Tag: COVID-19

Adopt a Formal COVID-19 Response Plan to Ensure Your Business is Prepared to Resume In-Person Operations During the “Yellow” Phase

As businesses prepare for their respective counties to reopen in accordance with Governor Wolf’s Process to Reopen Pennsylvania, owners should closely review the guidance issued by the Commonwealth concerning the requirements that must be addressed as businesses resume in-person operations during the “Yellow” phase. To effectively comply with such requirements, businesses should adopt a formal COVID-19 Response Plan that outlines how the business will address those requirements, including the designation of a “Pandemic Safety Officer” for the business and the posting of required notices at the place of business.

Rosenn, Jenkins & Greenwald, LLP is prepared to assist businesses in adopting a Response Plan in preparation for resuming in-person operations in the “Yellow” phase. Please contact Paul T. Rushton, Esquire (prushton@rjglaw.com) or Christyan A. Telech, Esquire (ctelech@rjglaw.com) if you are interested in learning more about these services.

Business Interruption Insurance – Does your Policy Contain a Virus and Bacteria Exclusion?

Many businesses carry what is known as business interruption insurance as part of their insurance coverages. A number of these policies contain an exclusion for loss caused by a virus or bacteria, and insurance companies are relying on this exclusion to deny coverage for financial losses caused by the need to shut down a business during the pandemic and the resulting governmental orders. Some insureds are challenging the virus exclusion, and there are some legislative efforts underway to require insurers to provide coverage for business interruption, even if the applicable policy contains the exclusion. However, it is important to know that some business interruption insurance policies do not contain this exclusion, and yet some insurance companies are denying coverage.

If your company has suffered a business interruption loss due to the current shut down orders, it is critically important that you review your business interruption insurance policy to determine whether or not it contains the virus and bacteria exclusion. If your policy does not contain such an exclusion, contact Attorney Rick Russo (rrusso@rjglaw.com) or one of the other insurance bad faith attorneys at Rosenn Jenkins & Greenwald.

“Remote Online Notarization” Authorization is Now Temporarily in Effect

The Pennsylvania Legislature recently passed, and Governor Wolf signed, a temporary law allowing for Pennsylvania notaries to notarize documents without the signer being in the physical presence of the notary (as is normally required). This temporary “Remote Online Notarization” authorization will expire sixty (60) days after the termination of Governor Wolf’s COVID-19 disaster emergency. The Remote Online Notarization occurs through the use of audio/video technology using a computer or tablet with a microphone and camera. RJG paralegals have applied for, and are now able to, remotely notarize documents pursuant to this temporary law. Therefore, if you need to have a document notarized in this difficult time, please contact Tom MacNeely, the Chair of our Real Estate Practice Group (tmacneely@rjglaw.com), to make the necessary arrangements to have those documents notarized via Remote Online Notarization.

Business Owners: Have You Considered Taking Proactive Measures?

Business owners should consider taking proactive steps to help mitigate the harsh impact of the COVID-19 crisis on their operations and revenues. For example, business owners should evaluate if some or all of the following steps are appropriate for their circumstances:

· contacting lenders to identify options to address debt payments;
· requesting the reduction or deferral of lease obligations;
· considering if any other operating expenses can be reduced, deferred, or eliminated;
· evaluating whether any workforce reductions, such as layoffs or furloughs, are prudent and/or necessary; and
· applying for one or more of the loan or other relief programs available to businesses adversely impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The attorneys at Rosenn Jenkins & Greenwald LLP are ready to work with you through these challenges and identify opportunities to reduce the burden on your organization. Please contact Paul T. Rushton, the Chair of our Business & Finance Department (prushton@rjglaw.com), Thomas J. MacNeely, the Chair of our Real Estate Department (tmacneely@rjglaw.com), or James P. Valentine, the Chair of Labor & Employment Group (jvalentine@rjglaw.com), to discuss how our team can help with these issues.

Is your business complying with new Orders from the Department of Health?

On Sunday, April 5, the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued an Order providing direction and guidance on maintaining and cleaning buildings of businesses that are permitted to continue physical operations. The Order can be found here: https://www.governor.pa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/20200405-SOH-Building-Safety-Measures.pdf.

Among other things, the Order directs businesses operating within at least 50,000 square feet to adopt certain cleaning protocols, including, routinely cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces and areas accessible to customers and ensuring that the facility has a sufficient number of employees to perform the protocols and enforce social distancing of at least 6 feet.

If your business is continuing physical operations and needs assistance in complying with this and other Orders from the Department of Health, the attorneys in our Labor & Employment Department can assist you in developing a plan of action and adhering to these and other workplace protocols. Please contact Attorney Jim Valentine at jvalentine@rjglaw.com or Attorney Kieran Casey at kcasey@rjglaw.com if you have any questions or would like more information on operating your business during these uncertain times.

Nonprofit Entities May Be Eligible to Apply for Financial Assistance

Nonprofit entities, including religious organizations and veteran organizations, suffering from the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, are eligible to apply for financial assistance in the form of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES”) Paycheck Protection Program loans and SBA Economic Injury Disaster loans. In addition to these loan programs, CARES has deemed nonprofit entities eligible to defer payment of its share of social security taxes and possibly receive an employee-retention tax credit. Moreover, CARES expanded unemployment benefits to employees of nonprofit and religious organizations that were laid off as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

If your nonprofit or religious organization has questions about CARES or needs assistance in considering and/or applying for these loan programs and/or other relief efforts, Rosenn Jenkins & Greenwald LLP is available to promptly assist you. Please contact Paul T. Rushton (prushton@rjglaw.com), Lee S. Piatt (lpiatt@rjglaw.com) or Christyan Telech (ctelech@rjglaw.com) of our Business & Finance Department to discuss the available options.

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Order to Suspend Residential Evictions for Nonpayment of Rent or Loan Payment Extended through April 30, 2020

On March 18, 2020, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania issued an Order suspending residential evictions for nonpayment of rent or loan payments, and this Order was recently extended through April 30, 2020. Furthermore, some local county courts have elaborated on this Order. For proceedings example, Luzerne County has postponed all Landlord/Tenant and eviction and this Order was similarly extended through April 30, 2020.

Furthermore, although the prohibition of evictions does not suspend the obligation to pay rent/mortgages, landlords/lenders may be willing to defer payments and/or enter into payment plans during the crisis. Additionally, on March 18, 2020, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) authorized the Federal Housing Administration (“FHA”) to put a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions for sixty days for single-family homeowners unable to pay their FHA backed mortgages. Similarly, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac each announced that they were suspending foreclosures in connection with single family mortgages for at least sixty days for those experience hardship due to COVID-19.

As the current state of affairs is unprecedented, more information and resources may come available. Whether you are a landlord, tenant, business or anyone else looking for guidance on your specific situation during this difficult time, please contact Attorney Tom MacNeely at tmacneely@rjglaw.com, Attorney Zachary Berger at zberger@rjglaw.com or call (570) 826-5600. are a landlord, tenant, business or anyone else looking for guidance on your specific situation during this difficult time, please contact Attorney Tom MacNeely at tmacneely@rjglaw.com, Attorney Zachary Berger at zberger@rjglaw.com or call (570) 826-5600.

BUSINESSES AFFECTED BY COVID-19 SHOULD GIVE IMMEDIATE CONSIDERATION TO PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM LOAN

As the COVID-19 virus continues to affect the health of our communities and the operation of the economy, Federal, state and local governmental authorities, as well as certain for-profit and non-profit organizations, have established loan programs and/or other relief efforts to assist eligible businesses that have been adversely affected by the Coronavirus crisis.
 
For example, pursuant to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES”), the Federal government has created the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) that is designed to make loans available to small businesses to encourage employee retention and assist employers in meeting ongoing payroll and debt obligations. PPP loans are guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) and made through existing SBA-approved lenders.
 
There are minimal requirements for eligibility for a PPP loan. In general, the borrower must have less than 500 employees and make a good-faith certification that the COVID-19 crisis necessitated the PPP borrowing and that the PPP loan will be used only for specified purposes, including certain interest payments, payroll costs, employee group health care benefits, rent, and utility payments. PPP loans do not require the posting of collateral security and have a maximum rate of interest of 4%. PPP loans are also eligible for full or partial forgiveness.
 
Starting on April 3, 2020, small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply for PPP loans through lenders that have previously offered SBA loans. Beginning on April 10, 2020, independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply for PPP loans to cover their payroll and other certain expenses through existing SBA lenders. The current end date for PPL loan applications is June 30, 2020.
 
Because it is anticipated that the demand for PPP loans will be high and that the existing funding for the PPP will be insufficient to meet the anticipated PPL loan applications, it is strongly recommended that eligible borrowers submit an application for a PPP loan through a SBA-approved lender promptly following the opening of the window for PPP applications (i.e. on April 3, 2020 for eligible small businesses and sole proprietors and on April 10, 2020 for eligible independent contractors and self-employed individuals).
 
If you are interested in confirming your eligibility for a PPP loan, obtaining assistance with your PPP loan application, identifying a SBA-approved lender and/or learning more about other loan programs and relief assistance, Rosenn, Jenkins & Greenwald, LLP and its Business & Finance Department are available to assist you. Please feel free to contact any of the partners in our Business & Finance Department, including Paul T. Rushton at prushton@rjglaw.com, Steven P. Roth at sroth@rjglaw.com, or Lee S. Piatt at lpiatt@rjglaw.com. We are available to promptly assist you with these very important issues. Stay safe and healthy.

DCED SECRETARY ANNOUNCES APRIL 3, 2020 DEADLINE FOR WAIVER APPLICATIONS FROM GOVERNOR’S ORDER

In response to the rapid spread of COVID-19, Governor Tom Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations as of 8:00 p.m. on March 19, 2020. Governor Wolf’s office and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) also established a procedure by which a non-life sustaining business can seek a waiver from this requirement that, if granted, allows the business to continue to maintain its physical operations.
 
The Secretary of the DCED recently announced that the deadline for submitting a waiver application for such purpose will close on Friday, April 3rd, at 5:00 p.m. Accordingly, any non-life-sustaining business in Pennsylvania that desires to seek a waiver from the Governor’s Order must submit a waiver application to the DCED no later than 5 p.m. tomorrow.
 
Rosenn, Jenkins & Greenwald, LLP and its Business & Finance Department are available to promptly assist you in these uncertain times and guide you through the waiver process. Please contact Paul T. Rushton, the Chair of RJG’s Business & Finance Department, at prushton@rjglaw.com as soon as possible in advance of this deadline if you desire to consider and/or submit a waiver application.

In this Rapidly Evolving Situation, We Can Help You & Your Business.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Tom Wolf has issued an Emergency Order mandating that all “non-life sustaining businesses” close their doors as of March 19, 2020. This Emergency Order has already been challenged in the courts. Recently, on March 22, 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered an Emergency Ex Parte Application for Extraordinary Relief brought by a gun store and several other businesses that were impacted by the Order, challenging the statutory and constitutional authority of the Governor to close all non-life sustaining businesses. Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., et al v. Gov. Tom Wolf, — A.3d – (Pa. March 22, 2020). The Supreme Court dismissed the Emergency Application. (http://www.pacourts.us/assets/files/page-1305/file-8710.pdf).

With the validity of the Governor’s Order being upheld by the Supreme Court, please contact Attorney Robert L. Gawlas at rlgawlas@rjglaw.com or Attorney Nick Marinelli at nmarinelli@rjglaw.com to assist your business in complying with the Order’s requirements and making decisions during this difficult time.