Coronavirus Resource Guide
While the COVID-19 crisis is constantly changing, we are making sure to update this page regularly with the resources you may need. Please call us at 802-839-1928 and tell us how you are affected.
Mandatory Travel Quarantine in Effect for Non-Essential Persons
Due to rising COVID-19 case counts across the Northeast, effective on November 10, 2020, the State of Vermont has suspended its leisure travel map and implemented a mandatory quarantine for anyone returning or traveling to Vermont.
- Essential Workers are exempt from this policy, find more information below under "essential travel"
- Anyone returning or traveling to Vermont must follow Vermont’s mandatory quarantine policy. Vermonters returning from an out-of-state trip must complete either a 14-day quarantine or a 7-day quarantine followed by a negative test.
- Vermonters must remember to follow any travel restrictions and quarantine requirements for the states they plan to visit.
- Residents of other states must adhere to the quarantine guidelines:
- Travelers arriving to Vermont in a personal vehicle must complete either a 14-day quarantine or a 7-day quarantine followed by a negative test in their home state and enter Vermont without further quarantine restrictions.
- Travelers arriving to Vermont who have not completed a pre-arrival quarantine must complete either a 14-day quarantine or a 7-day quarantine followed by a negative test in a Vermont lodging establishment or with friends and family (travelers must stay in their quarantine location for the duration of quarantine other than to travel to and from a test site).
- Read more about quarantining at the Vermont Department of Health website.
- All out of state travelers utilizing lodging, camping and short-term rental properties in Vermont must sign and complete a Certificate of Compliance or affirm a compliance statement via a digital check box at the time of reservation and check-in to attest that they meet the quarantine requirement or are an essential/authorized worker.
- All out of state travelers are strongly encouraged to register with Sara Alert upon arrival to Vermont to get two weeks of daily reminders to check for common symptoms of COVID-19.
People traveling for essential purposes, including work, do not need to quarantine. Essential travel includes travel for personal safety, medical care, care of others, parental shared custody, for food, beverage or medicine, to attend preK-12 school and college if commuting daily, or to perform work for businesses that are currently allowed to operate. For more information about which businesses may operate and how they may operate, view the Work Safe Guidance. The current State of Emergency requires employers to use remote work and telework whenever possible to avoid unnecessary work travel. Businesses and employees must only travel for work related trips when absolutely necessary. Individuals engaged in a daily commute to and from their job are expressly exempt from the need to quarantine by Executive Order.
State of Emergency Extended to November 15th
The latest order continues a mask requirement for the general public, requiring mask use by all when close contact is unavoidable, and clarifies the ability of the agency of administration to issue guidance to State agencies, departments and employees on return to the worksite.
The Governor has ordered all non-essential/non-critical businesses to shut down, unless included in the current implementation of the “restartvt” phased reopening plan (see industry specific guidance higher up on this page), 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.
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.
Governor Scott and Commissioner Levine Issue Gathering Size Advisory
Governor Phil Scott and Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD, have announced an advisory on social gatherings, strongly recommending they be limited to 10 or fewer people.
Noting that Vermont has seen an increasing number of cases as a result of socializing, and many states are now pointing to private social gatherings as a contributor to spread of COVID-19, the State is providing firm recommendations to limit these types of events.
Statewide Mask Mandate Ongoing
Per Governor Scott’s July 24th Executive Order, there is an ongoing mandate for Vermonters to wear masks when in the presence of others. This mandate has been continued through the extension of Governor Scott’s State of Emergency, and is anticipated to continue until the State of Emergency ends. There is a signage component to the order, detailed below.
Businesses and non-profit and government entities shall implement measures notifying customers or clients of the requirement to wear masks or facial coverings, which may include, but shall not be limited to, posting signage stating that masks or cloth facial coverings are required and denial of entry or service to customers or clients who decline to wear masks or facial coverings.
VSFA strongly encourages members to:
- Print or request signage and post it at the front door and in conspicuous places around your business
- Post the mandate on your social media to alert customers of the changes
- Communicate this mandate to your employees and customers as soon, and as often, as possible to alleviate any confrontations or uncomfortable situations.
The Agency of Commerce and Community Development has published the following guidance on the mask order:
"As of Saturday, August 1, 2020, Vermonters and visitors are required to wear masks or cloth facial coverings over their nose and mouth any time they are in public spaces, indoors or outdoors, where they come in contact with others from outside their households, especially in congregate settings, and where it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least six feet.
A person who declines to wear a mask or cloth face covering because of a medical or developmental issue, or difficulty breathing, shall not be required to produce documentation, or other evidence, verifying the condition."
Mandatory Health & Safety Requirements for all Business, Non-Profit & Government Operations
Employees will be required to complete, and employers must document, a training on mandatory health and safety requirements as provided by VOSHA, or another training program that meets or exceeds the VOSHA-provided standard.
Businesses that are open to the public will be required to conduct pre-screening or health surveys to verify each employee has no symptoms of respiratory illness (fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath), including temperature checks to the extent possible, prior to the start of work each day.
The Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Agency (VOSHA) has developed training and other materials to inform Vermonters on appropriate safety measures necessary to return to work amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Training and other materials were developed in conjunction with the Vermont Department of Health and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
Stay Safe and Compliant
- Go Through this Staying Open Checklist
- Create a Health and Safety Plan; We’ve created this template with the help of The Richards Group.
- Read this Keeping Employees Safe Document
- Follow these Guidelines below from the Vermont Department of Health and CDC
- Retail operations are limited to 25% of approved fire safety occupancy; or 1 customer per 200 square feet; or 10 total customers and staff combined, whichever is greater. Operators must POST their temporary occupancy limit, and which method was used to determine it, prominently on all entrances. Posting templates are available at accd.vermont.gov.
- Employees shall not report to, or be allowed to remain at, work or job site if sick or symptomatic (fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell).
- Employees must observe strict social distancing of 6 feet while on the job. Businesses and non-profit or government entities shall ensure customers observe strict social distancing of 6 feet while on location, to the extent possible.
- Limit the occupancy of designated common areas, such as break rooms and cafeterias, so that occupants maintain strict social distancing of no less than 6 feet per individual. The employer shall enforce the occupancy limit and require employees to wipe down their area after use or shall ensure cleaning of the common areas at regular intervals throughout the day.
- Employees must wear face coverings over their nose and mouth when in the presence of others. In the case of retail cashiers, a translucent shield or “sneeze guard” is acceptable in lieu of a mask. Businesses and non-profit and government entities may require customers or clients to wear masks.
- Employees must have easy and frequent access to soap and water or hand sanitizer during duration of work, and handwashing or hand sanitization is required frequently including before entering, and leaving, job sites.
- All common spaces (when open) and equipment, including bathrooms, frequently touched surfaces and doors, tools and equipment, and vehicles must be cleaned regularly and, when possible, prior to transfer from one person to another, in accordance with CDC guidance.
- Prior to the commencement of each work shift, pre-screening and health survey shall be required to verify each employee has no symptoms of respiratory illness (fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell). At the present time non-contact thermometers are in short supply, however employers shall immediately order, and use their best efforts to obtain, thermometers in order to conduct routine temperature checks.
- Signs must be posted at all entrances clearly indicating that no one may enter if they have symptoms of respiratory illness.
- When working inside, open doors and windows to promote air flow to the greatest extent possible and limit the number of people occupying a single indoor space.
- No more than 2 people shall occupy one vehicle when conducting work.
- No symptomatic or COVID-19 positive workers are allowed on site and any worker(s) who have contact with a worker or any other person who is diagnosed with COVID-19 are required to quarantine for 14 days.
- All operations shall designate a health officer on-site at every shift responsible for ensuring compliance with the Executive Order and the Addenda thereto and applicable ACCD Guidance. This person shall have the authority to stop or modify activities to ensure work conforms with the mandatory health and safety requirements.
- All business, non-profit and government operations must use remote work whenever possible. The Richards Group has provided guidance on setting up a Work from Home Guide available here
- All employees, including those already working (except healthcare workers, first responders, and others already trained in infection control, personal protection/universal precautions), must complete, and employers must document, a training on mandatory health and safety requirements as provided by VOSHA, or another training program that meets or exceeds the VOSHA-provided standard. Employers who need translations of the training have one week from the release of the translated training to complete this requirement.
- All businesses that have been closed for 7 or more days during the state of emergency must complete and keep on file a reopening and training plan (businesses with fewer than 10 employees at any physical location are not required to create such a plan, however, they must follow all other guidelines and employees must take the VOSHA training). VOSHA and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development have provided a template at accd.vermont.gov/covid-19/business/restart. The plan must, at a minimum:
- Adopt a phased approach to reopening which provides sufficient opportunity to operate first in a low density and low contact environment before making the incremental changes needed to accommodate more moderate density activity while?continuing to maintain health and safety. Update physical and administrative safety systems to accommodate COVID-19/VDH/CDC/VOSHA guidelines, health monitoring, including temperature checks, cleaning and sanitizing methods and physical distancing measures.
- Take appropriate measures to protect employees at greater risk of contact by virtue of their occupational role or setting.
- Businesses with fewer than 10 employees at any physical location are not required to create such a plan, however, they must follow all other health and safety guidelines above including taking VOSHA training.
For all mass transit CUSTOMERS/ RIDERS (in addition to the mandatory requirement for operators and staff) face coverings are mandatory on public transit conveyances and in stations and terminals.
Additional Health and Safety Considerations
- Use of shared workspaces, desks, offices, etc. is discouraged to the maximum extent practicable.
- Face-to-face staff meetings should be limited, and physical distancing must be observed.
- Consider staggered work shifts, break times, etc. and expanding hours to reduce number of individuals working together and reduce contact with members of the public.
- To the extent possible, provide access to hand washing and/or hand sanitizer for vendors, and customers.
- Limit staff travel between multiple sites.
- Ensure a safe process to receive supplies and deliveries.
- Consider accommodations for employees at higher risk from COVID-19 infection (as currently defined by the CDC) to work remotely or have a job tasks that minimize public interaction.
Mask Use for Employees
- The ACCD has mandated mask use for employees interacting with the public. The mandate reads “Employees must wear face coverings over their nose and mouth when in the presence of others. In the case of retail cashiers, a translucent shield or “sneeze guard” is acceptable in lieu of a mask. Businesses and non-profit and government entities may require customers or clients to wear masks.”
- Current towns with a mandate that customers wear masks in businesses are: Bennington, Brattleboro, Burlington, South Burlington, Manchester, Middlebury, Montpelier, Stowe, Vergennes, Wilmington and Woodstock. These mandates will be superseded by the Governors Executive Order when it becomes effective August 1st.
Useful Print Outs
- View this page with multiple Reopening Signage
- View this page with multiple CDC Signs for your business
- Read this guidance on face masks from the Vermont Department of Health
- Printable Symptoms of Coronavirus
- Know who is at risk for serious illness.
- Educate your employees about the virus, including its transmission and prevention, print this: Stop the Spread of Germs
- Hang this sign in your public/employee bathroom: Handwashing Steps
- Read this Cleaning and Sanitation Guide for Food Retail
- If needed, we have compiled a list of Commercial Cleaning Services in Vermont, VRGA is not promoting these companies, we are just compiling the information as it comes in for your benefit.
For more resources related to reopening head to the ACCD website: Restart Vermont Resources
In the spirit of cooperation during hard times, these VSFA and VRGA Webinars are open to all. Webinars include presentations on “Planning for Business Interruption,” “Dealing with Workplace Conflict,” “E-Commerce,” “Doing Business in these Uncertain Times.” Click the button below to access past webinars and register for upcoming programming..
CURRENT LABOR LAW: Labor law during COVID-19 has rapidly changed and adapted to the situations that have arisen. Check the The Vermont Department of Labor (DOL) website for consistently up to date information. For specific issues you cannot find answers to, reach out to the VSFA team so we can assist. Breakdowns of major changes/additions to the labor law system are below. 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.
Refusal to Return to Work
The Department of Labor reminds unemployment claimants who have been placed on temporary layoff or furlough related to COVID-19 that they must return to work if called back by their employer. Refusal to return to work, when being offered the normal rate of pay and number of hours per week, may result in the termination of unemployment benefits and the need to repay certain benefits.
If your employees have refused to return to work and are instead continuing to draw unemployment benefits, you must report this to the state Department of Labor. Employers should complete the online refusal to work form.
Pandemic Emergency Employment Compensation
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) extends regular unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks to claimants who have exhausted their 26 weeks of benefits on July 1,2019 or anytime after. If you have exhausted your unemployment benefits any time after July 1, 2019, you may be eligible for PEUC. This program is currently scheduled to end on December 26th, 2020
Pandemic Unemployment Claims (PUC)
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).
Watch this Vermont Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Demo: How to fill out the form
Updated Heroes Act
The Federal response to the COVID-19 crisis is ongoing, with the US Congress locked in debate about how and when to release emergency response measures to the public. A number of proposals have gone back and forth in Congress since the last bill signed by President Trump. The newest bill that passed out of the House, an updated HEROES Act, was not taken up by the Senate prior to the November Election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that a COVID Relief Package is something he wants to pass by the end of December.
The unpassed Democratic bill would:
- Reinstate the $600 per week enhanced unemployment benefit through January
- Send a second $1,200 direct payment to most Americans
- Give $436 billion in relief over one year to state and local governments
- Authorize more money for a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans for the hardest-hit businesses and industries
- Send $25 billion to airlines to cover payroll costs
- Inject $75 billion into Covid-19 testing and contact tracing efforts
- Put $225 billion into education and $57 billion into child care
- Set aside billions for rental and mortgage assistance
We’re unsure what the new senate relief package McConnell has spoken about will look like, but we are monitoring the situation and will relay information as soon as we receive it.
Paycheck Protection Program Information
The PPP officially closed to applicants on August 8th, 2020. There is a possibility of a revival of the program in upcoming federal stimulus efforts. VRGA is monitoring stimulus packages to ensure members are notified of PPP renewal. Information on changes to the PPP Program and the steps needed to seek forgiveness are outlined below. VRGA recommends closely reading the SBA guidance on the PPP when applying for forgiveness and utilizing PPP funds. You should begin to seek forgiveness of your loans as soon as possible! Contact your lender directly with questions.
Recurring PPP Webinars with the SBA Vermont District Office
PPP Forgiveness Webinar - Join the SBA experts for a discussion on how to apply for PPP forgiveness
Every Tuesday at 11:30
Join online: https://meet.lync.com/sba123/sbmazza/SFFM2N9R
Join by phone: (202) 765-1264; Code: 237511921#
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.
- You can find information on what the loan can be used for in these treasury documents: PPP FAQ and PPP Fact Sheet.
- Consider this set of guidelines from the SBA as well: SBA Guidelines for Use of the PPP.
Key Takeaways from the PPP Flexibility Act:
- The PPP Flexibility Act amends the Paycheck Protection Program to give borrowers more time to spend loan funds and still obtain forgiveness.
- Borrowers now have 24 weeks to spend loan proceeds, up from 8 weeks.
- The Act also reduces mandatory payroll spending from 75% to 60%.
- Two new exceptions let borrowers obtain full forgiveness even without fully restoring their workforce.
- Changes made by the PPPFA have been incorporated in new forgiveness applications released by the SBA.
- Time to pay off the loan has been extended to five years from the original two.
- The Act now lets businesses delay paying payroll taxes even if they took a PPP loan.
Remember, you must follow the treasury and SBA guidelines for loan use 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.
You can find answers to questions frequently asked by borrowers in this SBA FAQ: PPP FAQ
Consider this set of guidelines from the SBA as well: SBA Guidelines for Use of the PPP
Important to note generally:
- 60% of your loan balance must go to payroll for maximum forgiveness.
- PPP loans have an interest rate of 1%.
- Loans issued prior to June 5 have a maturity of 2 years. Loans issued after June 5 have a maturity of 5 years.
- Loan payments will be deferred for six months.
- No collateral or personal guarantees are required.
- Neither the government nor lenders will charge small businesses any fees.
- Forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels.
- Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease.
You should use the proceeds from these loans on your:
- Payroll costs, including benefits;
- Interest on mortgage obligations, incurred before February 15, 2020;
- Rent, under lease agreements in force before February 15, 2020; and
- Utilities, for which service began before February 15, 2020.
Payroll costs include:
- Salary, wages, commissions, or tips (capped at $100,000 on an annualized basis for each
- Employee benefits including costs for vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave;
allowance for separation or dismissal; payments required for the provisions of group
health care benefits including insurance premiums; and payment of any retirement
- State and local taxes assessed on compensation; and
- For a sole proprietor or independent contractor: wages, commissions, income, or net
earnings from self-employment, capped at $100,000 on an annualized basis for each
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.
PPP Program Forgiveness Information
The SBA has issued instructions for requesting forgiveness of PPP loans, as well as an application for doing so.
The application has four components: (1) the PPP Loan Forgiveness Calculation Form; (2) PPP Schedule A; (3) the PPP Schedule A Worksheet; and (4) an (optional) PPP Borrower Demographic Information Form. Borrowers are required to submit items (1) and (2) to their lender.
The SBA’s guidance provides for four broad categories of costs that are eligible for forgiveness: (1) payroll costs; (2) business mortgage interest payments; (3) business rent or lease payments; and (4) business utility payments. Subject to some exceptions, forgiveness is generally available for costs incurred with respect to these items during the borrower’s “Covered Period,” which is the eight-week period that begins on the date the PPP loan was disbursed. As with prior guidance, the SBA requires that at least 75% of the forgiven amount be attributable to payroll costs.
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
7(a): Re an affordable loan product of up to $5 million for borrowers who lack credit elsewhere and need access to versatile financing, providing short-term or long-term working capital and to purchase an existing business, refinance current business debt
504: Provides loans of up to $5.5 million to approved small businesses with longterm, fixed-rate financing used to acquire fixed assets for expansion or modernization
Microloans: provides loans up to $50,000 to help small businesses and certain not-for profit childcare centers to start up and expand. The average microloan is about $13,000. These can be applied for through Community Capital of VT.
EZ Forgiveness Applications
Some businesses may qualify for an “EZ Forgiveness Application”. The SBA has prepared this checklist form to help determine if you qualify. If you can check at least one of the form's three boxes, submit it to your lender (or the lender that is servicing your loan). Borrowers may also complete this application electronically through their lender. If you are unable to check one of the boxes, you cannot use SBA Form 3508EZ and instead you must apply for forgiveness of your PPP loan using SBA Form 3508
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.
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.
APPLY NOW for the Vermont COVID-19 Agriculture Assistance Program (VCAAP) Grant
Deadline: November 15th
Calling all producers! The Vermont COVID-19 Agriculture Assistance Program (VCAAP) application deadline is Sunday, November 15th. Money is still available. Don't underestimate this opportunity!
Some reasons to apply: Were you planning a NEW show/festival/or other event in 2020? Did you plan an uptick in revenue from a new line of products for the restaurant or food service industry? Did you have to fund website upgrades or new marketing expenses to reach different markets/consumers?
- Reviewers look at 2019 P&L and subtract 2020 P&L. Each month is looked at individually. You can still receive a grant even if you had months where you increased revenue over the previous year.
- You can apply for both revenue loss as well as the other economic harm which are expenses that you didn't anticipate as a result of COVID-19.
- If you already applied through ACCD for revenues, you could get the other economic harm reimbursed by VAAFM.
- In the Ag application, each month is looked at on it's own - so, if you had revenue increases in March, but not in April, you can still apply for April.
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 and will remain in effect until December 31, 2020. The second of three bills passed by Congress in response to COVID-19 creates emergency paid sick leave along with paid family leave for individuals impacted by coronavirus/COVID-19. Employers can claim a 100 percent refundable tax credit against payroll taxes for employers and sole proprietors. Find out specifics of the leave provided by the bill in this document: Paid Sick Leave/Medical Leave/Family Leave.
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.
- Process for Accessing SBA's Disaster Relief Lending - Updated 3/17/20
- Business Income Insurance Information from the Department of Financial Regulation