Update on Local, State and Federal Action March 25 - A Message From Your Chamber President
I saw a tweet the other day that best described how many of us are feeling. It said, "The weirdest part of living through the COVID-19 pandemic is this strange mixture of normalcy and emergency that we are all experiencing. I constantly feel like I'm either over- or underreacting or really both at the exact same time. It's surreal."
I know that some of you already affected by the economic impact of this have had to come to the very difficult decision to furlough or layoff employees. We've created this document for you to be able to share with your employees on various ways they can reach out for assistance. It is also attached for easy download for printing. This, of course, does not include any new programs that may come out of pending legislation.
Business Assistance Update:
1. Effective immediately, eligible small businesses interested in applying for the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program, a short-term loan designed to help for-profit business owners bridge the gap between the time of impact and when the business has secured long-term assistance, should apply for the program through one of two ways by May 8, 2020 (this is a change in instruction):
2. A question has come up from a fellow Chamber member on credit card interest relief during this time if it becomes necessary to carry more on credit. I spoke to the US Chamber today and while they haven't seen legislation being discussed at this point regarding mandating waiving or deferring credit card interest, most major card issuers have released statements outlining how they plan to assist customers during this challenging time. Cardholders may be able to skip payments, avoid late fees and receive lower interest rates. At this point it is best to reach out directly to your card card company to try to set up terms Read more here.
Local & State:
1. Several more urban counties surrounding us have started to issue "stay home" orders to combat those ignoring the social distancing guidelines. Those orders cite the federally identified essential critical infrastructure workers categories which may be more broad than you realize. We do not have any such orders in place in Polk County at this time, but several of our members have asked who qualifies if that were to happen. See this list on the blog to review the federal guidelines.
2. Governor DeSantis announced an executive order to require anyone that travels to Florida from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut to self-isolate for 14 days or for the duration of the individual’s presence in Florida, whichever is shorter. Violating the order is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for up to 60 days and a fine of up to $500
3. Governor DeSantis announced he is issuing an Executive Order to direct Florida’s Surgeon General, Dr. Rivkees, to issue a public health advisory urging the following:
4. Central Florida Health Care is also able to test for COVID-19 at each of their locations, as long as you meet the criteria for testing. CFHC has 12 clinics in Polk County and are open with normal business hours providing urgent healthcare needs at this time. They see uninsured, underinsured, insured, Medicaid and Medicare patients. See the blog for details.
5. Several local businesses have offered free Business-to-Business Support through this time. If you are offering something similar, please let us know so that we collect these resources in one place:
1. Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division issued their first level of guidance on how the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) will affect employers and employees. In the text, the DOL makes it clear that they will be issuing further guidance and regulations related to the exemptions for employers with fewer than 50 employees, as well as health care providers—which will we share with you as soon as it becomes available.
The guidance—provided in a Fact Sheet for Employees, a Fact Sheet for Employers and a Questions and Answers document—addresses critical questions, such as how an employer must count the number of their employees to determine coverage, how small businesses can obtain an exemption, how to count hours for part-time employees, how to calculate the wages employees are entitled to under this law, and more.
2. At 1 a.m. this morning it was announced a deal has been reached on the phase 3 "Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security" or "CARES" Act for business and individual relief. It is expected to go to the Senate floor today and to expedite through the House. This is the outline from Sunday evening that outlines provisions including Small Business "Paycheck Protection Plan" which would provide an SBA Loan to help employers with 500 or less employees cover costs such as payroll, rent, utilities and as long as the employer maintains their average full-time equivalent employment the payroll portion of their loan will be forgiven. There are also provisions for relief on delaying some business taxes, banking relief, individual payments, unemployment and increase in unemployment benefits and adjustments to the paid leave provisions. As soon as the final bill language as negotiated is released I will send out an analysis to you.
All my best -
Katie Worthington Decker
Your Chamber President
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