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BPAA State Policy Update - April 24, 2020

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State COVID-19 and Small Business Update


  • Pennsylvania: Toomey offers plan for reopening Pennsylvania economy: Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee and a leading Senate policy authority on multiple issues, on Thursday offered his own three-phase plan for gradually opening Pennsylvania’s economy, becoming one of the first members of Congress to put together a detailed proposal for moving past social distancing and quarantines. The senator's plan shares many similarities with the one released by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) on Wednesday evening, though it has some key differences.
    • The senator argued that elective health procedures should be allowed to resume because “it is abundantly clear that our hospitals are not in danger of being overrun” and that "in most of the state — and definitely in the central and western parts of the state — our hospitals are virtually empty because they’ve not been allowed to do elective procedures.” Pennsylvania has 35,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,622 deaths related to the virus, according to data released by the state's health department on Wednesday. Under Toomey’s plan, state and local officials will move from phase to phase of his plan when counties show that local hospital capacity is not at risk of being overwhelmed and minimal transmission of coronavirus within their populations.
      • In phase one, any business that can adopt social distancing and hygiene protocols and is located in a county with a declining or limited number of coronavirus cases may reopen. Medically necessary health procedures unrelated to COVID-19 may also resume in those counties, according to the plan.
      • In phase two, establishments such as restaurants, bars and gyms would be allowed to reopen with proper social distancing and hygiene protocols.
      • In phase three, which would depend on increased testing capacity and the development of effective therapies for the coronavirus, restrictions would be relaxed on restaurants, bars and gyms, while entertainment venues, such as theaters and concert halls, could also begin to reopen.
    • “Pennsylvania’s health care systems [are] not being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.”The senator wants to provide Pennsylvania counties with flexibility to account for “isolated statistical anomalies” and allow doctors and hospitals to resume elective procedures immediately, as long as safety benchmarks are met. He said at-risk health care workers, including those in nursing homes, should have access to expanded and improved testing.
    • Toomey asserts that two-thirds of Pennsylvania may already meet specific data-based criteria to allow businesses to resume activities.


  • Georgia: Businesses such as bowling centers, barbershops and nail salons are allowed to open today under an executive order signed by Gov. Brian Kemp (R).The order also allows gyms and fitness centers, bowling center, body art studios, cosmetologists, estheticians and massage therapists to open Friday. Theaters, private social clubs and dine-in restaurants will be allowed to open on Monday.
    • Kemp, a Republican serving in his first term, was one of the last governors to impose a stay-at-home order for his state, which took effect on April 3.
    • Citing "favorable data, enhanced testing and approval of our health care professionals," Kemp said Monday that some businesses once deemed nonessential, like fitness centers, tattoo parlors and nail salons, can welcome back customers starting Friday.
    • Georgia records 635 new cases, 20 more deaths as some businesses reopen Georgia reported 635 new coronavirus cases and 20 more deaths in a 24-hour period ending at noon on Friday. The state now has 22,147 cases and its death toll stands at 892, according to Georgia's department of health.


  • Missouri Governor Parson Signs Executive Order 20-09 Extending State of Emergency in Missouri: As the state prepares to move into the economic recovery phase of COVID-19, Governor Mike Parson today signed Executive Order 20-09 extending the state of emergency in Missouri through June 15, 2020.  Governor Parson initially declared the state of emergency on March 13 with the signing of Executive Order 20-02. Since that time, over 450 state statutes and regulations have been waived or suspended to assist with Missouri’s COVID-19 response. 
    • Extending the emergency declaration will allow these waivers and suspensions to remain in place as Missouri moves into the recovery process. It will also allow continued flexibility in utilizing and deploying resources around the state where they are most appropriate. 
    • “I want to be clear that this is not an extension of the ‘Stay Home Missouri’ Order. Our order reopening Missouri will still take effect on Monday, May 4,” Governor Parson said. “Extending the emergency declaration simply allows us to continue utilizing our resources and deploying them around the state, even as we move into the recovery process. This also enables us to keep all of the waivers or suspensions of state statutes and regulations in place while we adjust to the reopening.” 
    • Governor Parson will introduce the reopening order next week, which will take effect on Monday, May 4. Read more here.


  • WFLA 8 reports – Reopening Florida: Gov. DeSantis doesn’t set date, stresses importance of getting it right: Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday he and his Reopen Florida Task Force are having thorough and methodical talks when it comes to planning on reopening the state’s economy. Gov. DeSantis has not officially said yet what his plans are for reopening the State of Florida, which has been under a safer-at-home order since April 3. The executive order is set to expire on April 30 unless DeSantis chooses to extend it. “I’m not as concerned with specific dates as I am with getting right,” DeSantis said. “I don’t have an artificial date for that.” The governor noted he would be working throughout the weekend and in the coming days to develop a plan but stressed he wants to make sure he’s making the right decisions. “If you do it right, we’ll be able to build off this and get to a place where people can get back on their feet,” he added.
    • During Friday evening’s news conference, the governor placed heavy emphasis on testing, saying it would be a “very important component” going forward. See the press conference here.


  • Maryland: Coronavirus Latest: Gov. Larry Hogan Hopes To Lift ‘Stay At Home’ Order In May: Gov. Larry Hogan is hoping to lift the stay at home order sometime in May as long as the state’s number of coronavirus-related deaths and hospitalizations begin a downward trend. The governor said he and the state’s experts are looking for that downward trend over a period of 14 days to determine when it’ll be safe to reopen the state. Read more at CBS Local.


  • Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott promises far-reaching announcement on reopening Texas businesses, including restaurants, hair salons: Gov. Greg Abbott could make an announcement as soon as Friday about reopening a wide range of Texas businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic, including restaurants, hair salons and retail outlets.
    • During a series of radio interviews Wednesday, Abbott gave the most details yet about the highly anticipated announcement, which he has been previewing since he announced preliminary steps to reopen the economy last week. He initially advertised the next wave of steps as scheduled for Monday but made clear in some of the interviews that they could now come sooner.
    • Abbott stressed in the interviews that he is seeking approval from medical advisers on the business reopenings and that they will reopen under new standards to slow the spread of the coronavirus. He also suggested his announcement's implementation could vary by county, depending on how prevalent the virus is in each place. Read more here.


  • Gov. Pritzker extends 'modified' Illinois stay-at-home order into late May: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday that he will extend a statewide stay-at-home order into late May, with several modifications Among them is a requirement that anyone over 2 years old wear a mask or face covering when in a public place and unable to maintain a distance of 6 feet from others. In addition, greenhouses and garden centers will be allowed to reopen.
    • The stay-at-home order had been set to expire April 30. Pritzker addressed projections that Illinois will not see its peak in the COVID-19 pandemic until next month, after models previously projected an April peak. The modified executive order will require businesses deemed “essential” to provide face-coverings to all employees who are not able to maintain 6 feet of social distance, and will impose occupancy limits for essential businesses and other measures including shift-staggering and operating only essential lines for manufacturers.
    • Republican lawmakers have urged the Democratic governor to consider provisions that allow some businesses to reopen with density controls and social distancing. They also urged him to reopen state parks and allow some elective medical procedures, which he said Wednesday he was considering. Pritzker had a conference call with the state’s four legislative leaders Wednesday evening but didn’t share plans to extend the order, sources said.


  • Politico reports - New York region governor’s plan coordinated economic restart— The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will take a regional approach to reopening the economy when it is safe to do so, mirroring the coordinated shutdown they undertook to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Even as the states each announced record death counts, with more than 1,000 people dying across the region over the past 24 hours, the leaders said it was time to start planning the best way to rollback their lockdown orders in the coming months.
    • Cuomo and the other governors — Phil Murphy of New Jersey and Ned Lamont of Connecticut — appear to be focused on ramping up the availability of a rapid test for the virus and a new antibody test that will show if someone already had the virus and recovered. Once widely available, such testing could allow the states to gradually open businesses back up as some social distancing restrictions remain in place.
    • The three states worked together in March on a rolling lockdown of society, banning public gatherings and forcing the closure of bars, restaurants and other nonessential businesses in close succession. New York and New Jersey have recorded more cases of the virus than anywhere else in the U.S.


State Labor & Minimum Wage

  • Virginia Lawmakers Delay Minimum Wage Hike Due to Virus: Virginia’s move to increase the statewide minimum wage to $9.50 an hour in 2021 will be put off by four months. Lawmakers narrowly approved Wednesday a delay of legislative provisions (H.B. 395/S.B. 7) that Gov. Ralph Northam (D) had recommended. The governor had asked that the previously approved increases be put off until May 1, 2021, due to the economic uncertainties posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.


  • Bloomberg Government reports - Arizona Company Settles DOL’s First-Known Virus Paid-Leave Case: An Arizona electrical worker will receive paid sick leave after his employer illegally denied him benefits provided under a coronavirus-relief measure, the Labor Department concluded in the first enforcement action it has publicized since the law took effect. The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division determined the company owed the worker $1,600 to cover 80 hours of sick leave that should’ve been paid at his regular wage, the agency said Thursday. The worker was entitled to benefits under the emergency leave provision included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Public Law 116-127) because health-care providers ordered him to self-quarantine due to possible Covid-19 symptoms. The case involved a small dollar amount relative to many of the agency’s settlements, but it offered the first glimpse of DOL’s enforcement of its new rule to implement the law, which is causing confusion for workers and employers throughout the country.
    • The emergency paid sick leave portion of the law requires businesses with fewer than 500 employees to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave to workers who can’t work because they’re subject to a government stay-at-home order, a health-care provider has instructed them to quarantine, or they’re experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 and are awaiting a diagnosis.
    • The law, which took effect April 1 under the terms of the implementing regulation the DOL wrote, also guarantees some workers up to 10 weeks of expanded leave, paid at two-thirds of their regular rate, when caring for a child whose school or daycare is closed.
    • The DOL continues to roll out answers to questions employers and workers have been asking about how the rule interacts with other statutes, when teleworking employees are owed leave, and which workers are actually owed unemployment insurance, not leave, under the “Families First” law.


State Tax Update

  • Utah Governor Signs Law to Shift Tax Deadlines During Pandemic: Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert (R) signed a bill to shift the state’s income tax filing and payment deadline to July 15, part of the state’s response to the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to modifying the corporate and individual return filing dates, the bill (H.B. 3003) aligns extension dates and periods with federal dates and changes due dates for estimated corporate income tax payments.
    • Herbert signed the measure Wednesday after it was approved during a special virtual session of the Utah Legislature.
    • The bill also modifies the due date for an installment payment of the tax on deferred foreign income.
    • It creates a subtraction from adjusted gross income for certain distributions from a qualified retirement plan, codifying a long-standing practice of the Utah State Tax Commission that was favorable to taxpayers, according to John Valentine, chair of the commission.
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