COVID-19: ‘Slimmed down’ health order through 5 p.m. May 5; PPP deadline May 31; Income taxes due May 17; $1.9 trillion relief act

Alabama is under a state of emergency (26th, 25th, 24th, 23rd, 22nd, 21st, 20th, 19th, 18th, 17th, 16th, 15th, 14th, 13th, 12th, 11th, 10th, 9th, 8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd and 2nd supplements) due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel human coronavirus. The 23rd supplemental proclamation dated March 4 extends the state of emergency until May 7, 2021. The 14th and 15th relate to the statewide mask mandate and the 26th lifts that mandate.  Click here for emergency rules and actions taken by state agencies.

CURRENT STATE HEALTH ORDER
Expires 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 5

The United States is also under national emergency status.  As a result, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued an Emergency Declaration Order, which has been modified and extended through May 31, 2021.

This page is updated regularly with information related specifically to this global pandemic. See the Alabama Retail Associations’ Emergency Preparedness Page for broader emergency preparedness information. During these uncertain times, consult your company lawyer, accountant, insurance company, banker/financial adviser about business and/or legal decisions.

Last updated at 4:30 p.m. April 9, 2021


HEALTH ORDER
State Health Order (Full provisions of April 7 health order): As of 5 p.m. April 9 through 5 p.m. May 5, employers and individuals are encouraged to maintain six feet of separation, wear face coverings, frequently wash hands and regularly disinfect surfaces. Employers also are encouraged to prevent sick employees from coming in contact with others.

On July 15, 2020, Alabama created a uniform statewide face covering mandate as part of its state health order. The mask mandate expired at 5 p.m. Friday, April 9, but businesses and local governments are allowed to set their own requirements. All state COVID-19 health requirements for specific types of businesses, such as retailers, restaurants and close-contact businesses also expire. Starting the evening of April 9, all employers will be under the same guidance from the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Mask Signage Provided by the State of Alabama
(For businesses wishing to require or encourage face coverings)

Download Zip File of Shop Alabama Mask Graphics
(See Examples Below)

Birmingham and Montgomery Continue Mask Mandates into May

Q & A with Alabama Retail’s Employment Law Partner about Implementing Current Health Order

 

FEDERAL MASK MANDATES
Federal Property
Domestic Travel
On Public Conveyances and at Transportation Hubs

Improve How Your Mask Protects You and Others
Revised CDC mask guidance issued Feb. 10, 2021

CDC TRAVEL ORDER
Requirement for Negative COVID-19 Test or Recovery for Air Passengers Arriving in United States
Effective 12:01 a.m. Jan. 26, 2021


Federal Face Covering Guidelines
The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. CDC additionally advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings should cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly against the sides of face without gaps.

The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders. Surgical masks or N-95 respirators are crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings.

For workers in food production, processing and retail settings who do not typically wear masks as part of their jobs, the Food & Drug Administration says to consider the following if you choose to use a cloth face covering to slow the spread of COVID-19:

  • Maintain face coverings in accordance with parameters in FDA’s Model Food Code sections 4-801.11 Clean Linens and 4.802.11 Specifications.
  • Launder reusable face coverings before each daily use.

CDC also has additional information on the use of face coverings, including washing instructions and information on how to make homemade face covers.

FAQs on cloth face coverings in the workplace (OSHA)


IMMUNITY PROTECTION
Law:
On Feb. 12, 2021, Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law COVID-liability protection for businesses, healthcare providers and other groups. Its provisions are retroactive to March 13, 2020, and remain in effect until a year after the state’s COVID-19 health emergency order expires. It provides civil immunity and protects against certain damages claimed by individuals who allege that they contracted or were exposed to COVID-19 due to an act or omission of a covered entity. Entities covered under the law include businesses, nonprofits, LLCs, health-care providers, educational entities, churches, governmental entities and cultural institutions operating in Alabama, as well as individuals associated with these entities. An entity would be liable if it acts with wanton, reckless, willful or intentional misconduct that can be proven under a “clear and convincing” evidentiary standard. Following applicable public health guidance frees the entities from liability.

Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee best practices to avoid liability under the current health order

Proclamation: The eighth emergency proclamation issued May 8, 2020, also protects healthcare providers as well as businesses from the risk and expense of lawsuits associated with COVID-19 as long as the state is under an emergency health order.


AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN ACT OF 2021 (HR 1319): The president signed into law a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on March 11.  The package includes: almost $29 billion in grants for restaurants, $7.5 billion for vaccine distribution, $48 billion for testing and contact-tracing efforts, $1,400 in direct payments to most Americans, a $300 per week supplemental unemployment bonus through Sept. 6 and more than $7 billion more for Paycheck Protection Program loans.  NEW: On March 30, the president signed HR1799, which extends the application deadline for forgivable PPP loans to May 31. It gives the Small Business Administration until June 30 to process the loans.

Restaurant grants included in latest COVID-19 relief package
(alabamaretail.org)

EMERGENCY CORONAVIRUS RELIEF ACT OF 2020: Late Dec. 21, 2020, Congress delivered a $900 billion relief bill to the president. He signed H.R. 133 into law Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020. The relief package includes $284 billion for forgivable small business loans, targeted grants, tax credits for offering paid sick leave and employee retention, $600 direct stimulus payments for most Americans, a $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and more.

Contact your lender about new round of forgivable loans!
Loans extended through May 31 or until funding runs out
Find an SBA 7(a) lender
View all SBA coronavirus relief options for small business

FIRST DRAW APPLICATION
(For those who have not received a PPP loan. Updated March 3, 2021)
SECOND DRAW APPLICATION
(For those who have previously received a PPP loan. Updated March 3, 2021)

Paycheck Protection Program Reopened Week of Jan. 11
First-time loans from community financial institutions opened Jan. 11
2nd draw loans opened Jan. 13 from same sources
All qualified lenders were accepting applications beginning Jan. 19

RULES AND MEMORANDUM
SBA Interim Final Rule on Paycheck Protection Program
Business Loan Program Temporary Changes; Paycheck Protection Program
Revisions to Loan Amount Calculation and Eligibility

By rule, self-employed individuals who file Form 1040, Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business, can calculate their maximum loan amount using gross income instead of net profit. The change opens the door for larger loans to sole proprietors. For those who applied before March 3, 2021, an opportunity may still exist to reapply under the new rule, contact your lender. Partnerships and LLCs are NOT included in the revised application process. However, single-member LLCs and qualified joint ventures (as defined by IRS) are included. More from Journal of Accountancy.

1st Draw Application for Schedule C Using Gross Income
2nd Draw App for Schedule C

SBA Interim Final Rule on Paycheck Protection Program
as Amended by the Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act

SBA Interim Final Rule on Second Draw Loans

SBA Guidance on Accessing Capital for Minority, Underserved, Veteran and Women-Owned Business Concerns

Rules above were issued or updated Jan. 6


TAX RELIEF
Tax Day Moved to May 17 (IRS news release): The federal income tax filing due date for individuals for the 2020 tax year is automatically extended from April 15 to May 17, 2021, the IRS announced March 17. NEW: On March 29, the IRS provided details on postponed tax deadlines and extended additional deadlines. Individual taxpayers can also postpone federal income tax payments for the 2020 tax year to May 17, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed.  This postponement applies to individual taxpayers, including individuals who pay self-employment tax. Estimated tax payments continue to be due on April 15. The IRS urges taxpayers who are due a refund to file as soon as possible. Most tax refunds are still being issued within 21 days.

No Alabama Extension Necessary if 2020 Income Taxes Filed by May 17 (ADOR guidance):  The Alabama Department of Revenue issued guidance March 18 stating, “Alabama taxpayers will not need to request an extension to file Alabama individual income tax returns without a late-filing penalty through the extended federal due date.” Interest will accrue from April 15 to May 17, so the department “encourages taxpayers to make their payments for the 2020 tax year as soon as possible to avoid the accrual of interest beyond April 15.” Track progress of your refunds at myalabamataxes.gov.


QUARANTINE FOR COVID-19 CONTACTS

Alabama shortens home quarantine for close COVID-19 contacts (Dec. 11 ADPH news release): Under its authority to establish state quarantine and isolation requirements, the Alabama Department of Public Health has reduced the home quarantine period for those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 in certain circumstances. The state now offers a 10-day quarantine option if the exposed experiences no symptoms and follows other requirements and precautions. At this time, Alabama does not offer a 7-day quarantine option with a negative test, as the CDC offers (see link below) “While we would like to be able to decrease the home quarantine time frame to seven days for persons who may have been exposed to COVID-19, this is not possible at this time,” said Dr. Scott Harris, the state health officer.

ADPH Isolation and Quarantine Timeframes
Updated Feb. 18, 2021, to Include Close Contacts for the Fully Vaccinated

OSHA GUIDANCE ON PREVENTING WORKPLACE SPREAD
Issued Friday, Jan. 29, 2021

CDC Quarantine Guidance
Updated Dec. 10, 2020

CDC Options to Shorten Quarantine for Those With Close COVID-19 Contact 
Issued Dec. 2, 2020

CDC Guidance on Retail Workplace Violence Associated with COVID-19 Prevention Policies
Includes resources and training on workplace violence, actions to prevent workplace violence and a printable do’s and don’ts poster for employees.
Issued Aug. 24, 2020. Updated Sept. 1, 2020.

CDC FAQs for Businesses
Includes questions related to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases in the workplace; reducing the spread in workplaces; healthy business operations, cleaning and disinfection, ventilation, etc. Updated Feb. 11, 2021.

Duration of Isolation and Precautions for Adults with COVID-19
(Updated Feb. 13, 2021)

CDC Testing Overview
(Updated March 17, 2021)


VACCINES AND THE EEOC
What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act and Other EEO Laws
(Issued Dec. 16): This document includes a new section providing information to employers and employees about how a COVID-19 vaccination interacts with the legal requirements of the the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).  Section K covers vaccination questions. For an overview, read the EEOC news release.

>> Dec. 17 memo from Lehr Middlebrooks Vreeland & Thompson, Alabama Retail Association’s employment law partner


FEDERAL
CARES ACT (Link to the full law): On April 2, 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department issued an interim final rule for the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program, part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The program involved forgivable loans to small businesses through SBA-approved 7(a) lenders, banks, or credit unions as well as all federally insured depository institutions, federally insured credit unions and Farm Credit System institutions. The application process shut down from April 16 through April 26 due to lack of funding. SBA resumed taking applications at 10:30 a.m. EDT Monday, April 27, 2020.

Deferral of employment tax deposits and payments through Dec. 31 (IRS FAQs): The CARES Act allows employers to defer the deposit and payment of the employer’s share of Social Security taxes and self-employed individuals to defer payment of certain self-employment taxes.

U.S. Treasury Department CARES Act webpage

FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT (Link is to full text of legislation signed into law March 18, 2020) The Families First Coronavirus Response Act includes two employment-related components – the Emergency Family and Medical Expansion Leave Act and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. This federal legislation took effect April 1, 2020. It expired Dec. 31, 2020.


PHARMACY


RISK STATUS
COVID-19 Risk Indicator Dashboard
: On June 30, the Alabama Department of Public Health introduced a tool that allows policymakers and others to easily see the risk status of each county in order to guide health behavior. Learn more about how the information is calculated.


FEDERAL GUIDANCE
Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce
: The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Homeland Security, issued an advisory list for local and state leaders to identify workers essential to critical infrastructure to ensure public health and safety, as well as economic and national security. The advisory list is not an exclusive list. Individual jurisdictions should add or subtract essential workforce categories based on their own requirements and discretion. It now identifies distribution center workers, truck drivers, electronic and hardware employees as critical infrastructure workers. The link is to a letter and a graphic updated Dec. 16 (added vaccination info) and Aug. 18 that lists essential workers by industry categories. The latest version provides guidance on how jurisdictions and critical infrastructure owners can use the list to prioritize essential workers’ ability to work safely while supporting ongoing infrastructure operations across the nation.


EEOC UPDATES
What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission technical assistance document updated Dec. 16, 2020)

COVID-19 Ask the EEOC Webinar (March 27, 2020)

Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act (Updated March 21, 2020)


ECONOMIC RELIEF FOR SMALL BUSINESSES (Also see FEDERAL LEGISLATION)
SBA COVID-19 Disaster Loans in Alabama (Governor’s March 21 news release): Small businesses across Alabama negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic are eligible for assistance under the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. Go to the Alabama Small Business Development Center Network EIDL loan page to get some valuable guidance on how to apply for a loan.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan Resume for Small Businesses: On June 15, 2020, the SBA began accepting new Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) from all eligible small businesses and U.S. agricultural businesses. On Saturday, July 11, the SBA closed out the $10,000 Advance Emergency Grants as all $20 billion allocated had been obligated for the advances.

The SBA continues to accept applications for the EIDL program, which offers a 3.75% interest rate for small businesses and 2.75% for not-for-profit organizations, a 30-year maturity and an automatic deferment of one year before monthly payments begin. To learn more about eligibility and apply for an Emergency Injury Disaster Loan, click here.

Applicants who have already submitted their applications will continue to be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Those with an EIDL application that starts with a “3” do not need to reapply. To check on the status, email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov with your application number, or call 1-800-659-2955, and ask to speak with a Tier 2 supervisor. If you have been denied, or if the approved amount is below what you need, there is an appeal process. View on-demand webinars on the appeal process and other information provided by the Alabama Small Business Development Center Network.


MORE SMALL BUSINESS RESOURCES
SBA’s Resource Partners: Reach out to SBA’s resource partners located throughout Alabama if you need assistance with the Economic Injury Disaster Loan application process. Click on Alabama District Office Resource Guide. Resource partners (Small Business Development Centers, SCORE chapters and The Catalyst) are listed beginning on Page 11 and ending on Page 12.

Alabama Small Business Development Center Network has compiled a Guide to Conquering a Business Crisis, a Guide to Business Continuity/Disaster Assistance that includes an emergency plan and a Checklist for Managing in Times of Financial Difficulty. This site also includes information on How to Market During the COVID-19 crisis. Visit Alabama SBDC Network’s COVID-19 Small Business Resource Center.


HOW TO PREVENT SPREAD OF DISEASE

Health officials ask Alabamians to follow precautions to prevent illness and the spread of disease. Preventative measures include frequent hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes, not touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, staying home when sick and practicing social distancing.

Anyone with fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, congestion/runny nose, nausea/vomiting or diarrhea should:

  • Stay home except to get medical care.
  • Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home.
  • Call ahead before visiting your doctor.
  • With a medical emergency when calling 911, notify the dispatcher about your condition.

Venturing Out? Be Prepared and Stay Safe (CDC website): While there is no way to ensure zero risk of infection, this guidance outlines potential risks and how to adopt different types of prevention measures to protect yourself and help reduce the spread of COVID-19. It includes tips for going to the bank, dining at a restaurant, hosting gatherings and cook outs, using gyms and fitness centers, going to nail salons and traveling overnight. See list of everyday preventive actions and CDC’s running errands considerations for grocery shopping, deliveries and takeout, banking and getting gas.

CDC information about how the COVID-19 disease spreads (CDC website): The virus spreads easily between people. Infections occur mainly through respiratory droplets when a person is in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Some infections can be spread by exposure to virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours.

FDA warns about hand sanitizers containing methanolDo Not Use List

When You Can Be Around Others After You Had or Likely Had COVID-19  (CDC guidance)

Keeping workplaces, homes, schools, or commercial establishments safe (CDC graphic)

Grocery and food retail workers (CDC guidance)

Food and grocery pickup and delivery drivers (CDC guidance)


ServSafe Offers Free Courses Related to Food Handling: ServSafe offers three free training videos: Reopening Guidance: COVID-19 Precautions; Delivery: COVID-19 Precautions; and Takeout: COVID-19 Precautions.


ECONOMIC IMPACT PAYMENTS FOR INDIVIDUALS (IRS website):  The payments, also referred to by some as stimulus payments, are automatic for most taxpayers. No further action is needed by taxpayers who filed tax returns in 2018 and 2019 and most seniors and retirees. Information also available here for non-filers. Individuals can track their payment using the IRS’s Get My Payment tool. In situations where payment status is not available because of a variety of reasons including ineligibility and failure to file a tax return for 2018 or 2019, the app will respond with “Status Not Available.” Get My Payment data is updated once per day, so there’s no need to check back more frequently.

Millions of economic impact payments coming in form of prepaid debit card (news release): The week of May 18, 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS began sending nearly 4 million Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) by prepaid debit card, instead of by paper check.

Questions and Answers about Third Economic Impact Payments


ALABAMA SITUATION
The number of Alabama deaths and confirmed cases of coronavirus as reported in real time by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is the state’s official source. Local reports often are made before those deaths and cases appear on the state website.

ADPH also has a statewide informational hotline and a general information e-mail address to field health-related questions from the public about the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

The toll-free hotline and e-mail address are:

  • COVID-19 General Information – 800-270-7268
    Telephone calls are answered from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily.
  • The COVID-19 General Information Email address – covid19info@adph.state.al.us

In addition, a toll-free phone line provides information about available testing sites and hours of operation. This phone number is 888-264-2256. Callers will be asked for their zip code to help locate the site nearest them.

COVID-19 Related Emergency Actions of State Agencies: Emergency rules and other emergency actions taken by state agencies in Alabama’s response to COVID-19. For more information, please contact the agency directly.


PRICE GOUGING
The statewide emergency proclamation prohibits price gouging and eases transportation restrictions for the movement of emergency supplies throughout the state.

When Alabama experiences a state of emergency, Alabama’s price gouging law is in effect.

ALABAMA’S PRICE GOUGING LAWMakes it unlawful for anyone to raise prices on commodities or lodging by more than 25 percent during the declared state of emergency. To avoid violating Alabama’s price gouging law, figure the price charged for each of the previous 30 days. Add the 30 daily prices, divide by 30, and multiply the price by .25, or 25 percent, to figure the maximum price increase allowed for any one day. The exception is if a wholesale price increases by more than 25 percent and merchants have no choice but to pass along the price increase.

The fine for violating Alabama’s price gouging law can be up to $1,000 per incident. Those who willfully and continually violate the law can be banned from doing business in Alabama.


TRANSPORTATION
The state declaration also allows truck drivers delivering supplies and goods to Alabama to exceed the hours of service or spend less time off duty than required by federal law. The waiver only applies to the time a driver is delivering the emergency supplies for up to 30 days after the emergency declaration, or until the declaration ends. Under federal law, a driver may drive only during a period of 14 consecutive hours after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty. The proclamation loosens that regulation only as it relates to the timely delivery of disaster supplies for the 30 days or less of the emergency declaration.

The national emergency includes “hours of service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak” for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. That declaration includes allowing transportation of “food for emergency restocking of stores” as one of the qualifiers for hours of service exemptions. It will remain in effect until the emergency declaration is lifted or April 12, 2020, whichever comes sooner.


STEPS FOR EMPLOYERS
Ten Steps All Workplaces Can Take to Reduce Risk of Exposure to Coronavirus
(OSHA poster)

  • Communicate and reinforce safe workplace practices (e.g., hand washing, disinfection)
    • Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces.
    • Provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol, disinfectants and disposable towels for workers to clean their work surfaces.
    • Require regular hand washing or using of alcohol-based hand rubs.
  • Encourage employees who experience symptoms to stay home and isolate sick employees until they can get to medical professionals and/or home,
  • Communicate how absences will be handled (under both absenteeism policies and for purposes of compensation). If you don’t already have one, consider having an emergency sick leave policy specifically for the coronavirus or communicable diseases and communicate that policy with employees.
  • Allow work from home where feasible and practice the social distance of six feet for those who remain on the job.

Worker Exposure Risk Chart (OSHA): Categorizes jobs as very high risk, high risk, medium risk and lower risk.


OFFICIAL COVID-19 WEBPAGES:


REPORTED CASES:

HAND-WASHING

CLEANING

OTHER CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES:

Originally posted at 3:54 p.m. March 9, 2020