14 at 11 AM, Evan Murphy and Meghan Avery of UTCA will be discussing the issues of unemployment insurance and the CARES Act.


The Cares Act has put emergency provisions into the state unemployment insurance systems giving richer benefits than ever before, for longer periods.
 
While this is a huge relief to employees affected by Covid-19, many furloughed workers are now earning substantially more on unemployment than their employer paid them while working. As the 7/31 deadline for the additional $600 weekly UI “boost” comes to an end, many employers are struggling in their recall efforts and are questioning what their options are to deal with reluctant or non-responsive employees.
 
Please join us for an interactive session that will address:
·     Financial risk of Covid-19 unemployment charges to for-profit and non-profit businesses
·     How to properly track and protest your charges
·     Best practices for implementing your recall process to limit UI liability
·     “Good cause” for refusing to return to work
 
An update of current state of the UI system will be followed with a question and answer period in an interactive chat session. Registrants are encouraged to pose any questions they may have relative to their workforce and impacted states of operation.
 
We invite your questions in advance to Meghan Avery at mavery@utcainc.com.

July 2, 2020

The Baker Administration announced that Phase III of Massachusetts’s reopening plan will begin Monday, July 6th.
Phase III will operate under a two-phase schedule, like Phase II. There is no date for when the 2nd part of Phase III will begin.


Beginning Monday, gyms, fitness centers, museums, cultural and historical facilities will be allowed to reopen, and small guided tours may resume. However, there are specific restrictions and guidelines they must follow.


Also, indoor gatherings are limited to eight people per 1,000 square feet but should not include more than 25 people. Gatherings in enclosed outdoor spaces are limited to 25 percent or 100 people.

More information available here.

June 30, 2020

June 24, 2020

In this alert, we have information for Massachusetts employers on reopening, a Cyber Security Informational Session, COVID Testing, a Supreme Court Decision, and PCORI fees.


As Massachusetts moves further into Phase 2 of reopening its economy more industry sectors are now moving toward operating


On Monday, the following became eligible to reopen:
·        Indoor table service at restaurants;
·        Close contact personal services, with restrictions;
·        Retail dressing rooms, by appointment only;
·        Offices, at 50 percent capacity


Guidance from the state includes staggering shifts, when to notify a board of health of potential infections, and removal of non-essential items from the area. 


Currently, activity is not allowed without meeting COVID-19 workplace safety standards. These standards apply to all enterprises permitted to operate until rescinded or amended by the State, unless where sector-specific standards are applicable, in which case enterprises must follow those sector-specific standards. The state has provided a checklist of these general activities. 


Even if your business is not currently operating in Phase II, we would recommend you consider these activities as they are likely to persist into later steps of Phase II or into Phase III.


Reopening For Business – Free Webinar


With staffing remaining light, remote work continues to flourish. With recent news of Unemployment fraud using stolen personal information, cyber-security should be at the forefront of any business owners’ mind. 


As part of our summer series of webinars around the issues of reopening, our first presentation will address remote IT security.


On July 7 at 11 AM, Jay Small of Cinch IT will present “Sanitizing Your IT Network and Infrastructure.” With so many companies running on increased work-from-home arrangements the inevitable security concerns arise: cyber-security, compliance issues, phishing attacks and the like. Join us for a free discussion of the concerns around our new working realities. To register for this free webinar, click here.


COVID Antibody Testing Unlawful


The EEOC has determined that while testing for active COVID infection is permissible, mandatory testing for COVID antibodies is not job related and is therefore not permissible – the difference being determining active infection vs. previous infection. As the science evolves, this position could change.
Employers can still choose to offer antibody testing, but an employee’s decision to take the test must be knowing and voluntary and in most states, the employer is responsible for paying for the test.


CIP can help assist you in setting up a COVID infection testing protocol. Email us at rapidresponse@askcip.com for information.




Supreme Court Expands Title VII Protections To Include Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation


The Supreme Court decided a landmark case expanding Title VII protection to Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation. While this doesn’t necessarily affect Massachusetts employers as state civil rights law is broader than Federal Law, employers now have liability at the Federal level. Employers should review their harassment and discrimination policies to include these protections.


PCORI Fee Due July 31, 2020


Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), fees are assessed for some self-insured health plans. The Comparative Effectiveness Research Fee (CERF) is designed to help fund the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010 designed to fund medical research that will provide patients, their caregivers, and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed healthcare decisions.


More information can be found on our website

June 22, 2020

June 17, 2020

Please find below guidance for employers for communication with the Cambridge Public Health Department regarding employees suspected of or confirmed with COVID19.

June 12, 2020

The City has established procedures for restaurants that want to operate outdoor dining service in Phase II of the Commonwealth’s Re-Opening Plan. Restaurants that already have approval for outdoor dining areas on private property and are seeking temporary approval to extend the area/footprint: • You may commence outdoor dining service in the currently approved footprint area upon the Governor’s announcement that restaurants may open on June 8, 2020 for outdoor dining service in Phase II. • You must comply with all social distancing guidelines and safety measures released by the Governor’s Office on May 29, 2020. • To get temporary approval for the additional area, you must submit through your Viewpoint account an application for Temporary Outdoor Extension of Licensed Premises Due to COVID19. See below for the application requirements  APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS: (1) Copy of the floor plan showing the dimensions of the area (including the square footage), where the tables and chairs will be located, the distance (in dimensions) of the space between tables/chairs, the location of the hostess stand (if applicable), location of sanitizing station, the total capacity of the area, the barriers (including material and dimensions) proposed to be used to delineate and secure the outdoor area, any existing street furniture, infrastructure or tree grates, and if the proposed area is on a sidewalk, the dimensions of the remaining passable sidewalk, which must be no less than four feet (4’). The floor plan does not have to be stamped by an architect, but it must depict accurate dimensions. (2) For private property, copy of the lease/letter of intent showing that you have the right to occupy the area. (3) [If extending to public property] Indemnification Agreement. (4) [If extending to public property and seeking to serve alcohol along with food in outdoor area] Sidewalk/Street Restaurant Patio License, Maintenance and Indemnification Agreement completed by the Applicant. (5) [If extending to public property] $5000 Sidewalk Obstruction or Permit Bond. (6) [If seeking to serve alcohol along with food in outdoor area] Proof of liquor liability insurance. (7) [If extending to public property] Photo of sidewalk and/or street area of proposed patio location. (8) Photo of barriers being used to separate area from vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic. (9) Any other document/information necessary and as requested by the City of Cambridge.

June 11, 2020

To make sure everyone is aware that changes have been made to the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, making the program’s lending terms more favorable to businesses.


Key aspects of the changes to the PPP:


· Extends the eight-week period under which loan recipients can spend the PPP money from eight weeks to 24 weeks, or until Dec. 31.


· Removes the limits on loan forgiveness for small businesses that were unable to rehire employees, hire new employees or return to the same level of business activity as before the virus.


· Expands the 25% cap to use PPP funds on nonpayroll expenses, such as rent, mortgage interest and utilities, to 40% of the total loan. That lowers the 75% requirement for payroll expenses to 60%.


· Extends the loan terms for any unforgiven portions that need to be repaid from two years to five years.


· Extends the period for when a business can apply for loan forgiveness, from within six months to within 10 months of the last day of the covered period.


· June 30, 2020 remains the last date on which a PPP loan application can be approved.

More information here.

June 6, 2020

The following businesses will be eligible to reopen in Step One of Phase II on June 8, with contingencies:

  • Retail, with occupancy limits;
  • Restaurants, outdoor table service only;
  • Hotels and other lodgings, no events, functions or meetings;
  • Warehouses and distribution centers;
  • Personal services without close physical contact, such as home cleaning, photography, window washing, career coaching and education tutoring;
  • Post-secondary, higher education, vocational-tech and occupation schools for the purpose of completing graduation requirements;
  • Youth and adult amateur sports, with detailed guidance;
  • Outdoor recreation facilities
  • Professional sports practices, no games or public admissions;
  • Non-athletic youth instructional classes in arts, education or life skills and in groups of less than 10;
  • Driving and flight schools
  • Outdoor historical spaces, no functions, gatherings or guided tours;
  • Funeral homes, with occupancy limits

The following businesses will be eligible reopen in Step Two of Phase II at a later date to be determined:

  • Indoor table service at restaurants
  • Close-contact personal services, with restrictions, including:
  • Hair removal and replacement
  • Nail care
  • Skin care
  • Massage therapy
  • Makeup salons and makeup application services
  • Tanning salons
  • Tattoo, piercing and body art services
  • Personal training, with restrictions

June 3, 2020

May 19, 2020
As of Monday May 18th,  the DPH reported a total of 87,052 cases of COVID-19.  The state has now confirmed a total of 5,862 deaths from the virus.

  • Governor Baker released his economic re-opening plan at a Monday press conference and DPH issued an updated “Safer at Home” advisory.
  • The new Safer at Home Advisory instructs everyone to stay home unless they are headed to a newly opened facility or activity. 
  • It also advises those over the age of 65 and those with underlying health conditions to stay home with the exception of trips required for health care, groceries, or that are otherwise absolutely necessary. 
  • All residents must continue to wear a face covering in public when social distancing is not possible, and individuals are advised to wash their hands frequently and be vigilant in monitoring for symptoms. 
  • Restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people remain in effect.
  • The administration plan calls for a phased re-opening with a goal of full operations in a “new normal”.
  • Key public health metrics will determine if and when it is appropriate to proceed through reopening phases. They include:
  • COVID-19 positive test rate
  • Number of individuals who died from COVID-19
  • Number of patients with COVID-19 in hospitals
  • Health care system readiness
  • Testing capacity
  • Contact tracing capabilities
  • Manufacturing, construction and houses of worship are able to open immediately, provided they meet health and safety criteria.
  • Hospitals and community health centers that attest to specific public health and safety standards can also begin to provide high priority preventative care, pediatric care and treatment for high risk patients.
  • A number of other industries can open in Phase 1, next Monday, May 25th, including limited retail, office and lab space, recreational marijuana, barber shops, salons and pet groomers.
  • The plan did not address childcare, K-12 or higher education.
  • Restaurants are slated to re-open in phase 2, meaning a minimum of 3 more weeks, but possibly longer based on health and safety criteria.

May 18, 2020

Today, May 18, 2020 Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito outlined reopening requirements for non-essential businesses, and the “Reopening Massachusetts” website.


Manufacturing, construction and some health care activities are able to restart immediately, with corporate offices and other businesses allowed to open their doors May 25, all under tight restrictions.


All businesses and activities, as they reopen, must meet the following minimum safety standards:


Social Distancing:
All persons, including employees, customers, and vendors should remain at least six feet apart to the greatest extent possible, both inside and outside workplaces
Establish protocols to ensure that employees can practice adequate social distancing
Provide signage for safe social distancing
 Require face coverings or masks for all employees


Hygiene Protocols:
Provide hand washing capabilities throughout the workplace
Ensure frequent hand washing and ensure adequate supplies
Provide regular sanitization of high touch areas, such as workstations, equipment, screens, doorknobs, restrooms throughout work site


Staffing and Operations:
Provide training for employees regarding the social distancing and hygiene protocols
Employees who are displaying COVID-19-like symptoms do not report to work
Establish a plan for employees getting ill from COVID-19 at work, and a return-to-work plan


Cleaning and Disinfecting:
Establish and maintain cleaning protocols specific to the business
When an active employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, cleaning and disinfecting must be performed
Disinfection of all common surfaces must take place at intervals appropriate to said workplace


All businesses must meet these requirements before reopening. Businesses operating to provide Essential Services,may remain open and have until May 25, 2020 to comply with these mandatory safety standards ALL OF WHICH ARE AVAILABLE ON THE STATE WEBSITE LINKED ABOVE


COVID-19 control plan – The state has generated a template that satisfies the written control plan requirement for self-certification
Compliance attestation poster – Poster that customer facing businesses are required to print, sign, and post in an area within the business premises that is visible to workers and visitors
Employer and Worker posters – Posters that businesses can print and display within the business premises to describe the rules for maintaining social distancing, hygiene protocols, and cleaning and disinfecting


Sector Specific Best Practices and protocols for the following are currently available on the “Reopening Massachusetts” site:


May 18 Reopening
·        Manufacturing
·        Construction
·        Places of Worship


May 25 Reopening
·        Offices spaces
·        Hair Salons and Barber shops
·        Car Washes
·        Pet Grooming


Additionally guidance from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs regarding recreation, including beaches, parks, mountain biking, and recreational boating was also posted


“Safer at Home” Employers are encouraged to continue remote work programs where appropriate, as everyone is safer at home.


If staying at home is not possible, general social guidance continues to be:


Cover your face — All residents are REQUIRED to cover their face when they cannot maintain six feet of social distance in public;
Wash your hands;
Socially distance;
Be vigilant for symptoms;
Stay home if you feel sick

Governor Charlie Baker reveals details of Reopening Massachusetts Plan   

https://www.mass.gov/info-details/reopening-massachusetts#sector-specific-protocols-and-best-practices-

May 15, 2020 

Grants and Loan Programs available to businesses through the City of Cambridge

If you have any questions regarding these programs, please contact:  

Pardis Saffari
Senior Economic Development Manager
Economic Development Division
Cambridge Community Development Department
(617) 349-4654 

May 11th, 2020

Update on re-opening process from Governor Baker’s press conference Monday, May 11, 2020 at 1:00 p.m.

Announcement: In order the help businesses prepare for reopening, we are announcing the Four-Phased Approach that Massachusetts will use to reopen, as well as the Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards that all businesses will need to adopt.

  • Phased Planning: Massachusetts will follow a four phased approach to reopening. Non-essential businesses and activities with a lower risk of COVID-19 transmission will open in earlier phases. Riskier activities will open in later phases. We will have additional information in the coming days about which industries and activities will open in each phase
  • Framework: There will be three levels of guidance from our administration that each sector, industry, and business will need to follow.The first is general social guidance about how people should conduct themselves. We are announcing the second level, which is Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards that all businesses must adopt upon reopening. We will later provide industry specific guidance.  
  • Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards: All workplaces in Massachusetts that are allowed to operate will be required to implement these Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards. The standards were developed by the Reopening Advisory Board, in consultation with the Department of Public Health (DPH) and the COVID-19 Command Center.

As of May 8th, DPH reported a total of 75,333 cases of COVID-19. 

The state has now confirmed a total of 4,702 deaths from the virus.

EOHHS Secretary Sudders and Hilltown Health Center CEO Eliza Lake joined Governor Baker at his Friday press conference to highlight a new public awareness campaign with the message that community health centers are open and people should come in for the care they need.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced the city will not hold large events like parades and festivals through Labor Day.
The Boston Pops also announced that it was canceling its annual Fourth of July concert.
New figures published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics further confirm the economic devastation of the pandemic.
With the widespread job losses, the national unemployment rate rose to 14.7 percent last month.
Both the 20.5 million lost jobs and the 10.3 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate were the largest one-month jumps since the Bureau of Labor Statistics launched those data series in 1939 and 1948, respectively.
The largest impact came in the leisure and hospitality sector, where April employment dropped 7.7 million, or 47 percent of the industry’s entire job force.
Nearly two dozen MBTA projects will be delayed as a result of the pandemic.
Massachusetts will receive $28M in fisheries assistance under CARES Act allocations announced late this week.
Only Alaska and Washington, which will receive $50M in aid are receiving larger allocations than Massachusetts.
Maine is slated to receive $20M.The Senate on Thursday passed a short-term borrowing bill to bridge the impending gap in state revenues, and also approved a remote voting system to facilitate a final vote on the bill, which may come next week.
As amended during Thursday’s session, the temporary remote voting rules will allow senators to submit a letter expressing how they wish to vote on the enactment of the borrowing bill, and their votes would be announced in the chamber by the presiding officer.

Senate leadership is working on a longer-term rules package, targeted for implementation in early June, to conduct emergency-era formal sessions beyond the governor’s borrowing bill.
The House on Thursday adopted a clause to Governor Baker’s short-term borrowing bill that would set it into effect immediately after the governor signs it into law.

The House and Senate both plan to meet again on Monday at 11am for informal sessions.

A federal judge will temporarily lift a Governor Baker executive order requiring firearm retailers to close their physical businesses during the COVID-19 state of emergency.

U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock issued a preliminary injunction Thursday in a case that Massachusetts residents, gun shop owners and gun rights groups brought against the Baker administration.

The online case docket indicated the order will take effect at 12 p.m. Saturday.

May 4th, 2020

The CIP Group Considerations for Reopening for Business
What to consider while you plan to reopen for business Post COVID return

The CIP Group extends well wishes to everyone in our extended community amid this unprecedented period of time. We are writing to let you know The CIP Group continues to provide services that will help reopen your doors and restore operations to our new post-COVID-19 normal. From the start, it has been our goal to be a stabilizing, informational force, leveraging our resources and connections to best support you during these trying and unprecedented times. Prior to re-opening, every business – regardless of size – must identify and implement reasonable coronavirus precautions. These steps will help protect the well-being of customers, vendors and employees. We have included a Post COVID Return to Work Planning guide on our website we hope will provide value as you begin your planning. You can download it by following this link.   Of course, every business also must have the ability to clearly and effectively communicate these safeguards with external audiences, including regulators.

The CIP Group has partnered with a leading Risk/Crisis Communications expert, to offer clients a complimentary Business Recovery Communications plan. This comprehensive guide will help clients share their coronavirus safety measures with customers and the public at large. To receive a complimentary Business Recovery Communications plan, please email our Rapid Response team at rapidresponse@askcip.com or just reach out to your trusted CIP Contact.

The CIP Group
799 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02141 

  • Governor Baker on Monday gave florists, as well as many other “non-essential” businesses, a green thumbs up to bring back a limited number of employees to fulfill online and phone orders for delivery, as long as they follow proper safety measures and keep the doors locked to customers.
  • The updated guidance comes just ahead of Mother’s Day, which is a major event on the calendar for many garden and flower businesses.
  • Retailers Association of Massachusetts President Jon Hurst has been making a hard push over the past week to get the Baker administration to relax its essential businesses order to allow fulfillment centers and other retailers categorized as non-essential, including bookstores and jewelers, to work in locked store fronts.
  • The administration quietly updated its essential services guidance to allow a limited number of employees of florist shops and other businesses to reenter closed stores and warehouses to fulfill and ship orders taken over the phone and online.
  • The new guidelines require these stores to remain closed to the public and limit operating hours to allow for sufficient off-hour cleaning. Employees must wear face coverings and stay at least six feet apart from one another, and all deliveries must be “no-contact” deliveries to consumers.
  • The guidelines also limit the number of employees that can work at a given time, starting with three in a business smaller than 10,000 square feet and growing to seven in a facility with more than 30,000 square feet.
  • Employers must also require workers to self-administer temperature checks before their shifts, and not report to work if they have a fever over 100 degrees.
  • The updated essential business guidelines also made new allowances for car dealerships, allowing for sales to resume over the phone or online and for dealerships to follow the same remote fulfillment rules as other retailers.
  • Test drives of vehicles are not permitted, and all processing of documents should be done electronically, if possible, the rules said.
  • Dealerships must remain closed to walk-in customers, but transfer, delivery and return of new and leased vehicles or trade-ins can be conducted in person by appointment.

May 1st, 2020

Mask and Face Covering Order: The Baker-Polito Administration has ordered all residents over the age of two to use a face covering or mask in public places where maintaining proper social distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are not possible. This statewide order goes into effect on May 6th and supersedes previously issued guidance relative to mask use. 

This order applies to all workers and customers of businesses and other organizations that are currently open to the public and permitted to operate as COVID-19 Essential Businesses, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and other retail stores. Residents are also required to wear a mask or face covering at all times when using any means of transportation service or public mass transit.

A face covering may include anything that covers your nose and mouth, including a mask, scarf or bandana. Health care masks should not be used and should be preserved for health care workers and first responders. Cloth masks should not be worn by young children under the age of two, persons with difficulty breathing, or those who are unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. Instructions on how to make a cloth mask are available from the CDC here.

April 27th, 2020

This morning at 10:30am, the second round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is going live. The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has created a web page with resources for smaller businesses including nonprofits to aide them in applying to this program.

The Resource Page Includes:

– An info sheet describing the program
– Links to other resources including program information and loan applications in 19 languages
– A list of technical assistance providers indicating they can help small businesses/nonprofits apply for the PPP
– A list of financial institutions that can process PPP loans for non-customers

You can visit the page here: https://www.bostonfed.org/in-the-region/covid-19-resources/paycheck-protection-program.aspx

Cambridge Savings Bank Announces
COVID-19 Nonprofit Relief Grants
Cambridge Savings Bank has recognized that non-profits are experiencing financial and operational challenges. Their Charitable Foundation is elevating their giving by $1 million dollars. Their first focus is providing assistance to overcome food access challenges.
Click to for Application and Requirements

April 16th, 2020

Our goal during this crisis is to be a stabilizing, informational force, leveraging our resources and connections to best support you during these trying and unprecedented times. Just a reminder that we have set up the RapidResponse@askcip.com email to help you and your employees.


So much has transpired in the last few weeks that it can be difficult to keep track. This is meant to be a guide to where we currently are with new legislation, regulations and rules. In short:


Massachusetts employer Unemployment Experience Rating may or may not be affected by COVID claims


The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released regulations and updated its FAQs on the Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) and Expanded Family Leave (EFML) provided under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).


The IRS has published additional resources and a FAQ on how employers are to document EPSL and EFML. These IRS documents also instruct employers on how to apply for the tax credits to reimburse employers for providing those benefits.


OSHA published its Enforcement Guidance for Respiratory Protection and the N95 Shortage Due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic. The guidance discusses alternatives to N95 respirators and the extended use or reuse of N95 respirators. This guidance can be found here


Please bear in mind this remains a fluid and evolving situation. The information provided here does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information is for general informational purposes only. 


Massachusetts Unemployment Experience Rating


The CARES Act specifies relief for the federally extended benefits (additional 13 weeks) and the waiting week waiver for Covid-19 related charges as well as the additional $600/week. The states are all figuring out respectively what will be relieved for the first 26 weeks of state UC benefits issued due to Covid-19 related claims.


In Massachusetts the senate bill no.2618 currently pending with the House Ways and Means committee, proposes that employer’s experience shall not be affected. Absent legislation, employer experience ratings will reflect COVID related charges.


For non-profits, the Federal CARES Act calls for a recommended relief of 50% of charges, but there remains discussion. The states are seeking more guidance there, as the language is very loose, even allowing 50% of relief of all charges not just COVID-19 related. The Massachusetts bill also calls for a 120 day benefit charge payment deadline extension.




Sick Leave/Family Leave Benefits Not Available When Workplace Closed Or Employee Furloughed


An employee is not entitled to EPSL or EFML after the employee has been furloughed or the workplace has been closed (whether pursuant to a government order or lack of business). Employees who are already on one of these paid leaves when they are furloughed or the workplace closes must be paid up to the point of closure or furlough, but not after. Employers can furlough employees who are out on leave, but should be careful to appropriately document the basis for the decision to show the reasons were not discriminatory or retaliatory for taking protected leave.
 
What Is Telework


Telework is broadly defined and is equivalent to work performed at the employer’s worksite. The regulations explain “that an employee subject to a quarantine or isolation order is able to telework, and therefore may not take paid sick leave, if (a) his or her employer has work for the employee to perform; (b) the employer permits the employee to perform that work from the location where the employee is being quarantined or isolated; and (c) there are no extenuating circumstances that prevent the employee from performing that work.”


Using EPSL Where Employee Is Experiencing COVID-19 Symptoms And Seeking Medical Diagnosis


The regulations provide important information about this reason for EPSL stating that “paid sick leave taken for this reason must be limited to the time the employee is unable to work because he or she is taking affirmative steps to obtain a medical diagnosis. CIP has included Carrier Tel-medicine resources on our website.


Quarantine Or Isolation Orders


An employee may take EPSL if unable to work because they are subject to a Federal, State or local COVID-19 quarantine or isolation order. If the employer does not have work for the employee, then the employee is not eligible for EPSL as they would be unable to work even if they were not required to comply with a quarantine order.


Employee Unable To Work Due To Caring For Individual Subject To Quarantine Or Isolation Order Or Advised To Self-Quarantine


EPSL only applies if the employee would otherwise be able to work for the employer. Additionally, “the employee must have a genuine need to care for the individual.” The individual being cared for must be an immediate family member, roommate, or a similar person with whom the employee has a relationship that creates an expectation that the employee would care for the person if he or she self-quarantined or was quarantined.


EPSL For Employee Needing To Care For Son Or Daughter


Employees may take EPSL because their son’s or daughter’s school or place or care has closed or child care provider is unavailable for COVID-19 related reasons. The regulations clarify that there must have been work for the employee and “the employee needs to, and actually is, caring for his or her child.


Full-Time and Part-Time Employee Defined


The regulations explain that a full-time employee is one regularly scheduled to work at least 40 hours each workweek. For part-time employees, to determine their rate of pay for EPSL the regulations state “Because there are fourteen calendar days over a two-week period, the Department believes Congress intended for the EPSLA to provide part-time employees whose weekly schedule varies with paid sick leave equal to fourteen times the ‘number of hours that the employee was scheduled per [calendar] day,’ averaged over the above-mentioned six-month period. An employer may also use twice the number of hours that an employee was scheduled to work per workweek, averaged over the six-month period.”


Relationship Between FMLA and EFML: 12 Weeks COMBINED


The regulations make clear that employees are entitled to 12 weeks of leave per 12 month measuring period of FMLA and EFML, combined. In using EFML “an employee may elect to use, or an employer may require an employee to use, accrued leave that under the employer’s policies would be available to the employee to care for a child, such as vacation or personal leave or paid time off concurrently with” EFML taken by the employee.


Counting 500 Employees


EPSL and EFML only applies to employers with less than 500 employees. That determination is made at the time an employee would take the leave. In counting to 500, the employer should include full-time and part-time employees, employees on leave, temporary employees who are jointly employed by the employer and another employer, and day laborers supplied by a temporary placement agency. Independent contractors that provide services for an employer do not count towards the 500-employee threshold. Nor do employees count who have been laid off or furloughed and have not subsequently been reemployed. Femployees must be employed within the United States.


Intermittent Leave Requires Employer Agreement


No EPSL or EFML may be taken intermittently absent agreement by the employer. The agreement should include the increments of time in which the leave may be taken. However, for employees physically reporting to work, this leave may be taken intermittently only when used to care for the employee’s son or daughter as described earlier, and then only with the employer’s agreement.
 
Supplementing EFML Pay


While EFML is paid, the employer can agree to allow accrued paid sick leave or vacation provided under the employer’s policies to supplement the 2/3 EMFL pay so the employee receives their full normal pay. The additional amount, however, is not available for the tax credit reimbursement.


Limited Small Business Exemption


The DOL can exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees from the EPSL and EFML requirements when providing the leave would jeopardize the viability of the small business as a going concern. It is important for employers to understand from which parts of the law they can be exempt: (1) paid sick leave due to school closure, place of care closure or child care provider unavailability for COVID-19 related reasons; and (2) emergency paid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Paid sick leave taken for other reasons — each of which are outlined in the statute — is not included in this exemption.


In order to qualify for the small business exemption, an authorized officer of the business must determine that at least one of three conditions is satisfied:


 The provision of paid leave would result in the small business’s expenses and financial obligations exceeding available business revenues and cause the small business to cease operating at a minimal capacity;
The absence of the employee or employees requesting paid leave would entail a substantial risk to the financial health or operational capabilities of the small business because of their specialized skills, knowledge of the business, or responsibilities; or
There are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, and qualified, and who will be available at the time and place needed, to perform the labor or services provided by the employee or employees requesting paid leave, and these labor or services are needed for the small business to operate at a minimal capacity.


Employers should document the basis for determining that they meet at least of one the conditions for the exemption. The DOL has not indicated when and if they will examine the claimed exemption of any particular employers.


However, the basis for claiming the exemption should be carefully documented as the DOL could later bring an enforcement action to challenge the exemption. Enforcement actions are currently on hold through April 17, but future enforcement actions could be retroactive to April 1. We strongly recommend attorney review of any such exemption claim.


Meaning Of “Health Care Provider”


The EPSL provisions provide that paid sick leave is available for employees who are advised to self-quarantine by a “health care provider.” For the purposes of this provision, the DOL clarified that “health care provider” means a licensed doctor of medicine, nurse practitioner, or other health care provider permitted to issue a certification for purposes of the FMLA.


Recordkeeping


All documentation related to EPSL and EFML should be retained for 4 years, whether the requested leave was granted or denied. If the employee provided an oral statement to request the leave, “the employer is required to document and retain such information for four years. If an employer denies an employee’s request for leave pursuant to the small business exemption …, the employer must document its authorized officer’s determination that the prerequisite criteria for that exemption are satisfied and retain such documentation for four years.” The documents to be retained are discussed in the following section.


More Information On EPSL or EFML


https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions


https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/04/06/2020-07237/paid-leave-under-the-families-first-coronavirus-response-act


The IRS Releases Further Information About FFCRA Tax Credits And Reimbursement


The IRS has published more information about how employers qualify for and claim the refundable tax credits under the FFCRA. This includes an FAQ providing answer to many common questions, including how employers substantiate eligibility for the tax credits. Specifically, an employer needs to receive a request for the time off in writing and the writing must state:


The employee’s name;
The date or dates for which leave is requested;
A statement of the COVID-19 related reason the employee is requesting leave and written support for such reason; and
A statement that the employee is unable to work, including by means of telework, for such reason.


In the case of a quarantine or self-isolation order, the employee’s written request should include the name of the government entity ordering quarantine or the health care provider advising self-isolation. If requesting time off to care for someone because of such an order, the request should include the name of the person being cared for and their relationship to the employee.


Requests for leave to care for a child must name the school and the child, as well as a statement that no one else will be caring for the child during the leave period.
Interestingly, the IRS substantiation requirements state that if leave is requested to care for a child 14 years or older during daylight hours, the request must include a statement that special circumstances exist requiring the employee to provide care.


Further information about the IRS’s requirements for the FFCRA tax credits can be found here.

April 6th, 2020

Don’t know where to get started?
SBA’s disaster programs spelled out in just a few clicks.
Start with the Paycheck Protection Program and to see forms, etc; then next to Economic Injury Disaster Loans and advance; then next to Express Bridge Loans and then next to Debt Relief for existing and future SBA 7a, 504 and microloan. 
The following questions might help point you in the right direction.
Do you need:

Capital to cover the cost of retaining employees?
Then the Paycheck Protection Program might be right for you.
A quick infusion of a smaller amount of cash to cover you right now?
You might want to look into an Emergency Economic Injury Grant.
If you have an existing relationship with an SBA Express lender, the Express Bridge Loan might be a good fit to get up to $25K quickly.  Look for Express Lenders
To ease your fears about keeping up with payments on your current or potential SBA loan? The Small Business Debt Relief Program could help. 
Just some quality, free counseling to help you navigate this uncertain economic time? The resource partners are available for virtual counseling sessions. 
Frequently Asked Questions
If I am applying or already received an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, is my small business eligible to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program?  
Borrowers can apply for BOTH an Economic Injury Disaster Loan and the Paycheck Protection Program loan.   
However, the Paycheck Protection Program loan funds and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan funds cannot be used for the same purpose.   
The Paycheck Protection Program loan must be used for payroll (minimum of 75% of the funds received) for it to be eligible for a forgivable loan and the remaining 25% is used for different purposes (mortgage interest, rent, utilities, other services).   
Borrowers who accept both loan funds should document the uses of the funds appropriately.  
If your Economic Injury Disaster Loan was used for payroll costs, your Paycheck Protection Program loan must be used to refinance your Economic Injury Disaster Loan.   
Any advance up to $10,000 on the Economic Injury Disaster Loan will be deducted from the loan forgiveness amount of the Paycheck Protection Program loan.  
For example, a borrower may obtain a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program and use those funds to pay for 8 weeks of payroll or employee retention. They may wish to then dedicate their entire EIDL funds towards working capital, notes payable and accounts payable that do not duplicate the funds provided through the Paycheck Protection Program. If the EIDL loan was used for payroll expenses, the borrower must refinance the EIDL loan with the PPP loan which carries a lower interest rate as well as a shorter maturity period.  
If you are applying for both, you can accept PPP first – then decide whether or not to close on your EIDL approved loan.  
The application period for PPP loans runs through June 30, 2020, but the EIDL application period runs through December 2020.  
EIDL Loan advances will start to be distributed this week.  $1000 per employee up to $10,000 max
EIDL Loans – IF YOU DID NOT APPLY THROUGH THE STREAMLINED PROCESS WHICH STARTED LAST WEEK, SBA request that you visit https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/ and reapply with the secure streamlined process. You will not lose your place in queue with your original EIDL loan application.
EIDL loans will not require a personal guarantee for loans under $200,000
EIDL loans will not require real estate collateral for loans under $500,000. SBA will be looking be best available lien priority on all business assets or other business assets.
More on Paycheck Protection Program
PPP Bank Locator
Please direct all inquiries and questions to our District Office email at:
MassachusettsDO@sba.gov

WHERE DO I GO NEXT?

FREE and confidential counseling services are available across the Commonwealth. 

Virtual education, training and networking sessions are happening daily.

Please schedule a virtual session with any of our Resource Partners below…

Subscribe to SBA email updates
Subscribe to E-Newsletter

Resource Partner Network

CWE
Women's Business Centers
Check out our class calendarSelf-Paced Workshop Partners

Request for Counseling


Eastern Massachusetts Center – Boston
44 School St., Suite 200
Boston, MA 02108
info.EasternMA@cweonline.org

Central Massachusetts Center – Westborough
69 Milk St., Ste. 217
Westborough, MA 01581
info.CentralMA@cweonline.org

Veterans Business Outreach Center of New England (VBOC of NE)
132 George M. Cohan Blvd.
Providence, RI 02903
info.VBOC@cweonline.org

WE ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS!
Staff are working remotely and can be reached via email or telephone. MSBDC is committed to supporting entrepreneurs during these very challenging times.Request for CounselingMSBDC advisors can assist businesses with disaster loan applications.If you are not currently a client and would like to speak with a counselor, please find your region and reach out to the REGIONAL OFFICE SERVING YOU.Berkshire Regional Office
33 Dunham Mall, Suite 103
Pittsfield, MA 01201
413-499-0933 | Fax: 413-499-3005
www.msbdc.org/berkshireCentral Regional Office
Clark University
The Carriage House, 125 Woodland Street
Worcester, MA 01610
508-793-7615 | Fax: 508-793-8890
www.clarku.edu/offices/sbdcNortheast Regional Office
Salem State University
121 Loring Avenue, Suite 310
Salem, MA 01970
978-542-6343 | Fax: 978-542-6345
www.salemstate.edu/sbdcProcurement Technical Assistance Center
Scibelli Enterprise Center
1 Federal Street, Building 1
Springfield, MA 01105
413-545-6303 | Fax: 413-737-2312
https://www.massptac.orgSoutheast Regional Office
200 Pocasset Street
Fall River, MA 02721
508-673-9783 | Fax: 508-674-1929
www.msbdc.org/semassWestern Regional Office
Scibelli Enterprise Center
One Federal Street, Building 101
Springfield, MA 01105-1160
413-577-1768 | Fax: 413-737-2312
www.msbdc.org/wmass Request for CounselingCounseling Sessions with BOSTON SCORE CHAPTER:
If you want to speak with a counselor, SCORE is doing tele-consults. Just pick a date and time to schedule a session and enter your contact info, mentors are doing sessions by phone and Zoom video app. 

Reach out to other SCORE CHAPTERS throughout the state below.SCORE Boston ChapterSCORE Worcester Chapter
SCORE Northeastern Massachusetts Chapter
SCORE Southeastern Massachusetts Chapter
SCORE Western Massachusetts Chapter
SCORE Cape Cod Chapter
SCORE Rhode Island (Serving Fall River, New Bedford) UPCOMING Virtual EventsTuesday 4/7/20 at 10am
Current Information on SBA Economic Relief for Small BusinessesThursday, 4/9/20 at 10am
CARES Act: What’s in it for Startups?Thursday, 4/9/20 at 11AM
BECMA: Virtual Conversation with SBA Bob and NadineThursday  4/16/20 at 10am
Intellectual Property for Small BusinessesWednesday  4/29/20 at 10am
Funding Options – What to consider and Where to Find It.Disclaimer: The SBA does not endorse the organizations sponsoring linked websites, and does not endorse the views they express or the products/services they offer.  All programs and services are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis. 

April 3rd, 2020

LISC/Verizon Small Business Grant Application Goes Live: #PayItForward

Verizon has committed to an initial fund of $2.5 million with LISC, with the potential of an additional $2.5 million to provide critical relief to small businesses and non-profits facing immediate financial threats. US Bank also has contributed another $500,000 to the fund.


Apply for the LISC Rapid Relief and Resiliency Fund by clicking here. The application process is now open and applications must be submitted by April 4 at 11:59 p.m. to be considered.
Click here to apply

Visit our Website

April 2nd, 2020

On April 1, 2020, the US Department of Labor (DOL) issued a temporary rule issuing regulations on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The rules largely follow the previously published FAQ by the DOL, but the rules did set forth some additional clarifications on the documents required by employees asking for leave and the documentation that employers need to maintain under the FFCRA. 

The DOL explains that an employee is required to provide the employer documentation containing the following information prior to taking Paid Sick Leave under the EPSLA or Expanded Family and Medical Leave under the EFMLEA:

1.     Employee’s name;
2.     Date(s) for which leave is requested;
3.     Qualifying reason for the leave; and
4.     Oral or written statement that the Employee is unable to work because of the qualified reason for leave.

Sick Leave Qualifications
A.     The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; Under the new rule, an employee must additionally provide the Employer with the name of the government entity that issued the Quarantine or Isolation Order.

B.  The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19; the new rule requires the Employee must additionally provide the Employer with the name of the health care provider who advised the Employee to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19. 

C.  The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis; an Employee must additionally provide the Employer with either:

the name of the government entity that issued the Quarantine or Isolation Order to which the individual being care for is subject; or
The name of the health care provider who advised the individual being cared for to self- quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.

To take Paid Sick Leave for a qualifying COVID-19 related reason or Expanded Family and Medical Leave, an Employee must additionally provide:

the name of the Son or Daughter being cared for;
the name of the School, Place of Care, or Child Care Provider that has closed or become unavailable; and
a representation that no other suitable person will be caring for the Son or Daughter during the period for which the Employee takes Paid Sick Leave or Expanded Family and Medical Leave.

The Employer may also request an Employee to provide such additional material as needed for the Employer to support a request for tax credits pursuant to the FFCRA.

The Employer is not required to provide leave if materials sufficient to support the applicable tax credit have not been provided. For more information, please consult https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/covid-19-related-tax-credits-for-required-paid-leave-provided- by-small-and-midsize-businesses-faqs.

(Please note that as of April 2, 2020, this link is not yet active)

Record Keeping
Under this temporary rule, an employer is required to retain all documentation provided pursuant for four years, regardless of whether leave was granted or denied. 

If an employee provides oral statements to support their time off under the Paid Sick Leave or Expanded Family and Medical Leave, the employer is required to document and maintain this information its records for four years.

Denial of Request for Paid Sick Leave or Expanded Family and Medical Leave
If an employer believes it qualifies for the small business exception under the law and denies an employee’s request for Paid Sick Leave or Expanded Family and Medical Leave shall document the determination by its authorized officer that it is eligible for such exemption and retain such documentation for four years.

Documents Recommended to Claim Tax Credits
In order to claim tax credits from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the DOL set forth that employers are advised to maintain the following records for four years:

1.     Documentation to show how the Employer determined the amount of paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave paid to Employees that are eligible for the credit, including records of work, Telework and Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave;

2.     Documentation to show how the Employer determined the amount of qualified health plan expenses that the Employer allocated to wages.

3.     Copies of any completed IRS Forms 7200 that the Employer submitted to the IRS

4.     Copies of the completed IRS Forms 941 that the Employer submitted to the IRS or, for Employers that use third party payers to meet their employment tax obligations, records of information provided to the third party payer regarding the Employer’s entitlement to the credit claimed on IRS Form 941, and

5.     Other documents needed to support its request for tax credits pursuant to IRS applicable forms, instructions, and information for the procedures that must be followed to claim a tax credit.

March 31st, 2020
Important Message for Small Business from Eversource

Important Message on Eversource Measures to Lessen Financial Hardships for Customers
During this challenging time for all of us, Eversource is providing several measures that will lessen the financial hardship on all our customers, including small businesses—the backbone of our communities. In addition to postponing customer disconnections for non-payment and assisting customers with financial programs to help pay their bill, Eversource is also providing extended payment arrangements for small business customers.  In normal operations, small business customers get up to three months for bill payment arrangements. To support small business customers through the COVID-19 crisis, Eversource is offering a $0 down payment and a 12-month payment arrangement, with the first payment not due until June 1. The reliability of our essential service has never been more important than it is today during these uncertain times. With many people working from home, and students studying remotely, customers are increasingly relying on electronic devices to accomplish their goals. Throughout the health crisis, be assured that Eversource is taking strict personal and public safety measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19 while also performing essential tasks to ensure all our customers have a safe and reliable energy system. Essential work is that which maintains or improves the condition of our energy system to ensure safe and reliable service to customers. Examples include replacement of electrical lines, poles, and other equipment; installation of automated switches that speed restoration of customers following an outage; new utility connections; vegetation management along electric lines; repair of natural gas leaks; replacement and upgrade of natural gas lines and other equipment; and work mandated by law or regulation or as required by regional electric grid operator ISO-New England. During this time, we are rescheduling all planned outages, as well as routine non-outage, service-related work inside residence or business. We are also reducing non-critical field work in our gas operations that requires access to homes or businesses. Eversource is proud to be part of the communities we serve, and we are committed to serving all our customers during this difficult and uncertain time.

March 30th, 2020
The following links provide important notices and updates on the COVID-19 emergency, changes in business practices, resources, some relief options, and other important items. 
City of Cambridge: www.cambridgema.gov/covid19       
*Specific business resources: www.cambridgema.gov/covid19/Business
*Small Business Relief Grant: www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/News/2020/3/smallbusinesscovid19reliefgrant
*Sign up for City-specific email alerts/updates: https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/xdOL2Ta/COVID19
City of Cambridge Department of Public Health: www.cambridgepublichealth.org
Commonwealth of Massachusetts: www.mass.gov/covdid19
*Sign up for text alerts by texting COVIDMA to 888777
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus


Federal Resources
President Trump signed the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” or the “CARES Act”. There are several provisions that impact employers. These measures are largely aimed at stimulating the economy and focus on assistance for small businesses and individual taxpayers. 

The Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act
Bill Unemployment Compensation Provisions Fact Sheet and FAQ
FAQs on Direct Cash Payments to Americans
The U.S. Chamber has developed a Coronavirus Emergency Loans Small Business Guide and Checklist. This is the first of a number of resources they are developing to help connect members with the resources recently approved by Congress to respond to the ongoing pandemic.


State Resources
On Friday, the House passed a bill, H 4598 that would extended the state income tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15. This is a provision that that Governor Baker, Senate President Spilka and House Speaker DeLeo already agreed to. The bill will also give restaurants the ability to sell beer and wine via take-out or delivery and give municipalities more flexibility around property tax deadlines.

The Senate is planning to meet today to continue the work on a handful of other COVID-19 related bills.

For the latest State updates click: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-resources-and-guidance-for-businesses?mc_cid=d2511fc162&mc_eid=9c813955e5

City of Cambridge Resources
Grant applications are available for a new Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program. The program is designed to provide short-term working capital assistance to enable the viability of the business and retention of jobs during the severe interruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information click here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/News/2020/3/smallbusinesscovid19reliefgrant
Over the weekend there were important clarifications to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) exclusions for small businesses under 50 employees via the Department of Labor Q&A page. 

Additionally, this email has some broad outlines of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act benefits for small business.

DOL CLARIFICATIONS to FFCRA Exemptions from Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Family and Medical Leave:

58. When does the small business exemption apply to exclude a small business from the provisions of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act?

An employer, including a religious or nonprofit organization, with fewer than 50 employees (small business) is exempt from providing paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave due to school or place of care closures or child care provider unavailability for COVID-19 related reasons when doing so would jeopardize the viability of the small business as a going concern. A small business may claim this exemption if an authorized officer of the business has determined that:

1.     The provision of paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would result in the small business’s expenses and financial obligations exceeding available business revenues and cause the small business to cease operating at a minimal capacity; 


2.     The absence of the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would entail a substantial risk to the financial health or operational capabilities of the small business because of their specialized skills, knowledge of the business, or responsibilities; or 

3.     There are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, and qualified, and who will be available at the time and place needed, to perform the labor or services provided by the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, and these labor or services are needed for the small business to operate at a minimal capacity.
 
59. If I am a small business with fewer than 50 employees, am I exempt from the requirements to provide paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

A small business is exempt from certain paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave requirements if providing an employee such leave would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern. This means a small business is exempt from mandated paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave requirements only if the: [CIP Emphasis Added]
employer employs fewer than 50 employees;
leave is requested because the child’s school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons; and
an authorized officer of the business has determined that at least one of the three conditions described in Question 58 is satisfied.

The Department encourages employers and employees to collaborate to reach the best solution for maintaining the business and ensuring employee safety. 


As with previous information, this is subject to change – remember this is Q&A guidance and it does not have the authority of official rule making.

CARES ACT SMALL BUSINESS ASSISTANCE
 
The Paycheck Protection Program
The maximum loan amount available to employers and other eligible recipients will be in an amount that is equal to roughly 2.5 months of the applicant-employer’s average “Payroll Costs.” The loan cannot exceed a total of $10 Million. For the purposes of calculating an eligible borrower’s maximum loan amount, “Payroll Costs” under the law is defined as:
 
Salary, wage, commission, or similar compensation;
Payment of cash, tip, or equivalent;
Payment for vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave (not including payments made under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA))
Allowance for dismissal or separation;
Payment required for the provisions of group health care benefits, including insurance premiums;
Payment of any retirement benefit; or 
Payment of State or local tax assessed on the compensation of employees (the government will not pay the payroll taxes that an employer owes the federal government.); and
The sum of payment of any compensation to or income of a sole proprietor that is a wage, commission, income, net earnings from self-employment, or similar compensation that is not more than $100,000 in 1 year, as pro-rated for the covered period. 

Importantly, any compensation received by an individual employee, independent contractor, or self-employed individual, in excess of an annual salary of $100,000 may not be included in either the initial calculation of payroll costs nor can it be included for purposes of obtaining loan forgiveness.


Loan recipients may use the proceeds to cover specified business costs with the potential of obtaining up to 100% in loan forgiveness. In other words, if an employer or other eligible borrower uses the loan proceeds to cover the costs that Congress is encouraging them to cover, the debt will be completely cancelled. 

Those costs include:
Payroll costs; 
Payments related to the continuation of group healthcare benefits during periods of paid sick, medical, or family leave, and insurance premiums; 
Employee salaries (excluding compensation amounts in excess of $100,000), commissions, or similar compensation;
Payments of interest on any mortgage obligation (not including interest on any prepayment of or payment of principal on a mortgage obligation);
Rent (including rent under a lease agreement);
Utilities; and 
Interest on any other debt obligations that were incurred before the loan began. 

Employers who apply and accept a loan under this program should be aware that if they subsequently reduce the number of employees on their payroll, reduce the pay of their employees, or both, the total amount of loan forgiveness available to them will face a potential corresponding reduction. 

The CARES Act also expands access to SBA Express Loan and expands Eligibility under the Small Business Act to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL)

In addition to the incentives for employers to retain their workforce through favorable loans and loan forgiveness, the CARES Act includes tax incentives for employers.

The CARES Act provides employers with a refundable payroll tax credit of 50% on qualified wages (including health benefits) paid to employees between March 31, 2020 and December 31, 2020. The payroll tax credit will apply to the first $10,000 in eligible compensation.

In order to be deemed eligible for the payroll tax credit, the employer must:

Have had its operations fully or partially suspended as a result of a COVID-19 related shut down order; or 
Have incurred a decline in gross receipts by more than 50% when compared to the same quarter in the prior year. 

The payroll tax credit is based on qualified wages paid to the employees. Whether or not the employer has paid “qualified wages” will depend on the number of employees employed by the company.


For employers with more than 100 full-time employees – qualified wages are wages that are paid to employees, despite the fact that they are not providing services due to a COVID-19 related shut down order.

For Employers with 100 or less employees – qualified wages will be paid to employees, whether the employer is open for business or not. 

Employers, including self-employed individuals, will also be allowed under the CARES Act to defer their share of Social Security taxes paid on their employees’ wages over the course of two years. Half of all deferred Social Security taxes must be paid by December 31, 2021, while the second half of all deferred Social Security tax payments must be paid by December 31, 2022. 

March 27th, 2020
Small Business COVID-19 Relief Program (City of Cambridge)

  • The Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program is a special program helping Cambridge’s U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (or HUD) eligible retail, food, personal services, and creative for-profit businesses with a grant up to $6,000 per brick and mortar business. The program provides short-term working capital assistance to help the viability of businesses and the retention of jobs during the severe interruption of business related to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and resulting social distancing. 
  • Grant applications are only available starting March 26, 2020 until May 1, 2020 at 12:00 p.m. EST. This program is first come, first served. There is no guarantee that you will receive a grant. 
  • Grant Overview: The COVID-19 Relief Grant Program must help contribute to a small business’s ability to remain open and with employee retention. Each completed grant application will be reviewed on a case by case basis. Grant applicants may apply for one or more of the following eligible working capital assistance:
  • Paying for mortgage, rent and other bills (utilities, accounts payable)Employee wages. Resources to get business established online (for example, a business needed to revamp website to make e-commerce or delivery available to customers)Perishable inventory that was lost due to an interruption of business.
  • Other items may be allowed upon review by city staff and HUD.
  • Click here for more information on the program, including the application.
  • Questions? Contact Pardis Saffari.

March 26th, 2020

Department of Labor Online Dialogue about EFMLA.


The U.S. Department of Labor is hosting a national online dialogue, Providing Expanded Family and Medical Leave to Employees Affected by COVID-19, to help employers and workers understand their responsibilities and rights, respectively, under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The public, including employers, workers and their advocacy groups can participate in this national online dialogue through Sunday, March 29, 2020.


The Department’s Office of Compliance Initiatives (OCI), in partnership with WHD and the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), will host the online dialogue.


Please register to participate.


 Unemployment Tax Control Associates “Virtual Office Hours”


Roughly 148,000 people filed for unemployment benefits in Massachusetts last week, according to federal data published Thursday. During the same week a year ago, just more than 4,200 people in Massachusetts filed for unemployment benefits.


According to the Boston Business Journal, 16% of Massachusetts residents report losing their job since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, a stunning number considering where the economy was even at the start of this month. More stunning is that this poll was taken before non-essential businesses were ordered to close on March 24. 


Unemployment Tax Control Associates (UTCA) is holding virtual “office hours” Friday, March 27, 2020 from 1:30 PM to 2:00 PM EDT where you can ask questions and gain a greater understanding of the claims process. 


Click here for additional information


Telemedicine Resources.


CIP has a Telemedicine Resources page on our website to assist our clients and friends. Insurance carriers have options for their subscribers to virtually meet with a doctor via their telemedine or telehealth options. Many carriers are waiving the office co-pay charges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  


How do I count employees for FFCRA?


The DOL FAQ counts number of employees at the time the leave is taken.


Additionally, the DOL FAQ clarifies that a corporation (including its separate establishments or divisions) is considered to be a single employer and its employees must each be counted towards the 500-employee threshold.


Where a corporation has an ownership interest in another corporation, the two corporations are separate employers unless they meet the “joint employers” test under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) with respect to certain employees.


The FLSA joint employer test is a fact-specific analysis that looks at a variety of relevant factors, including, without limitation, the extent to which each entity:
Hires or fires the employee;
Supervises and controls the employee’s work schedule or conditions of employment to a substantial degree;
Determines the employee’s rate and method of payment; and
Maintains the employee’s employment records.


If two entities are considered joint employers, all common employees must be counted to determine whether the Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency FMLEA benefits must be provided.


Two or more entities may also be considered one employer if they meet the “integrated employer test” under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”). Like the FLSA’s joint employer test, the FMLA integrated employer test is a fact-specific analysis that considers, without limitation, the following factors:


Interrelation of operations, i.e., common offices, common record keeping, shared bank accounts and equipment;
Common management, common directors and boards;
Centralized control of labor relations and personnel, i.e., hire and fire employees; and,
Common ownership and financial control.


If two entities are an integrated employer under the FMLA, then employees of both entities making up the integrated employer must be counted in determining employer coverage for purposes of expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency FMLEA.


Employers should consult an attorney before making a determination that they meet the “joint employer” or “integrated employer” test for purposes of the FFCRA as may have implications as to the applicability of other employment laws and/or legal requirements under other laws to its business.


DOL EFMLA Poster. We highlighted that the Department of Labor released the model Coronavirus Response Act poster in a mailing yesterday.
 
The poster further highlights the $12,000 total cap placed on leave related to child care due to school/daycare closures. The DOL had previously made clear that an employee taking leave for this reason would be entitled to up to 12 weeks of leave, and $12,000 total, including both emergency paid sick leave and emergency family and medical leave. As of right now, the presumption is that regular FMLA and EFMLA time would run concurrently and would not subject employers to “stack” the leave entitlements to create a 24-week requirement. 
 
Covered employers must post notice of the FFCRA’s requirements in a conspicuous place on its premises.
 
The DOL has indicated that an employer may satisfy this requirement by
emailing or direct mailing this notice to employees, OR
posting this notice on an employee information internal or external website.
 
Employers are not required to post the notice in multiple languages, but the DOL is working on translating the poster. Further, employers need not share the notice with laid-off employees or new job applicants, but it must give notice to new hires. All covered employers must post this notice even if their state provides greater protections than the FFCRA.

March 25th, 2020


The congressional response to the COVID-19 outbreak continues while the agencies tasked with administering recently passed legislation have begun issuing guidance or in the case of the IRS issuing parameters around which they will be issuing guidance. Addressed in this CIP update, the Department of Labor application of sick and family leave provisions, IRS announcement on tax credits and EEOC guidance on Coronavirus practices.

The full text of pending legislation including $2-Trillion in Coronavirus related spending which apparently includes direct payments and increased support for unemployment insurance has not been released. This alert does not discuss pending legislation.

Here is what we do know:

The Sick Leave and Family Leave Provisions Start April 1.

In a Frequently Asked Questions page released late yesterday the US DOL has set the effective date of the paid time off requirement of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act as April 1, 2020 – this is a day earlier than had been expected.

Not Retroactive. Another key point made in the FAQs is that the requirements are NOT retroactive meaning there is no requirement to pay for time off before April 1, 2020. This means that sick leave taken and paid before April 1 will not be reimbursable as it currently stands.  The FFCRA states the leave provisions “shall take effect not later than 15 days after the date of enactment.” As the FFCRA was signed by President Trump on March 18, 2020, it was plausible in the absence of other communication by the DOL that it would be April 2, 2020.

The DOL gave no reason why it chose to move up implementation by one day, but it could be to line up the effective date of the law with the calendar quarter.

Emergency FMLA and Emergency Sick Leave runs concurrently.

The qualifying reason for leave under the Emergency FMLA involves caring for a child when their school or place of care is closed. One of the six qualifying reasons for Emergency Paid Sick Leave similarly addresses this same reason. The DOL clarifies that if taking EFMLA leave, and the first 10 days are covered under Emergency Sick Leave, the total leave is a maximum of 12-Weeks.

Do I have 500 Employees? 

The DOL provides the opinion that an employer is covered if, at the time the leave is to be taken (a “snapshot” approach), the business employs fewer than 500 employees. Moreover, the analysis addresses important issues regarding whether separate entities are counted as one employer for purposes of the new leave laws.

First, the DOL states that if two entities are found to be “joint employers” under the FLSA, all of their common employees must be counted in determining whether leave must be provided under for Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Family and Medical Leave

The DOL document also states that if two entities are an “integrated employer” under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), all of the employees of the integrated employer will be counted in determining employer coverage for purposes of Emergency Family and Medical Leave.

The “joint employer” analysis under the FLSA and the “integrated employer” analysis under the FMLA are complicated and involve a critical analysis of specific facts.

The DOL also released a Fact Sheet for Employers and a Fact Sheet for Employees. Expected today, but possibly later this week, they will be releasing a workplace poster required under the law and additional fact sheets and Q&A documents so check back at DOL’s webpage for those. 

Emergency guidance related to small business exemptions related to leave expected. 

The Act provides an exemption for businesses with less than 50 employees from leave requirements related to school and daycare closings where the leave requirements would threaten the viability of the business. The DOL plans to issue guidance with “simple and clear criteria” on the qualifications related to this exemption.

Tax Credits.

The IRS has announced employers they will be issuing guidance this week to address the cash flow challenge for business. This guidance will allow employers to retain an amount of payroll taxes equal to the amount of paid leave INCLUDING HEALTH INSURANCE COSTS they paid rather than deposit them with the IRS in anticipation of the tax credits. The announcement outlines the following:
 
Complete Coverage:
·        Employers receive 100% reimbursement for paid leave pursuant to the Act.
·        Health insurance costs are also included in the credit.
·        Employers face no payroll tax liability.
·        Self-employed individuals receive an equivalent credit.

Fast Funds

·        Reimbursement will be quick and easy to obtain.
·        An immediate dollar-for-dollar tax offset against payroll taxes will be provided
·        Where a refund is owed, the IRS will send the refund as quickly as possible.

Small Business Protection. Employers with fewer than 50 employees are eligible for an exemption from the requirements to provide leave to care for a child whose school is closed, or child care is unavailable in cases where the viability of the business is threatened.

Compliance Requirements subject to 30-day non-enforcement period for good faith compliance efforts.
To take immediate advantage of the paid leave credits, businesses can retain and access funds that they would otherwise pay to the IRS in payroll taxes. If those amounts are not sufficient to cover the cost of paid leave, employers can seek an expedited advance from the IRS by submitting a streamlined claim form that will be released next week

ADA Compliance under COVID Pandemic.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”) has issued revised guidelines that define Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) compliance standards for employers operating under current COVID-19 pandemic conditions.

In general, the ADA broadly restricts business decisions that consider employee health or medical conditions. 

Through the guidelines, the EEOC has temporarily suspended certain ADA restrictions in an effort to permit “Essential Businesses” – businesses that are exempted from various shelter-in-place and business restrictions order now in effect in several regions – to adopt practical strategies to maintain safe business operations.

These guidelines deal with employee inquiries regarding COVID-19 symptoms, workplace infection control strategies, reasonable accommodation requests by employees unrelated to COVID, and hiring practices.

Please note:
This notice provides an overview of a specific developing situation. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as legal advice. Please also be advised that any and all information, comments, analysis, and/or recommendations set forth above relative to the possible impact of COVID-19 on potential insurance coverage or other policy implications are intended solely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as legal advice.

Comments above do not take into account any pending or future legislation introduced with the intent to override, alter or amend current policy language. 

March 23rd, 2020

COVID-19 Executive Orders Issued by Gov. Baker

Details Govern What’s Acceptable in Public Health Crisis

Colin A. Young 3/20/20 4:07 PM

BOSTON, MARCH 20, 2020…..In the last week and a half, state government has taken steps unprecedented in recent times to attempt to staunch the spread of the highly-contagious coronavirus and those efforts have resulted in a dramatic departure from daily life for most Massachusetts residents.

Gov. Charlie Baker has ordered all schools closed until April, mandated that restaurants close their dining rooms and shift to delivery and take-out only, eased licensing rules to bulk up the health care workforce, banned gatherings — first of 250 people or more, then more than 25 people — freed public boards and commissions of some Open Meeting Law requirements, and gave pharmacies the green light to make and sell their own hand sanitizer.

Starting with the March 10 declaration of a state of emergency around the coronavirus, here are the executive and emergency orders issued by Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel and the governor:

March 10 —
Executive Order No. 591: Declaration of a State of Emergency to Respond to COVID-19

March 11 —
New licensure policy from the Board of Registration in Nursing

March 12 —
Order of the Public Health Commissioner restricting visitor access to nursing homes and rest homes to protect higher-risk populations from COVID-19

Order suspending certain provisions of the Open Meeting Law

March 13 —
Order prohibiting gatherings of more than 250 people

March 15 —
Order temporarily closing all public and private elementary and secondary schools

Order expanding access to telehealth services and to protect health care providers

Order prohibiting gatherings of more than 25 people and on-premises consumption of food or drink

Order authorizing the registrar of motor vehicles to temporarily extend licenses, permits, and other identification cards

Order of the Public Health Commissioner mandating that hospitals must cancel non-essential elective procedures

Order of the Public Health Commissioner permitting licensed pharmacies to create and sell hand sanitizer over the counter

Order of the Public Health Commissioner restricting visitor access to assisted living facilities

Order of the Public Health Commissioner restricting some visitor access to hospitals

March 17 —
Order extending the registrations of certain licensed health care professionals

Order expanding access to physician services

Order of the Commissioner of Public Health providing for continuity of emergency medical services care

Order of the Commissioner of Public Health implementing emergency credentialing and licensed staff transferprocedures for medical facilities in the commonwealth

March 18 —
Order of the Commissioner of Public Health regarding the administration of certain medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder

Order of the Commissioner of Public Health regarding the flexible reassignment of physician assistants

Order temporarily closing all child care programs and authorizing the temporary creation and operation of an emergency child care program

Order of the Commissioner of Public Health regarding the sharing of critical information with first responders

March 20 —
Order authorizing actions to reduce in-person transactions associated with the licensing, registration, and inspection of motor vehicles. Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said during a Friday afternoon press conference that the order “allows the registrar to extend vehicle registrations, and modify the conditions of registrations, plates and titles, and it also allows the registrar and the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection the authority to waive certain inspection requirements.”

Order permitting the temporary conditional deferral of certain inspections of residential real estate

Others —
The Baker administration this week also issued guidance for executive branch workers regarding remote work policies and the designation of essential employees. On Friday, the Department of Revenue’s Division of Local Services sent a bulletin to local officials with guidance on emergency expenditures related to COVID-19.

March 20th, 2020

Baker-Polito Administration Announces New Health Care Resources, Small Business Relief, Other Efforts To Support COVID-19 Response

BOSTON – The Baker-Polito Administration today announced new actions to support the ongoing COVID-19 response, including new financial support for health care providers, expanded relief for small businesses, and a new federal waiver request to give the state expanded flexibility to respond to the public health emergency. The Administration also joined life sciences leaders to highlight a new partnership aimed at providing additional supplies for hospitals.

The Administration also announced new tax penalty relief for businesses, further action to limit the need for customers to visit the Registry of Motor Vehicles in person, and other initiatives to support the Commonwealth’s residents and communities throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.

Financial Support For Health Care Providers: The Administration’s COVID-19 Response Command Center continues to identify and prioritize efforts to ensure the Commonwealth’s health care system has the resources it needs to support the response to COVID-19. Today, the Administration announced a $200 million infusion in cash at MassHealth for critical, acute care and safety-net health care providers, as well as for certain health care providers required to help ensure that our members receiving care in the community or nursing facilities do not need to go to the hospital. These will be accelerated payments and cash advances for immediate, stopgap relief to ensure the front-line health care system is able to provide necessary resources to patients.

Emergency Supply Hub: Life sciences industry leaders joined the Administration today to highlight the new Massachusetts Life Sciences Emergency Supply Hub. MassBio, in partnership with MassMEDIC, the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, and the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals, launched the Supply Hub to help coordinate efforts aimed at bringing additional supplies and resources to the Commonwealth’s health care institutions as they test and treat patients with COVID-19. The initiative calls on life sciences and health care organizations in the state to donate supplies needed to combat COVID-19. MassBio will share information with the Department of Public Health to triage and connect supplies with those healthcare providers that need them.

New Drive-Through Testing Site: On Thursday, the Commonwealth’s first large-scale drive-thru COVID-19 testing site launched at CVS in Shrewsbury. The new site is the result of an ongoing partnership between the Baker-Polito Administration, the federal government, local health authorities and CVS. The site is designated for emergency personnel and first responders, expanding testing access to front line workers. Currently, this site is one of over 40 sites launching throughout the country over the next week, with test kits supplied by the federal government.

MassHealth Waiver & Other Requests: Massachusetts is filing a waiver request today with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that will give the state and its Medicaid program, MassHealth, more flexibility to respond to the COVID-19 public health crisis. If allowed, the waiver would enable the Commonwealth to fast-track MassHealth enrollment, streamline administrative requirements for providers, and deliver critically needed health care services easier during the COVID-19 emergency. Through the waiver request and other federal requests, the Commonwealth is seeking flexibility to address key areas of need:

  • Allow for non-traditional sites of care to expand surge capacity, such as use of testing tents and overflow hospital sites
  • Allow new providers, including out of state providers, a streamlined pathway to practice in the state including caring for MassHealth members
  • Allow physician assistants to practice independently
  • Provide flexibility to hospitals and skilled nursing facilities to meet increasing demand
  • Expand MassHealth Hospital-Determined Presumptive Eligibility to all individuals – which MassHealth already expanded through a public health order last week – including children, older adults, and individuals who have received MassHealth benefits within the past 12 months
  • Allow medications to be delivered to members, and waive a signature requirement for these prescriptions
  • Waive face-to-face requirements for certain services, including Home and Community Based Services, and behavioral health evaluations for Schedule II-IV prescriptions

In addition, the Administration announced that MassHealth and the Health Connector will protect coverage for all individuals who have Medicaid coverage as of March 18, 2020 and for all individuals approved for coverage during the national emergency.

Expanded Small Business Resources: Earlier this week, the Administration announced a $10 Million Small Business Recovery Loan Fund to provide financial relief to small businesses and non-profits impacted by COVID-19. Today, the Administration announced that MassDevelopment’s Board of Directors will meet next week to vote on a partnership that will make an additional $10 million available for the Small Business Recovery Loan Fund.

The state-level emergency loan fund is aimed at providing crucial resources for small businesses that will supplement important federal relief. Governor Baker on Tuesday formally requested disaster relief from the federal Small Business Administration, and with this week’s announcement that that request had been granted, Massachusetts businesses impacted by COVID-19 may now apply for low-interest loans.

Tax Relief for Businesses: The Baker-Polito Administration is announcing tax penalty relief to support businesses affected by COVID-19. The Department of Revenue today announced that it will waive any late-file or late-pay penalties for returns and payment due for meals and room occupancy taxes between March 20 and May 31, 2020.

Limiting Need For In-Person RMV Visits: The Administration today is taking further action to limit the need for customers to visit the Registry of Motor Vehicles in person. Today, Governor Baker issued an order allowing the Registrar to extend vehicle registrations and modify the conditions of registrations, plates and titles. It also enables the waiver of certain inspection requirements.

Workforce Guidance For Schools: Earlier this week, Governor Baker ordered all elementary and secondary schools to close for educational purposes until April 6. Recognizing that local school districts employ a significant number of hourly employees, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education today is issuing guidance to local school districts recommending they continue paying hourly employees, while suggesting they continue to engage in professional development.

Smoke Alarm Inspections: Governor Baker today issued an order making a change to the inspection statutes that require a smoke and carbon dioxide alarm inspection prior to a residential real estate transaction. The Order would permit the inspection to be deferred if the buyer contractually assumes responsibility for installing the detectors and the subsequent inspection happens within 90 days of the conclusion of the COVID-19 emergency



Please note that this information is current as of the date of this update, based on the available data. As an evolving and fluid situation, there are likely more updates forthcoming as regulatory guidance is expected.

FEDERAL CORONAVIRUS LEGISLATION

Employers will be provided refundable tax credits against their employer portion of Social Security taxes for 100% of the qualified sick leave and family leave wages paid in accordance with the Act. EMPLOYERS MAY PAY MORE than the mandated compensation, but they will not receive tax credit relief for this additional compensation.

For non-governmental employers with less than 500 employees, this is a credit equal to 100% of the qualified sick/family leave wages paid, subject to those limits. The credit is further increased by specified health expenses (e.g. employer paid health premiums), plus the 1.45% employer Medicare tax.

This applies to federal employment taxes usually due within a few days of each payroll. This provides the funds needed to pay sick and family leave benefits.

Payments received under these benefits are considered wages but exempt from Employer Social Security taxes. They are subject to Medicare taxes, but the tax credit is increased by the tax amount.

As stipulated within the bill, the mandate is effective until December 31, 2020, which means benefits cannot carry over into the next year, 2021.

The bill which ultimately became law has some clarifications and differences from the original legislation passed by the House.

Emergency Sick Leave:

All eligible employees may use paid sick time beginning on April 2 for the following reasons:

A. The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;

B. The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;

C. The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;

D. The employee is caring for an individual who is either (1) subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or (2) has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;

E. The employee is caring for a son or daughter of such employee if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions;

F. The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.

Employers may not require eligible employees to first use other paid leave provided by the employer before using paid sick leave under the Act, so this leave is in addition to any paid sick leave or PTO currently provided by employers. 

Employers may require employees to follow reasonable notice procedures to continue receiving such paid sick time after the first workday (or portion thereof) an employee receives paid sick time under this Act. 

In other words, employers may not require employees to provide advance notice prior to the first workday on which the employee takes paid sick leave under the Act.

An employer may not require, as a condition of providing the paid sick time, that an employee search for or find a replacement to cover for the hours during which the employee is using the paid sick time. This is also true under Massachusetts sick leave law.

The payment is calculated based on the employee’s “required compensation” (i.e. the employee’s regular rate of pay or the federal, state or local minimum wage, whichever is greater) and the number of hours the employee would otherwise be scheduled to work. Pay standards differ in certain situations, such as if an employee is using the time to care for a family member.

Employers must post a notice that advises employees of their rights under the Act. The Secretary of Labor is required to create a notice by March 25. We will update you when this becomes available.

There is language allowing regulations to exclude emergency responders and/or businesses with less than 50 employees where the requirements would jeopardize that business as a going concern. But at this time, no such exclusions apply.

Emergency Paid Family Medical Leave:

On a temporary basis, the Emergency FMLA Expansion Act amends the FMLA and creates a new leave entitlement. Even though this is an expansion of the FMLA, the Act’s paid leave requirements do not to apply to employers with 500 or more employees. Only those employers with fewer than 500 employees are impacted. 

Under normal circumstances, the Family and Medical Leave Act applies only to employers with 50 or more employees, applies only to employees who have worked for at least 12 months and who had worked at least 1,250 hours during that preceding 12 months, and provides unpaid leave for designated reasons, such as the employees own serious health condition, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or to care for a newborn infant or an adopted child or foster child placed with the employee. 

For FMLA Covered employers, this EFMLA leave would run concurrently with standard FMLA – these leaves are not stacked and do not create a potential for 24-weeks of leave.

For purposes of the new entitlement only, the Act alters the definition of employer to include all employers with fewer than 500 employees, and expands the definition of a covered employee to include all employees who have worked for covered employers (i.e., those with less than 500 employees) for at least 30 days.

Quarantine will not trigger the Emergency FMLA leave provisions, although there may be traditional, unpaid FMLA leave rights available, as well as unemployment insurance. 

Emergency FMLA Leave Only for Child Care Disruption.

Earlier versions of the Act provided for additional qualifying situations including an employee’s quarantine, and did not provide for telework,

The revised text only provides for one qualifying condition: An eligible employee may take up to 12 weeks of leave if he/she is unable to work (including telework) because the employee must care for his/her child who is under 18 years of age and whose school or place of care has closed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. 

The Secretary of Labor has the authority to exempt from the Emergency FMLA Expansion Act certain health care providers and emergency responders, and small businesses with fewer than 50 employees if the Act would jeopardize a business’s viability, but at this time, no such exclusions apply.

Calculating Emergency FMLA Pay

Part-time: Average hours the employee works over a 2-week period

Variable work schedules: Average hours the employee was scheduled per day over the 6-month period ending on the date on which the employee takes such leave including hours for which the employee took any type of leave. If less than 6-month of work history, a “reasonable expectation of the employee at the time of hiring.”

For employers with 25 or more employees, an employee returning from expanded FMLA leave is entitled to reinstatement to the same or an equivalent position. 

For employers with fewer than 25 employees, an employee returning from expanded FMLA leave is entitled to reinstatement to the position held by the employee when the leave commenced unless that position does not exist due to economic conditions or other changes in operating conditions caused by the public health emergency. In such case, the employer must make reasonable efforts to restore the employee to an equivalent position, and if those efforts fail, make reasonable efforts for at least a year to contact the employee if an equivalent position becomes available.

TRACKING PAID LEAVE:

if you are setting up your own earnings codes related to H.R.. 6201 “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” we would recommend you use the following pay code names:

FF-PSL (Families First Paid Sick Leave) or FF-FMLA (Family First FMLA)

You should avoid using COVID or COVID-19 for privacy reasons as these codes do show on employees pay statements.

IRS Response to COVID-19:

Payment Deadline Extended to July 15, 2020. The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service are providing special payment relief to individuals and businesses in response to the COVID-19 Outbreak.

The filing deadline for tax returns remains April 15, 2020. The IRS urges taxpayers who are owed a refund to file as quickly as possible. For those who can’t file by the April 15, 2020 deadline, the IRS reminds individual taxpayers that everyone is eligible to request a six-month extension to file their return.

More at https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/payment-deadline-extended-to-july-15-2020

Massachusetts

HB 4502  Appropriates $95,000 for the Executive Office of Education to contain, treat and prevent the coronavirus. This bill requires a report to the legislature by June 1, 2020, with recommendations if additional funds and action are needed. Enacted.

HB 4561  Makes appropriations for the fiscal year 2020 to provide for supplementing certain existing appropriations and for other activities and projects. Includes a reserve of $15,000,000 to support the commonwealth’s monitoring, treatment, containment, public awareness and prevention efforts against COVID-19. Enacted.

SB 2599  Authorizes waiver of the one week waiting period for unemployment benefits. Enacted.

SB 2602  Provides any public safety official and 1st responder, who contracts, has symptoms of, or otherwise becomes affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19), that results in a period of hospitalization, quarantine, or require self-quarantined measures as a result of being infected or coming into contact with someone who is infected with this virus, shall have their medical condition or incapacity to work presumed to be work-related. Public safety official shall not be required to use sick time, vacation time, or personal time to cover said period of incapacitation or inability to perform regular duty work. Pending.


Alert:  Do I Have Coverage For Coronavirus-Related Income Losses To My Business?

Businesses are in crisis over the Coronavirus.  Many have been shut down, whether by lack of employees and customers or by governmental order.  Some of our business clients have asked whether they have coverage for income losses (a/k/a “Business Interruption Insurance”) resulting from business closures and/or supply chain disruptions during the pandemic. 

The short, not particularly helpful answer is “It Depends.” The slightly longer answer is: “There’s probably no coverage for general income losses under most policies, but there are potential exceptions under some policies and for some categories of income loss.” 

In this alert we address the slightly longer answer and identify some of the potential exceptions.  This alert may be helpful in understanding where your options lie, or in evaluating loss of income coverage options for your business in the future. However, there is no substitute for a specific evaluation from your counsel. 

One reason for the inability to be definitive is that Business Interruption Insurance comes in many different forms. The insuring provisions, exclusions, and other provisions are not standardized and require careful analysis.

Historically, the most common form of insurance for business property (buildings and contents) was so-called “Fire Insurance.” This kind of coverage became largely standardized by state statute, with Massachusetts leading the way in 1873.  Such fire policies originally only provided coverage for a single peril – fire — and the insurer paid the cost to repair or replace the physical property (building and contents). Eventually property insurance expanded to cover other perils and other damages, including the economic losses suffered by a business under defined circumstances. 

Today most businesses carry either a standalone property insurance policy, (providing coverage to the property owner for buildings and contents and, in many instances, loss of business income) or a commercial package policy (which includes those coverages and third party liability coverage). The limits of each coverage, including for principal loss of business income coverages, will usually be listed at the front of the policy (the Declarations pages), although a number of additional or supplemental loss of income coverages and their applicable limits may be included in the body of the policy. Each such coverage should be considered separately against your current circumstances to determine the existence and extent of any coverage.
Most principal business income coverages are limited to income losses that result from a fire or other covered physical loss to the insured building or contents.  Typical language imposing such a physical loss requirement for business interruption looks like this:

We will pay for the loss of Business Income you sustain due to the suspension of your operations during the period of restoration. The suspension must be caused by direct physical loss of or damage to property at the described premises. The loss or damage must be caused by or result from a covered cause of loss.

These two requirements (caused by direct physical loss to covered property and caused by a covered cause of loss) make it unlikely that many business income losses resulting from coronavirus impacts will be covered, because such impacts — closures due to government orders and/or for business reasons — do not ordinarily involve a physical loss or damage to the insured’s property.  Even if these requirements are met, many (but not all) business interruption coverages in property policies have applicable explicit exclusions for losses caused by viruses, and/or closures ordered by the governments. 

These limitations will preclude coverage of business income for many, if not most, insureds. However, it is critical to carefully examine the applicable provisions of your policy to confirm that the limitations exist and are applicable to your specific circumstances. Other more general exclusions, such as for losses resulting from pollution, may also be asserted by insurers. Moreover, while virtually every business is already impacted by coronavirus, the nature and precise causes of business income losses are evolving and such causes must be carefully considered before ruling out a viable business interruption claim. 

A final word about principal business interruption coverages:  In the past few decades, with the rise in globalization, the length of supply chains has expanded, and the impacts of a disruption to one business on other businesses have become important and insurable.  Such coverages are sometimes known as contingent business interruption, and in the recent years of “soft” markets for insurers, many competed by expanding coverage, and narrowing or eliminating exclusions. This heightens the need for a careful review of your policy and your circumstances.  

This same competitive environment has led many insurers to include additional or supplemental coverages for specific circumstances.  Such coverages are often subject to a sub limit well below the principal business income coverage. They may not require physical injury to covered property or be subject to exclusions applicable to the principal business income coverage.  These specialty coverages include event cancellations insurance, coverage for income losses you suffer because of your business depends on another business, and coverages for government-ordered closures in limited circumstances.  While the limits of such specialty coverages may be a fraction of the principal business income limits, (e.g. in the tens of thousands vs. hundreds of thousands or millions), they may provide a valuable source of income to buffer some of the impacts of the coronavirus on your business.

Please contact Joseph Sano in our insurance and reinsurance practice group at jsano@princelobel.com if you have any questions.  

March 19th, 2020
City of Cambridge COVID-19 Daily E-Newsletter and Key Resources

As has always been the case, Citizen Observer/Tip411 will be used to update you on crime and other public safety issues. However, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, we are contacting you to make you aware of the ability to sign up for Cambridge-specific COVID-19 email updates, which will be sent nearly each evening, with the latest news and resources. If you are interested, please subscribe at http://www.cambridgema.gov/covid19emails

If you are proactively seeking updated information throughout the day, the best source is the dedicated Cambridge COVID-19 website: https://www.cambridgema.gov/covid19.

Contact: pio@cambridgepolice.org

Submit an Anonymous Tip

To submit a tip via text message text TIP650 and your tip to 847411

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City of Cambridge Announces Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund

Dear All:

We hope you and yours continue to be well, healthy and safe.

We just received the attached from the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (“ABCC”) regarding an automatic extension of the delinquency reporting period for those who qualify (see attached).  The ABCC has also informed us that as it continues to publish documents related to the COVID-19 emergency, they will be published at: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/covid-19-abcc-advisory-information.  Any questions relating to this ABCC Advisory should be directed to them via email to: rsacramone@tre.state.ma.us or rmelville@tre.state.ma.us

Thank you, be well.
Nicole Murati Ferrer, Esq., Chair
Cambridge License Commission
Pole and Conduit Commission
831 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 349-6140
www.cambridgema.gov/license


March 18th, 2020
Cambridge public health department to implement take out and food market guidance. A MIT biomedical research scientist (Cambridge resident Jill Crittenden) who has expertise is in the spread of virus via food handling led the initiative with Sam Lipson.

March 17th, 2020
A loan fund of $10 million has been created to provide financial relief to Massachusetts businesses that have been affected by COVID-19. Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC) will receive and process all applications for this fund. Applications can be found on our website at empoweringsmallbusiness.org

General Terms and Conditions

Open to Massachusetts-based businesses impacted by the COVID-19 with under 50 full- and part-time employees, including nonprofits
Negative impact must be verifiable
Loan amounts up to $75,000
Loan amount not to exceed 3 months of demonstrated cash operating expenses for the 1st quarter of 2020
No payments due for first 6 months, then 30-months of principal and interest payments (direct debited)
Annual interest rate 3%
Personal guarantee required of all owners with 20% or more interest in the company
Personal credit score under 575 will require an exception
All asset lien on business
No prepayment penalty
Ineligible businesses include companies involved in real estate investment, multi-level marketing, adult entertainment, cannabis or firearms. Companies with past due tax liabilities or tax liens or currently in bankruptcy (Corporate or Personal) are not eligible.
Approval contingent on business being profitable prior to 3/10/20 and no adverse personal credit reports 60 days past due for the last six months.

How to Apply

Please complete the 2020 Small Business Recovery Loan Fund application found at empoweringsmallbusiness.org
Attach the following required information
· 2018 business and personal tax return

· Internally prepared 12/31/19 financial statements

· YTD 2020 internally prepared financials

Completed application and attachments can be sent to MGCC at mgcc@massgcc.com with the subject line “2020 Small Business Recovery Loan Fund”

2020 SMALL BUSINESS RECOVERY LOAN FUND APPLICATION


  • Information on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts loan recovery program
  • Upcoming SBA webinars

Massachusetts Small Business Recovery Loan Program

How to Apply:

Please complete the application found on MGCC’s website, EmpoweringSmallBusiness.org

Completed applications can be sent via email to mgcc@massgcc.com with the subject line “2020 Small Business Recovery Loan Fund”.

MGCC can be reached by email: mgcc@massgcc.com

Loan Fund Details:

  • Who Qualifies: Open to Massachusetts-based businesses impacted by COVID-19 with under 50 full- and part-time employees, including nonprofits (negative impact must be verifiable).
  • Terms and Conditions: This fund is being offered with no payments due for the first 6 months, then 30-months of principal and interest payments and no prepayment penalties.
  • Businesses can apply for loans up to $75,000.

#2 – Update from the SBA – SBA Coronavirus Special Topic Conference Call Series in collaboration with U.S. Commercial Service

There is a whole series of conference calls that the SBA is hosting in collaboration with the U.S. Commercial Service, one of which is next Tuesday about the SBA Disaster Loan Program.

For series and to register: http://www.ctexporters.com/special-topics-conference-calls/ 

March 16th, 2020
As a follow-up to this evolving national emergency, we will continue to be here as a resource for our members and the greater Harvard Square community.

I am sure you have been inundated with information, but just in case, here are important links to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and city of Cambridge websites with the latest updates:

https://www.mass.gov/resource/information-on-the-outbreak-of-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

https://www.cambridgema.gov/COVID19

Last year we recommended that you all sign up for the City of Cambridge Code Red Alerts. If you have not done so, we encourage you to do so; here is a direct link: https://public.coderedweb.com/CNE/en-US/F8C030CDD4FF

HSBA member Tom Crowley has shared the following guidance for businesses in efforts to help alleviate financial burdens that many businesses will face in the coming days and weeks ahead. “At the moment, there is a potential for programs to be created by the government to offer short term loans to hopefully offset the reduction of business you all may face. I recommend immediately calling your bank and beginning the conversation to see what your options are. This early contact may allow you to react quicker when and if these programs are made available.” Please call Tom with any questions you may have. Tom Crowley, CFP® Financial Advisor, 1692 Mass. Ave, Office. 617-491-1190 www.edwardjones.com/tom-crowley

Below please view this Human Resources Update information assembled by HSBA member, Comprehensive Insurance Providers. We hope you find it useful to you and your employees.

Over the weekend, the House of Representatives passed the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” (H.R. 6201) with implications to employers of fewer than 500 employees. The Senate is likely to pass the bill in the next week.

Paid Family Medical Leave

The bill provides 12 weeks of job-protected paid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leaveof which the first 14 days may be unpaid—for employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees.

Employees may use accrued personal or sick leave during the first 14 days, but employers may not require employees to do so.

This leave benefit covers employees who have been working for at least 30 calendar days.

Among other uses, employees may use the leave to respond to quarantine requirements or recommendations, to care for family members who are responding to quarantine requirements or recommendations, and to care for a child whose school has been closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the first 14 days, employers must compensate employees in an amount that is not less than two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay. These pay requirements apply to only the COVID-19-related leave reasons listed above.

The provisions will go into effect 15 days after the date of enactment and expire on December 31, 2020. The bill would provide those who qualify with two-thirds of their average monthly earnings, with a cap of $4,000, for up to 12 weeks. The benefits could be paid retroactively and would be available for those who had to leave work starting Jan. 19.

Paid Sick Leave

Employers with fewer than 500 employees will be required to provide full-time employees 2 weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave for specific circumstances related to COVID-19 (e.g., self-isolating, doctors’ visits, etc.).

Part-time employees are entitled to the number of hours of paid sick time equal to the number of hours they work, on average, over a 2-week period.

Employers must compensate employees for any paid sick time they take at their regular rates of pay.

Employers will be required to post a notice informing employees of their rights to leave.

As currently drafted, the bill expressly provides that it does not preempt existing state or local paid sick leave entitlements.

Small businesses (defined as having 50 employees or less) would be reimbursed for providing the 14 days of additional paid sick leave.

For employers who already provide paid sick leave, the additional leave made available under the House bill should still be provided, and employers would not be allowed to make changes to their existing policies to avoid offering additional paid leave.

The provisions will go into effect 15 days after the date of enactment and expire on December 31, 2020.

Unemployment Insurance

The bill provides $1 billion in emergency unemployment insurance (UI) relief to the states: $500 million for costs associated with increased administration of each state’s UI program and $500 million held in reserve to assist states with a 10 percent increase in unemployment. Besides the necessary increase in unemployment, in order to receive a portion of this grant money, states must temporarily relax certain UI eligibility requirements, such as waiting periods and work search requirements.

To this point in time, the following has taken place to respond to the crisis:

According to guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on March 12, 2020, states can pay benefits when:

An employer temporarily closes due to COVID-19 and employees can’t work.
An employee is quarantined but expects to work when the quarantine is over.
An employee leaves his or her job due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member.

Federal law doesn’t require employees to quit their jobs in order to receive unemployment insurance benefits related to COVID-19. Though, the department noted, employees who are receiving paid sick leave or paid family leave are generally not considered unemployed because they are still receiving pay. So they would likely be ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits while receiving such pay.

Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance.

The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA), in coordination with the US Department of Labor (USDOL) is taking a series of actions to assist workers and employers. These actions were begun in advance of the House passage of the Coronavirus Response Bill.

For current unemployment claims:

All requirements regarding attending seminars at the MassHire career centers have been suspended.
Missing deadlines due to effects of COVID-19 will be considered good cause, and lateness will be excused.
All appeal hearings will be held by telephone only.

The Department of Labor issued guidance to the states instructing state agencies to apply existing law flexibly. Under the DOL guidance, DUA may now pay unemployment benefits if a worker is quarantined due to an order by a civil authority or medical professional or leaves employment due to reasonable risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member and does not intend to or is not allowed to return to work. The worker need not provide medical documentation and need only be available for work when and as able.

To assist individuals who cannot work due to the impact of COVID-19, the Administration is filing emergency legislation that will allow new claims to be paid more quickly by waiving the one week waiting period for unemployment benefits.

The state is filing emergency regulations that will allow people impacted by COVID-19 to collect unemployment in the following circumstances:

The workplace is shut down and expects to reopen in four or fewer weeks. Workers must remain in contact with their employer and be available for any work their employer may have for them that they are able to do, but do not otherwise need to be looking for work.
An employer may extend the period of the shut-down to eight weeks, and the employees will remain eligible for the longer period under the same conditions described above.
If necessary, DUA may extend these time periods.

Employers who are impacted by COVID-19 may request up to a 60-day grace period to file quarterly reports and pay contributions.

The pending federal legislation note above proposes further relief including additional money for unemployment benefits and relief to employers for charges related to unemployment benefits paid due to COVID-19.

We are pleased to report that MEMA has collected enough small business loss data to prepare a request for EIDL to be submitted by Governor Baker to the SBA. The City of Cambridge is in the process of assisting Governor Baker with requesting the SBA EIDL program. More info: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/small-business-assistance-for-covid-19

March 12th, 2020
An Important Message From Harvard Square.