COVID-19 Updates 3-17

March 17, 2020

Here’s a round up of COVID-19 related news for 3-17-20. See our Coronavirus Resource Guide for extensive resources and information.

Restaurants/Bars closed to dine-in: Today, Governor Cooper issued additional restrictions to close restaurants and bars, except for takeout and delivery service.

NC Governor lifts restrictions on unemployment benefits: Governor Cooper also lifted some unemployment benefit restrictions.

Here’s what that might do:

  1. Removes 1 week waiting period to apply;
  2. Removes the requirement that a person must look for another job during this time;
  3. Allows employees who lose their jobs or have hours reduced to apply for benefits;
  4. Permits applicants to apply for benefits remotely by phone or online;
  5. Employers will not be held responsible for benefits paid as a direct result of COVID-19 claims

Read more

Employers can find info regarding unemployment insurance from the NC Department of Commerce, Division of Employment Security.

Contact the DES Employer Call Center with any questions or concerns.

Individuals who want to apply for Unemployment can contact:

Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed House yesterday (HR 6201):

Bill Summary and Highlights:

  • If the bill is approved by the Senate and signed by President Trump, it would grant two weeks of paid sick leave at 100 percent of the person’s normal salary, up to $511 per day. It would also provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave at 67 percent of the person’s normal pay, up to $200 per day.
  • Employers with 500 or fewer workers have to provide paid sick leave and family leave: Small and midsize companies are required to provide two weeks of paid sick leave and up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for employees affected by the coronavirus who have worked at the company for at least a month.
  • The Labor Department can exempt employers with fewer than 50 workers from having to pay these benefits if it “would jeopardize the viability of the business.” It is unclear how lenient the exemptions will be administered.
  • Government, self-employed and “gig” workers are included in the Bill.
  • The two weeks of paid sick leave apply to anyone told to quarantine, showing symptoms, exposed to the virus or trying to get a test or preventive care.
  • It covers anyone taking sick leave for coronavirus-related issues (including directed work from home quarantine) for the next 12 months
  • The bill covers part-time employees as well.
  • This bill also supplies free coronavirus testing, expanded food assistance and unemployment benefits, and requiring employers to provide additional protections for health care workers.
  • Cost? $105 Billion

White House/Senate propose response package:

The other major proposal just got released and comes from the White House and Senate and reaches nearly $1 trillion. There have not been any CBO estimates or bill summaries released yet, as it is just a proposal. Here’s a breakdown of the proposal by Politico:

Buncombe County To Modify Operations Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Essential operations including Emergency Services, Public Health and Health and Human Services mandated services, Sheriff’s Office, Permitting, Solid Waste, and Transportation to continue.

Effective March 18, Buncombe County will modify services until further notice to protect citizens and staff and minimize opportunities to spread COVID-19 in our community. All nonessential, public-facing functions are closed at this time.

Taking into consideration CDC and NCDHHS recommendations on social distancing and measures taken across the nation to include travel bans, school closures, quarantines, and event cancellations, the County is taking the following measures until further notice:

  • Some nonessential employees will temporarily telecommute and/or be in emergency on-call status.
  • For essential employees unable to work remotely, increasing physical working space between employees and modifying operations are among the options being evaluated.
  • Public access to county facilities that house nonessential functions will be restricted or closed.
  • All public libraries will be closed.
  • All County parks will be closed.
  • Permitting Office will be closed, but permitting remains available.

Buncombe County residents can access all of the County’s online resources and find regularly updated information at Find the latest COVID-19 information at  Online resources include: Building Permits, Planning, Septic, Well, Water Testing Portal (account registration required, only “simple” permits can be applied for online):