Here’s a round up of COVID-19 related news for 3-19-20. See our Coronavirus Resource Guide for extensive resources and information.
SBA Disaster Loans Now Available
See our blog post for details and FAQs
County Declaration Mandates Expansion of Social Distancing, Closes Certain Businesses
As part of Buncombe County’s continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be increased measures as part of a Local State of Emergency Supplemental Declaration to decrease the risk of exposure and limit the spread of COVID-19 in Buncombe County through social distancing. The declaration mandates the closure of specific businesses and entertainment venues and limiting public gatherings to no more than 10 people. This order applies to all of Buncombe County and its six municipalities and is effective Thursday, March 19 at 5 p.m.
Buncombe County Public Health has determined an imminent hazard exists, and this is a critical step aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 by minimizing contact within a range of six feet for a duration of at least ten minutes. This Declaration applies to gyms, fitness centers and exercise facilities, indoor pools, spas, movie theaters, live performance venues and arcades.
This declaration does not include grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, hardware markets, gas stations, farmers markets, and food distribution sites selling prepared food. “These are locations where the public are not generally in close contact with other patrons,” said Tove.
Also, the limitation on gatherings of 10 people does not include normal operations at medical facilities, airports, bus and train stations, shopping malls, office environments, factories, and child care centers.
Please be aware, this order is more restrictive than Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 118 in regards to restaurant, bar, and brewery operations, in that it also limits outdoor gathering to 10 people or less, regardless of available space.
Buncombe County thanks you in advance for understanding this order is imperative to protect our community’s most vulnerable people while preventing the spread of COVID-19.
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IRS Formal Announcement – Modifications, Additions, Confirmations (info provided by Johnson Price Sprinkle PA)
Late on March 18, the IRS released Notice 2020-17 containing details about the income tax payment extension previously announced by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin. The Notice clarifies and expands the scope and nature of the payment extension as previously understood.
The deadline for filing a tax return is still April 15. Taxpayers that need more time to ensure their balance due is accurate may wish to obtain an extension. Extensions still need to be filed by April 15, but the associated balance due is postponed until July 15.
Keep in mind that many states, including North Carolina, have not yet provided payment relief beyond April 15. Also, the American Institute of CPAs and other organizations continue to press the IRS to also extend the federal filing deadline.
President Trump signs family and medical leave expansion, paid leave into law (summarized from Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP)
Yesterday the U.S. Senate passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and President Trump reportedly signed it into law last night. Parts of the law expand the Family and Medical Leave Act, and require employers of fewer than 500 employees to provide paid leave, for certain time off related to coronavirus.
The final version of the FMLA expansion and paid leave legislation is identical to a narrower version that was passed by the House on Monday. The House had passed a much broader version over the weekend. The final version of the FMLA and paid leave provisions will take effect 15 days after enactment, which would appear to be April 1. Both provisions will expire after December 31, 2020.
In addition to the expansion of family and medical leave, and the requirement to provide paid leave, the Families First Act also provides for federal grants to state unemployment funds under certain circumstances, and allows employers to apply for tax credits to offset the cost of the paid leave.
The following is a summary of the provisions pertaining to family and medical leave, and to the paid leave requirements:
After the first 10 days, the employer is required to pay for the leave, as follows:
The “restoration” requirements are the same as those in the weekend version of the legislation. Generally, the employee must be restored to his or her job at the end of leave, or to a “substantially equivalent” position. However, if the employer has fewer than 25 employees, it will be excused from the restoration requirement in some circumstances.
Under the final version of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, paid sick leave is required when an employee is unable to work or telework due to quarantine, COVID-19 symptoms, caring for child if school or child care is closed due to COVID-19 precautions.
Full-time employees can receive a maximum of 80 hours (two workweeks) of paid leave. The entitlement for part-time employees is based on the number of hours worked, on average, in a two-week period. For employees with variable hours, the number of hours is calculated the same way it is for COVID-19 FMLA leave.