March 31, 2020
SACRAMENTO – Yesterday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that will provide tax, regulatory and licensing extensions for businesses.
The executive order allows the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) to offer a 90-day extension for tax returns and tax payments for all businesses filing a return for less than $1 million in taxes. That means small businesses will have until the end of July to file their first-quarter returns.
Additionally, the order extends the statute of limitations to file a claim for refund by 60 days to accommodate tax and fee payers.
The executive order also includes extensions that impact state government workers, as well as consumers. For instance, the Department of Motor Vehicles will limit in-person transactions for the next 60 days, allowing instead for mail-in renewals. Additionally, the Department of Consumer Affairs will waive continuing education requirements for several professions, also for the next 60 days.
Further, the order will extend the Office of Administrative Law’s deadlines to review regular department proposed regulations. The order also extends by 60 days the time period to complete investigation of public safety officers based on allegations of misconduct. Finally, deadlines for trainings, investigations, and adverse actions for state workers will also be extended.
The programs and initiatives in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was just passed by Congress are intended to assist business owners with whatever needs they have right now. When implemented, there will be many new resources available for small businesses, as well as certain nonprofits and other employers. This guide provides information about the major programs and initiatives that will soon be available from the Small Business Administration (SBA) to address these needs, as well as some additional tax provisions that are outside the scope of SBA.
SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CA – The Public Health Order for people to shelter-in-place safely in their homes will soon be extended until at least May 1. Public Health orders are issued by the respective Health Officers of each jurisdiction. The Bay Area is fortunate to have a group of dedicated public health leaders who are working together to address the interconnectedness of our region. We have said an extension might be expected as we work together to slow the spread of the COVID-19 disease. Additional details about the updated order will be available when it is finalized in the next day or two.
For more information about COVID-19 activities in these areas: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, or Berkeley COVID-19 websites.
MEDIA CONTACTS BY JURISDICTION
Public Information Manager
Alameda County Public Health Department
CITY OF BERKELEY
City of Berkeley
Public Information Officer
Contra Costa County Joint Information Center
Public Information Officer
County of San Mateo’s Joint Information Center
Public Information Officer
Department of Emergency Management Joint Information Center
County of Santa Clara Joint Information Center
Media Line: (408) 808-7863
Please click on this link for up to the minute protocols: https://www.pge.com/en_US/about-pge/company-information/protective-protocols/covid19.page?WT.mc_id=Vanity_covid19
Article by the Hustle
What’s the difference between a furlough and a layoff? WTF is “force majeure?”
As the coronavirus crisis continues to develop, it can be hard to keep up with the terminology that’s used to describe it. So we made a guide to common (and commonly confused) coronavirus terms.
Paid leave vs. furloughs vs. layoffs
Paid leave: An employee gets time off but continues to receive pay and benefits.
- Starbucks offered employees 14 days of “catastrophe pay” (even if they’re not sick).
Furlough: When an employer temporarily suspends an employee without pay but often continues to provide benefits.
- Big companies like Macy’s, Marriott, and Gannett have together furloughed hundreds of thousands of workers.
Layoff: When an employer indefinitely dismisses an employee.
- Companies of all sizes, from General Electric to Bird, have instituted layoffs of as much 30% of their workforces.
Shelter in place vs. lockdown vs. quarantine
Exact rules vary by location (check The New York Times’s running list here), but generally:
Shelter in place (AKA “stay at home”): Residents are asked to remain in their homes (except for essential travel).
- All but 6 states had imposed some type of stay-at-home advisory as of March 30, but they typically lack enforcement mechanisms.
Lockdown: Residents are required to stay in their homes (except for essential travel). Nonessential businesses are often required to close. These orders are sometimes enforced by fines and military personnel.
- France and Italy are both requiring citizens to get certificates to leave their homes (even for essential travel).
- No US states had imposed a full lockdown (as of March 30), but several counties in the Bay Area imposed fines for noncompliance.
Quarantine: Residents who have been exposed to or infected by the virus are required to limit their movement.
- Florida and Kansas are requiring travelers from hot spots (like New York and California) to self-isolate for 14 days.
- Hawaii and Rhode Island are requiring all travelers to self-isolate for 14 days.
One other important term to know:
Force majeure: a clause in a contract that lets a company off the hook for obligations in the event of an unforeseeable catastrophe (like, say, a global pandemic).
- Platinum mines used the clause to avoid violating contracts.
- NBA teams are considering using the clause to do the same.
March 30, 2020
Courtesy of CalChamber
On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed additional emergency relief legislation known as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The FFCRA takes effect on April 1, 2020, providing paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave related to COVID-19.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) just released the required poster for private employers outlining the FFCRA’s paid leave requirements.
For your convenience, we have a PDF of the FFCRA notice to post next to your other postings in workplaces and job sites.
This new notice is a supplement, so no changes are required to your CalChamber 2020 California and Federal Labor Law Poster.
Employers with remote employees can comply with the DOL’s posting requirement by “emailing or direct mailing this notice to employees, or posting this notice on an employee information internal or external website.”
Please be aware that the DOL may make additional changes to the notice as circumstances change.
If you have questions, here is a link to the DOL’s FFCRA notice FAQs. More guidance and regulations are expected.
You can read more about the legislation on the DOL’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Questions and Answers page.
March 27, 2020
In an episode of The Workplace podcast, CalChamber Executive Vice President and General Counsel Erika Frank was joined by employment law experts, Bianca Saad and Matthew Roberts, to discuss the most common coronavirus-related questions employers and human resources professionals have been asking the CalChamber’s Labor Law Helpline this past week.
Q: What is the difference between a layoff and a furlough?
This question is likely the most common being asked at the Helpline—so much so, Roberts says, that he wrote an article on HRWatchdog this week addressing this very question.
A furloughed employee remains an employee, but with reduced or eliminated work hours, while a layoff generally means a complete employment severance. If an employee’s work hours are reduced to zero, however, and they are not called to work within the same pay period, the law will deem the furlough a layoff, Roberts explains.
Q: Can I take an employee’s temperature before they start work?
Generally, an employer cannot take an employee’s temperature as it is considered a medical exam. However, Saad says, given the recent recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to address community spread of COVID-19, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) are permitting employers to take employees’ temperatures if specifically related to COVID-19, effective March 2020.
Employers should bear in mind that taking an employee’s temperature is subject to American with Disabilities Act (ADA) confidentiality requirements, she adds.
Q: I am confused by the shelter-in-place orders. Is my business an “essential business”?
The list of the types of businesses deemed “essential” is lengthy, technical and varies depending on the statewide order or a particular county’s order. Roberts recommends that business owners should refer to the Governor’s state order or the HRWatchdog article “What Is and Isn’t ‘Essential’ Business Under California’s ‘Stay at Home’ Order” to determine if their business is deemed “essential.” Both resources are linked on the CalChamber coronavirus resource page.
Q: We recently learned an employee tested positive for COVID-19. Are we required to notify all of our employees?
If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, employers should immediately contact county health officials and the California Department of Public Health. The agencies will direct employers on what steps they need to take, Roberts explains.
Employers should be mindful of employees’ privacy, and not divulge names. Employers can alert employees with a general statement that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, and other employees may have been exposed.
Q: Many of our employees have children that are no longer in school due to school closures. Do we have to pay these employees who are not working?
There are several options to consider, Saad says.
California has school activities leave that includes school-related emergencies (applies to employers with more than 25 employees), providing 40 hours a year. Employers also can require that employees use other available personal leaves, such as vacation time, or, depending on a company’s policy, allow employees to take unpaid time off.
If possible, employers may offer remote work options. Another option becoming available on April 2 is the new federal Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion and Emergency Paid Family Leave Act.
Q: We are considered an “essential business” and we are having our employees report to the workplace. Can we require our employees wear protective gear, such as masks?
Employers can require employees to wear personal protective equipment, but should make reasonable accommodations where appropriate, Roberts explains. For example: if an individual is in a wheelchair and is required to wear a gown, the employer should find a gown that will fit; if an employee has a latex allergy, the employer should provide nonlatex gloves.
Q: We have more than 100 employees and due to COVID-19 must lay off 20% of our workforce. What laws must I follow?
The 60-day notice requirement under the California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act) has been suspended under a recent order issued by Governor Gavin Newsom. Employers still are required to provide written notice as soon as practicable with a statement of why the notification period was reduced and information for obtaining unemployment insurance benefits, Saad says.
Q: If we close our company due to COVID-19 do we pay our employees?
Employers still must meet final pay requirements and are subject to waiting time penalties, Roberts stresses.
Roberts points out that these requirements may be especially difficult to meet if a company’s workforce is currently working remotely. The Labor Commissioner is currently looking at this issue and further guidance is expected.
Q: How do we pay exempt and nonexempt employees who are working remotely?
Pay obligations do not change simply because an employee (exempt or nonexempt) is working remotely, Saad explains.
If an exempt employee does any work in a week, the employee must be paid. If, however, the employee does not do any work in the week, the employee’s weekly salary may be reduced.
For nonexempt hourly employees, all hours worked must be paid. Employers should accurately track any time worked, and pay for overtime if it occurs. Employers also should ensure that nonexempt employees take appropriate meal and rest breaks—especially since employees may forget to take their breaks in a home setting. Examples of easy things employees can do to remember to take breaks include setting an alarm.
March 25, 2020
Facebook knows that your business may be experiencing disruptions resulting from the global outbreak of COVID-19. They’ve heard that a little financial support can go a long way, so they are offering $100M in cash grants and ad credits to help during this challenging time.
If you need assistance finding food, paying housing bills, or other essential services, go to http://www.211.org/services/covid19 or dial 211 to speak to someone who can help.
Employers can apply for the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Work Sharing Program if reduced production, services, or other conditions cause them to seek an alternative to layoffs.
Henry Kayser, Leading the DACH Sales Team (SMB & Commercial) at Zoom Video Communications
The one question I am often asked by acquaintances and customers is: How do I ensure business continuity when I allow my team to work from home?
My answer is – make sure you create a culture and technology environment to allow a successful setup of a temporary work from home station.
I understand that for some people, working from home instead of the conventional workplace may be a cultural shock at first. Some people even consider working from home rather unproductive, they feel lonely and not motivated enough to finish projects because they miss the company of others. In my opinion, this is a very old way of looking at a workspace.
In this age of technology, we can enable people to communicate remotely via advanced video tools and technology. Technology is the hallmark of efficiency and productivity at the workplace of today. In our day-to-day business operations, we benefit from technology at every level, especially for information sharing, networking, and communication. The best thing about technology is that it allows us to conduct business operations and communications remotely.
So, working from home (WHF) is no big deal really, if only you know how to successfully adapt to the new work environment.
In this regard, I want to share my tried-and-tested tips that will surely encourage productive results for you and your team.
1. Consider your Home Office as a Virtual Office:
It is only a matter of perception that prevents people from performing well at home. If you aren’t working from your office, this shouldn’t affect your productivity because the only thing different is the way you communicate with your colleagues, customers, and partners. In fact, you are still with them, virtually though. That’s not such a big change only the way you perceive it.
2. Setup a Workstation:
If you haven’t set up a proper workstation at home, you would miss the regular working environment. That’s why some people don’t work as productive from home. To deal with it, set up your home office just like your workplace to feel more connected to work. Working from your bed or sofa is not too ideal for ensuring productivity. Make sure to include a facility at your home office from a desktop, a good chair, internet connection, power source, video camera (if not built into your laptop), headset and of course enough light to look good on camera.
3. Define your WorkSpace:
They say the home is where the heart is, but I think it is also where your family is. So, whether you live with family and kids or roommates, you need to define your workspace if you want to get things done without disturbing others or being disturbed yourself. After all, you would also need a quiet environment for working and others would need their privacy too. Dedicating a room or an area for work will enhance your productivity too.
4. Use Technology to Virtually Meet your Team Regularly:
The only thing that bothers workers when they work from home is losing connection with their team. However, given the technological advancement, working remotely without compromising upon quality of teamwork or communication is not difficult anymore. So, stay in contact with your team and follow all necessary work. For my team, we meet every morning for a quick 15-minute Huddle to connect and discuss the day. This way, you can catch up on work, assign tasks/goals, and enhance the mutual bond.
5. Use Nature to Nurture Productivity
Preferring natural light may seem odd initially, but trust me, it is important. Working from home often deprives one from that feeling of going out in the day for work. But, if you set up your home office at an area where you can get plenty of natural light, you will definitely notice a difference. So, let the light in as natural light will instantly uplift your mood and keep you motivated.
6. Get Virtual Background
Don’t disregard the value of a decent real but in most cases virtual background. When having a video conversation, a professional virtual background can help people get the needed professional impression from you. Moreover, it has a unique psychological impact on your entire thought process as you instantly get into work mode.
7. Prepare Well for Video Communication
Work from home largely involves having video conversations with your team or customers. This means, people will see you, which is great as it helps to create the same environment as you would have at your workplace. But you should be prepared for it. Get the most feasible equipment to make disruption-free video calls such as a good quality webcam and headset, enough lighting to ensure a clear view of your face, and as mentioned above a decent virtual background.
8. Give yourself a Break
Believe it or not, working from home can take a toll on your nerves and energy levels. You have to be constantly available online to have video calls, attend virtual meetings, send out emails timely, and ensure everything works perfectly. Working from home is a lot more intense; you will miss the brief interactions with your colleagues at the coffee machine, which help you feel relaxed. To deal with this, you need to give yourself a break at regular intervals. Free your mind and go outside to take a walk or jog, or simply enjoy the sunlight.
9. To-Do lists and Calendar Blockers
More than the workplace, making to-do lists and calendar marking is important when you are working from home. That’s because you are all by yourself and have more responsibilities on your shoulders. So, ideally, your day should start with reviewing your to-do list and marking your tasks of the day on the calendar. This will help you stay focused and work more purposefully.
10. Dressing professionally
Don’t give yourself the liberty to dress too casually or informally considering you are at home and not the workplace. As I mentioned above, it is all about perception. In the morning, dress up professionally as if you are going to the office. It is particularly important when having video calls as it will help you look professional. More importantly, it will put you in the right mindset and you will be able to focus better on the job.
March 24, 2020
Attention friends and partners of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce , as you may know, Congress is debating a massive economic stimulus package. The current bill language includes “nonprofit organizations” as eligible for the $350 billion in support for small businesses, but they define nonprofits being included as exclusively 501(c)(3) groups. The package does not include Chambers. Please, contact your elected officials and encourage them to ensure all associations are eligible for the emergency stimulus included in this package. Your chamber depends on it!
We have been working with the American Society of Association Executives on this issue. You can use their platform to send a message.
The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development has compiled helpful information for employers, employees and all Californians as it relates to the cornonavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
A compilation of tips and recommendations from National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and its partners on ways to stay safe online, as well as how to avoid cyber threats and scams during this pandemic.
Regardless of whether we classify the new coronavirus as a pandemic, it is a serious issue. In less than two months, it has spread over several continents. Pandemic means sustained and continuous transmission of the disease, simultaneously in more than three different geographical regions. Pandemic does not refer to the lethality of a virus but to its transmissibility and geographical extension.
What we certainly have is a pandemic of fear. The entire planet’s media is gripped by coronavirus. It is right that there is deep concern and mass planning for worst-case scenarios. And, of course, the repercussions move from the global health sphere into business and politics.
But it is also right that we must not panic. It would be wrong to say there is good news coming out of COVID-19, but there are causes for optimism; reasons to think there may be ways to contain and defeat the virus. And lessons to learn for the future.
We know what it is
The first cases of AIDS were described in June 1981 and it took more than two years to identify the virus (HIV) causing the disease. With COVID-19, the first cases of severe pneumonia were reported in China on December 31, 2019 and by January 7 the virus had already been identified. The genome was available on day 10.
We already know that it is a new coronavirus from group 2B, of the same family as SARS, which we have called SARSCoV2. The disease is called COVID-19. It is thought to be related to coronavirus from bats. Genetic analyses have confirmed it has a recent natural origin (between the end of November and the beginning of December) and that, although viruses live by mutating, its mutation rate may not be very high.
We know how to detect the virus
Since January 13, a test to detect the virus has been available.
The situation is improving in China
The strong control and isolation measures imposed by China are paying off. For several weeks now, the number of cases diagnosed every day is decreasing. A very detailed epidemiological follow-up is being carried out in other countries; outbreaks are very specific to areas, which can allow them to be controlled more easily.
80% of cases are mild
The disease causes no symptoms or is mild in 81% of cases. Of course, in 14% it can cause severe pneumonia and in 5% it can become critical or even fatal. It is still unclear what the death rate may be. But it could be lower than some estimates so far.
Much of the reported data relates to the increase in the number of confirmed cases and the number of deaths, but most infected people are cured. There are 13 times more cured cases than deaths, and that proportion is increasing.
Symptoms appear mild in children
Only 3% of cases occur in people under 20, and mortality under 40 is only 0.2%. Symptoms are so mild in children it can go unnoticed.
The virus can be wiped clean
The virus can be effectively inactivated from surfaces with a solution of ethanol (62-71% alcohol), hydrogen peroxide (0.5% hydrogen peroxide) or sodium hypochlorite (0.1% bleach), in just one minute. Frequent handwashing with soap and water is the most effective way to avoid contagion.
Science is on it, globally
It is the age of international science cooperation. After just over a month, 164 articles could be accessed in PubMed on COVID19 or SARSCov2, as well as many others available in repositories of articles not yet reviewed. They are preliminary works on vaccines, treatments, epidemiology, genetics and phylogeny, diagnosis, clinical aspects, etc.
These articles were written by some 700 authors, distributed throughout the planet. It is cooperative science, shared and open. In 2003, with the SARS epidemic, it took more than a year to reach less than half that number of articles. In addition, most scientific journals have left their publications as open access on the subject of coronaviruses.
There are already vaccine prototypes
Our ability to design new vaccines is spectacular. There are already more than eight projects underway seeking a vaccine against the new coronavirus. There are groups that work on vaccination projects against similar viruses.
The vaccine group of the University of Queensland, in Australia, has announced it is already working on a prototype using the technique called “molecular clamp”, a novel technology. This is just one example that could allow vaccine production in record time. Prototypes may soon be tested on humans.
Antiviral trials are underway
Vaccines are preventive. Right now, the treatment of people who are already sick is important. There are already more than 80 clinical trials analysing coronavirus treatments. These are antivirals that have been used for other infections, which are already approved and that we know are safe.
One of those that has already been tested in humans is remdesivir, a broad-spectrum antiviral still under study, which has been tested against Ebola and SARS/MERS.
Another candidate is chloroquine, an antimalarial that has also been seen to have potent antiviral activity. It is known that chloroquine blocks viral infection by increasing the pH of the endosome, which is needed for the fusion of the virus with the cell, thus inhibiting its entry. It has been demonstrated that this compound blocks the new coronavirus in vitro and it is already being used in patients with coronavirus pneumonia.
Other proposed trials are based on the use of oseltamivir (which is used against the influenza virus), interferon-1b (protein with antiviral function), antisera from people who recovered or monoclonal antibodies to neutralise the virus. New therapies have been proposed with inhibitory substances, such as baricitinibine, selected by artificial intelligence.
The 1918 flu pandemic caused more than 25 million deaths in less than 25 weeks. Could something similar happen now? Probably not; we have never been better prepared to fight a pandemic.
March 23, 2020
Time To Hit Pause: What Employers Need To Know About Yesterday’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act
Michael Studenka, Forbes Contributor
The last week has been very challenging for employers trying to manage the COVID-19 crisis. There has also been significant concern about the ability to absorb the requirements of last Saturday’s House version of H.R. 6201 related to leave policies for employees affected by the public health emergency. For those employers desperately contemplating permanent reductions in force as a last resort to maintain financial viability, please pause and reflect upon the final version of the Act passed and signed by the President yesterday. Permanent layoffs may not be necessary after all.
The new law takes effect on April 2, 2020 and will remain effective until December 31, 2020. Among the many economic stimulus measures contained in the Act, this article focuses on the Emergency Paid Sick Leave and expanded FMLA provisions. These provisions are discussed in detail below, and apply to all employers with fewer than 500 employees, although employers with fewer than 50 employees may later be deemed exempt by the Secretary of Labor through subsequent regulations if the Act would jeopardize the business’s viability. At this time, it is unclear what measure, if any, will be implemented concerning large employers with 500 or more employees. Stay tuned.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act
Eligibility: All employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees, regardless of the length of their tenure with their employer, are eligible for paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.
Qualifying Reasons For Taking Paid Sick Leave: An eligible employee may take paid sick leave if he/she is unable to work (including telework) because:
The employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19;
A health care provider advised the employee to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19 (self-imposed quarantine without medical advice does not qualify under the Act);
The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
The employee is caring for an individual (not limited to family members, although there is a stray reference to family members elsewhere in the Act, so stay tuned) who is either subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19 or has been advised to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
The employee is caring for the employee’s child whose school has been closed or place of care is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions; or
The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretaries of Treasury and Labor. The precise meaning of this sixth reason will be clarified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Benefit: Full-time employees receive 80 hours of paid sick leave. Part-time employees receive the equivalent of the number of hours they would work, on average, during a two-week period. There is a separate method for calculating the benefit for part-time employees whose schedules vary widely from week to week. For qualifying reasons 1, 2, and 3 (above), eligible employees will receive paid sick leave at their regular rate, except that in no event shall the amount paid exceed $511 per day and $5,110 in total. For qualifying reasons 4, 5, and 6 (above), eligible employees will receive paid sick leave at two-thirds of their regular rate, except that in no event shall the amount paid exceed $200 per day and $2,000 total. Paid sick leave does not carry over from one year to the next, and paid sick time ceases beginning with an employee’s next scheduled work shift immediately following termination of the need for paid sick time (i.e., qualifying need). The Secretary of Labor is required to issue guidelines to assist employers in calculating leave benefits by April 2. The employer can seek reimbursement for the wages paid to employees taking emergency paid sick leave through tax credits applicable to the employer’s portion of Social Security taxes.
Use: All eligible employees may use paid sick time beginning on April 2. Employers may not require eligible employees to first use other paid leave provided by the employer before using paid sick leave under the Act, so this leave is in addition to any paid sick leave or PTO currently provided by employers. Employers may require employees to follow reasonable notice procedures to continue receiving such paid sick time after the first workday (or portion thereof) an employee receives paid sick time under this Act. In other words, employers may not require employees to provide advance notice prior to the first workday on which the employee takes paid sick leave under the Act.
Employer Posting Requirement: Employers must post a notice that advises employees of their rights under the Act. The Secretary of Labor is required to create a notice by March 25.
Emergency Expansion of Family Medical Leave to Provide Benefits to Employees Whose Child’s School or Place of Care Has Closed
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act also includes the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (the “FMLA Expansion Act”), which provides eligible employees whose child’s school or place of care has closed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency with a new federal source of paid leave.
Eligibility: Under normal circumstances, the Family and Medical Leave Act applies only to employers with 50 or more employees, applies only to employees who have worked for at least 12 months and who had worked at least 1,250 hours during that preceding 12 months, and provides unpaid leave for designated reasons, such as the employees own serious health condition, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or to care for a newborn infant or an adopted child or foster child placed with the employee. On a temporary basis, the Emergency FMLA Expansion Act amends the FMLA and creates a new leave entitlement. For purposes of the new entitlement only, the Act alters the definition of employer to include all employers with fewer than 500 employees, and expands the definition of a covered employee to include all employees who have worked for covered employers (i.e., those with less than 500 employees) for at least 30 days. Again, the Secretary of Labor has the authority to exempt from the Emergency FMLA Expansion Act certain health care providers and emergency responders, and small businesses with fewer than 50 employees if the Act would jeopardize a business’s viability. Stay tuned.
Qualifying Reason for Taking Expanded FMLA Leave: An eligible employee may take up to 12 weeks of leave if he/she is unable to work (including telework) because the employee must care for his/her child who is under 18 years of age and whose school or place of care has closed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Benefit: A qualifying employee may take up to 12 weeks of leave. The initial 10 days of leave are unpaid, but the employee may elect to use his/her accrued paid sick leave and/or accrued vacation during this otherwise unpaid period. After the initial 10-day period, an employee is entitled to receive from the employer two-thirds of his/her normal wages for the number of hours he/she would be regularly scheduled to work, up to a maximum of $200 per day and $10,000 in total.
Use: All eligible employees may apply for expanded FMLA leave beginning on April 2. If the necessity for leave is foreseeable, the employee must provide the employer with “such notice of leave as is practicable.”
Restoration to Position: For employers with 25 or more employees, an employee returning from expanded FMLA leave is entitled to reinstatement to the same or an equivalent position. For employers with fewer than 25 employees, an employee returning from expanded FMLA leave is entitled to reinstatement to the position held by the employee when the leave commenced unless that position does not exist due to economic conditions or other changes in operating conditions caused by the public health emergency. In such case, the employer must make reasonable efforts to restore the employee to an equivalent position, and if those efforts fail, make reasonable efforts for at least a year to contact the employee if an equivalent position becomes available.
The Bottom Line
The final version of the Act signed by the President yesterday does a good job balancing the employees’ needs and the realities facing the employer. Essentially, a full-time eligible employee unable to work due to the closure of a child’s school or place of care will be entitled to 80 hours (10 days) of Federal Paid Sick Leave and up to 12 weeks of job-protected Emergency FMLA leave, with the first 10 days paid as Federal Paid Sick Leave at two-thirds their full rate, but not more than $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate per employee (although the employee can elect to use other sick pay, vacation, or PTO instead), and the remaining 74 days paid by the employer at two-thirds of their regular pay up to a maximum entitlement of $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate per employee, all for a total leave payout of no more than $12,000 in the aggregate per employee.
Meanwhile, eligible full-time employees unable to work due to qualifying reasons under the Paid Sick Leave Act other than a child’s school or childcare closure will be entitled to receive 80 hours (10 days) of Federal Paid Sick Leave paid by the employer at the full regular rate up to a maximum entitlement of $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate per employee (although the employee can elect to use other sick pay, vacation, or PTO instead). Quarantine will not trigger the Emergency FMLA leave provisions, although there may be traditional, unpaid FMLA leave rights available, as well as unemployment insurance.
Finally, employers will be provided refundable tax credits against their employer portion of Social Security taxes for 100% of the qualified sick leave and family leave wages paid in accordance with the Act.
While California may have additional leave legislation on the way, yesterday’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides employers with less than 500 employees, and their employees, with a viable path during this crisis.
Newmeyer Dillion Attorneys Thomas Reilly and Jason Morris contributed editorial support to this article.
The California State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health is ordering all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence, except as needed to maintain continuity of operation of the federal critical infrastructure sectors.
Frequently asked questions
When does the stay at home order go into effect and how long will we stay home? What areas of the state are covered?
The order went into effect on Thursday, March 19, 2020. The order is in place until further notice. It covers the whole state of California, and it exempts activity as needed to maintain continuity of operation of the federal critical infrastructure sectors, critical government services, schools, childcare, and construction, including housing construction.
What can I do? What’s open?
Essential services will remain open, such as:
Food: Grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, take-out and delivery restaurants
Essential state and local government functions will also remain open, including law enforcement and offices that provide government programs and services.
Bars and nightclubs
Gyms and fitness studios
Public events and gatherings
Hair and nail salons
Can the Order be changed?
Yes. The State Public Health Officer may issue orders as needed – for example if more information emerges about the public health situation – and issue new orders and directives as conditions warrant.
How does this order interact with local orders to shelter in place? Does it supersede them?
This is a statewide order.
Business and taxes
What businesses and organizations are exempt?
Businesses and organizations that provide critical infrastructure for the state are exempted, including health care and public health, public safety, food and agriculture and media. See the full list of exempt sectors (pdf).
I run/work at an exempted business or organization, as defined by the Order. Do I need to get an official letter of authorization from the state to operate?
No. If your business or organization is in the list of exempt sectors, it may still operate. You do not need to obtain any specific authorization from the state to do so.
Do I need to pay my taxes?
Yes, state and federal deadlines have been extended. All state taxes are now due on July 15.
Schools and childcare
My school is providing free grab-and-go meals and childcare. Are those still open?
Yes. It is essential to keep children fed and educated. School employees should report to work and focus on distance learning, school meals, and childcare/supervision.
Are daycares still open? Can my babysitter still come to the house?
Yes. Daycares are still open, but only for children of parents working in essential sectors. Daycare centers that remain open should employ heightened cleaning and distancing requirements. Babysitters may also come to the house to care for minors of parents working in essential sectors.
Health care and helping sick relatives
What if I need to visit a health care provider?
If you are feeling sick with flu-like symptoms, please first call your doctor, a nurse hotline, or an urgent care center.
If you need to go to the hospital, call ahead so they can prepare for your arrival. If you need to call 911, tell the 911 operator the exact symptoms you are experiencing so the ambulance provider can prepare to treat you safely.
What about routine, elective or non-urgent medical appointments?
Non-essential medical care like eye exams, teeth cleaning, and elective procedures must/should be cancelled or rescheduled. If possible, health care visits should be done remotely.
Contact your health care provider to see what services they are providing.
May I still go out to get my prescriptions?
Yes. You may leave their homes to obtain prescriptions or get cannabis from a licensed cannabis retailer.
Can I leave home to care for my elderly parents or friends who require assistance to care for themselves? Or a friend or family member who has disabilities?
Yes. Be sure that you protect them and yourself by following social distancing guidelines such as washing hands before and after, using hand sanitizer, maintaining at least six feet of distance when possible, and coughing or sneezing into your elbow or a tissue and then washing your hands. If you have early signs of a cold, please stay away from your older loved ones.
Can I visit loved ones in the hospital, nursing home, skilled nursing facility, or other residential care facility?
Generally no. There are limited exceptions, such as if you are going to the hospital with a minor who is under 18 or someone who is developmentally disabled and needs assistance. For most other situations, the order prohibits non-necessary visitation to these kinds of facilities except at the end-of-life. This is difficult, but necessary to protect hospital staff and other patients.
Can I still exercise? Take my kids to the park for fresh air? Take a walk around the block? Walk my dog?
Yes. So long as you are maintaining a safe social distance of six feet from people who aren’t part of your household, it is ok to go outside for exercise, a walk or fresh air. Gyms are closed.
Does this order affect hiking? State Parks?
No, you may still go outside so long as you practice social distancing of six feet. California State Parks have closed indoor facilities and campgrounds, but trails and outdoor spaces are still open. Spending time outdoors can lead to a number of overall health and wellness benefits like lessening anxiety, boosting creativity and getting your vitamin D. If you decide to make a trip, remember to keep social distance.
Can I walk my dog? Take my pet to the vet?
You can walk your dog. You can go to the vet or pet hospital if your pet is sick. Remember to distance yourself at least six feet from other pets and owners.
Please click on this link for up to the minute protocols: https://www.pge.com/en_US/about-pge/company-information/protective-protocols/covid19.page?WT.mc_id=Vanity_covid19
Our action in response to COVID-19 is to determine the unique challenges facing Gilroy and South County businesses, both large and small. In an effort to capture this information, we ask that you please complete this survey and offer additional comments wherever needed by end of business day, Friday, March 27.
March 20, 2020
40 Million Californians Ordered to Stay Home to Halt Virus
Newsom predicts that 56% of California’s population – roughly 25.5 million residents – could be infected with the coronavirus over an eight-week period
By Andrew Johnson and Christina Bravo, Associated Press
California’s 40 million residents should stay home indefinitely and venture outside only for essential jobs, errands and some exercise, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday, warning that the coronavirus threatens to overwhelm the state’s medical system.
“This is a moment we need to make tough decisions. This is a moment where we need some straight talk and we need to tell people the truth,” the governor said.
At the time of his announcement, there were already 21.3 million Californians in 20 counties under similar orders.
The move, the most sweeping by any state so far, was an exclamation point at the end of a week of increasingly aggressive moves meant to keep the virus in check by forcing people to stay away from each other as often as possible.
The governor said he doesn’t expect police will be needed to enforce his stay-at-home order, saying “social pressure” already has led to social distancing throughout the state.
“We are confident the people of the state of California will abide by it. They’ll do the right thing, they’ll meet this moment, they’ll step up as they have over the course of the last number of week to protect themselves, their families and to protect the broader community, and this great state and the world we reside in,” Newsom said.
Residents are still allowed to leave their homes for essential needs like medical care and grocery shopping.
The Democrat, who is barely a year into his first term, also called up 500 National Guard troops to help distribute food. The move comes after panic buying led to massive lines at some grocery stores.
Newsom outlined a series of steps aimed at providing more space for hospital patients.
He said the state has taken over a 357-bed bankrupt hospital in the San Francisco Bay Area, soon will announce the purchase of a similarly sized hospital in Southern California and may use dormitories at the state’s public colleges and universities.
The announcement came after the release of a letter to President Donald Trump where Newsom warned the virus was spreading quickly and eventually could infect more than half the state’s population. A spokesman later clarified that the figure did not take into account the aggressive mitigation efforts that have been made.
The governor wrote that, “In some parts of our state, our case rate is doubling every four days. Moreover, we have community acquired transmission in 23 counties with an increase of 44 community acquired infections in 24 hours.”
Newsom predicted that 56% of California’s population – roughly 25.5 million residents – could be infected with the novel coronavirus over an eight-week period.
In his letter to Trump, Newsom requested the USNS Mercy Hospital Ship, which is based in San Diego, be stationed at the Port of Los Angeles to help the region’s health care system overwhelmed by the pandemic. He wrote the Mercy would ensure that California had “the ability to address critical acute care needs, such as heart attacks and strokes or vehicle accidents.”
The Mercy is one of several ships being mobilized to help with the influx of hospital patients. The ships are meant to treat those in the hospital for reasons other than COVID-19, the Navy clarified.
“The Comfort and Mercy will not deploy to treat COVID patients, but will be made available to assist with treatment of other patients in coastal locations where local health professionals are necessarily focused on a large number of COVID cases,” the Navy confirmed in a statement to NBC 7.
The two ships each have about 1,000 rooms and 12 fully-equipped operating rooms, digital radiological services, a medical laboratory, a pharmacy, an optometry lab, a CAT-scan and two oxygen-producing plants, according to the U.S. navy. They are typically deployed to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
Newsom requested the Mercy be stationed in Los Angeles until, at least, Sept. 1, 2020.
Also Thursday, Newsom asked U.S. House and Senate leaders for $1 billion to support state and local health systems. He said that money would be needed to do things like set up state-run and mobile hospitals, housing options to help people socially distance and testing and treatment for people without health insurance.
He also asked for assistance so the state can extend unemployment benefits beyond the usual 26-week limit, expand food assistance programs, resources for the homeless and tribal communities and boost childcare programs. He further asked for assistance for schools, aid to local and state budgets and transportation relief.
“While California has prudently built a sizable Rainy Day Fund over the past ten years, the economic effects of this emergency are certain to mean that the state and its 58 counties will struggle to maintain essential programs and services,” he wrote.
Newsom earlier announced $150 million of a $1 billion emergency state appropriation would go toward getting homeless people off the streets. He has estimated up to 60,000 of the state’s homeless could get infected.
The coronavirus is spread through sneezes and coughs. There are at least 1,030 confirmed cases in California and 18 people have died, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
RESOURCES OFFERED BY OTHER BUSINESSES
Courtesy of Silicon Valley Organization (SVO)
Comcast is opening Xfinity WiFi network nationally for free, they are offering unlimited data for free and confirming their commitment to connecting low-income families. Click here for more information
SOCIAL MEDIA RESOURCES:
Facebook is announcing a $100 million grant program for small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The majority of the grants will be distributed in cash, with some ad credits for business services. Businesses do not need to be on Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp to apply. They will soon begin taking applications in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can sign up to receive more information when it becomes available. Click Here for More Information
REMOTE WORK TECHNOLOGY RESOURCES:
1Password is removing the 30-day trial limit on new 1Password Business accounts so companies can start working safely from home, with their first 6 months free. With 1Password, teams can manage their workforce from anywhere, and safely share logins and other important resources with remote workers. Click Here for More Information
8×8 Video Meetings is free to all users, and offers 80+ local dial-in numbers (11 toll-free) from 55+ countries and does not require any installation. Users can create a custom URL to host meetings of up to 50 participants without any time restrictions. Click here for more information
Atlassian is offering its software development tools free for small teams up to 10 users. The free products include Jira Software, Jira Service Desk, Confluence, and Jira Core. Click here for more information
Box is offering 3 months free of its secure file sharing and collaboration platform. The offer is for the company’s Business plan and includes unlimited storage, mobile access, and advanced user and security reporting.
Click here for more information
Cloudflare for Teams is offering unlimited seats of Cloudflare for Teams for organizations of all sizes through September 1, as well as a free 30-minute onboarding session. Click here for more information
Google is expanding features of Hangouts Meet, its video conferencing platform, for current customers through July 1st, 2020. Customers can now host larger meetings with up to 250 participants, live stream to 100,000 viewers, and save recordings to Google Drive. Click here for more information
GoToMeeting is offering 3 months of free site-wide licensing of its video conferencing solution, GoToMeeting, for eligible organizations (health care providers, educational institutions, municipalities and non-profits). Click here for more information
Microsoft is offering 6-months free of Microsoft Teams, a unified communication and collaboration platform. Starting on March 10th, restrictions will be lifted on how many users can join a team or schedule video calls. Click here for more information
UrbanSitter is offering a 2-months free parent subscription during the COVID-19 outbreak. Parents can find trusted childcare help to support them as they work from home during this period. Every sitter is background checked and UrbanSitter provides parents with as much information as possible to make informed decisions. Click here for more information
Cisco is extending services for existing customers of Webex, its video conference platform. The offer includes unlimited usage without time restriction, support for fewer than 100 participants, and toll free dial-in. Click here for more information
Zoho is offering its Remotely product line for free to all new customers until July, 1st 2020. Zoho Remotely is a suite of cloud applications that helps teams collaborate and communicate. Click here for more information
Wells Fargo – Wells Fargo customers experiencing hardship from the coronavirus disease can call 1-800-219-9739 to speak with a trained specialist about their options. This includes customers of consumer lending, small business and deposit products. Details on what type of assistance might be available have not been released but are likely determined on a case-by-case basis. Click here for more information
CitiBank – Citibank customers can contact the bank for assistance with:
- Waivers on monthly service fees, for both regular and small business customers
- Waived penalties for early CD withdrawal, for both regular and small business customers
- Fee waivers on remote deposit capture for small business customers
- Bankers available after hours and on weekends to support small business customers
- Some credit card customers may be eligible for credit line increases and collection forbearance programs.
- Some mortgage customers may be eligible for a hardship program through Cenlar FSB, the bank’s service provider. For assistance, call Cenlar FSB at 855-839-6253 (Mon–Fri, 8:30 a.m.–8 p.m. ET or Sat, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. ET).
- Click here for more information
The IRS is postponing tax payment deadlines during the coronavirus outbreak — what that means for your taxes
By Andrew Keshner, personal finance reporter based in New York.
Less than a month ahead of the traditional April 15 deadline to pay federal income taxes, the Trump administration is pushing back the payment deadline by 90 days as it tries to soften the coronavirus outbreak’s financial bite.
The deadline extension, announced this week, is an effort to immediately free up household money. The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing people inside to “socially distance” themselves to slow the spread, and that’s cutting down cash flow for businesses and workers.
“We encourage those Americans who can file their taxes to continue to file their taxes on April 15 because for many Americans, you will get tax refunds,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday. “We don’t want you to lose out on those tax refunds, we want you to make sure you get them. Many people do this electronically, which is easy for them, and easy for the IRS.”
The average refund was $3,012 as of early March, according to IRS statistics.
April 15 typically marks the date when taxpayers have to file their return and pay their tax bill if they’ve been paying the feds too little during the year. If they’ve overpaid, they will receive a refund.
Under the new announcement, individuals — including small business owners and married couples filing jointly — can defer up to $1 million in tax payments without interest and penalties for 90 days. Corporations can defer up to $10 million in taxes, Mnuchin said.
The new tax payment deadline is July 15, according to an IRS notice.
“All you have to do is file your taxes. You’ll automatically not get charged interest and penalties,” he said. Mnuchin also said the administration was looking into the possibility of sending direct payments to Americans.
The federal government is deferring $300 billion in tax payments with the announcement.
The Trump administration was exploring the idea of a payroll tax cut, but that cut, if it happened, would only apply to the Social Security and Medicare taxes that automatically come out of workers’ paychecks, so it would only affect employed people.
What about my state taxes?
The announcement only applies to federal taxes. But a handful of states, such as California, Maryland, South Carolina and Connecticut, say they are pushing back their own income tax payment deadlines too. Other states, like Oregon, say they will peg their tax rules to what the IRS does, according to the American Institute of CPAs.
What if I don’t know whether I owe money or have a refund waiting?
If consumers haven’t done their taxes and haven’t yet used tax preparation software or talked with an accountant, they can get a rough idea about their tax situation with the IRS’ withholding estimator.
Users can submit their pay information into the estimator, which can gauge the likelihood of a refund in a matter of minutes.
Taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes below $69,000 can file their taxes for free with the IRS’ free file program.
Response from Dept. of Tax and Collections re Property Tax Payments:
Taxpayers have the option of making partial payments on any installment due on or before April 10. Penalties on late payments and on the unpaid portions of payments are normally assessed systematically on April 11. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for purposes of imposing these penalties on late payments or the unpaid portion of payments, taxpayers may submit a Request for Cancellation of Penalty on the DTAC Website ([www.sccgov.org/sites/dtac/tax/Pages/request-penalty-cancellation.aspx]www.sccgov.org/sites/dtac/tax/Pages/request-penalty-cancellation.aspx).
Due to the pandemic, the review of penalty waivers will be completed as soon as operationally possible.
Waivers requests will be assessed in accordance with the standard set forth in the Revenue and Taxation Code—that a late payment is “due to reasonable cause and circumstances beyond the taxpayer’s control, and occurred notwithstanding the exercise of ordinary care in the absence of willful neglect.” Assessments will be done on a case-by-case basis. Taxpayers should make their payment before April 10 to avoid the assessment of a penalty altogether, or as soon thereafter as possible to justify waiver of the penalty pursuant to a Request for Cancellation of Penalty.
Taxpayers are reminded to submit all relevant documents in support of their request online at DTAC Website. The Penalty Appeals Unit will review all requests submitted by Taxpayers as soon as possible. To comply with the Public Health Officer’s directive on Social Distancing, all requests for cancellation of penalty will be processed as soon as operationally possible. Penalties will be imposed until a decision on a Request for Cancellation of Penalty is reached. Taxpayers will be notified of the decision by email.
Note: A news release will be sent to taxpayers via social media and will provide translations in multiple languages to reach a larger audience.
#1 COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates
From the evidence so far, the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in ALL AREAS, including areas with hot and humid weather. Regardless of climate, adopt protective measures if you live in, or travel to an area reporting COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is by frequently cleaning your hands. By doing this you eliminate viruses that may be on your hands and avoid infection that could occur by then touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.
March 19, 2020
– By Lauren Egan, reporter for NBC News
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said that while the bill has “imperfections,” it was “time for urgent, bipartisan action.”
WASHINGTON — The Senate voted to approve a second coronavirus aid bill Wednesday, paving the way for lawmakers to turn their attention to a third proposal that could include direct payments to Americans.
The legislation, dubbed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, passed on a 90-8 vote in the Senate, and President Donald Trump signed it into law Wednesday evening.
The measure provides free coronavirus testing and ensures paid emergency leave for those who are infected or caring for a family member with the illness. The bill also provides additional Medicaid funding, food assistance and unemployment benefits.
“We will continue to work on the next bill to respond to the crisis, and I want to repeat again that the Senate is going to stay in session until we finish Phase 3,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the floor after the legislation passed. “I would recommend senators stay around, close. Just how long it will take to get through these steps is unclear, but as everyone knows, we are moving rapidly because the situation demands it.”
The House passed the sweeping bill with a bipartisan vote in the wee hours Saturday morning, but progress was stalled after Democrats and the Trump administration disagreed over how expansive paid leave should be.
The Trump administration voiced concerns that paid leave could overburden small businesses, and lawmakers made changes to limit who would be eligible; those changes passed the House on Monday evening.
After the Senate passed the bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the House and the Senate “are already hard at work on the third bill in the House’s Families First agenda, which will take bold, historic action on behalf of America’s workers and families.”
“This bill will be crafted in consultation with the public health, labor, nonprofit and business communities, so that we can deliver the most effective, evidence-based response,” she said.
The aid package sent to Trump on Wednesday is the second emergency bill that Congress has passed in recent weeks. Last week, the Senate approved an $8.3 billion House-passed measure that focused on vaccine research and development.
With passage of the second emergency bill Wednesday, Senate Republicans are turning their attention to what they are calling the third phase of the coronavirus response: a $1 trillion spending proposal from the White House that would include $500 billion in direct payments to Americans.
Republican senators met Tuesday with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Capitol Hill to discuss the third measure.
McConnell is expected to build consensus among Republicans on the economic stimulus before negotiating with Democrats, meaning it is unlikely that a bill will be introduced by the end of the week.
McConnell said Wednesday that senators would not leave Washington “until we deliver.”
Some Senate Republicans have expressed concern that the bill passed Wednesday puts too much stress on small businesses, which will be required to provide paid leave to qualifying employees, and said more needed to be done to help those businesses stay afloat. Some GOP lawmakers have also suggested that they would prefer to see an emphasis in the stimulus proposal on making sure employers could meet payroll, rather than relying on the government to provide direct payments to Americans.
Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Marco Rubio of Florida announced Wednesday that they are working on a proposal to give more aid to small businesses to help them pay their employees.
“I want to make sure that we provide a federally guaranteed loan that would allow [small businesses] to maintain their payrolls,” Collins said Wednesday. “And it would keep those businesses alive so that when this crisis passes, the employees would have jobs to return to.”
In an effort to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for social distancing, McConnell encouraged members ahead of Wednesday’s vote to “come in and vote and leave” to avoid any close contact while on the floor.
Trump also announced Wednesday that he is invoking the Defense Production Act to mobilize U.S. private production capacity to combat the coronavirus outbreak. Trump furthermore said his administration is “suspending all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April” to help those affected by the virus.
March 18, 2020
Seven Bay Area Jurisdictions Order Residents to Stay Home
COVID-19 spread reduces activity to only most essential needs.
Santa Clara, CA – Seven health officers within six Bay Area counties are taking a bold, unified step to slow the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and preserve critical health care capacity across the region.
On March 16, the Public health officers of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties announced, with the City of Berkeley, a legal order directing their respective residents to shelter at home for three weeks beginning March 17. The order limits activity, travel and business functions to only the most essential needs. The guidance comes after substantial input from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and best practices from other health officials around the world.
Scientific evidence shows social distancing is one of the most effective approaches to slow the transmission of communicable disease. The shelter-at-home order follows new data of increasing local transmission of COVID-19, including 258 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 4 deaths shared by the seven jurisdictions, as of March 15. The Bay Area’s collected confirmed cases is more than half of California’s case count. This does not account for the rapidly increasing number of assumed cases of community transmission. As testing capacity increases, the number of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases is expected to increase markedly.
“Temporarily changing our routine is absolutely necessary to slow the spread of this pandemic,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Public Health Officer. “The Health Officers from the largest jurisdictions in the San Francisco Bay Area are united and we are taking this step together to offer the best protection to our respective communities.”
The order defines essential activities as necessary for the health and safety for individuals and their families. Essential businesses allowed to operate during the recommended action include health care operations; businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals; fresh and non-perishable food retailers (including convenience stores); pharmacies; child care facilities; gas stations; banks; laundry businesses and services necessary for maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential operation of a residence. In addition, health care, law and safety, and essential government functions will continue under the recommended action. For the full list, please see section 10 of the order.
“While the goal is to limit groups congregating together in a way that could further spread the virus, it is not complete social shutdown,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s Public Health Officer. “You can still complete your most essential outings or even engage in outdoor activity, so long as you avoid close contact.”
On January 30, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, and the United States followed the next day by declaring a federal public health emergency. On February 26, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed community transmission of COVID-19 in the San Francisco Bay Area, meaning the afflicted patient had no signs of associating with anyone who had been diagnosed with the virus. This collective legal order comes one day after Governor Gavin Newsom ordered older adults, age 65 and older, stay home.
“Limiting interpersonal interactions is a proven strategy to slow and reduce viral spread and protect the most vulnerable among us — individuals who are 60 years of age and older, people with chronic and underlying medical conditions, and people experiencing homelessness.” Dr. Erica Pan said, “Our counties share borders and many people live in one county and work in another. It’s absolutely critical for us to be aligned on COVID-19 mitigation efforts.”
MEDIA CONTACTS BY JURISDICTION
Public Information Manager
Alameda County Public Health Department
CITY OF BERKELEY
City of Berkeley
Public Information Officer
Contra Costa County Joint Information Center
Public Information Officer
County of Marin Joint Information Center
County of San Mateo’s Joint Information Center
Public Information Officer
Department of Emergency Management Joint Information Center
County of Santa Clara Joint Information Center
Media Line: (408) 808-7863
March 17, 2020
An outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a new coronavirus (COVID-19) has been identified starting in Wuhan, China. There is no evidence of widespread transmission of COVID-19 in California at this time. While investigations to learn more about the virus are ongoing, workers and employers should review their health and safety procedures to help prevent exposure to the virus.
Frequently Asked Questions
Visit Coronavirus 2019 FAQs for answers to specific questions you may have about COVID-19 and what programs and benefits may be available to you. COVID-19 FAQs
The EDD provides a variety of support services to individuals affected by COVID-19 in California. For faster and more convenient access to those services, we encourage the use of our online options.
Sick or Quarantined
If you’re unable to work due to having or being exposed to COVID-19 (certified by a medical professional), you can file a Disability Insurance (DI) claim. DI provides short-term benefit payments to eligible workers who have a full or partial loss of wages due to a non-work-related illness, injury, or pregnancy. Benefit amounts are approximately 60-70 percent of wages (depending on income) and range from $50-$1,300 a week.
The Governor’s Executive Order waives the one-week unpaid waiting period, so you can collect DI benefits for the first week you are out of work. If you are eligible, the EDD processes and issues payments within a few weeks of receiving a claim.
For guidance on the disease, visit the California Department of Public Health website.
If you’re unable to work because you are caring for an ill or quarantined family member with COVID-19 (certified by a medical professional), you can file a Paid Family Leave (PFL) claim. PFL provides up to six weeks of benefit payments to eligible workers who have a full or partial loss of wages because they need time off work to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a new child. Benefit amounts are approximately 60-70 percent of wages (depending on income) and range from $50-$1,300 a week. If you are eligible, the EDD processes and issues payments within a few weeks of receiving a claim.
If your child’s school is closed, and you have to miss work to be there for them, you may be eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits. Eligibility considerations include if you have no other care options and if you are unable to continue working your normal hours remotely. File an Unemployment Insurance claim and our EDD representatives will decide if you are eligible.
Reduced Work Hours
If your employer has reduced your hours or shut down operations due to COVID-19, you can file an Unemployment Insurance (UI) claim. UI provides partial wage replacement benefit payments to workers who lose their job or have their hours reduced, through no fault of their own. Workers who are temporarily unemployed due to COVID-19 and expected to return to work with their employer within a few weeks are not required to actively seek work each week. However, they must remain able and available and ready to work during their unemployment for each week of benefits claimed and meet all other eligibility criteria. Eligible individuals can receive benefits that range from $40-$450 per week.
The Governor’s Executive Order waives the one-week unpaid waiting period, so you can collect UI benefits for the first week you are out of work. If you are eligible, the EDD processes and issues payments within a few weeks of receiving a claim.
The available benefits are insurance programs. To be eligible, either you or an employer had to make contributions in the past 5 to 18 months. It is possible these contributions were made at a prior job, or if you were misclassified as an independent contractor instead of an employee. We encourage you to apply for the benefit program that is most appropriate for your situation. Self-Employed/Independent Contractor to learn more.
Workplace Health and Safety
For information on protecting workers from COVID-19, refer to the Cal/OSHA Guidance on Coronavirus.
Businesses and employers can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for help with planning and responding to COVID-19.
Reduced Work Hours
Employers experiencing a slowdown in their businesses or services as a result of the coronavirus impact on the economy may apply for the UI Work Sharing Program. This program allows employers to seek an alternative to layoffs — retaining their trained employees by reducing their hours and wages that can be partially offset with UI benefits. Workers of employers who are approved to participate in the Work Sharing Program receive the percentage of their weekly UI benefit amount based on the percentage of hours and wages reduced, not to exceed 60 percent.
Visit Work Sharing Program to learn more about its benefits for employers and employees, and how to apply.
Potential Closure or Layoffs
Employers planning a closure or major layoffs as a result of the coronavirus can get help through the Rapid Response program.
Rapid Response teams will meet with you to discuss your needs, help avert potential layoffs, and provide immediate on-site services to assist workers facing job losses. For more information, refer to the Rapid Response Services for Businesses Fact Sheet (DE 87144RRB) (PDF) or contact your local America’s Job Center of CaliforniaSM..
Employers experiencing a hardship as a result of COVID-19 may request up to a 60-day extension of time from the EDD to file their state payroll reports and/or deposit state payroll taxes without penalty or interest. A written request for extension must be received within 60 days from the original delinquent date of the payment or return.
For questions, employers may call the EDD Taxpayer Assistance Center.
- Toll-free from the U.S. or Canada: 1-888-745-3886
- Hearing impaired (TTY): 1-800-547-9565
- Outside the U.S. or Canada: 1-916-464-3502
March 16, 2020
Written by Emily Heaslip, Contributor to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The COVID-19 pandemic is spreading rapidly, with new updates flying in every minute. As the situation evolves, many small business owners are unsure of what steps to take to mitigate risk, protect employees and support customers.
Here are the key points and immediate steps the CDC recommends.
Establish a remote work option
With plenty of people already working remotely, there are a lot of free tools business owners can utilize so that teams can stay in touch and keep working even if they aren’t in the same place.
Implement a remote work policy that covers when you expect your team to be online or available, how to communicate (via email, Slack, or video call, for instance), and what deliverables each team member is responsible for completing.
Reduce meetings and travel
Try to keep opportunities for exposure to the virus to a minimum. Postpone any team meetings or hold them virtually. Skip any conferences or other planned business travel. If your workers get sick because of travel or meetings, you could have a liability issue on your hands, or you will have to manage low morale and sick leave requests.
Give employees flexibility
Schools across the country are closing, as are offices, stores, businesses and commercial centers. With the country slowly moving toward total lockdown, you will need to be flexible with your employees’ time.
Some team members may have to leave unexpectedly if their child’s daycare closes. Others may have students who come home from school for spring break and aren’t able to return. Try to be as understanding as possible when something comes up and have a contingency plan in case you suddenly become short-staffed.
Communicate transparently with your customers
Everyone is facing this crisis together, so be transparent about what your business is going through. Customers can empathize with brands facing a crisis, as long as you communicate with them properly.
As Harvard Business Review reports, “When customers are separated from the work that’s being done behind the scenes to serve them, they appreciate the service less and then they value the service less.”
Describe the steps you’re taking to mitigate risk and give them insight into the steps you’re taking to help the community.
Be obsessive about hygiene
Stop the spread of the virus by following these health and safety tips from the CDC:
- No handshakes: Use a non-contact method for greetings.
- Wash your hands: Employees should wash their hands when they arrive and every time they enter the premises, as well as frequently throughout the day.
- Try not to touch your face, and remind employees to do the same
- Constantly and regularly disinfect surfaces, including doorknobs, handrails, the POS system, tables and desks.
- Keep your employees and your customers safe by being as proactive as possible about cleanliness.
Shift your sales strategy to online
Chinese companies, forced to confront the reality of coronavirus shutdowns before most American companies, provide a blueprint for weathering this storm. As storefronts shuttered their doors and workers stayed in place, savvy business owners shifted their sales strategy to avoid heavy losses.
For instance, in Wuhan, the cosmetics company Lin Qingxuan closed 40% of its stores — but the brand’s 100+ beauty advisors took to digital platforms like WeChat to engage customers virtually and increase online sales. “As a result, its sales in Wuhan achieved 200% growth compared to the prior year’s sales,” writes Harvard Business Review.
If you’re closing your store, find ways to keep your employees earning a paycheck by selling on social media, putting your email list to good use or using a video tool to reach new leads.
Consider business interruption insurance
Business interruption insurance may be an option for you if you have significant business losses as a result of shutting down from the pandemic. “Ask your insurance broker about business interruption insurance to cover unexpected major events and see what qualifies for coverage. It may not cover this emergency, but you’ll be better prepared for the next time your business suffers similar economic losses,” reports USA Today.
Plan for the long term
Though China and other economies are already starting to recover, the spread of the coronavirus is still extending throughout the world, creating a ripple effect that will impact us for some time.
As reported in SmallBizTrends, “27% of businesses expect the coronavirus to have a moderate to high impact on their revenue. Another 30% expect the virus to have a moderate to high impact on their supply chain.”
Speak to your suppliers, investors, partners and local officials on a daily basis to learn how you can start to implement safeguards that will help you stay above the red while officials work to contain COVID-19. It might be a while until your small business gets back to business as usual.
By Kristin Colella, Contributor to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
As the coronavirus incites fear and anxiety across the nation, major companies such as Google, Apple and Microsoft are making headlines for encouraging employees to work from home due to concerns about the virus spreading. With the number of coronavirus cases on the rise, it’s wise for businesses of all sizes to consider creating an emergency work-from-home policy to ensure that workers can still get their jobs done if telecommuting becomes the safest option.
CO— recently spoke to a handful of HR experts about how to create a telecommuting policy for unexpected events such as the current outbreak. Here’s what they had to say.
Ask for input
When drafting an emergency work-from-home policy, start by discussing the details with your managers. “It’s a good idea to draw input from the managers in all the different departments in your business, since they know the job best,” said Adam Calli, founder and principal consultant for Arc Human Capital, LLC in Vienna, Virginia. “Never underestimate the value of collaboration.”
Once you’ve spoken to your managers, you can then consider taking suggestions from your other employees. “There might be something that a specific employee does in their job that you’re not thinking about, or you haven’t considered that they need a specific tool,” said Patti Dunham, director of HR solutions for strategic HR inc.in Cincinnati. “It can be helpful to get input from everybody.”
For business operations to run as smoothly as possible off-site, you’ll need to make sure your employees have the right equipment, such as laptops, chargers, headsets, monitors, phones and possibly even fax machines and printers.
“If they don’t have what they need, ask yourself if you’re willing to purchase it and how much you’re willing to spend,” said Dunham. “Or if you have a storage closet in the office with extra equipment, you might want to consider pulling from that.”
Offer remote working tools
Will your employees be able to access shared drives and shared files from home? If not, it’s time to have a chat with your IT person to make sure everyone is set up with that capability. It’s also smart to give employees access to group communication tools with video conferencing capabilities, such as Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Slack, Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Consider offering training so that everyone is comfortable using whichever tool you choose.
Although working from home might offer an exciting dose of freedom for your employees, it shouldn’t be a free-for-all. “If you normally have mandatory core working hours, be sure to include those in your telecommuting policy,” said Calli. “The same goes for any cloud-based timekeeping system you may already use.” If you don’t have a formal timekeeping system in place, you might consider asking employees to log their time in a spreadsheet, or you can ask managers to schedule calls with employees to make sure they are staying productive.
Be sure to let employees know how you expect them to keep information secure when working off-site. “It’s critical to set clear expectations for private and public internet connections, the storage of both hard copy and digital files, privacy when speaking about confidential matters on the phone, and any issue that could expose the company to undue risk,” said Jaime Klein, CEO of Inspire Human Resources in New York.
It’s also a good idea to make sure employees have up-to-date anti-virus software. You might also consider providing multi-factor authentication (MFA), which makes it more difficult for hackers to access employees’ computers by requiring additional verification for logging in.
Do a trial run
Instead of waiting until telecommuting becomes a necessity to discover potential problems, try asking your employees to work from home for a day or two to test things out. “Have your employees flag issues like difficulty accessing documents due to network or security issues, internet disruption and communications challenges,” said Klein. “Tackle these issues immediately so you’re ready in case of an emergency.”
Don’t forget about “non-employees”
When you roll out your message, such as through company email or an internal company site, don’t forget to find a way to reach the people who might not automatically receive official work communications from you, such as volunteers, independent contractors, vendors, clients, interns and recruits (who might have an upcoming interview scheduled). “Think broadly about who is part of your team, even if they’re not getting a W-2,” said Calli. “They need to know what’s going on.”
By Sean Ludwig, Contributor to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Businesses across the U.S. and the world have swiftly changed their policies to deal with the coronavirus crisis, with major corporations including Google, Facebook and Microsoft recommending or mandating remote work. While these actions have garnered many headlines, less digital ink has been spilled about the many employees who can’t work from home.
In industries such as retail, restaurants and manufacturing, workers don’t have the luxury of performing their duties from home. Small and medium-sized businesses in this position instead need to manage expectations and develop new strategies to protect both their employees and customers from COVID-19.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has created a Coronavirus Response Toolkit that includes CDC recommendations and sharable graphics for businesses and employees to help keep people safe. These graphics can be shared on social media, websites, and more. But there are other things business owners can do to manage critical employees during this important time.
Here are five ways some companies are managing coronavirus concerns for employees who can’t remotely work. Some of these ideas may be adopted or adapted by small businesses, too.
Update and enforce sanitary health practices
Many companies are making it a priority to first enforce basic hygiene standards to prevent germs from spreading.
Companies are following CDC guidelines for employees, which include mandating that workers wash their hands for 20 seconds frequently, cover their nose and mouth with their inner elbow when sneezing or coughing, no touching faces and sanitizing surfaces often with EPA-approved disinfectants.
On top of this, businesses are offering hand sanitizer (if they can obtain it) around the workplace for employees and customers to use if hand washing is not immediately available.
Encourage social distancing
Some employers are implementing new rules involving social distancing. Effectively, this means that employees and customers need to avoid handshakes, hugs and all close social contact. Instead, use elbow bumps, small bows, or waves in order to have employees acknowledge each other or customers — or maybe even jazz hands if you want to bring a little humor to what feels like a strange situation.
In some cases, social distancing may also include limiting travel if that is in some way part of work. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has recommended that anyone elderly and vulnerable to coronavirus especially needs to cut down on travel to protect themselves.
Expand sick leave
The coronavirus crisis has pushed many companies with employees who can’t work from home to expand sick leave. Corporations including Walmart, Olive Garden parent Darden Restaurants and others have created new sick leave rules to help stop the spread of coronavirus between employees and between employees and customers.
For example, Walmart — the nation’s largest private employer with 1.5 million workers — created an “emergency employee leave program” that was spurred by one of its associates in Kentucky testing positive for COVID-19.
Small businesses, however, do not have the same financial cushion that a company like Walmart has to provide sick leave. Other options could be explored for small businesses who can’t afford it. Business owners can talk frankly and openly with employees about sick leave to create set expectations.
Communicate with customers
With coronavirus concerns high, this is an ideal time to communicate with customers about what you’re doing to keep your business clean, to keep your employees healthy, any hours-of-operation changes and more.
One business communicating frequently with customers is Amtrak, which notified customers about its new enhanced cleaning protocols and other policy changes via email.
Social media also offers a wealth of information on communicating with employees during these uneasy times. One helpful resource for customer communication is Facebook’s Business Resource Hub, which has guides and tools for customer support and engagement during the coronavirus crisis.
Close and clean if exposure happens
If a worker has been exposed to the coronavirus or confirmed to have it, the next expected move for businesses is to close for at least a day and give the facility a thorough cleaning.
For example, a Seattle-based Starbucks location that had an employee test positive for COVID-19 recently closed its doors temporarily in order to perform “a deep clean overnight.”
CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers
California Department of Public Health