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Global/National/State Updates and Recommendations

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Occupational Safety & Health Issues: 

Agriculture Declared Critical Industry: 

  • The President has issued Coronavirus Guidelines For America, “15 Days To Slow The Spread”.  While a growing number of local jurisdictions continue to issue “Shelter In Place” and curfew orders, agriculture has been designated as “Critical Industry”. The president made it clear in his March 16th directive that people working in critical industries such as food supply have a “special responsibility” to maintain normal work schedules. Read the CISA’s Guidance On The Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce.
  • In 2003, the Federal Government designated the Food and Agriculture Sector as a critical infrastructure sector, recognizing its significant contribution to national security and the economy. The terms describing the information in the 2015 Food and Agriculture Sector Specific Plan’s Data Taxonomy (catagories) can be found HERE. 
  • California Farm Bureau’s interpretation of Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-33-20:
    “Agriculture has been deemed one of 16 ‘critical infrastructure.’ For the purpose of broadly defining this infrastructure, it includes but is not limited to establishments engaged in growing crops, including nurseries and garden centers and cut flowers, raising animals, harvesting timber, and harvesting fish and other animals; food and beverage processors and manufacturers, wholesale and retailers distributing to consumers. The President of the United States made it clear in his March 16th directive that people working in critical industries such as food supply have a ‘special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule. Anyone working in the “Food Supply Chain’ is allowed and should continue to show up for work.”
  • Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, an operational component under Department of Homeland Security, has listed Food & Agriculture has one of “16 Critical Infrastructure Sectors” here (https://www.cisa.gov/identifying-critical-infrastructure-during-covid-19) 
  • While California Farm Bureau continues to work with state and local law enforcement on implementation of critical infrastructure employees, many employers have asked for a Farm Employee Permitted Travel Critical Infrastructure LetterIt can be downloaded here (English & Spanish). 
  • (3/29/2020) UPDATED DHS’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency Advisory Memorandum on Coronavirus Guidance for America that highlighted the importance of the critical infrastructure workforce.  This update is from a request for clarity for those covered under two designations within the Food & Agriculture Sector of critical infrastructure:
    • Employees of companies engaged in the production of chemicals, medicines, vaccines, and other substances used by the food and agriculture industry, including pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, minerals, enrichments, and other agricultural production aids. 
    • Employees engaged in the manufacture and maintenance of equipment and other infrastructure necessary to agricultural production and distribution. 

Wage & Hour, Leaves Issues:

  • U.S. Department of Labor has released its first round of guidance on implementation of H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).  Guidance includes: (1)Guidance for Employees(2)Guidance for Employersand  (3) Questions and Answers (3/25/2020)
    Some key take-aways so far: (1)Implementation begins April 1, 2020 (not April 2, and widely reported previously); (2) Your head count to determine of your level of employment is less than 500 employees (HR 6201 applies to employers of 500 or fewer) you count your employee number as of the day an employee takes leave, including employees already on leave (see Questions and Answers); (3) No guidance has (yet) been provided for determining how an employer of 50 or fewer might be able to claim an exemption on the basis that H.R. 6201 compliance will endanger the viability of their business.
  • NEW PRINT & POST: U.S. Department of Labor has released its employer workplace information poster on Families First Coronavirus Response Act (HR 6201)If you employee fewer than 500 employees and are covered by the FFCRA leaves requirements. Post as soon as possible next to other workplace postings. (3/25/2020)
  • California Farm Bureau bullet point list of Families First Coronavirus Response Act requirements and eligible employees .
  • NEW (from California Farm Bureau’s Farm Employers Labor Services legal services partner Barsamian & Moody): Coronavirus — School and Child-Care Closure Issues 
  • California Employment Development Department, Coronavirus 2019: information on availability of unemployment insurance, disability insurance and paid family leave 
  • California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement: COVID-19FAQ on Laws Enforced by the California Labor Commissioner’s Office 
  • President has signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), requiring employers of 500 or fewer to provide family and medical leave and paid sick leave, as well as providing tax credits to defray the cost of these mandates; you can read more here. 

Farmer’s Markets & Wineries Guidance: 

Taxes 

  • The Internal Revenue Service began providing details for taxpayers to defer their April 15 payments to July 15, offering relief to people who owe income taxes for 2019 or estimated income taxes for the first quarter of 2020. The official notice follows President Trump’s national-emergency declaration over the coronavirus outbreak and invokes powers usually used locally after natural disasters. The new IRS rules waive interest and penalties that normally would apply. However, the IRS isn’t changing the requirement that people file a tax return or seek a six-month extension by April 15. And the rules don’t apply to other taxes, such as estate taxes, excise taxes and payroll taxes that aren’t handled as part of self-employment income on individual tax returns. There are limits on the deferral. Individuals and married couples can defer up to $1 million in tax payments, and corporations can defer up to $10 million. https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-20-17.pdf)
  • Treasury and IRS Issue Guidance on Deferring Tax Payment Due to COVID-19 OutbreakFollowing President Trump’s emergency declaration pursuant to the Stafford Act, the U.S. Treasury Department and IRS issued guidance allowing all individual and other non-corporate tax filers to defer up to $1 million of federal income tax (including self-employment tax) payments due on April 15, 2020, until July 15, 2020, without penalties or interest. 
  • Employment Development Department (EDD) – Pay Roll Taxes: Employers statewide directly affected by the new coronavirus (COVID-19) may request up to a 60-day extension of time from the EDD to file their state payroll reports and/or deposit payroll taxes without penalty or interest. This extension may be granted under Section 1111.5 of the California Unemployment Insurance Code (CUIC). A written request for extension must be received within 60 days from the original delinquent date of the payment or return. Information can be found by clicking this link: https://www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019.htm State payroll taxes include Unemployment Insurance (UI), Employment Training Tax (ETT), State Disability Insurance (SDI) (includes Paid Family Leave), and California Personal Income Tax (PIT). To request an extension, employers must send a letter to the EDD specifically requesting an extension of time under section 1111.5 of the CUIC, along with the previously unfiled report(s) and payment(s). The letter must also provide detailed information as to why the report or payment could not be submitted in a timely manner.Employers should mail the letter and tax report or payment to the address specified on their filing form. If an employer has already been charged a late filing or payment penalty that he/she believes may qualify for this extension, the employer should send a written request to:
    Employment Development Department
    PO Box 826880
    Sacramento, CA 94280-0001
  • The Franchise Tax Board (FTB) announcement of special tax relief for California taxpayers paying personal income and corporation taxes and have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Affected taxpayers are granted an extension to file 2019 California tax returns and make certain payments until June 15, 2020, in line with Governor Newsom’s March 12 Executive Order.This relief includes moving the various tax filing and payment deadlines that occur on March 15, 2020, through June 15, 2020, to June 15, 2020. This includes: 
    • Partnerships and LLCs who are taxed as partnerships whose tax returns are due on March 15 now have a 90-day extension to file and pay by June 15. 
    • Individual filers whose tax returns are due on April 15 now have a 60-day extension to file and pay by June 15. 
    • Quarterly estimated tax payments due on April 15 now have a 60-day extension to pay by June 15. 
    • The FTB’s June 15 extended due date may be pushed back even further if the Internal Revenue Service grants a longer relief period. 

    Taxpayers claiming the special COVID-19 relief should write the name of the state of emergency (for example, COVID-19) in black ink at the top of the tax return to alert FTB of the special extension period. If taxpayers are e-filing, they should follow the software instructions to enter disaster information. The FTB will also waive interest and any late filing or late payment penalties that would otherwise apply. Additional information can be found by clicking this link: https://www.ftb.ca.gov/about-ftb/newsroom/covid-19/index.html?WT.ac=COVID-19

  • (3/30/2020) Governor’s 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. 
  • Local Tax Assistance: Some California counties are offering supplemental tax assistance specific to their individual county. We encourage our local County Farm Bureau members to contact their local county tax offices for more information.
  • (3/31/2020) The Treasury Department is delaying tax payment due dates for wine, beer, distilled spirits, tobacco products, firearms, and ammunition excise taxes, to provide flexibility for businesses that have been negatively affected by COVID-19. The postponement of due dates applies to any tax payment or operational report with an original due date falling on or after March 1, 2020, through July 1, 2020. Interest and penalties will not apply when payments are made within 90 days of the original due date. Read Press Release Here. 

Banking & Finance 

  • USDA farm loan information and payments and view and tracking certain USDA program applications and payments can be viewed at Farmers.gov
  • FSA is relaxing the loan-making process and changes to Farm Loan, Disaster, Conservation and Safety Net Programs. Press Release 
  • 3/30/2020 The Small Business Administration has published an application guide for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program.  Unfortunately, the application guide currently states that agricultural enterprises (e.g., farm), other than an aquaculture enterprise, agricultural cooperative, or nursery are not eligible entities.  The intention of the legislative text included in CARES ACT (H.R. 748) was to allow farmers to be eligible for EIDL in the CARES Act. However, there continues to be confusion if the specific language in the text of the bill extends coverage to farmers.  We continue to monitor and provide updates on this issue as we advocate for the inclusion of farms as an eligible entity for EIDLs. For eligible entities the application guide can be viewed here.
  • (3/30/2020) The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service today announced that distribution of economic impact payments (direct payments to eligible taxpayers) will begin in the next three weeks and will be distributed automatically, with no action required for most people. However, some seniors and others who typically do not file returns will need to submit a simple tax return to receive the stimulus payment. What you need to know. 
  • 3/31/2020 The Small Business Administration released rules for the Paycheck Protection Program, a $349 billion forgivable loan program that is intended to help businesses, including farms and other agricultural employers, to rehire or retain workers during the COVID-19 crisis. Farms of all sizes will be eligible as well as other agricultural business. Under the Paycheck Protection Program, businesses with fewer than 500 employees may qualify for a loan up to $10 million based on their eight weeks of prior average payroll, plus an additional 25% of that amount. SBA will forgive the portion of the loan that is used for payroll costs, and loan payments won’t start for six months. The interest rate will be 0.5%. CFBF update on this program can be accessed here.
  • (4/06/2020SBA and Department of the Treasury document providing guidance on the interpretation of the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program Interim Final Rule. It can be read HERE.
  • Find eligible SBA lenders here.
  • (3/31/2020) Important Market Enforcement Branch information for producers if a contract has been cancelled or they have not been paid in full by vendors, as a result of COVID-19.
  • (4/02/2020) The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service launched the Employee Retention Credit a refundable tax credit for 50% of up to $10,000 in wages paid by an employer whose business has been financially impacted by COVID-19. This credit was created by the CARES Act. An employer may not claim Employee Retention Credits if it receives a Small Business Interruption Loan under the Paycheck Protection Program. 
  • (4/02/2020) Governor Newsom announced $50 million available through California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (iBank) to fund small businesses that aren’t eligible under the federal programs—which would include some of agriculture. More information on the new funding is here https://www.ibank.ca.gov/small-business-finance-center/.

Updates

State Issues Update
Federal Issues Update

 

Coronavirus Farm & Ranch Resources