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Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, with some cautions. A charity can provide assistance to businesses if doing so is a reasonable means of accomplishing a charitable purpose, and any benefit to private interests is incidental to accomplishing the charitable purpose. In general, this means that permissible types of assistance are likely to benefit the business sector more broadly, as opposed to specific individual businesses.

No. There is no evidence to suggest that food produced in the United States can transmit COVID-19. Additionally, currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.

Yes. Still, more and more states and localities are restraining travel, particularly during certain hours of the day, while restaurant workers need to arrive earlier than the time restrictions to make bread, brew coffee, etc., and stay pass curfew to clean, disinfect, and close the premises. Meanwhile, some restaurant workers are running into issues with law enforcement restricting workers movement to and from work. Thus, the Restaurant Law Center drafted a letter specifically for restaurant brands that an employer can give to an essential employee stating that the holder is an “Essential Critical Infrastructure Worker” under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security guidelines. Thus, the worker should be allowed to continue to or from his place of employment. The letter can be found here.

Adherence to recommended infection prevention and control practices is an important part of protecting HCP and patients in healthcare settings. All HCP who care for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients should adhere to standard and transmission based precautions.

To the extent feasible, healthcare facilities could consider prioritizing HCP who are not at higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19 or who are not pregnant to care for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients.

If staffing shortages make this challenging, facilities could consider restricting HCP at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 or who are pregnant from being present for higher risk procedures (e.g., aerosol-generating procedures) on COVID-19 patients. Find more information for facilities on mitigating HCP staffing shortages.

HCP who are concerned about their individual risk for severe illness from COVID-19 due to underlying medical conditions while caring for COVID-19 patients can discuss their concerns with their supervisor or occupational health services.

People 65 years and older and people of all ages with serious underlying health conditions — like serious heart conditions, chronic lung disease, and diabetes — seem to be at higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19.

Information on COVID-19 in pregnancy is limited. Pregnant women are not currently considered at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.  However, pregnant women have had a higher risk of severe illness when infected with viruses from the same family as COVID-19 and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza. Find more information on pregnancy and risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are continuing to receive and process applications for key programs, including:

  • Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs (deadline for 2020 is June 30);
  • Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus and other disaster assistance programs; and
  • FSA and NRCS conservation programs.

Producers can also still receive assistance with conservation planning and acreage reporting.

As a grocery or food retail worker, potential sources of exposures include close contact for prolonged periods of time with a customer with COVID-19 and touching your nose, mouth, or eyes after handling items, cash, or merchandise that customers with COVID-19 have touched. See the CDC website for full prevention guidelines.

If you are an employer in the retail industry (e.g., pharmacies, supermarkets, and big box stores), there are a number of steps you can take to protect your workers. These steps include, but are not limited to: Encouraging workers to stay home if they are sick, providing a place to wash hands or alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol, practicing sensible social distancing, and using a drive-through window or curbside pick-up when possible. See OSHA website for full guidelines.

Financial institutions can provide payment accommodations that modify, extend, suspend, or defer the repayment terms on SBA-guaranteed loans to borrowers affected by COVID-19. While the majority of payment accommodations do not require SBA approval, financial institutions should determine what types of modifications require the SBA’s approval. More information regarding the SBA’s programs is available on the SBA website.

Yes. Charitable organizations, whether classified as public charities or private foundations, may provide assistance in the form of funds, goods or services to individuals to help meet basic human needs such as food, shelter, clothing and medical care (including mental and behavioral health care). Individuals qualify as potential recipients of charitable aid if they are “needy or distressed,” which encompasses a variety of circumstances beyond chronic poverty. “Needy” of course includes long-term financial need, but also includes temporary distress or lack of resources due to illness (including COVID-19), trauma, natural disaster or sudden and severe personal or family crisis (e.g., a house fire, a debilitating accident).

According to the CDC, “Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food.”

North Carolina State University has created an informational FAQ concerning off-premises foodservice during the coronavirus. At this time, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. The FAQs are based on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food & Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture

It depends. Charities must use their resources for the benefit of the public. The group of people eligible for assistance must be sufficiently large or indefinite to constitute a “charitable class.” A charitable class is essentially the cross-section of the public you intend to serve. Efforts to assist a pre-selected co-worker or their family members would not be charitable in the technical tax sense, since the group of people served would be both too small and too definite to make up a charitable class. (It would still be a good thing, just better suited to a supportive platform like GoFundMe.)

Yes. Your organization need not be the Red Cross or World Relief in order to respond to a crisis with the types of assistance discussed here. You will, however, need to report your activities and expenditures on your annual Form 990.

Governor Ige has mandated a 14-day quarantine for all visitors and residents entering the state. Visitors must remain in their rooms alone during this time or until they depart Hawaiʻi (whichever is shorter). For more information, see State travel guidance on COVID-19.

Agencies may recommend that employees follow certain safety procedures, such as using a face covering, in order to help ensure the health and safety of the employee and their coworkers. Consistent with the U.S. Federal Government’s Guidelines for Reopening America Again, agencies are to strive to create workspaces where appropriate social distance can be maintained.  In situations where maintenance of such distance is challenging, however, agencies should consider encouraging employees to wear face coverings.  Employees are free to wear appropriate (as deemed by agency management) face coverings at all times within the workplace.

The National Resource Association maintains a list of guidelines for the safe operation of food establishments in each U.S. State. See here for the list (PDF).

On April 27, 2020 the CDC updated the criteria to guide evaluation and laboratory testing priorities. The new guidance identifies two categories; High Priority and Priority.  Decisions about testing remain at the discretion of state and local health departments and/or individual clinicians. The new guidance includes screening of persons without symptoms if prioritized by state or local plans.

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.

On April 23, 2020, CISA released guidance for operations centers and control rooms across the 16 critical infrastructure sectors, including energy, required to operate in a pandemic environment. The guidance recommends prioritized testing by medical professionals for asymptomatic personnel performing essential jobs in support of operations centers and control rooms. Some states have begun prioritizing testing of non-symptomatic essential energy workers prior to sequestration.

Technology companies have found multiple ways to assist with COVID-19 relief, including but not limited to repurposing manufacturing facilities for mask production, offering services pro-bono for COVID-19 related projects, or repurposing their platforms to help other organizations with COVID-19 response. Some recent examples can be found in local and national media outlets.

For institutions that report credit payment histories to a credit reporting agency, Section 4021 of the recently enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) amends the Fair Credit Reporting Act2 to provide relief from negative credit reporting for those who seek payment modifications or forbearances because of the coronavirus pandemic. Under Section 4021, during the period of January 31, 2020 until 120 days after the end of the national coronavirus emergency declaration, if a financial institution makes an accommodation for one or more payments, and the borrower fulfills the terms of the accommodation, the institution should report the account as current. However, if an account was delinquent before the coronavirus pandemic, the financial institution can continue to report the account as delinquent unless the account is brought current. Further, Section 4021 does not apply to accounts that have been charged off.

The credit reporting agencies have provided guidance regarding the credit reporting coding options available for furnishers of credit report information during disasters and specifically the COVID-19 emergency. Furnishers are encouraged to review the options available to determine the appropriate coding policy for their borrowers.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has released a statement reiterating that financial institutions must follow the provisions of the CARES Act. Refer to the CFPB for more information regarding the FCRA. In addition, the FDIC encourages financial institutions to provide borrowers affected by the COVID-19 outbreak with payment accommodations that facilitate their ability to work through the immediate impact of the virus.

These issues are being discussed by state and complex leadership. More guidance will be provided at a future date as the state moves closer to recovery from the stay-at-home quarantine period. The needed extent of HIDOE actions cannot be fully realized until the length of the school closure period becomes clearer.

For bus transit operators, potential sources of exposure include having close contact with a bus passenger with COVID-19, by contacting surfaces touched or handled by a person with COVID-19, or by touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

  • Limit close contact with others by maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet, when possible.
  • Consider asking bus passengers to enter and exit the bus through rear entry doors.
  • Request passengers avoid standing or sitting within 6 feet of the bus driver.
  • Avoid touching surfaces often touched by bus passengers.
  • Use gloves if required to touch surfaces contaminated by body fluids.
  • Practice routine cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces, including surfaces in the driver cockpit commonly touched by the operator.
  • Proper hand hygiene is an important infection control measure. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Key times to clean hands in general include: Before, during, and after preparing food, before eating food, after using the toilet, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Additional times to clean hands on the job include: Before and after work shifts, before and after work breaks, after touching frequently touched surfaces, such as fareboxes and handrails, after putting on, touching, or removing cloth face coverings
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

For further information, see CDC guidance for bus transit operators.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act expanded unemployment insurance (UI) to cover people who typically do not qualify for UI, including those who are self-employed, independent contractors, or gig workers. For more information, see our guidance for Hawaiʻi Independent Contractors.

Take the same precautions recommended for people at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. There are no additional precautions for HCP. Some HCP may choose to implement extra measures when arriving home from providing healthcare, such as removing any clothing worn during delivery of healthcare, taking off shoes, washing clothing, and immediately showering. However, these are optional personal practices because there is insufficient evidence on whether they are effective.

If you receive payments directly from the SFCA and directly from the school, then the SFCA recommends listing both as your employers. Write the SFCA down as a contractor and write the school down as a contractor.

Producers now have more time to repay Marketing Assistance Loans (MAL), as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s implementation of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020. The loans now mature at 12 months rather than nine, and this flexibility is available for most commodities.