Webinar Q&A: State Response to COVID-19

Below is a compilation of questions posed by our membership, in their words with answers provided by Lauren Noland-Hajik an associate at Kahn, Soares, and Conway, LLP. The webinar provided a discussion on what action the state of California has taken to address the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

+ Are there any state grants or support being extended for small business?

Currently, most grants available are through the Federal Government, including:

  • Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance;
  • Paycheck Protection Program; and
  • Small Business Debt Relief.

California has implemented:

  • Small business interest free deferral of sales/use tax up to $50,000 for businesses with less than $5 million in taxable sales;
  • A 90-day extension on all businesses filing a return for less than $1 million in taxes; and
  • The California Small Business Loan Guarantee Program (via IBank) $50 million in state funding, providing potential capital for individuals who do not qualify for federal funds.

More information on these programs and other business resources can be found here: https://covid19.ca.gov/business-and-employers/#top

+ Any specific training for field labor related to COVID-19 that is recommended?

Yes, Cal/OSHA has issued guidance specifically for agricultural employees: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/Coronavirus/COVID-19-Infection-Prevention-in-Agriculture.pdf

We also suggest you review the following guidelines:

+ We have seen some bad publicity on Farm Labor and the separation issue of 6 feet which is difficult in our industry how is the state handling this?

Since the Webinar, Cal/OSHA has issued guidance on COVID-19 in the agricultural workplace. This guidance includes “Procedures to Increase Physical Distancing.” Employers should be implementing these procedures.

Please keep us informed of the issues that arise related to these measures so they can be communicated to Cal/OSHA. Further, an employer can seek consultation from Cal/OSHA as to implementation questions: https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.dir.ca.gov%2Fdosh%2Fdosh_publications%2FConsultOverview.pdf%23zoom%3D100

+ My field labor is good about working 6 feet away but when it comes to break or lunches are not anywhere near 6 feet. We have told them to keep away, but they do not. How do you suggest I handle that so that we are in compliance with the order?

Cal/OSHA’s guidance recommends specific training and physical distancing at agricultural sites. We suggest you follow these training guidelines and implement the physical distancing guidelines recommended including:

  • Staggering break and lunch times;
  • Limiting crew size by staggering work shifts or increasing the number of work shifts; and
  • Providing additional seating and shade structures to allow employees to take breaks while staying at least six feet apart.

+ We are a small business less than 35 employees, not associated with FMLA, but we are with the California Paid Leave act, do we now have to comply with FMLA due to definition changes?

The short answer is yes. The paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA apply to certain public employers, and private employers with fewer than 500 employees.

Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern. The U.S. Dept. of Labor has stated it will issue more guidance on this exemption, but has not.

We suggest United Ag contact its federal representative to receive updated information on the exemption.

More information can be found here: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions

+ How do we make sure Sacramento understands the importance of sustaining production Ag in California. What can we do on our end?

The greatest thing the agricultural community can do is to get to know their local legislators personally and invite them to come see agricultural operations. Having firsthand knowledge and people in the industry to reach out to with questions when issues in Sacramento arise are invaluable tools as we shape policy.

During this time it is also important to document issues that arise and how COVID-19 and other regulations are impacting your business. This is helpful in drafting policies and informing legislators on how they can help the industry or why they should not vote for a certain policy.