COVID-19: PA Insurance Department Warns of Risks, Increased Liability and Lack of Insurance Coverage due to Non-Compliance of Business Closure Orders

Earlier today on May 11th, PA Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman reminded businesses of the importance of complying with Governor Tom Wolf and Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine’s orders – for counties in both the red and yellow phases.

In addition to the critical public health objectives, Commissioner Altman warned non-compliant businesses defying the governor and secretary’s business closure orders that many insurance policies contain provisions that exclude coverage for businesses or individuals engaging in illegal acts or conduct. These exclusions may apply to property coverage, liability coverage, advertising injury coverage, and a host of other essential coverages.

“Businesses and residents rely on insurance coverage to protect them from liability, pay for covered losses, and compensate those who may be injured or harmed,” said Altman. “It is the duty of every business and resident in Pennsylvania to ensure that they and the public at large are provided with the maximum level of protection afforded by insurance. Any actions that could potentially create coverage gaps are the antitheses of the civil duty required of all residents during these times of emergency.”

This reminder was offered to all Pennsylvania businesses and residents, regardless of in what county they reside.

Comments were also directed at restaurants and their liquor licenses – reminding PA restaurant owners that restaurants that reopen for dine-in service in counties that have not been authorized to reopen will be at risk of losing their liquor license.

Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team to help organizations plan, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

For Further Information:

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Dominica Anderson, Eve Klein, Elizabeth Mincer or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

Be well and stay safe!

COVID-19: PA announces Emergency Assistance Program (“EAP”) for lower income families

Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today announced on May 8, 2020, an Emergency Assistance Program (EAP) to help low-income families who lost wages experiencing financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Families who qualify will be eligible for a one-time payment to assist them in meeting basic needs and help them secure more stable financial footing in the future.

The program will use existing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds to provide support to low-income families who qualify. The program will be open to families with a child under the age of 18 or a woman who is currently pregnant.

In order to qualify, families must have at least one person in the household who was employed as of March 11, 2020 and experienced an hour or wage reduction of at least 50 percent for two weeks or more or lost employment entirely due to the public health crisis.

Families must meet income limits of 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines and have no more than $1,000 in a savings or checking account.

Household               Monthly Income                Annual Income Limit
1                                           $1,595                                            $19,140
2                                           $2,155                                            $25,860
3                                           $2,715                                            $32,580
4                                           $3,275                                            $39,300
5                                           $3,835                                            $46,020
6                                           $4,395                                            $52,740
7                                           $4,955                                            $59,460
8                                           $5,515                                            $66,180
9                                          $6,075                                             $72,900
10                                        $6,635                                             $79,620
Each + Person                    $560                                               $6,720

Qualifying families will be issued a one-time grant equal to two months of TANF benefits. The average monthly TANF grant for a family of three is $403, so a qualifying family of three would receive a one-time grant of $806 through the program. Information on monthly grants by household size and county is available online here. Funds will be issued through an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card.

The emergency assistance application is available online at www.compass.state.pa.us. Families should be prepared to submit all necessary documentation with their application to expedite processing and avoid having to apply again. Applications will be accepted beginning Monday, May 11 through June 12 or until all funds are expended.

Secretary Miller also provided an update on the number of public assistance applications received by DHS. Applications are generally down from where they were before County Assistance Offices began to close in Pennsylvania. Applications did begin to increase to pre-closure levels towards the second half of April but are declining again.

Pennsylvanians can apply for Medicaid, the EAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and other public assistance programs at any time through DHS’ online COMPASS application at www.compass.state.pa.us.

Those who prefer to submit paper applications can mail documents to their local County Assistance Office (CAO) or leave documents in a CAO’s secure drop box, if available. CAOs are still closed to the public, but mail and drop boxes are being monitored so applications can be processed.

Visit pa.gov for a “Responding to COVID-19” guide or the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s dedicated Coronavirus webpage for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19.

Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team to help organizations plan, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

For Further Information:

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Sharon Caffrey, Eve Klein, Elizabeth Mincer or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

Be well and stay safe!

COVID-19: NJEDA available sources of Funds and Loans for Businesses in NJ

Good morning and I hope you and yours are doing well and staying safe.

I came across a piece from the Southern NJ Chamber of Commerce that outlined the programs below and reminded me of the various non-COVID related programs that still exist and are open for assistance from the NJEDA.

Worth taking a look if you have a need:

* Micro Business Loan Program: Through this program, the NJEDA makes financing of up to $50,000 available to for-profit New Jersey businesses, which can use the financing for working capital or to purchase equipment. To ensure that the financing is accessible to the early-stage and micro businesses that need it most, to qualify, a business must have annual revenues of less than $1,500,000 in the most current fiscal year and cannot have more than 10 full-time employees at time of application.

* Small Business Fund: The Small Business Fund offers loans of up to $500,000 for qualifying creditworthy small, minority- or women-owned businesses in New Jersey with up to $3 million in revenue that have been in operation for at least one full year and may not have the ability to get bank financing. Not-for-profit corporations that have been operating for at least three full years may also be eligible for assistance under the Small Business Fund.

* Direct Loans: Direct loans are available up to $2 million for fixed assets, and $750,000 for working capital. New Jersey businesses in need of financing and committed to job creation/retention may be eligible for direct loans through the NJEDA when conventional financing is not available. NJEDA’s direct loan financing offers competitive interest rates and terms.

* Premier Lender Program: In partnership with two dozen banks throughout New Jersey, The Premier Lender Program offers up to a $2 million loan participation or $1.5 million loan guarantee for fixed assets, and up to a $750,000 loan participation or $1.5 million guarantee for term working capital. Line of credit guarantees of up to $750,000 are also available.

More details about each of these programs can be found on the NJEDA’s website at http://www.njeda.com/small_midsize_business

NJEDA also launched a suite of programs specifically designed to address the COVID era challenges the outbreak has caused. These initiatives include grants, loans, guarantees, and support for entrepreneurs and community development financial institutions. The grant and loan programs are currently oversubscribed, but the NJEDA is actively seeking funding from federal, corporate, and philanthropic sources to expand them.

Small business owners seeking more information about any of these programs should visit New Jersey’s COVID-19 Business Information Hub at https://cv.business.nj.gov.

Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team to help organizations plan, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

For Further Information:

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Paul Josephson, Jimmy Greenberg or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

Be well and stay safe!

COVID-19: PA Plan now allows re-opening of Construction, Vehicle Dealerships and Real Estate Industry per recent Executive Orders

While Governor Wolf extended the “Stay at Home” order until June 4, 2020 by Amendment to his earlier order, he also updated guidance on opening businesses in PA.  As you are likely aware, PA is employing a regional and industry-specific approach to reopening “non-life-sustaining” businesses.

In counties that have been designated as in the Red Phase, businesses permitted to conduct in-person operations are:

1) those listed as life sustaining according to the Governor’s and Secretary’s Non-Life Sustaining Business Closure Orders (as amended),
2) those that received an exemption from those Orders from the Department of Community and Economic Development, or
3) those permitted to conduct in-person operations pursuant to a subsequent applicable Order or amendment to those Orders from the Governor and Secretary including:

a. Construction Industry;
b. Vehicle Dealerships; and
c. Real Estate Industry.

In counties that have been designated as in the Yellow Phase, all businesses, except those categories specifically excluded in the Governor’s Plan to Reopen Pennsylvania and the Governor’s and Secretary of Health’s orders, are permitted to conduct in-person operations, so long as they strictly adhere to the requirements of this guidance.

In counties that have been designated as in the Green Phase, all businesses (including those restricted or prohibited in the Yellow Phase) are authorized to conduct unrestricted in-person operations as long as the businesses follow CDC and Department of Health guidelines.

Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team to help organizations plan, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

For Further Information:

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, David Augustin, Elizabeth Mincer or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

Be well and stay safe!

 

COVID-19: PA Extends Eviction and Moratorium Protections through July 10th for Residential Transactions

Governor Tom Wolf was joined by Attorney General Josh Shapiro to announce that he signed an executive order that protects Pennsylvanians from foreclosures or evictions through July 10. The action builds on a Pennsylvania Supreme Court order which closed court eviction proceedings until May 11 and ensures no renter or homeowner will be removed from their home for 60 more days.

“At a time when people need to stay home to protect their heath, they should not have to worry about losing their homes,” said Governor Wolf. “Ensuring that people can remain in their homes will help them to better protect their loved ones. It gives families the comfort of knowing they will have a place to live while all of us work together to fight COVID-19 and prepare to move Pennsylvania forward.”

In almost all circumstances, renters and homeowners are required to continue making monthly payments.

The Wolf Administration provided recommendations last week to stem foreclosures, evictions and help people experiencing homelessness. The Department of Human Services activated the Commonwealth’s Sheltering Taskforce and is working with local and state partners to coordinate resources for people without housing. The Department of Community and Economic Development is also accepting applications for Emergency Solutions Grants to assist with the rapid rehousing of people experiencing homelessness, street outreach, homelessness prevention, and emergency shelter activities.

PHFA is also taking action to help homeowners and renters. The agency has stopped foreclosures and evictions and is offering forbearances with late fee waivers to homeowners with a PHFA mortgage who are experiencing a financial hardship because of COVID-19. PHFA also developed a list of renters’ rights and responsibilities to clarify the situation for apartment residents and is working with landlords and property managers to distribute it to renters. PHFA is also encouraging Low-Income Housing Tax Credit building managers to be flexible on rent payments and to waive late fees for tenants whose employment has been affected by the crisis. 

Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team to help organizations plan, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

For Further Information:

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, David Augustin or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

Be well and stay safe!

COVID-19: NJ extends Public Health Emergency another 30 days to June 5, 2020

NJ Governor Phil Murphy issued Executive Order 138 (“EO 138”), which extends the Public Health Emergency declared on March 9, 2020 under Executive Order 103 for another 30 days until June 5, 2020. Under the Emergency Health Powers Act, a declared public health emergency expires after 30 days unless renewed. According to this newly issued EO 138, all previously entered Executive Orders remain “in full force and effect”.

The conclusions stated in EO 138 indicate that although New Jersey’s social distancing measures have helped to slow the increase of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the state, the total number of cases and deaths in New Jersey has continued to rise and would rise at an even more precipitous rate absent these important measures.

Governor Murphy emphasized the continued importance of social distancing as the best available tool given the lack of an available vaccine or another effective therapy.

Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team to help organizations plan, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

For Further Information:

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Paul Josephson, Jimmy Greenberg or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

Be well and stay safe!

COVID-19: PA Outlines Plans to Create a Commonwealth Civilian Coronavirus Corps (“CCCC”)

As Pennsylvania plans to safely reopen the economy and recover from COVID-19, Governor Tom Wolf announced the creation of the Commonwealth Civilian Coronavirus Corps (“CCCC”), a public service initiative that will support efforts this fall to increase testing and contact tracing and provide critical new job opportunities in the public health sector.

Per Governor Wolf, “the CCCC will serve as a public service program that will expand our ability to conduct contact tracing and testing and mobilize Pennsylvanians to contain COVID-19.”

The Wolf Administration’s continued efforts to reopen Pennsylvania will, in its own words, depend on its ability to expand the availability of COVID-19 testing and develop a robust infrastructure to conduct surveillance and contact tracing. This work will allow Pennsylvanians to effectively monitor and respond to new cases and quantify mitigation efforts.

As PA plans to ramp up these efforts in the coming months, the CCCC would help bring these efforts to fruition by:

• Partnering with local public health agencies, community organizations, and the nonprofit community to expand Pennsylvania’s existing testing and contract tracing initiatives;

• Leveraging additional resources to fund testing and contact tracing initiatives;

• Exploring creative ways to recruit experienced Pennsylvanians with health care and public health experience to support this initiative; and

• Coordinating existing resources deployed by the commonwealth, including community health nurses and county health departments who are currently conducting testing and contact tracing throughout the state.

The CCCC is also hoped to provide for a unique opportunity for PA to recruit and train COVID-19-impacted dislocated and unemployed workers into public service for contact tracing roles, which would address Pennsylvania’s health and economic needs.

To foster this new workforce, the CCCC would:

• Engage partners in the workforce development system, existing allied health training programs, and AmeriCorps programs to build and strengthen a public health workforce across the commonwealth;

• Leverage existing workforce development resources to recruit, train, and connect the public health workforce with employment opportunities; and

• Engage public health and health care employers to connect trained workers with long-term career opportunities.

According to Governor Wolf said. “Through this public service initiative, Pennsylvanians will have opportunities in the months ahead to join a collective effort to ensure that we emerge from this pandemic a stronger Commonwealth.”

Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team to help organizations plan, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

For Further Information:

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Eve Klein, Sharon Caffrey, Sandra Stoneman or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

Be well and stay safe!

COVID-19: Treasury Extends Safe Harbor for the Return of PPP Dollars to May 18, 2020

By update to their Frequently Asked Questions, on May 14, 2020, the US Treasury added a new question 47, which extended the “safe harbor” repayment date for PPP loans from May 14 until May 18, 2020.

For the entire set of FAQs – see https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/Paycheck-Protection-Program-Frequently-Asked-Questions.pdf

Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team to help organizations plan, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

For Further Information:

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Nanette Heide, Sandra Stoneman or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

Be well and stay safe!

 

COVID-19: PA – $324 Million Dollars awarded to 31 hospitals under the HELP Program

PA Governor Tom Wolf announced that nearly $324 Million in funding has been awarded to 31 hospitals across the Commonwealth through the “Hospital Emergency Loan Program” or HELP, which provides short-term financial relief as hospitals combat the surge of COVID-19 cases in their area.

“As Pennsylvania continues to practice social distancing, we have successfully flattened the curve, but we know that our fight against COVID-19 is far from over,” said Gov. Wolf. “This funding will allow our hospitals to hold steady in that fight with the peace of mind that they have access to the resources they need to provide critical care to their communities.”

The loan package was made available to the Commonwealth’s hospitals to provide immediate financial support for working capital to ensure that these facilities have sufficient personnel, equipment, and personal protective equipment.

The funding was dispersed by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) and is being administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) through the Pennsylvania First Program (PA First).

Pennsylvania health care facilities licensed as hospitals by the Pennsylvania Department of Health under the Health Care Facilities Act of 1979 that are eligible to receive federal grant funding through the CARES Act are eligible for HELP.

For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, Pennsylvanians should visit on.pa.gov/coronavirus.

Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team to help organizations plan, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

For Further Information:

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Delphine O’Rourke, Sharon Caffrey or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

Be well and stay safe!

 

COVID-19: NJ Executive Order 128 allows for the use of Security Deposits to pay for Rental Obligations

Late last week (April 24, 2020), NJ Gov. Murphy signed Executive Order No. 128 (“EO”). The EO takes effect immediately and will remain in effect until the end of the public health emergency established by Executive Order No. 103 (2020). The EO applies in the context of residential leases (not commercial leases, given the ambit of the Security Deposit Act).

The EO allows residential tenants to use their security deposit for the payment of rent (per N.J.S.A. 46:8-19 et seq., a security deposit and any accumulated interest and earnings of such deposit remain the property of the tenant).

Upon a tenant’s written request, which may be an electronic communication, a security deposit that is governed by the provisions of N.J.S.A. 46:8-19 et seq. and the tenant’s portion of any interest or earnings that have accumulated may be applied or credited toward rent payments due during the public health emergency or up to 60 days after the public health emergency terminates. The use of a security deposit for the payment of rent will NOT be considered a violation of N.J.S.A. 46:8-19 et seq.

After a tenant has applied or credited the security deposit, interest or earnings to pay rent for the duration of the tenant’s current lease, the landlord can still charge the tenant any money the landlord expends that would have been reimbursable by the security deposit.

Per the EO, the tenant is NOT obligated to make any further security deposit relating to the current term of the contract, lease or license agreement.

If the tenant and landlord extend or renew their contract, lease or license agreement, the tenant will then be required to replenish the security deposit in full if it was previously used for the payment of rent, on the LATER of (A) the date that is 6 months following the end of the public health emergency and (B) on the date on which the current contract, lease or license agreement is extended or renewed.

Note: Pursuant to an earlier Executive Order, EO 106, residential evictions and foreclosures have been halted (i.e., “stayed”) for the time being until the public health emergency has been lifted by the Governor.

Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team to help organizations plan, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

For Further Information:

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Paul Josephson, Elizabeth Mincer, Jimmy Greenberg or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

Be well and stay safe!