Coronavirus Resource Guide

Updated 5.18.20 While the COVID-19 crisis is constantly changing, we are making sure to update this page daily with the resources you may need. For your convenience, we've posted several guidance documents here for your reference. Some can be printed and posted in your break rooms and shared with employees and customers. Please call us at 802-839-1928 and tell us how you are effected.

Table of Contents

Stay Home, Stay Safe Order 

Extended to May 15th

The Governor has ordered all non-essential/non-critical businesses to shut down and directs all non-essential residents of the state to remain at home throughout the duration of the order, leaving only for essential reasons. While we cannot provide legal advice on whether your specific business can stay open, we can steer you in the right direction. You can Click here to view the VRGA/VSFA Document Description of the Stay Home, Stay Safe order.

View the full Home/Stay Safe Order

Executive Orders Summary

NAICS code guidance list

The Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) has provided a detailed list to help determine which sectors and activities are critical. This document includes clear “yes” or “no” indicators next to each NAICS code determining whether a business may continue in-person business. Find further information and FAQs here.    

State of Vermont Critical Business List

Retail services list by store

VRGA has compiled a list of businesses in the state providing shopping hours for vulnerable members of the community, curbside pickup and other services in response. If your business is offering special services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please reach out to us to be added to this list. 

Check this list for a store near you

Food producers and manufactures

VSFA is working on compiling a list of our producer and distributor members who are staying open to manufacture products for retailers. Stay tuned for updates and access to this list.

Be Prepared: What Businesses Can Do:

Businesses deemed critical to public health and safety are urged to offer Curbside Pickup to the extent possible. We strongly encourage you to offer this service. If it is not possible, here are ways to limit exposure to your employees and customers along with helpful links.

If you are staying Open: 

with access to the public:

without access to the public:

If you are temporarily closing your business:

Labor Issues

CURRENT LABOR LAW: The Vermont Department of Labor (DOL) has issued guidance to staff. "Staff shall not deny claims for able and available issues due to a claimant being isolated or quarantined at the direction of a health care official due to potential or verified exposure to the COVID-19 disease. These individuals shall be treated as temporarily unemployed through no fault of their own, and able and available, for the purpose of UI benefits."

PROPOSED LAW: The Vermont House has passed the bill H.681 that proposes to relieve employers of charges for unemployment benefits paid to an employee for a maximum of four weeks because:

Associate Member Gravel & Shea, a Burlington-based law firm, has provided this overview of the expanded employment benefits that have been recently passed by the Vermont Legislature and Congress.

New Alphabetized Structure

The Vermont Department of Labor has implemented an alphabetized structure for the intake of weekly claims and inquiries, designating specific days of the week for individuals to contact the Department, based on the first letter of their last name. The structure will take effect on Sunday, April 12, 2020. View the new structure and find out more here.

DOL Virtual Town Hall Meetings

Vermont's DOL has announced dates and topics for on-going employer-focused Virtual Town Hall meetings.

Pandemic Unemployment Claims (PUC)

Department of Labor to Accept Unemployment Claims from Self-Employed and Others

The Department of Labor has announced that the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program (part of the federal CARES Act) is now available to accept unemployment claims from those not eligible for the regular Unemployment Insurance program (self-employed, sole proprietors, independent contractors).

More information on the PUA application process and eligibility

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance info

Watch this Vermont Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Demo: A How to fill out the form  

Federal Response Bills

4/21/2020 Update: Congress and White House Reach Deal on Interim Funding

The White House and Congress have reached a deal on an additional $482 billion coronavirus relief package. The Senate is expected to pass the bill on 4/21/2020 and Congressman Welch shared with VRGA and other state associations that the House will pass the bill Thursday afternoon, 4/23/2020. President Trump said in a tweet that he supports the agreement and will sign it into law.

PLEASE NOTE: If you were shut out of access to the first round of funding, we strongly encourage members to reach out to your lenders or the Small Business Administration as soon as possible to begin the application process.

Here are the highlights of the new bill:

VSFA Associate Member Gravel & Shea: Attorneys at Law share a rundown of the amendment bill moving through congress this week in their Eat+Drink Vermont blog post today. 

4/16/2020 Update: EIDL & PPP Halted Due To Lapse In Appropriations

The Small Business Administration is unable to accept new applications at this time for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)-COVID-19 related assistance program including EIDL Advances based on available appropriations funding and the SBA is currently unable to accept new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program based on available appropriations funding. Applicants who have already submitted their applications will continue to be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

PLEASE NOTE: The Small Business Administration and the Vermont Bankers Association have reported that if you have received a confirmation number in response to your application for PPP, your application is in the system and your lender has 10 days to close. If you have not received a confirmation number, it is SBA's understanding that you may not have applied in time. If you have questions, please contact your lender or the SBA Vermont Office at 802-828-4422. 

To ease your fears about keeping up with payments on your current or potential SBA loan, you may want to review immediate relief to small businesses with non-disaster SBA loans, in particular 

Where to Apply

You've Received Your PPP Loan: Guidelines to Remember When Utilizing It

If you have successfully received your PPP loan payment, there are some things to keep in mind. You must follow the treasury and SBA guidelines for loan use in order to qualify for loan forgiveness. We urge you to contact your bank as well, to ensure you collect the right documents to present when asking for loan forgiveness.

Key takeaways: 75% of your loan balance must go to payroll for maximum forgiveness. The remaining 25% can be used for mortgage interest, rent and utilities. These amounts can be applied to payments in the eight weeks following your receipt of the loan. What that means:

PLEASE NOTE: You must keep documents to prove your use of the loan is in accordance with these guidelines if you are going to seek loan forgiveness. We urge you to contact your bank and find out exactly what documents they will want from you down the road.

CARES Act  

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The comprehensive aid package includes direct payments to Americans, an expansion of unemployment insurance and billions in aid to large and small businesses. We are closely monitoring the passage of this bill and will provide a summary of the final passed bill when it is available. Associate Member Gravel & Shea, a Burlington-based law firm, has provided this explanation on eligibility, terms of loans, and forgiveness opportunities.

Read the current CARES Act bill

Small Business Owners Guide to the CARES Act: This guidance document will help you determine if you’re eligible, how much you can apply for, and how you can use it.

CARES ACT FAQs: Small Business from Senator Sanders Office also provides significant information.

FFCRA Act

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act included a number of provisions related to paid family/medical leave and paid sick leave, including a tax credit for employers intended to fully cover the cost of leave: The effective date of this legislation is April 1st, 2020. Find out specifics of the leave provided by the bill in this document: Paid Sick Leave/Medical Leave/Family Leave.

Read the full FFCRA Act

Click here for a quick overview of the FFCRA

Read the FAQ on the FFCRA Act here.

Department of Labor recorded a webinar on the FFCRA. Please continue to frequent this web address regularly as the Department will continue to update the compliance assistance information available there.

Additional Resources

Private Lending 

We are not personally promoting these lenders, we are just compiling the information as it comes in for your benefit.  If you are a member of these banks they are offering special loans for people effected by COVID-19. If you have heard of other lending opportunities please reach out to us.

New England Federal Credit Union

North Country Federal Credit Union

Key Bank

Northfield Savings Bank

Vermont Economic Development Authority

Goldman Sachs

Red Backpack Fund

General COVID-19 Updates

Childcare

Update: On 3/26, Governor Scott Dimisses Schools for in-person instruction for remainder of 2019-2020 school year.

The State of Vermont makes web-based form available to help ensure Childcare for essential workers:

CDC Mass Gathering Guidance

VSFA events affected by the COVID-19

If you have further questions on any of the below events, please contact alexandra@vtspecialtyfoods.org.

Farmers Market

Farmers’ Markets may re-open May 1st, using limited in-person operations to ensure consumer access to quality, healthy food. VAAFM has issued these guidelines, “intended to help farmers markets’ serve communities and provide direct access to healthy, nutritious foods, while also supporting local farmers and food businesses. Farmers markets must follow the guidance.”  

This guidance includes: outdoor markets only, wearing of face masks by vendors, food only vendors, social distancing of vendors and customers, no congregating of customers, no entertainment.

Find the full guidance here

Find the FAQ here to clarify the new COVID-19 Farmers Market Guidance

 
Guidance released on April 10 regarding farmers markets remains in effect at this time.

Farmers Markets are still considered non-essential and VSFA is closely monitoring developments.

Current Farmers Market Guidance

Business Resources

Online Business Directories:

Vermonters are banding together to provide business directories for consumers. Check out the below options for listing your business and offerings.

VT Mentor programs and services

UVM Extension online webinars and resources

VSFA/VRGA Webinars

Webinar: How to Stay Growth-Oriented and Resilient in Your Retail, Grocery, or Specialty Foods Business

This interactive online workshop will give you strategic tools, perspectives, and support to sustain and grow your business during the COVID-19 crisis and come out strong as the crisis passes. We will avoid getting stuck in the whirlwind of fear and uncertainty and instead help you create a focused, doable action plan based squarely on what you have proactive control over that will give your business an edge for growth and on-going resiliency.

View the Online Marketing Referrals here

View the Slide Deck here

Watch the recorded Webinar here

Webinar: Social Media 101: The Basics of Facebook and Instagram for Business

Molly Goodyear, founder of 802Social, leads this session focused on the basics of instagram and facebook for businesses. From best practices for account setup to post examples, general trends, and more, this session will provide what you need to get your accounts up and running!

Watch the pre-recorded webinar here

Webinar: What You Need to Know About COVID-19

VSFA and VRGA collaborated with UVM Extension to present some basic information about the virus (SARS-CoV-2), the disease (COVID-19), and additional online resources. We respond to some of the questions we have received about COVID-19 in the context of the daily activities of food manufacturer/food handlers.

Watch the pre-recorded webinar here

UVM Extension's Food Safety for Food Processors Podcasts has interviewed Vermont food manufacturers to capture their response to the impact of COVID-19 on their companies, share some practices to adjust to these unique circumstances and keep manufacturing companies open. They've spoken to VSFA members Fat Toad Farm, Hidden Springs Maple, Slopeside Syrup, Bove's of Vermont, and Lake Champlain Chocolates.

Webinar: Doing Business in these Uncertain Times 

Presented by Paul Frank + Collins P.C. on 3/25, VSFA and VRGA members joined Senior Partners Karen Stackpole, Kris Brines, Chris Leff, Shane McCormack, and Bob DiPalma from Paul Frank + Collins for a live webinar to discuss employment issues, financing issues, contact problems and related questions that may arise as this pandemic continues to evolve. Download the slide presentation.

Watch the recorded live webinar here

Paul Frank + Collins has also provided further information on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and a supporting Employees Rights Poster.

Webinar: Business Planning in Uncertain Times

The business world has changed radically in recent months and more change is coming. Business owners need to make tough decisions to survive and, ultimately, to adapt their business models to the new reality that emerges. There are great risks, but also great opportunities for the businesses that navigate the next several months successfully.

Bryan Ducharme of Venture 7 Advisors presents three different analytical tools that any business owner can use to make data-driven decisions at a time when emotions are running high and business outlooks are changing on a daily basis. He reviews each model in detail discussing its purpose, its strengths and limitations. Download the slide presentation.

Watch the recorded live webinar here

Venture 7 Advisors has also provided these additional tools that were discussed in the presentation: 13 Week Cash Forecast Tool and Example Financial Model for Consulting Company.

Webinar: Getting started with virtual retail in the Covid19 era

With the closure of businesses nationwide, the ability to sell product direct to consumer online is more important than ever. Jacob Dubois, founder of Burlington based UpTown Cow, leads this session on virtual retail platforms. Uptown Cow is a full service e-commerce management company that works with clients to grow their online sales.

Jacob covers how to get started with online selling platforms, plugins, photography tips, and more. You'll leave the session with a solid understanding of how to get your e-commerce program up and running.

Watch the recorded live webinar here

Setting Up Shop Online

We understand that many businesses are shifting their focus to market and sell their products online in the wake of COVID-19. We have compiled a few resources that you may want to consid to help navigate that world.

1. How to set up an online platform: Uptown Cow has a comprehensive, easy to follow guide on how to set up an online platform. They also put together a Growth Guide for retailers that already have platforms. 

2. Online Shipping Fulfillment: AGH Fulfillment and A Slice of Vermont can bring in specialty food vendors as long as their products are shelf stable without refrigeration. They can help you start selling through A Slice of Vermont or just do fulfillment for you if you are selling on your own website. AGH will offer free storage up to 1 pallet or equivalent for VSFA members. They'll work with you even if you only need a short term help during the shut down while your employees may be forced to stay at home.

Here is a brief outline. You can use one or both of their services:

3. Online Wholesale Platform: Mable is a wholesale platform to help retailers, brands and distributors do business together. Mable's mission is to make it easier for retailers to stock & restock shelves, easier for brands to reach more retailers cost effectively, and easier for distributors to offer a simple ordering solution for their customers. Mable is a great way to get discovered by new retailers.

Other Shipping Services

1. Unishippers of Burlington, VT is a locally owned and operated association of over 300,000 individual companies, nationwide, who have combined their shipping needs to qualify for the deep discounts that very large corporate accounts qualify for. Unishippers is a full service shipping company offering custom, reduced rate, shipping options. They offer a large selection of proven and reliable carriers like UPS for your small packages and over 35 freight carriers for heavier freight. As professional shipping consultants, Unishippers creates completely individualized shipping solutions for our customers.

What VRGA is asking your Government Officials 

VSFA Members are Associate Members of Vermont Retail & Grocers Association. VRGA has been in touch with many state officials asking questions on your behalf, once the question has been answered it will be on VRGA's FAQ PageOur Team is working around the clock to make sure we have up-to-date information for you.

Here are some of the requests, press releases, and questions we are bringing to the conversation with your state officials:

What Our Members Are Doing: Be Creative. Be Safe.

Many of our members have tried to come up with ways to provide the goods people need while limiting their exposure to COVID-19. 

Short Term: Focusing on online or phone sales, Curbside Pickup, Limiting Store Hours if they have a retail shop still open, Contacting larger grocery stores to keep your product in stock, Adjusting production hours to avoid contact between employees, Free Local Delivery (PLEASE CALL YOUR INSURANCE AGENCY TO LET THEM KNOW - most insurance companies are being good allowing this right now BUT you should definitely call your agent and let them know you are doing this as it may require some extra coverage).

Long Term: Talking with your banks, learning about Small Business Loans, Cancelling events, Focusing on Online sales if possible.

Member News

Seven Days reports that Fat Toad Farm is sewing masks as part of Vermont Glove's new effort to enlist home sewers to help produce protective masks.

Bon Appetite Magazine featured Vermont Tortilla in their "Where to Order Your Favorite Pantry Staples Online" list.

Untapped Maple has implemented a local retail support program to their online shopping platform. 

Support Local Business - Where your product is being sold

Support Locally Owned Stores - We have assembled a list of businesses in the state providing shopping hours for vulnerable members of the community, curbside pickup, delivery and other services in response to COVID-19. Please check this list for a store near you. If your product is being sold in one of these stores, please try to highlight that on your social media or website to promote folks to shop there. 

Larger Scale Vermont Support - We wanted to share what Vermont Downtown Districts are doing in the midst of COVID-19 reaching Vermont. Here, you will find a list of the Downtown Districts of Vermont. On their web pages you'll be able to see what stores are temporarily closed, what stores have remained open, and most importantly, how you can help!

Additional Resources

Agricultural Related COVID-19 ResourcesBusiness Income InsuranceLet's Grow Kids Childcare Options

CDC Webinar 3/18/20FDA Daily UpdatesThe Wage and Hour Division FAQ

NRF Guidance for Essential Retail ServicesSmall Business Administration Disaster Loans

Tips from the Attorney General and Business LeadersGuidance for Preparing the Workplace

HR Compliance Bulletin on CoronavirusCovid 19 What you need to knoStop the Spread of Germs Printout

Employee Work from Home GuideCoronavirus and the WorkplaceHR Communicable Disease

OSHA COVID 19 Prevention and Information