COVID-19: Health order continues through July 31; six localities mandate masks; EID loans resume; COVID-19 lawsuit protection

Alabama is under a state of emergency (13th, 12th, 11th, 10th, 9th, 8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd and 2nd supplements) and the United States under national emergency status due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel human coronavirus. The 13th supplemental proclamation dated July 2 extends the state of emergency until Sept. 9.  Click here for emergency rules and actions taken by state agencies.

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 noon July 2, 2020

HEALTH ORDER
State Health Order
(Full provisions at link): On June 30, Alabama extended its statewide health order, which allows retail, restaurants and other businesses in our state to be open in limited ways. All nonwork gatherings of any size that cannot maintain a consistent six-foot distance between persons from different households continues to be prohibited. The order encourages everyone to wear face coverings when away from those in your household. Frequent sanitation and disinfection is required for all groups. Unless extended again, the order expires 5 p.m. July 31.

One-Page Order Summary

The businesses open in some way in Alabama are:

  • Retail merchants under a 50% maximum occupancy rate (Read state fire marshal letter to determine occupancy), social distancing and sanitation rules. Effective 5 p.m. April 30.
  • Restaurants, close-contact services (barber shops/hair salons) and athletic facilities (gyms). Effective Monday, May 11.
    • RESTAURANT RULES: Limit dining-in party size at tables to no more than eight people with at least six feet of separation between people seated at different tables, booths, chairs or stools. A mask or other facial covering is required for employees at all times. Self service by guests at drink stations, buffets or salad bars prohibited. Games, such as pool and darts, can be played if 6-feet distance between players can be maintained, equipment isn’t shared and is sanitized between uses. Restaurants, bars and breweries are encouraged to continue take-out, curbside, pick-up and delivery service as well.
    • CLOSE-CONTACT RULES: Each employee is required to wear a mask or other facial covering that covers his or her nostrils and mouth, at all times while providing services within 6 feet of a client. All close-contact service providers are encouraged — and employees providing nail services or facial services are required — to wear gloves when providing services within 6 feet of a client. To the extent employees wear gloves when providing services, they should use a new pair of gloves for each client and should put them on immediately after washing their hands.
    • ATHLETIC FACILITY RULES: Limit occupancy to 50% of the normal occupancy load as determined by the fire marshal. A mask or other facial covering is required for employees. Athletic facilities must also prohibit patrons and guests from accessing showers, hot tubs, steam rooms, lockers, saunas and other recreational water or spa facilities.
  •  Entertainment venues (museums, theaters, bowling alleys) summer camps, adult and youth athletic activities, child day cares and educational facilities.  The ADPH guidance for these groups follows:

The health order also includes provisions for all businesses including these safeguards. Other general business reopening resources include:

Attorney General Statement on Municipal Use of Power in Wake of April 30 Health Order: Excerpt: “Some municipalities have already expressed their intent to impose or maintain more restrictive orders than the state. Though Alabama law grants municipalities broad ‘police powers’ when it comes to protecting the public health and safety, these powers must be exercised within constitutional parameters. Municipalities are thus strongly advised to carefully balance the constitutional implications of imposing and enforcing more restrictive safety measures against the need for such measures.”

AG Establishes Response Teams to Answer Questions About Compliance with State Health Order (April 9 AG news release): The Alabama attorney general’s office has assembled response teams to answer legal questions from local law enforcement, city and county officials, business owners and management, employees and the general public about how to comply with the State Health Order.


RISK STATUS
COVID-19 Risk Indicator Dashboard
: On June 30, the Alabama Department of Public Health introduced a new 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.

CDC supporting Alabama’s COVID-19 response (June 26 ADPH news release): A five-member support team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be assisting the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) from June 24 through July 3. ADPH requested the help.


FACE COVERING MANDATES
TUSCALOOSA (ordinance): Effective Monday, July 6, adults (with some exceptions) and children – parents have discretion with children between the ages of 2 and 8 – are required to wear face coverings when inside of businesses open to the general public, when using public transportation and when in outdoor gatherings of 10 or more people. All businesses and venues open to the general public are to post a notice at all public entrances, stating that face coverings are required inside the establishment. FAQs and posters

MOBILE (ordinance): For 30 days beginning 5 p.m. Friday, June 3, face coverings are required in public places, including retail stores and transportation services, for everyone older than 10 within the city of Mobile and police jurisdiction. FAQs

GREENE COUNTY: As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 1, residents of Greene County must wear a face covering when out in public, whether indoors or outdoors. Exceptions include outdoors in a group of fewer than 10 people where everyone can practice social distancing.

JEFFERSON COUNTY (Health order): By order of the Jefferson County Health Officer, as of 5 p.m. Monday, June 29, everyone in the county age 8 and older must cover their mouth and nose with a cloth or other non-medical-grade covering when inside places, businesses and venues open to the public, on public transit and when 10 or more are gathered outdoors and unable to stay six foot apart. There are multiple exceptions, including when eating and drinking and during hair-care services.

Jefferson County Face Covering Toolkit plus suggested signage for stores
Where to Wear A Face Covering Infographic

SELMA (Executive order): Effective 5 p.m. Saturday, June 27, those in Selma over the age of two who can medically tolerate wearing a face mask must do so when in public and in groups of 10 people or more, including in situations involving employees, customers or clients. Masks must be worn outdoors when in groups of 10 people or more when a six-foot social distance cannot be maintained.

MONTGOMERY (Executive order): Effective 5 p.m. Friday, June 19, face coverings or masks are required in public places within the city of Montgomery. The mayor’s executive order requires face coverings or masks for those older than two in public places where 10 or more people are present. It applies to employees, customers and clients of businesses within the city. A mask or face covering must be worn when entering and exiting a restaurant, bar or other food or beverage establishment operating under conditions required by the state health officer’s order.

BIRMINGHAM: As of May 1, the city of Birmingham began requiring face coverings in public places. The ordinance was amended May 5, May 12, May 19, May 29 and June 9. Under the latest version, everyone in the city limits of Birmingham is to wear face coverings until 11:59 p.m. Friday, July 3. The ordinance permits dining in a restaurant without a face covering.

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 fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

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. Surgeon General video on how to make your own face covering.

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 face coverings, surgical masks and respirators in the workplace (OSHA)


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, the SBA began accepting new Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL $10,000 advance applications from all eligible small businesses and U.S. agricultural businesses. The up to $10,000 advance is still available; loans are capped at $150,000. To learn more about eligibility and apply, click here. Applicants who have already submitted their applications will continue to be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Those withan 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.

From April 16-June 14, the SBA was unable to accept new applications for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan-COVID-19 related assistance program.

SBA Offers Disaster Assistance to Alabama Small Businesses Economically Impacted by the Coronavirus (SBA March 21 news release):  The deadline to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan is Dec. 21, 2020.

SBA Alabama Fact Sheet – Economic Injury Disaster Loans 


OTHER 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. It may be possible for COVID-19 to spread in other ways, but these are not thought to be the main ways the virus spreads: Touching surfaces or objects, from animals to people and from people to animals.

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.


IMMUNITY PROTECTION
Proclamation:
The eighth emergency proclamation issued Friday, May 8, protects healthcare providers as well as businesses from the risk and expense of lawsuits associated with COVID-19. As long as covered entities do not act recklessly and operate in a manner that is reasonably consistent with applicable public health guidance, they should be able to avoid COVID-19 liability, under the proclamation. Entities covered under this proclamation 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.


FEDERAL LEGISLATION
Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act
(Act text): The latest federal relief act gives businesses up to 24 weeks to spend funds from the Paycheck Protection Program and still have the Small Business Administration loans forgiven. The president signed the legislation Friday, June 5. The U.S. Senate approved the legislation Wednesday, June 3, on a voice vote, while the House passed it May 28. 

The law:

  • Extends the PPP covered period from 8 weeks to 24 weeks.
  • Extends the June 30 deadline for (re)hiring workers until Dec. 31. June 30 remains the deadline for applying to receive a PPP loan, according to a letter on file with the Congressional Record and the June 10 version of the interim final rule.
  • Lowers the 75% requirement for payroll expenses to 60% for forgiveness. The June 10 interim final rule confirms borrowers that use less than 60% of their PPP loan amount for payroll costs will still be eligible for partial loan forgiveness.
  • Expands the 25% cap to use PPP funds on nonpayroll expenses, such as rent, mortgage interest and utilities, to 40% of the total loan.
  • Allows payroll tax deferment for PPP recipients.
  • Extends the loan terms for any unforgiven portions that need to be repaid from two years to five years, at 1% interest. For loans made before June 5, the loan matures in two years, but the borrower and lender may mutually agree to extend the maturity to five years. Loans made on or after June 5, 2020, will have a five-year maturity date.
  • Gives small businesses more time to rehire employees or to obtain forgiveness for the loan if social-distancing guidelines and health-related actions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other agencies prevent the business from operating at the same capacity as it had before March 1.

Joint SBA/Treasury Statement on Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (June 8)

Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (Act text): On Friday, April 24, the president signed this $484 billion coronavirus relief package into law. The U.S. House gave final approval April 23 to the package that includes $310 billion for the forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Of that amount, $60 billion expedites lending by small, midsize and community lenders. The program is meant to help small companies cover payroll and other essential expenses for roughly two months. Loans can be forgiven if businesses maintain the size of their workforce. The SBA resumed accepting PPP applications April 27 from approved lenders on behalf of any eligible borrower. As of June 12, 62,054 loans valued at $6,112,307,591 (View loan report) had been approved for Alabama businesses. The act also provides $50 billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loans and $10 billion for emergency grants. Those grants are capped at $10,000. Businesses with fewer than 10 employees can receive $1,000 for each full-time employee. Businesses that have not already submitted loan applications should contact your lender.

For more info, read the:

SBA and Treasury Release Paycheck Protection Program Loan Forgiveness Application  and Instructions (May 15 news release): The form and instructions inform borrowers how to apply for forgiveness of their PPP loans, consistent with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act (Linked below). SBA will also soon issue regulations and guidance to further assist borrowers as they complete their applications, and to provide lenders with guidance on their responsibilities. Download the application and instruction pdf.

According to the American Bankers Association, the SBA’s announcements included:

  • Safe harbor from loan forgiveness reduction for borrowers that were able to rehire employees who had previously been let go or laid off by June 30, 2020.
  • An exemption from forgiveness reduction for borrowers who have made a good-faith, written offer to rehire workers that was declined.

SAFE HARBOR: On May 13, SBA and Treasury extended an automatic safe harbor to borrowers receiving PPP loans of less than $2 million. “Any borrower that, together with its affiliates, received PPP loans with an original principal amount of less than $2 million will be deemed to have made the required certification concerning the necessity of the loan request in good faith,” an update to PPP frequently asked questions (Question 46) states.

Earlier, the U.S. Treasury Department had issued guidance making it harder for publicly traded companies to qualify for the PPP money intended for small businesses, threatening penalties in some cases if firms do not repay money they already received. “It is unlikely that a public company with substantial market value and access to capital markets will be able to make the required certification in good faith, and such a company should be prepared to demonstrate to SBA, upon request, the basis for its certification,” the guidance states. “Any borrower that applied for a PPP loan prior to the issuance of this guidance and repays the loan in full by May 18, 2020, will be deemed by SBA to have made the required certification in good faith.” The guidance originally had a May 7 deadline, then a May 14 deadline as a repayment date for safe harbor. Safe harbor guidance (Question 46) issued May 13 noted that borrowers that received PPP loans for amounts more than $2 million are subject to review by the SBA for compliance with program requirements, including the certification of economic need. Those businesses “also may still have an adequate basis for making the required good-faith certification, based on their individual circumstances,” the guidance states.

CARES ACT (Link to the full law): On April 2, 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 starting taking new applications at 10:30 a.m. EDT Monday, April 27.

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 takes effect April 1, 2020. It expires on Dec. 31, 2020.


LOCAL AND NATIONAL GRANT AND LOAN PROGRAMS
Montgomery Recover Together Small Business Relief Fund
: Provides flexible, one-time grants to small businesses (2 – 25 FTE) in the city or county of Montgomery that have experienced a financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation will accept grant applications from June 1 to June 15.

Mountain Brook Merchant Relief Fund: A community fund that provides financial help to the most vulnerable locally owned bricks-and-mortar businesses of any category (salons, stores, restaurants, etc.) To apply for funds, email mbcovid19@gmail.com or chamber@mtnbrookchamber.org for the application.  All proceeds for a “Choose Mountain Brook Tee Shirt” available for sale through the Pants Store goes to the relief fund. Direct donations can be made on the One Mountain Brook website. All of the money raised goes directly to merchants.

Florence First Relief Grant: A relief grant funded under the CARES Act that offers  Florence businesses help with paying their mortgage or lease, utilities, payroll administration and business inventory expenses.  Grants can be for up to two months of eligible expenditures. More than $185,000 is available for the program Applications must be submitted between Friday, May 8, and Thursday, May 14. An application webinar  is set for 2 p.m. Thursday, May 7. Award recipients will be notified by Friday, May 22.

Ignite Mobile: Mobile’s high-risk, close-contact businesses ordered closed by the state health order that are not eligible for a Paycheck Protection Program loan and whose employees have not receive unemployment compensation could qualify for these emergency grants. The application period began Wednesday, May 6. The city set aside $500,000 for the $1,500 to $2,500 grants.

Small Business Relief Fund: The Calhoun County Area Chamber & Visitors Center in partnership with the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama, set up this fund to support small, for-profit businesses in Calhoun County with 2 to 25 full-time equivalent employees (FTE’s) affected by COVID-19. Applications opened Friday, May 1, and are due by 5 p.m. Friday, May 15.

Jackson County Small Business Relief Fund: Applying businesses must meet all of the following criteria: Have experienced a financial hardship as a result of COVID-19; Employed between 1 – 20 employees as of Feb. 29, 2020; Be in good standing with federal, state, and local government jurisdictions; Located in and operating a business in Jackson County Alabama; MUST complete a W-9 form prior to receipt of funding.

Hero Small Business Relief Fund: Funded through a foundation created by Harbert Management Corp. employees, this $1 million-plus fund provides rapid response grants to qualifying small businesses businesses in the greater Birmingham area. Applications opened April 20. Applications are reviewed in the order in which they are received. As of April 30, the grant committee had approved 32 applications for a total of $552,500 in grants.

LISC Small Business Relief Grants: One individual/small business grants with priority  given to entrepreneurs of color, women- and veteran-owned businesses and other enterprises in historically under-served places who don’t have access to flexible, affordable capital. Nonprofits are ineligible for this particular pool of relief funding. Applications closed at 11:59 p.m. EST Tuesday, April 28.

North Baldwin Small Business Relief Fund: A North Baldwin Chamber Foundation fund created to assist small businesses (50 or fewer full-time employees) that have experienced a financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. Must have a physical location in the North Baldwin Service area to include – Bay Minette, Stapleton, Stockton, Tensaw, Rabun, Perdido, Pine Grove, Whitehouse Fork and Crossroads; Identifying zip codes include – 36507, 36578, 36562, 36579 and 36550. ​Qualifying applicants can be awarded up to $5,000. The fund began accepting applications April 7. More than $11,000 had been awarded by May 5. Funds are limited, but donations continue to be accepted.

The City of Auburn Working Capital Loan Interest Subsidy Program: Provides an interest subsidy to applicants who have been approved for a loan with a participating lending institution. The main objective is to enable those businesses to remain viable in the current environment through the provision of financial assistance. This program gives the city the potential to provide subsidies supporting up to 160 businesses assuming a maximum amount of $25,000 per loan.

West Alabama Small Business Relief Fund (Link is to Small Business Financial Assistance page at tuscaloosachamber.com): The Small Business Relief Fund is a Community Foundation of West Alabama fund offered in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. Bibb, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Marengo, Pickens, Sumter or Tuscaloosa county businesses with two to 50 (FTE) employees could be eligible. Click on link to read the criteria and file an application.

Birmingham Strong Emergency Loan Fund: First round of applications closed March 27. A second round of applications will occur if there is money available after the first round of loans have been administered. Interested businesses can get on the fund’s email list. This is an emergency loan fund to provide zero-interest, 180-day loans to small businesses (less than 50 employees) of no more than $25,000 (with an average loan size of $10,000) to (a) prevent staff reductions; (b) offset losses related to the coronavirus; and (c) help companies sponsor sick pay for workers.

Restaurant Employee Relief Fund: Created by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, this fund provides grants to restaurant industry employees adversely impacted by COVID-19. Applications are temporarily closed due to the volume of requests. The $500 awards will be limited to one grant per person. The first award notice went out the third week of April. As of April 29, 10,000 people have been approved and notified.


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, 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.


UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS
Refusal of work can cause a disqualification in UC benefits
: On Thursday, April 23, the Alabama Department of Labor issued a statement reminding unemployment claimants that if their employer calls them back they must accept work.

U.S. Labor Department Guidance on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (DOL news release): Individuals who do not qualify for regular unemployment compensation and are unable to continue working as a result of COVID-19, such as self-employed workers, independent contractors, and gig workers, are eligible for pandemic unemployment assistance benefits. Those who qualify could receive up to 39 weeks of benefits.

$600 weekly unemployment boost included in CARES Act: On April 4, the U.S. Department of Labor published guidance for states an additional $600 weekly payment to certain eligible individuals who are receiving other benefits. This program allows states to provide an additional $600 per week benefit to individuals who are collecting regular unemployment compensation.

Alabama Department of Labor Begins Paying Federal $600 Stimulus Benefit (April 9 ADOL news release): Alabama’s Labor Department has begun paying the additional $600 a week stimulus payment, or Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefit,  established through the federal CARES Act. Anyone receiving unemployment compensation benefits is eligible, the news release states.

ADOL launches unemployment claims tracker (ADOL news release): On April 16,  the Alabama Labor Department launched a new online tool to enable claimants to see the status of their claim, tell them what the next steps are and what to expect from the department. The department quickly corrected an error in the tracker, which initially told claimants to file a new claim because of the quarter had changed. The department advises claimants who received that message to continue to certify weekly and watch for a PUA-D4503-MI form in the mail.

Alabama Department of Labor offers detailed instructions for filing bulk partial UC claims for your employees (ADOL website)

Alabama Announces UC Relief for Employers of Workers Impacted by COVID-19: The Alabama Department of Labor announced relief for employers whose employees must file unemployment compensation claims for weeks filed due to COVID-19 related issues. All charges will be waived against those employers who file partial unemployment compensation claims on behalf of their employees. This waiver means that employers’ experience ratings will NOT be affected by COVID-19 related claims. Employers will need to answer YES when asked if the claim is COVID-19 related when they file partial unemployment claims beginning on Monday, March 23.

Alabama Announces Support for Workers Impacted by COVID-19: The Alabama Department of Labor has modified existing unemployment compensation rules to allow workers to file a claim for unemployment compensation benefits who are affected in any of the following ways:

  • Those who are quarantined by a medical professional or a government agency,
  • Those who are laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period by their employer due to COVID-19 concerns,
  • Those who are diagnosed with COVID-19,
  • Or, those who are caring for an immediate family member who is diagnosed with COVID-19.

Read more about the modifications here and at link above. Workers can file for benefits online at www.labor.alabama.gov or by calling 1-866-234-5382. Online filing is encouraged.


FEDERAL GUIDANCE
Guidelines for Opening Up America Again
: On Thursday, April 16, President Donald Trump issued a three-phased approach to opening the American economy. He based these guidelines on the advice of public health experts. It includes steps to help state and local officials get people back to work while protecting American lives.

President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America: On Monday, March 16, President Donald Trump released guidelines that recommend working from home whenever possible and avoiding social gatherings of more than 10 people. On March 29, the president extended the guidelines until April 30.

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, has 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 March 28 that lists essential workers by industry categories.


TAX RELIEF
Alabama’s Income Tax Filing Due Date Moved to July 15 (Link is to governor’s news release): Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Revenue announced Monday, March 23, that the state income tax filing due date is extended from April 15 to July 15. Taxpayers can also defer state income tax payments due on or after April 1 to July 15 without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed, according to the Alabama Department of Revenue. The deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers. Other taxes included in the deadline extension are corporate income tax, the Financial Institution Excise Tax (FIET) and the Business Privilege Tax (BPT). Taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms or call the Alabama Department of Revenue to qualify for this automatic state tax filing and payment relief.

>> Revenue Commissioner’s Executive Order pertaining to deadline extensions.
>> Revenue Commissioner’s Executive Order pertaining to composite returns.

Tax Day Moved to July 15 (IRS news release): Early Friday, March 20, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the IRS’ tax filing deadline has been extended three months to July 15.  Taxpayers can defer federal income tax payments due from April 1, 2020, to July 14, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. Mnuchin encouraged taxpayers to file their taxes as scheduled to ensure they get their refund in a timely matter. Most tax refunds are still being issued within 21 days.

Employer Credit for Paid Family and Medical Leave FAQs: Employers who provide paid family and medical leave to their employees may claim a tax credit through Dec. 31, 2020. An employer credit is available to businesses that pay family leave to employees who are unable to work because they must care for a child whose school or daycare is closed due to the coronavirus.

Immediate State Sales Tax Relief to All Restaurants: All businesses currently registered with the Alabama Revenue Department as a NAICS Sector 72 business (those preparing meals, snacks and beverages for immediate consumption) may file their monthly sales tax returns for the February, March and April 2020 reporting periods without paying the state sales tax reported as due. Late payment penalties will be waived for these taxpayers through June 1, 2020.  Businesses must collect and report the state’s 4% state sales taxes, but you will not be penalized for nonpayment until June 1. After the expiration of this temporary waiver, the Revenue Department will work with taxpayers who elected to utilize the waiver program to develop workable payment plans that will allow taxpayers to pay outstanding liabilities for February, March and April 2020, while navigating any other impacts of the coronavirus on their businesses.

State Extends Sales Tax Relief to Some Small Businesses: Small businesses whose monthly retail sales during the previous calendar year averaged $62,500 or less may file their monthly sales tax returns for the February, March, and April 2020 reporting periods without paying the state sales tax reported as due. Late payment penalties will be waived for these taxpayers through June 1, 2020. Similar sales tax relief may be available on a case-by-case basis to other businesses significantly impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the preventative measures being taken to limit its spread in Alabama.

City of Auburn Extends Relief to Businesses Unable to Pay Taxes


CURFEWS/QUARANTINES/EXECUTIVE ORDERS
MONTGOMERY: Montgomery’s citywide curfew was lifted Saturday, June 20.  The 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily curfew that began at 10 p.m. Friday, March 27, ended June 20, the day after the city made wearing face coverings mandatory. “Wearing face coverings alleviates the need for additional restrictive measures, and lifting the curfew will allow our businesses who operate late hours to maintain their livelihood, pay their employees and provide their goods and services for the people of this community,” Mayor Steven Reed said in a statement.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY: As of 10 p.m Thursday, April 2, all of Montgomery County including the city of Pike Road, joined the city of Montgomery in a daily curfew that lasts from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. each day.

BIRMINGHAM (Link is to City of Birmingham ordinance): The Birmingham City Council unanimously approved a shelter-in-place ordinance Tuesday, March 24. The council has extended the ordinance several times. On May 12, the city removed the 10 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily curfew portion of the shelter-in-place ordinance. The revised ordinance allowed the council to impose a new curfew “if conditions worsen and require stronger measures to further reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

A May 19 amendment keeps in place restrictions on occupancy and social gatherings where social distancing guidelines cannot be met. The ordinance applies to everyone in the city of Birmingham, which is located in both Jefferson and Shelby counties.

BUTLER COUNTY: Beginning Friday, April 3, all of Butler County, including the cities of Greenville and Georgiana, is under a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily curfew. The curfew was set by an April 2 vote of the Butler County Commission. First responders and essential services providers are not subject to the curfew.

GREENVILLE (News release): Resolution 2020-10 of the Greenville City Council  establishes a citywide curfew beginning Friday, April 3. The curfew is from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. daily until further notice. Failure to comply with this order
is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and/or jail time.

THOMASVILLE (Mayor’s proclamation on city’s website): As of Thursday, April 2, the city of Thomasville is under a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily. “The main focus of this curfew is to emphasize everyone needs to stay home unless necessary for your job, to check on a loved one or to go to the store, etc.,” said Mayor Sheldon Allison Day.

JACKSON (Jackson Department of Public Safety public notice posted on city’s Facebook page): As of Friday, April 3, the city of Jackson is under a mandatory curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily with the exceptions of work or unforeseen emergencies. Curfew is in place until April 17 and subject to extension.

TUSKEGEE (Resolution): Starting at 10 p.m. Friday, April 3, the city of Tuskegee will be under a public safety curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. daily.

BUTLER (Resolution): According to Resolution No. 362 of the Butler Town Council, as of 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 1, the city of Butler in Choctaw County is under a mandatory curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily.

SELMA (Proclamation): Selma Mayor Darrio Melton by proclamation ordered a quarantine for the city of  Selma between the hours of  9 p.m. and 5 a.m. daily. This quarantine begins Sunday, March 29, with no end date specified.

TUSCALOOSA EXECUTIVE ORDER #2 (Link is to executive order): On March 26, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox issued an executive order extending the public safety curfew for Tuscaloosa residents to 24 hours a day. The order was to go into effect at 10 p.m. Sunday, March 29. Provisions within the March 27 state health order that take effect 5 p.m. Saturday, March 28, accelerate portions of the Tuscaloosa curfew. Tuscaloosa’s curfew continues until midnight Saturday, April 11.

Alabama Attorney General’s Guidance for Municipalities on Shelter-In-Place Orders/Quarantines: “Whether or not a municipality is acting within its lawful authority to issue a shelter-in-place ordinance that is more restrictive than similar state orders requires a fact-specific analysis. Municipal governing bodies are urged, to the degree possible, to coordinate with their county boards of health, where applicable, and the state health officer to ensure that the municipal action in question will be supported by, and is not inconsistent or in conflict with, current or impending state actions related to quarantine.”


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.


WORKPLACE BENEFITS
COVID-19 Scenarios and Available Benefits 


PHARMACY


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.


DRIVER LICENSES
Driver License Offices Closed to Public/Online Services Active/STAR ID Deadline Extension
(Link is to ALEA news release): As of Thursday, March 26, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) driver license offices are closed to public access. Staff are on-site to answer phones and assist with online services, including license renewals. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security extended the REAL ID enforcement deadline to Oct. 1, 2021, in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Alabama’s version of the federal REAL ID program is STAR ID, which stands for Secure, Trusted and Reliable Identification. “This deadline extension should relieve some of the wait time at ALEA’s DL offices to obtain a STAR ID during the next several months,” said ALEA Secretary Hal Taylor. Once ALEA’s Driver License Division resumes normal operations, customers may schedule an appointment on the agency’s website to obtain a STAR ID and conduct other driver license business.


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.
    • Post hand-washing signs in restrooms. (Link to downloadable sign provided by Alabama Department of Public Health)
  • 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.

Employers: Workers at High-Risk for COVID-19 (CDC)

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