Disaster Assistance

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW (As of July 22, 2020)

Gov. Edwards Will Extend Current Phase Two Order, with Current Mask Mandate, Gathering Size Limit and Bar Restrictions

July 21, 2020

Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday announced that he will extend Louisiana’s current Phase Two order, which also includes a statewide mask mandate, limits indoor social gatherings to 50 people and prohibits on-premises consumption of alcohol at bars for another two weeks, as COVID-19 incidence remains high across the state and hospitalizations continue to rise.  All of the latest restrictions outlined in the Phase Two order are in keeping with recommendations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

The order is set to expire on the morning of Friday, July 24. The new order, which will be issued later this week, will run through August 7. The Governor added the mask mandate and other restrictions to an order that went into effect July 13.

As of July 15, all regions of Louisiana had a 7-day average positivity of new tests that was greater than 10 percent and the overall statewide positivity rate was 15.46 percent. The state’s aim is for this rate to be below 10 percent.

“We are seeing a high percent of new tests coming back as positive, increased hospitalizations over the past 14 days and a high incidence rate across the state, which means Louisiana is not ready to move to Phase Three,” Gov. Edwards said. “We will continue with our current restrictions to see if we can slow the spread in Louisiana over the next two weeks. I believe in the people of Louisiana, who have already been able to flatten the curve once, and who I know can do it again. Please wear your face mask when you are in public, wash your hands frequently, stay 6 feet away from others and stay home when you are sick. Additionally, federal surge testing is going on in key areas of the state. If you have access to this free testing, please take the opportunity to get tested. You can pre-register at www.doineedacovid19test.com.”

  • Click here to view regional data about hospitalizations, new cases and COVID-like illness, which was discussed at today’s press conference.

Gov. Edwards Orders Statewide Mask Mandate, Closes Bars to On Premises Consumption as COVID-19 Continues to Spread Across Louisiana

July 11, 2020

All indoor gatherings limited to 50 total people to prevent the spread of illness

Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced a mandatory mask requirement for Louisiana and ordered bars in the state closed to on-premises consumption, as the state experiences increasing spread of COVID-19. The Governor also limited indoor social gatherings like wedding receptions, class reunions and parties to 50 total people. With these additional restrictions, Louisiana remains in Phase Two of the Roadmap for a Resilient Louisiana.

The statewide mask mandate, which will allow for parishes without high COVID-19 incidence to opt out if they choose, and bar closures go into effect Monday, July 13 at 12:01 a.m., per a revised Phase Two proclamation signed today. The order will also limit the size of gatherings to 50. The new order is set to expire July 24, 2020, but could be extended.

“Cases in Louisiana continue to increase, including setting a record-high number of new cases reported in one day, today and yesterday. More than two thousand new COVID infections reported each of these days and increased hospitalizations are signs that we continue to go in the wrong direction in our work to control COVID-19 in our state. While I had hoped to avoid going backwards on restrictions, it is obvious that it is necessary to slow the spread of infection in our state, as COVID-19 has spread to every corner, at a level higher than we have previously seen. This is why I am now mandating face coverings statewide and also closing all bars in Louisiana to on-premises consumption, in addition to putting in limits on the size of indoor gatherings,” Gov. Edwards said. “Right now, all Louisianans need to work together to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by wearing their face masks, keeping social distance, washing their hands frequently and staying at home when they are feeling sick. These are reasonable expectations while we fight to reduce the spread of the illness in our state. This approach also gives us the best possible chance to again flatten the curve without moving back to Phase One.”

MASK MANDATE
The statewide mask mandate applies to all 64 parishes in Louisiana. However, parishes with a COVID-19 incidence of fewer than 100 cases per 100,000 people for the most recent two-week period for which data is available could choose to opt out of the mandate. Parish presidents do not have to opt out and may choose to keep a mask mandate in place. Currently, only three parishes in Louisiana do not exceed this standard, which will be updated every other week by the Louisiana Department of Health: Grant, Red River and West Feliciana.

The order requires face coverings for everyone ages 8 and older except for the following:

  • Anyone who has a medical condition that prevents the wearing of a face covering
  • Anyone who is consuming a drink or food
  • Anyone who is trying to communicate with a person who is hearing impaired
  • Anyone who is giving a speech for broadcast or to an audience
  • Anyone temporarily removing his or her face covering for identification purposes
  • Anyone who is a resident of a parish without a high COVID incidence that has opted out of the masking mandate

Masks are strongly recommended for children ages 2 to 7.

CLOSURE OF BARS TO ALL ON PREMISES CONSUMPTION
All bars, including those with food permits from the Louisiana Department of Health, will be closed to on-premises consumption. They can operate for curbside takeout or delivery service only.

Since the start of the crisis, Louisiana has identified at least 36 outbreaks, impacting at least 405 people, involving bars, which were actually closed under the Governor’s original Stay at Home order. Public health officials believe going to bars is a higher public health risk than visiting other types of businesses because people are socializing and cannot wear masks when they drink. In addition, young people under the age of 30 make up the largest percentage of new COVID cases in Louisiana.

GATHERING SIZE
The new order also limits the size of social gatherings to 50 people indoors. Outdoor social gatherings are also limited to 50 people if individuals cannot avoid being within six feet of one another.

This crowd size limitation shall not apply to those businesses deemed essential as defined by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency or any businesses and organizations operating at 50% capacity pursuant to Paragraphs (1) through (6) of Subsection (G) of Section 2 of 83 JBE 2020, including churches and other faith-based organizations.

The 50-person limit will apply to indoor gatherings, like receptions, weddings and others. The changes are based on the advice of public health officials.

Click here to read the proclamation.

State Treasurer’s Office Releases Information About Louisiana’s Main street Recovery Program

This week, State Treasurer John Schroder’s office released new information about Louisiana’s Main Street Recovery program, the $300 million small business relief fund created by the Legislature during the regular session.

To be eligible for the program, businesses must meet the following requirements:

  • Were domiciled in Louisiana as of March 1, 2020
  • Suffered an interruption of business
  • At least 50 percent owned by one or more Louisiana residents
  • Filed Louisiana taxes in 2018 or 2019 or will file taxes in 2020.
  • Had no more than 50 full-time employees as of March 1, 2020
  • Have customers or employees visit a physical location
  • Are not part of a bigger business with more than 50 full-time workers
  • Does not exist for the purpose of advancing partisan political activity and does not directly lobby federal or state officials
  • Does not derive income from passive investments without active participation in business operations
For more information about the program, including answers to frequently asked questions, click HERE.

Gov. Edwards Announces Louisiana’s Roadmap to Resilience Will Start Phase 2 on Friday, June 5

Yesterday, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that following continued improvement in Louisiana’s COVID-19 outlook and a significant increase in testing capacity and contact tracing, Louisiana is ready to move to Phase 2 of the White House’s reopening strategy on June 5.
Gov. Edwards will sign the official order for Phase 2 of a Resilient Louisiana by Thursday evening, with guidance being issued to individual industries and businesses via the OpenSafely.la.gov website throughout the week. In Phase 2, churches, places of worship and many more businesses will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity with social distancing, masks for public-facing employees and increased sanitation. In addition, the state strongly recommends that businesses consider offering temperature checks before a person can enter and posting the symptoms of COVID-19 outside with a request that symptomatic individuals not enter.
The Governor was advised by public health experts that Louisiana has seen decreasing reports of COVID-like illness, decreasing new case counts especially as a percentage of tests administered, and decreasing hospitalizations in almost every area of the state. A few areas of concern still exist, but through contact tracing and frequent testing, the state is able to quickly track increases and work to prevent large outbreaks.
Click HERE for an overview of businesses that can open and for the official release from the Office of the Governor.

Federal Reserve Releases New Information on Main Street Lending Program

The US Federal Reserve released additional information this week on their new Main Street Lending Program, including answers to frequently asked questions. The loan program is aimed at supporting businesses with fewer than 15,000 employees that were in sound financial standing before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Federal Reserve is working on the necessary infrastructure to get the program up and running, with an anticipated rollout of early June. To find more information about the program, click HERE.

US House of Representatives Approves PPP Loan Changes Backed by US Chamber

Last week, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 7010, the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act on a vote of 417-1. The Senate is expected to take action next week.
The bill makes the following changes to the Paycheck Protection Program:
  • Extends the loan term from 8 weeks to 24 weeks;
  • Lowers the percentage of loan proceeds that must be used on payroll from 75% to 60%; and
  • Extends the PPP from June 30th to Dec. 31, 2020.
To see the US Chamber’s letter of support for the bill, click HERE.

Small Business Administration Releases New PPP Guidance

Friday evening, the US Small Business Administration released new guidance to assist businesses as they apply for forgiveness of loans issued under the Paycheck Protection Program.
The new guidance:
  • Keeps the current “75%/25% rule,” stating non-payroll costs cannot exceed 25% of the loan forgiveness amount
  • Provides more detail on the “alternative covered period,” explaining that it can begin with the borrower’s payroll cycle (not date of loan disbursement)
  • Includes bonuses and hazard pay as payroll costs eligible for forgiveness
  • Provides additional information on how loan forgiveness applies in the case of an employee who has been offered, but turned down a job
Click HERE to read the complete guidance from the SBA. In addition, new guidance was also issued for lenders, which can be found HERE.

Louisiana Department of Revenue Announces Additional Sales Tax Relief Provisions

Friday, the Louisiana Department of Revenue announced that they would be providing additional sales tax relief to businesses, under certain conditions, due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Previous LDR guidelines allowed for March and April 2020 sales tax return and payment deadlines were extended to April 20 and May 20, respectively. Under the new rules, a taxpayer must file their March and April 2020 sales tax returns, and make payments and interest by June 30. To read more, click HERE for LDR’s official announcement.

Gov. Edwards: Louisiana will Move to Phase One Statewide on May 15, COVID-19 Stay at Home Order will be Lifted for Louisianans

On May 11, Governor John Bel Edwards announced that the current Stay at Home order will be lifted on May 15 and that businesses, with a few exceptions, will be allowed to reopen at 25 percent of their State Fire Marshal capacity. Every business should ensure they have an up-to-date and accurate maximum occupancy number for their locations on which to base their reduced occupancy allowance. BRAC’s latest analysis provides guidance on identifying occupancy limits so that businesses can safely prepare for reopening.

Gov. Edwards Will Extend Stay at Home Order Until May 15

Goal: Continue Flattening the Curve and Slowing the Spread of COVID-19

As you know, today, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced he will extend Louisiana’s Stay at Home order until May 15 to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19. Louisiana does not currently meet the White House criteria for entering Phase One of reopening.

That said, Louisiana has been very supportive of businesses, with consideration given to construction, modified retail and industrial work activities. As we hear Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi executing limited opening plans, we note that they are opening in some business settings that were never closed or restricted in Louisiana.

Under the extended order, which will be issued on Friday, May 1, businesses that previously were directed to be closed will remain closed, including salons, barber shops, bars and casinos, among other things. Businesses that are deemed essential under the third phase of federal CISA guidance may still be open. Non-essential retail businesses in Louisiana continue to be able to open with fewer than 10 people total inside.

Three major changes in the new Stay at Home order include:

  • Malls will remain closed to the public, but stores may open for curbside delivery.
  • Restaurants will be allowed to open outside areas for patrons to eat meals only, without tableside service.
  • All employees of a business who have contact with the public must wear a mask.

 

Additionally, both the CDC and the Louisiana Department of Health strongly urge everyone to wear masks in public.

“Wearing cloth masks or protective face coverings is part of the new normal,” Gov. Edwards said. “Wearing a mask is being a good neighbor and in Louisiana, we pride ourselves on being good neighbors. Your mask protects me and other people and my mask protects you.”

Hopefully, Louisiana will meet the White House criteria and move to Phase 1 on May 15, provided symptoms, new case counts and hospitalizations decrease and the state continues to surge testing and contact tracing capacity. Phase 1 lifts the Stay at Home order and eases restrictions on some public spaces like houses of worship and restaurants and opens other businesses that have been closed such as barber shops and salons, but with restrictions on occupancy and strict requirements for personal distancing and masks to keep everyone safe. Phase One occupancy for these businesses will be limited to 25 percent.

As Louisiana prepares for its next phase of reopening, business owners and faith leaders are encouraged to plan as well, including understanding their building’s maximum occupancy limits, which may require contacting local government or the State Fire Marshal’s office. They should also plan on ensuring their employees have masks.

Gov. Edwards intends to make his next announcement on moving to Phase 1 in Louisiana on or by May 11. Members of the public can continue to get information from the Governor’s office on http://coronavirus.la.gov and by texting LACOVID to 67283.

LED’s business hotline 1-833-457-0531 or e-mail to LEDBiz@la.gov remain available for additional questions.

Louisiana Business Community Shares Framework for “Safe at Work” Reopening of State’s Economy

Recently, LABI partnered with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber to release a full framework for restarting the Louisiana economy in a responsible manner. The “Safe at Work” framework builds upon an executive summary released last week, and focuses on issues for businesses and elected officials around the state to consider as reopening plans are made. The framework may be downloaded directly here.

The report, developed in partnership with executives across a broad array of industry sectors and with peer business organizations and associations from around the state, includes the following sections:

·    Health and Safety First

·    Stay at Home and Safe at Work Order

·    Be Healthier, Safer, and Smarter at Work

·    Legal Protections for Recovering Businesses

·    Childcare and Daycare

·    PPE Supplies for Reopening Business

·    Consistent Statewide Regulations for Reopening

·    Second Wave Concerns

·    Disadvantaged Businesses and Rural Regions

·    Gradual or Phases of Reopening, Sector Considerations

·    External Readings on Reopening the Economy

The framework is meant to serve as a start to the conversation for returning more employees and businesses to work, rather than serving as a final, prescriptive set of answers or solutions.

“This framework provides sensible and safe solutions for our state’s businesses, and it makes clear, workable suggestions for our leaders to consider as they make decisions about reopening Louisiana’s economy,” said LABI President and CEO Stephen Waguespack. “During this unprecedented time of crisis, our state must come together and find the most responsible and effective measures that can get people back to work and get our economy back on its feet.”

Nearly 50 organizations from around the state have endorsed the framework, including The West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce. Both the executive summary and full commentary have been shared with Governor Edwards’ administration with the commitment of continued collaboration and support of the Resilient Louisiana Commission as it begins its work to strengthen sectors of the economy and recommend resilient return-to-work practices.

 

President Trump Signs Additional Funding Bill for Paycheck Protection Program, Loans to Resume Monday

Friday, President Donald Trump signed legislation that appropriates additional funds for the Paycheck Protection Program. The bill, passed by Congress this week, has $321 billion for small business aid through the PPP and $60 billion to replenish the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, with additional funding for hospitals and COVID-19 testing as well.

The SBA announced that it would resume processing applications Monday morning at 10:30 am. As with the PPP’s first phase, businesses should work with their local lenders.

Click HERE to read more from Politico about the funding bill.

Congressional Action

Please find attached and at this link the U.S. Chamber’s Coronavirus Emergency Loans Small Business Guide and Checklist. This is the first of a number of resources we are developing to help you connect your members with the resources recently approved by Congress to respond to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

As many of you are aware, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocated $350 billion to help small businesses keep workers employed amid the pandemic and economic downturn. Known as the “Paycheck Protection Program,” the initiative provides 100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses who maintain their payroll during this emergency. Importantly, these loans may be forgiven if borrowers maintain their payrolls during the crisis or restore their payrolls afterward.

Please share the guide digitally with every small business owner and small business employee.

Recommendations for Businesses

As you look to pass accurate information to your workers and make important decisions regarding business operations, a good place to start is with the CDC’s recommended business strategies, which include:

For more information, see below or visit the website of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, a LABI member company, for a variety of other resources, fact sheets and fliers regarding COVID-19 including:

Information from Louisiana Workforce Commission

While Caronavirus is confirmed in only 10 parishes, the impacts will be felt statewide. The Louisiana Workforce Commission has provided guidelines and information regarding unemployment insurance for employers and workers affected by the crisis.

  • To see LWC’s guidance for workers, click HERE
  • To see LWC’s guidance for employers, click HERE

For more information regarding LWC’s operations and procedures during this time, visit their Coronavirus website.

Information from La. Department of Health

With 114 cases of coronavirus confirmed across 10 parishes (Orleans, Jefferson, St. Tammany, Caddo, St. Charles, Lafourche, St. Bernard, Terrebonne, Bossier, and St. John the Baptist) the Louisiana Department of Health has resources available for the business community.

  • To see LDH’s Guidance for Business and Employers, click HERE

In addition, LDH has also made some printable items available that can be placed around your place of business and company facilities.

For more information, visit LDH’s Coronavirus website or you can call the Louisiana 211 Network by dialing 211. In addition, you can text the keyword LACOVID to 898-211 for regular text updates from LDH on the coronavirus in our state.

Information from US Chamber

Given the nationwide scope of this challenge, our partners in Washington at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) have made resources available for American businesses and workers: