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As you know, per the Governor’s Comeback Plan, which was updated July 8th, convenience stores have been allowed to resume selling self-serve beverages.  However, self-serve food options (roller grill offerings, etc.) are considered to be the same as buffet restaurants, which are prohibited.

However, from what we understand from speaking with members, there are county health departments in the state who are allowing self-serve food options in convenience stores.  We are advising members to check with your local/county health departments to see if they are allowing the sale of these items.  You are advised to follow the guidelines set forth by your local/county health department as it pertains to sales of self-serve food items.  

We continue to work with the Governor’s Office and DHHR to get statewide guidance, but until that time, please follow the guidelines set forth by your local/county health departments. 

USDA is Now Accepting Applications for Matching Grants Under the Higher Blend Infrastructure Incentive Program
U.S. Deputy of Agriculture (USDA) has launched an online portal to begin accepting applications for Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP) grants. The program is designed to expand the availability of higher blends of both ethanol and biodiesel to retail consumers. The USDA is offering up to $100 million in grants to help transportation fueling and biodiesel distribution facilities convert to higher ethanol and biodiesel blends by sharing the costs for installation of compatible fuel dispensers and related underground storage tank equipment and infrastructure. USDA is making grants available for up to 50 percent of total eligible project costs, but not more than $5 million per project. According to the USDA, approximately $86 million is available for implementation activities related to higher blends of fuel ethanol, and approximately $14 million for higher blends of biodiesel. Higher biofuel blends are fuels containing ethanol greater than 10 percent ethanol and greater than 5 percent biodiesel. Eligible recipients include, but are not limited to, vehicle fueling facilities, local fueling stations/locations, convenience stores, hypermarket fueling stations, fleet facilities (cardlocks), fuel terminal operations, midstream partners and/or distribution facilities.

Guidelines for Reopening Certain Businesses Now Available
Gov. Jim Justice announced yesterday evening that the State had met the criteria of three consecutive days with Coronavirus positive cases below three percent, meaning that Week One of the “West Virginia Strong – the Comeback” begins today.  Today, hospitals can open for elective procedures, as well as other outpatient medical facilities.  Week Two actually begins Monday and provides that small businesses of ten or less people, professional services (nail salons, hair salons), outdoor dining for restaurants and churches can open.   Click here to read the full plan from the Governor.

Paycheck Protection Program Funding Available Now!

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has resumed accepting Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) applications from participating lenders as of 10:30am EDT today.

Last Friday, the President signed into law the latest COVID-19 response bill that replenished the PPP with an additional $310 billion as well as an additional $10 billion for SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). The bill did not make any substantive changes to the PPP or EIDL program. Congressional leadership is characterizing the latest COVID-19 response bill as an interim funding effort, with the expectation that they will continue to negotiate a larger “phase 4” package in the coming weeks.

Congress Passes More Small Business Funding
The PPP will get a $310 billion infusion for loans, and the EIDL program will get $60 billion.

We suggest that you contact your local lender regarding any previous application you may have made or to apply for a U.S. Small Business Administration loan. The SBA loan application can be found here and SBA-approved lenders can be found here.

USDA Increases SNAP Benefits by 40%
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program recipients will receive a temporary 40% increase in monthly benefits to provide relief from the pandemic-related economic slowdown. The boost lets families obtaining less than their maximum benefit get the greatest amount per their household size for as long as two months. The extra SNAP money comes as the spread of COVID-19 continues to push the unemployment rate to levels not seen since the Great Depression. School shutdowns are also forcing parents to provide meals for their children that would otherwise have been provided by their school. “USDA is providing a 40% increase in SNAP benefits to ensure that low-income individuals have enough food to feed themselves and their families during this national emergency,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement.

Bill Seeks Tax Relief for C-Store, Grocery Workers
Up to $25,000 of employees' income would be exempt from 2020 federal taxes.

Amazon, Walmart Enable SNAP Online Orders
The retail giants expand order and payment options for food stamp recipients in several states.

Long-Term Changes Coming to Grocers
Research predicts shifting dynamics may mean permanent shifts for brands, retailers.

Virginia Seeks to Delay Diesel Tax Increase
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam amended the state’s transportation bill to  increase the gasoline tax but delay a planned diesel tax increase.

U.S. Retail Sales Fall at Record Rate
Retail sales in March fell 8.7 percent, marking the biggest one-month drop in three decades of record keeping.

National Tank Truck Carriers Urge Congress to Give Hazard Pay for Their Workers
The National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) and The International Liquid Terminals Association (ILTA) urged Congress on Wednesday to include a proposed “heroes fund” that would give essential workers making less than $200,000 up to $25,000 per year in hazard pay in the next COVID19 stimulus package. “Without the continued work performed by these operations professionals, the fuel required to move critical supplies and people – including essential workers in other industries – would become unavailable,” wrote the groups. The proposed fund would give funding to eligible employers who could then give payment to workers.

USDA Approves Several States’ SNAP Requests
Over the weekend, USDA approved West Virginia’s request to participate in SNAP Online. The State plans to launch on May 25. Additionally, Arizona, Illinois, North Carolina and Massachusetts have been approved to participate in Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT), a program that provides EBT for children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. SNAP waivers and approval status for individual States can be found on USDA’s COVID-19 website.  In West Virginia, the only approved retailers at this time are Amazon and Walmart.  The system is using the FNS Online Purchasing Pilot model that has been approved for nine other states. FNS is entertaining the addition of other merchants for this project.

SNAP Hot Foods Waiver Request
Below is a draft of the language that will be submitted by the WV DHHR to FNS requesting a hot foods option for all SNAP recipients in the State of West Virginia. Eligible EBT cardholders would be able to purchase hot foods using their current benefits. While this waiver will need to be reviewed by FNS for comment and approval, DHHR wanted to make OMEGA members aware so that they can contact their processors to make adjustments to their Point of Sale processing to accept this change if and when approved.

SBA Updates FAQ for Paycheck Protection Act, Potentially Expanding Eligibility
The SBA recently provided an updated FAQ document and included a comment under the Q&A that may allow companies with more than 500 employees who can certify they have been harmed by the current crisis. Companies should consult with their accountant to better understand their standing.
We specifying draw your attention to the below Q&A in the linked document.
2. Question: Are small business concerns (as defined in section 3 of the Small Business Act, 15 U.S.C. 632) required to have 500 or fewer employees to be eligible borrowers in the PPP?

How Can My Company Acquire PPE & Testing for Essential Personnel?
Energy sector companies are monitoring the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) for essential workers. Currently the first priority is to ensure PPE is available to healthcare workers and first responders. CESER and the ESF#12 team will continue to highlight the PPE needs for energy critical infrastructure personnel.  CESER is coordinating with the DHS Emergency Support Function #14 and the FEMA Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force to identify a path forward to address the energy sectors PPE needs once the Public Health PPE supply chain begins to stabilize. In addition to this effort the FEMA National Resource Prioritization Cell (NRPC) at the NRCC recently stood up to support supply chain efforts regarding distribution of PPE to healthcare workers and first responders. FEMA is expediting movement of critical supplies including PPE from the global market to medical distributors in various locations across the U.S.    

In the jurisdictions in which they operate, energy sector companies can connect with local or state energy officials and emergency operations centers to identify prioritization of any future needs for PPE, testing, or other unmet needs. CDC has issued guidance for who should be tested, but decisions about testing are at the discretion of state and local health departments and/or individual clinicians. CESER is working with multiple FEMA task forces and federal, industry and state partners to identify new testing options and best practices as they become available.

Energy industry suppliers and infrastructure operators are identifying “essential” and "mission essential" employees for prioritized COVID-19 testing. More information regarding prioritized testing requests can be found in this industry letter to national organizations representing state and local government leaders. The Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council also updated Testing and Protecting Mission Essential Control Center and Generation Facility Personnel.

Pandemic Takes Toll on Mental Health
Social distancing, intensive cleaning regimens and the stress of working in customer-facing jobs is taking a toll on the mental health of employees worldwide during the coronavirus pandemic.

MCSA Extends National Driver HOS Waiver Through May 15, 2020
The FMCSA issued an updated national emergency declaration to provide an extension of the hours of service (HOS) waiver for commercial drivers transporting fuel and other emergency relief in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The FMCSA waiver was slated to expire on April 12, 2020 but has now been expanded to May 15, 2020.

Waiver Peroid
The emergency HOS waiver is effective March 26 through May 15, 2020.

FMCSA Waiver Declaration
The updated FMCSA HOS waiver declaration can be found here. The waiver includes all FMCSA regulations included in Parts 390 to 399 of the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Regulations. Those regulations can be found in the list here. The FMCSA waiver does not apply to drug and alcohol testing requirements. See waiver for more information.

Guidance for helping EBT clients purchase food under the current COVID-19 social distancing mandates
From the WV Department of Health & Human Resources

1. There are several options available to SNAP clients who would like to order food during the social distancing mandates related to COVID-19. These include:

  • SNAP client can place an order online or over the phone and pick it up at a store that offers online ordering options.
    • If the store has a wireless Point of Sale (POS) device, the customer can complete the transaction without having to leave the car.
    • If the store does not have a wireless POS, the client would need to complete the transaction at the POS in the store or
    • If the store has vouchers, the client can sign a voucher in lieu of using the instore POS.  
  • SNAP client can place the order online or over the phone and have the order delivered to their designated delivery address.
    • The transaction can be completed using a wireless POS.
    • The transaction can be completed using a voucher that is signed by the client, if the store has vouchers.
    • Delivery fees cannot be charged to the EBT card.  
  • SNAP client can place their order online or over the phone and designate a person to pick the order at the store using the client’s EBT card.
    • The transaction can be completed, using the SNAP client’s EBT card, in the store or by using a mobile POS device outside of the store.
    • The designated person would need to have the EBT card and the PIN to complete the transaction on a wireless POS or in the store.
    • The designated person would need to have the EBT card to complete the transaction using a voucher.
  • Retailers without wireless POS devices can complete a manual voucher which the SNAP customer or their designee would sign; the client or designee would need to have the EBT card with them to complete the purchase.

  • Free Webinar Reviewing the Provisions of the New Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
    The Small Business Legislative Council (SBLC) is hosting a webinar on Tuesday, April 7, at 12pm eastern which will be open to all PMAA state associations and its members, free of charge.  The webinar will review the provisions of the new Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act which are most important for you to know about now with a special emphasis on the Paycheck Protection Program. Please enter “PMAA” when asked What Association Invited You?  Click here to register now!
  • FMCSA Issues Guidance for Drug Testing During Emergency
    Federal trucking regulators have issued “reasonable flexibility” guidance for motor carriers and drivers to follow for drug and alcohol testing during the COVID-19 emergency.

  • Paycheck Protection Program
    Paycheck Protection Program ( PPP) which is an 8 week loan that can be forgiven (same as a grant) if handled appropriately.  At worst you have a loan at .05% interest over a 2 year period.  Click here for Paycheck Protection Program Fact Sheet.

  • IRS Offers Employee Retention Tax Credit to Qualifying Businesses
    The United States Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service launched the Employee Retention Credit, designed to encourage businesses to keep employees on their payroll. The refundable tax credit is 50% of up to $10,000 in wages paid by an eligible employer whose business has been financially impacted by COVID-19. The credit is available to marketers who continued to pay employees during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will continue to process new applications for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) authorizations. However, in the interim, there will be a reduction in the volume of hard-copy documents processed. Applicant retailers will be required to upload documents using the Online Store Application (OSA) and newly authorized retailers will receive confirmation of their authorization through an email that will direct them to a new webpage. Upon visiting the website retailers will have access to welcome packet materials.SNAP Emergency Allotments Approved for CA, FL, MO, OK

USDA has approved four additional States’ requests to issue SNAP emergency allotments. CA, FL, MO, and OK have been approved. Please note that MO and OK plan to issue or begin issuing EA’s TODAY. There are also two scheduling revisions for OH and MA. All information is available in this chart.

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