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The COVID-19 crisis has created a parallel crisis for businesses and employees along the shoreline a and in the Connecticut River valley. While information about how to create a path forward continues to shift, this is what was available as of March 21.
On the state level, Governor Ned Lamont requested and received an economic disaster declaration from the federal government, allowing eligible small businesses to apply for up to $2 million in Small Business Association (SBA) loans from with relatively low interest payments. Lamont, working with David Lehman, the commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, also is working to develop a bridge loan program for businesses that might not be eligible for the SBA loans. Small businesses with specific questions can email the Joint Information Center at COVID19.JIC@ct.gov, or call the DECD small business hotline at 860-500-2333.
Here are some additional resources for businesses:
• DECD’s COVID-19 Business Emergency Response Unit: The Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development has created a COVID-19 Business Emergency Response Unit to help businesses navigate resources and develop new resources. The dedicated phone line is 860-500-2333.
• SBA assistance: On March 16, the SBA approved Lamont’s request to begin offering disaster-relief loans to Connecticut small businesses and nonprofits. Companies in the state can now apply for loans of up to $2 million through www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance. SBA also has more valuable information for businesses at www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources.
• Tax filing extensions: The Department of Revenue Services has extended deadlines for filing and payments associated with certain state business tax returns. Details are at portal.ct.gov/DRS—search for “effective immediately DRS extends filing deadline.”
• Business Interruption Insurance: A business interruption insurance policy should list or describe the types of events it covers. Events that are not described in the policy are typically not covered. Business owners should review the policy exclusions, coverage limits, and applicable deductibles with their agent, broker, or insurer. The Connecticut Insurance Department has an FAQ that provides more information at portal.ct.gov/CID/Coronavirus/Coronavirus-FAQs.
Essential Businesses to Stay Open
Lamont, in an effort to avoid a substantial increase in the number of COVID-19 patients that would overwhelm the state’s already strained healthcare system, on March 20 announced a Stay Home, Stay Safe policy to be implemented as of March 23 at 8 p.m.
All non-essential businesses will be ordered closed to the public at that time. Those that do not could face a fine. Essential businesses can stay open.
This is the information about essential businesses:
“The essential businesses or nonprofits designated in this guidance are not subject to the in-person restriction set forth in Executive Order 7H. With respect to non-essential businesses and nonprofits, this guidance applies to each business location individually and is intended to assist businesses in determining whether they are an essential business and the steps they may take to request that designation.
“The guidelines set forth here apply to places of business. Non-essential businesses may continue activities that are conducted off-site (e.g. a customer’s home) and/or by telecommuting or working from home.
“Pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order 7J, issued on March 22, 2020, 1) non-essential retailers may be staffed on-site, provided that they may only offer remote ordering (e.g. phone, internet, mail, dropbox) and curb-side pick-up or delivery and 2) non-essential businesses and nonprofits to allow staff or third parties on site to the minimum extent necessary to provide security, maintenance and receipt of mail and packages. This includes, but is not limited to, auto, boat, bicycle, recreational vehicle, and all other vehicle sales, if conducted remotely.
“To the extent possible, employees of Essential Businesses whose duties are not critical to an Essential Business function described below should telecommute or utilize any work from home procedures available to them.
For purposes of Executive Order 7H, “essential business,” means:
1. Essential workers in the 16 Critical Infrastructure Sectors, as defined by the federal Department of Homeland Security unless otherwise addressed in a prior or future executive order pertaining to the existing declared public health and civil preparedness emergency.
2. Healthcare and related operations including:
• biotechnology therapies
• consumer health products and services
• doctor and dentist offices
• elder care, including adult day care
• health care plans and health care data
• home health care workers or aides
• manufacturing, distributing, warehousing, and supplying of pharmaceuticals, including research and development
• medical marijuana dispensaries and producers
• medical supplies and equipment providers, including devices, diagnostics, services, and any other healthcare related supplies or services
• medical wholesale and distribution
• nursing homes, or residential health care facilities or congregate care facilities
• physical therapy and chiropractic offices
• research and laboratory services, including testing and treatment of COVID-19
• veterinary and animal health services
• walk-in-care health facilities
3. Infrastructure including:
• commercial trucking
• dam maintenance and support
• education-related functions at the primary, secondary, or higher education level to provide support for students, including distribution of meals or faculty conducting e-learning
• hotels and other places of accommodation
• water and wastewater operations, systems, and businesses
• telecommunications and data centers
• transportation infrastructure including bus, rail, for-hire vehicles and vehicle rentals, and garages
• utilities including power generation, fuel supply, and transmission
4. All manufacturing and corresponding supply chains, including aerospace, agriculture, and related support businesses
5. Retail including:
• appliances, electronics, computers, and telecom equipment
• big-box stores or wholesale clubs, provided they also sell groceries, consumer health products, or operate a pharmacy
• convenience stores
• gas stations
• grocery stores including all food and beverage retailers
• guns and ammunition
• hardware, paint, and building material stores, including home appliance sales/repair
• liquor/package stores and manufacturer permittees
• pet and pet supply stores
6. Food and agriculture, including:
• farms and farmer’s markets
• food manufacturing, processing, storage, and distribution facilities
• nurseries, garden centers, and agriculture supply stores
• restaurants/bars (provided compliance with all applicable executive orders is maintained)
7. Services including:
• accounting and payroll services
• animal shelters or animal care or management, including boarding, grooming, pet walking and pet sitting
• auto supply, repair, towing, and service, including roadside assistance
• bicycle repair and service
• building cleaning and maintenance
• child care services
• critical operations support for financial institutions
• financial advisors
• financial institutions, including banks, credit unions, and check cashing services
• funeral homes, crematoriums, and cemeteries
• insurance companies
• laundromats/dry cleaning
• legal and accounting services
• mail and shipping services
• marinas and marine repair and service
• news and media
• real estate transactions and related services, including residential leasing and renting
• religious services (subject to Executive Order 7D limiting gatherings to 50 people)
• storage for Essential Businesses
• trash and recycling collection, hauling, and processing
• warehouse/distribution, shipping, and fulfillment
8. Providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations including:
• food banks
• homeless shelters and congregate care facilities
• human services providers whose function includes the direct care of patients in state-licensed or funded voluntary programs; the care, protection, custody and oversight of individuals both in the community and in state-licensed residential facilities; those operating community shelters and other critical human services agencies providing direct care or support social service agencies
9. Construction including:
• all skilled trades such as electricians, HVAC, and plumbers
• general construction, both commercial and residential
• other related construction firms and professionals for essential infrastructure or for emergency repair and safety purposes
• planning, engineering, design, bridge inspection, and other construction support activities
10. Services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of all residences and other buildings (including services necessary to secure and maintain non-essential workplaces):
• building cleaners or janitors
• building code enforcement
• emergency management and response
• fire prevention and response
• general maintenance whether employed by the entity directly or a vendor
• home-related services, including real estate transactions, closings, appraisals, and moving services
• landscaping services
• law enforcement
• outdoor maintenance, including pool service
• pest control services
• security and maintenance, including steps reasonably necessary to secure and maintain non-essential businesses
• state marshals
11. Vendors that provide essential services or products, including logistics and technology support, child care, and services needed to ensure the continuing operation of government agencies and provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public including:
• billboard leasing and maintenance
• child care services
• essential government services
• government owned or leased buildings
• information technology and information security
• technology support
• defense and national security-related business and operations supporting the U.S. Government or a contractor to the US government
“If the function of your business is not listed above, but you believe that it is essential or it is an entity providing essential services or functions, you may request designation as an Essential Business.
“Requests by businesses to be designated an essential function as described above, should ONLY be made if they are NOT covered by the guidance.
... “Restrictions on requesting designation as an Essential Business:
• Any business that only has a single occupant/employee (e.g. attendant) is deemed exempt and need not submit a request to be designated as an Essential Business.
“If you have further questions not answered above, please submit them to DECD at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources for Workers
Individuals can call 2-1-1 for more information. For the most updated information, check ct.gov/coronavirus.com.
• Unemployment assistance: Workers directly affected by the coronavirus pandemic no longer must be actively searching for work to qualify for unemployment assistance. And employers who are furloughing workers can use the Department of Labor’s shared work program, which allows businesses to reduce working hours and have those wages supplemented with unemployment insurance. DOL has more information about these and other changes at www.ctdol.state.ct.us/DOLCOVIDFAQ.PDF.
Those who are laid off should ask their employers for a Separation Package, available at www.ctdol.state.ct.us/HP/UC-62TwithBabel3-2020.pdf. Do not delay filing your claim for unemployment benefits even if your employer has not issued you any paperwork. It is important to file as soon as you become unemployed to avoid being denied benefits. For faster processing of the claim, applicants should have your employer’s registration number and a return-to-work date readily available when you file your claim online.
• Health insurance: For those who have lost their health insurance, Access Health CT (AHCT) announced a new, special enrollment period for these exceptional circumstances available through Thursday, April 2 for qualified uninsured Connecticut residents, through either of AHCT’s two insurance carriers. Coverage will start on Wednesday, April 1. To check qualification criteria, call Access Health between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, 1-855-365-2428. More information is available at learn.accesshealthct.com and http://bit.ly/3db15Qs.
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