Coronavirus Resource Guide

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 affected.

Table of Contents

State of Emergency Extended to June 15th; Be Smart , Be Safe Order Issued

View the Full OrderNew Work Safe Additions as of 5/15/20Executive Orders Summary

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.

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

Mandatory Health & Safety Requirements for all Business, Non-Profit & Government Operations

As detailed in Governor Phil Scotts recent order, 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.

VOSHA ResourcesGuidelines for Businesses from CDC and Vermont Department of Health 

Beginning May 4th, businesses that are open to the public will be required to conduct pre-screening or health survey 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. 

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.

This training is available here. 

As you Reopen

All Industries

Additional Health and Safety Considerations

Mask Use

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.”

There is currently no statewide mandate for customers to wear masks while in businesses. However, a number of towns have mandated that customers wear masks while in retail stores. These mandates all have requirements for businesses to post signage stating that customers must wear masks while inside.

Towns with a current mandate for businesses are: Burlington, Bennington, Brattleboro, Montpelier, and Wilmington

We recommend using signage prepared by the ACCD

Useful Print Outs

Cleaning

For more resources related to reopening head to the ACCD website: Restart Vermont Resources

Business Resources

VT Mentor programs and services

Online Resource Series in VT

Online Vermont Business Directories

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

VSFA/VRGA Webinars

In the spirit of cooperation during hard times, these VSFA and VRGA Webinars are open to all. Click the button below to access past webinars and register for upcoming programming.

Visit VSFA's Webinar page

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.

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.

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.

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

The most recent federal response bill, The HEROES Act, has passed the house. The $3 trillion dollar bill includes a broad range of provisions: $875 billion for state and local governments affected by COVID-19, a second round of $1200 stimulus checks, $75 billion for expanded testing, $75 billion in mortgage relief, $100 billion for rental assistance, student loan forgiveness up to $10,000 per borrower, and expansions to federal nutrition and unemployment programs. The bill is expected to be rejected by the Senate in its current form.

Here are the highlights of the new bill:

VSFA Associate Member Gravel & Shea: Attorneys at Law shared a rundown on April 22 of the amendment bill as it moved through congress in their Eat+Drink Vermont blog post

Changes to Payment Protection Program (PPP)

Recently, changes to the PPP Program have been made with the intention of making the use of PPP funds more flexible. The changes are still being examined for their impact. VRGA will provide members with a summary when it is available.

Recurring PPP Webinars with the SBA Vermont District Office 

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.

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.

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

Other Grants and Programs

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) Webinars for producers, farmers and ranchers
“CFAP provides vital financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities.”

Ag producers can learn more about the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program and how to submit additional commodities for USDA consideration through the NOFA process. These webinars will be recorded and made available after each live event.

Webinar Dates & Topics:

Visit the FSA webinar page for pre-registration links.

CFAP Call Center is available for producers who would like additional one-on-one support with the CFAP application process. Please call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance. Reminder: June 22 - Last date to submit additional commodities for consideration into CFAP

Local Food in Your Community Program
Grants Available to Food Producers - The Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets has launched this program for projects that support and strengthen collaboration between communities and local producers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The application period for these grants closes on June 30, 2020. 

Learn more about this grant here

General COVID-19 Updates

Childcare

Update: On 5/8/20 Governor Scott announced that Childcare facilities would be allowed to reopen in a limited capacity starting June 1st. They adhere to all CDC and VT Dept of Health guidelines, requirements from the ACCD and are limited to ten people or fewer at this time.

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' Markets in VT

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.

 

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.

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