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50-State Update On COVID-19 Business Liability Protections | JD Supra

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50-State Update On COVID-19 Business Liability Protections | JD Supra

A number of states have passed or are considering passing legislation to shield certain businesses from liability from claims for injury caused by exposure to COVID-19. Generally, the laws require that the business was in compliance with relevant guidance at the federal, state or local level in order for the protection to apply. Most state laws do not shield liability where the injury was caused by wanton, reckless, willful or intentional misconduct. Some states at this time have only shielded healthcare professionals or other essential businesses; however, there appears to be a trend expanding liability protections to all businesses and premise owners.

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The Alabama legislature passed Senate Bill No. 30, which provides that any business, healthcare provider, church, educational entity, government entity or cultural institution is immune from claims for injury caused by exposure to COVID-19, vaccinations for COVID-19 or providing personal protective equipment. The immunity does not apply if the injury is alleged to have been caused by “wanton, reckless, willful or intentional misconduct.” The Bill was sent to the Governor for her signature on February 11, 2021.

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(Pending Legislation): The Alaska legislature introduced House Bill 4 in January 2021. The proposed bill provides for immunity from liability and disciplinary action for occupational licensees for exposure of clients to COVID-19, if the licensee was in substantial compliance with applicable laws and health mandates at the time of the client’s exposure. The Bill also provides immunity for a person who engages in business activities and employees if a customer is exposed to COVID-19 while patronizing the business. To be granted immunity, the business must be operating in substantial compliance with applicable laws and health mandates.

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(Pending Legislation): On January 26, 2021, Senate Bill No. 1377 was introduced and passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 2, 2021. This Bill provides that if the Governor declares a state of emergency for a public health pandemic, a person or provider that acts in good faith to protect individuals from the public health pandemic is not liable for damages in any civil action unless it is proven by “clear and convincing evidence that the person or provider failed to act or acted with willful misconduct or gross negligence.” It provides the same protection and standard of proof for health professionals and healthcare institutions. Causes of action that occurred on or after March 11, 2020, and before December 31, 2022, would be included in this protection.

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Arkansas’s Governor issued Executive Order 20-33 on June 15, 2020, declaring that all persons and the person’s employees, agents and officers are immune from civil liability for damages or injuries caused by or resulting from exposure of an individual to COVID-19 on the premises owned or operated by those persons or during any activity managed by those persons. The immunity does not apply to willful, reckless or intentional misconduct resulting in injury or damages. The Order creates a presumption that all persons are (i) substantially complying with health and safety directives, or (ii) acting in good faith while attempting to comply with health and safety directives. The Order applies to all claims filed after June 15, 2020, and continues until the emergency is terminated.

(Pending Legislation): Senate Bill No. 17 was introduced in the Arkansas Senate on December 16, 2020, which would provide a person or a person’s employee, agent or office with immunity from civil liability for damages caused by or resulting from exposure of an individual to COVID-19 on a business’ premises. The immunity would not apply to “willful, reckless, or intentional misconduct.” The Bill also creates the presumption that a person is not committing “willful, reckless, or intentional misconduct” if the person is (i) substantially complying with health and safety directives, or (ii) acting in good faith while attempting to comply with health and safety directives concerning COVID-19.

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(Pending Legislation): On February 18, 2021, AB1152 was introduced which would create a standard of care on COVID-19 safety and a temporary limitation on liability in postsecondary educational institutions working to re-open for in-person education. An additional bill, AB 1759 is similarly pending, which would provide liability for all institutions of higher education, its officers and governing bodies that substantially complied with or operated in a manner consistent with applicable public health safety guidance for COVID-19. The Bill would exclude intentional misconduct, wanton or reckless misconduct, gross negligence, or willful and wanton negligence.

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(Pending Legislation): Colorado has a number of current Bills pending that would protect entities that comply with public health guidelines related to COVID-19. HB21-1074 and SB 21-080 would establish immunity from civil liability for entities for acts or omissions that result in exposure, loss, damage, injury or death arising out of COVID-19 where that entity attempted in good faith to comply with applicable public health guidance. SB21-080 creates an additional exception for gross negligence or willful and wanton acts or omissions of the entity. If enacted, both Bills would be repealed 2 years after the date that the state of disaster emergency terminates. An additional Bill, SB20B-011, was introduced in 2020 but limited to small businesses.

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(Pending Legislation): House Bill No. 5125 was introduced on January 12, 2021. The Bill would provide temporary immunity from civil liability to businesses, nonprofit organizations, universities, the state and any of its political subdivision that, on or after March 10, 2020, acted in substantial compliance with public health guidelines for any damages arising out of exposure to COVID-19, except in the instances of gross negligence or willful misconduct.

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At this time, Delaware does not have any legislation specific to COVID-19 liability. However, under Title 20, Section 3121 of the Delaware Code, qualified medical personnel engaged in emergency or disaster relief operations and activities in connection with such emergency or disaster as declared by the Governor, shall not be liable for death or any injury to persons as a result of such relief operations. The statute excludes willful or wanton disregard of the rights of others.

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District of Columbia

The Council of the District of Columbia enacted the COVID-19 Response Supplemental Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 to address limitations on liability for certain persons performing tasks relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. The certain persons protected from liability include, but are not limited, to the following: (i) healthcare providers; (ii) first responders; (iii) donors of time, professional services, equipment or supplies for the benefit of persons or entities providing care for COVID-19 patients; (iv) contractors who are contracted to provide healthcare services related to the District’s COVID-19 response; and (v) parties involved in the healthcare process at the request of the District’s government. The Act was only effective until July 9, 2020.

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(Pending Legislation): On January 6, 2021, the Florida legislature proposed Senate Bill No. 72, and its identical counterpart House Bill No. 7, which would allow business entities, educational institutions, government entities and religious institutions to “enjoy heightened legal protections against liability as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.” A plaintiff who files a civil action based on a COVID-19-related claim must submit an affidavit signed by a physician who attests to the physician’s belief that the plaintiff’s COVID-19-related damages occurred as a result of the defendant’s acts or omissions. If the court determines that the defendant made a good faith effort to comply with applicable health standards, the defendant is immune from civil liability.

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The Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act (GCPBSA), signed by Governor Kemp on August 5, 2020, protects individuals and business from certain COVID-19-related liability claims. The GCPBSA went into effect August 7, 2020, and will remain in effect until July 14, 2021. To avoid liability, an individual or business must either (i) provide the guest with a receipt of proof of purchase for entry or (ii) post a warning sign at the point of entry to the premises, with the specific language being subject to the requirements specified in the Act. The GCPBSA does not apply in cases of gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, or reckless infliction of harm.

(Pending Legislation): House Bill No. 112 was introduced on January 26, 2021, and would extend the immunities from liability claims regarding COVID-19 until July 14, 2022.

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Under Executive Order No. 20-05, healthcare facilities, healthcare professionals and healthcare volunteers that in good faith comply with state and federal orders regarding the disaster emergency are immune from civil liability for death or injury to persons or property damage caused by their acts or omissions that occurred at a time when that individual was engaged in providing healthcare services.

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The Idaho Coronavirus Limited Immunity Act was signed by the Governor on August 27, 2020. The Act provides that a person is immune from civil liability for damages resulting from exposure of an individual to COVID-19. The immunity can apply to individuals, businesses, cities, counties, school districts, universities, religious organizations and other units of local government. Immunity does not apply to acts or omissions that constitute an intentional tort or willful or reckless misconduct. This Act will remain in effect until July 1, 2021.

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Through Governor Pritzker’s Executive Order No. 37, hospitals and healthcare professionals (including healthcare volunteers) are protected from civil liability for injury or death alleged to have been caused by an act or omission that occurred at a time when the hospital or healthcare professional was providing healthcare services in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and consistent with Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines. The immunity does not apply if such injury was caused by gross negligence or willful misconduct.

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(Pending Legislation): Legislators in both the Indiana Senate and Indiana House of Representatives have introduced bills addressing business liability protections. Senate Bill No. 1 provides civil immunity if someone is exposed to COVID-19 at a business or a location where an organization is providing a service, including schools and local government functions. The Senate Bill passed both the Senate and House and has been returned to the Senate with amendments. House Bill No. 1002 provides immunity for healthcare workers from certain professional discipline during a state emergency but does not have any liability protection for employers. The House Bill passed the House and has been referred to the Senate. If passed, both Bills would be retroactive to March 1, 2020.

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On June 18, 2020, Governor Reynolds signed the COVID-19 Response and Back-to-Business Limited Liability Act into law. The law protects businesses, landlords, nursing homes and medical facilities from COVID-19-related lawsuits, except under certain circumstances. Under the new law, persons who possess or are in control of a premises are not liable for civil damages arising out of an individual’s exposure to COVID-19 on the premises unless the person in control of the premises recklessly disregards a substantial and unnecessary risk or exposed the individual to COVID-19 maliciously or intentionally. The law provides a similar protection for healthcare providers unless the provider’s actions amount to recklessness or willful misconduct. It also protects any person that designs, manufacturers, labels, sells, distributes or donates cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment, tests or medications, medical devices, equipment, supplies or treatments in response to COVID-19 from civil liability for failure to provide proper instructions or warnings, unless the person had actual knowledge of a defect in the product and recklessly disregarded a substantial and unnecessary risk or the person acted with actual malice. The Act is retroactive to January 1, 2020.

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Kansas passed the Business Liability Protection Act in June 2020. This Act establishes that healthcare providers are immune from civil liability for damages for acts and omissions as a direct response to any COVID-19 state of disaster emergency under Kansas Emergency Management Association (KEMA). The Act also establishes that a person (or agent of such person, e.g., an employee) conducting business in Kansas is immune from liability in a civil action for a COVID-19 claim if such person was acting pursuant to and in substantial compliance with public health directives applicable to the activity giving rise to the claim. The provisions related to immunity apply retroactively to any cause of action accruing on or after March 12, 2020. This business liability section of this legislation expired on January 26, 2021, while the healthcare provider immunity remains in place.

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(Pending Legislation): On January 5, 2021, the Kentucky Senate introduced Senate Bill No. 5 to provide liability protection for persons providing essential services related to a declared emergency during the period from when the emergency is declared until one year after the emergency declaration ends, except in cases of willful, grossly negligent or intentional misconduct. It also provides protections for owners who invite another person onto their premises during a declared emergency. Under the Bill, owners do not owe a duty to protect persons from or warn them about risks related to the declared emergency and do not assume responsibility or incur liability for any damages caused by the emergency.

On January 6, 2021, the Kentucky House of Representatives also introduced House Bill No. 10, which provides that any person acting in good faith in the performance of the person’s business operations, or on the premises owned or operated by the person, has a defense to civil liability for ordinary negligence for any personal injury resulting from exposure to COVID-19 if the person “acts as an ordinary, reasonable, and prudent person would have acted.” There is a rebuttable presumption that the safety measures adopted by a person are reasonable if they conform to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

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On June 16, 2020, the Louisiana Governor signed Act No. 336 into law. The law provides that “no natural or juridical person, state or local government, or political subdivision thereof shall be liable for any civil damages” related to exposure to COVID-19 in the course of their business operations. This limitation of liability does not apply if the person, government or political subdivision: (i) failed to substantially comply with applicable COVID-19 procedures or (ii) acted with gross negligence or wanton or reckless misconduct. The Act also provides liability protection for event organizers, producers, hosts and personal protective equipment manufacturers unless the damages were caused by gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct. Persons administering, employing or dispensing personal protective equipment in the state of Louisiana are also not liable for civil damages unless they: (a) did not substantially comply with COVID-19 guidelines or (b) acted with gross negligence or wanton or reckless misconduct.

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At this time, no pending or current legislation exists in Maine that would shield any entity from liability from injury as a result of exposure from COVID-19.

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Pursuant to Md. Code Ann. Pub. Safety § 14-3A-06, which was in place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a healthcare provider is immune from civil or criminal liability if the healthcare provider acts in good faith and under a catastrophic health emergency proclamation.

(Pending Legislation): Senate Bill No. 210 was introduced on January 13, 2021, and would provide civil immunity from liability for a COVID-19 claim to a person who acts in compliance with certain statutes, rules, regulations, executive orders and agency orders, unless the person acted with gross negligence or intentional wrongdoing. House Bill No. 508 was introduced on January 15, 2021, and is a similar to Senate Bill 210.

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On April 17, 2020, the Massachusetts Governor signed Bill S.2640 into law. This law provides civil immunity for healthcare providers and facilities providing medical care during the COVID-19 emergency, absent gross negligence or other reckless or willful misconduct. Volunteer organizations are provided similar immunity if the claim arises out of the use of the facility as part of the commonwealth’s COVID-19 response.

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On October 22, 2020, the Michigan Governor signed House Bill No. 6030 and House Bill No. 6031 into law. House Bill 6030, titled COVID-19 Response and Reopening Liability Assurance Act, provides immunity from tort liability from COVID-19 claims to a person (defined broadly to include individuals, businesses, government entities, education institutions and non-profit organizations) acting in compliance with COVID-19-regulations that “had not been denied legal effect at the time of the conduct or risk that allegedly caused harm.” House Bill 6031 amends the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act to provide immunity from liability for an employee’s exposure to COVID-19, if the employer is operating in compliance with COVID-19-related regulations that “had not been denied legal effect at the time of the exposure.” Both Bills are effective retroactive to March 1, 2020.

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(Pending Legislation): On February 1, 2021, Minnesota State Senators introduced Senate File No. 512 to provide healthcare providers (doctors, nurses, pharmacists, etc.), facilities (including, but not limited to hospitals, nursing homes and clinics), and responders civil immunity from COVID-19-related lawsuits. This immunity applies unless the act or omission constitutes intentional or reckless misconduct or gross negligence. In addition to providing broad immunity, SF 512 also contains administrative immunity provisions to retroactively protect healthcare entities and providers from government sanctions and financial penalties for health and safety violations occurring on or after March 13, 2020. A companion bill has also been introduced in the House of Representatives, House File No. 571.

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The Mississippi Back to Business Liability Assurance and Healthcare Emergency Response Liability Protection Act (Mississippi Code §§ 11-71-1 — 11-71-13) provides COVID-19 liability protections. The liability protections include the following:

  • Miss. Code § 11-71-5 establishes legal immunity from civil damages related to exposure to COVID-19 if a person, including premises owners and those in control of premises, makes a good faith attempt to follow applicable public health guidance. The Act also creates civil immunity for claims related to actual or alleged exposure to COVID-19 in the time before applicable public heath guidance was available.
  • Miss. Code § 11-71-7 establishes immunity for healthcare professionals or healthcare facilities during the entirety of the COVID-19 public health emergency and will terminate one year after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency. The immunity applies to both acts or omissions related to treating COVID-19, as well as acts or omissions while providing healthcare services to persons unrelated to COVID-19 when those acts or omissions were intended to support the state’s response to the COVID-19 emergency.
  • Miss. Code § 11-71-9 establishes immunity from suit for civil damages for injuries related to exposure to COVID-19 for persons who make, sell or donate qualified medical products, cleaning supplies or personal protective equipment.

The immunities provided in the Act do not apply where the plaintiff shows, by clear and convincing evidence, that a defendant or any employee or agent thereof acted with actual malice or willful, intentional misconduct. There is a two-year statute of limitations on COVID-19-related claims. The Act and immunities that it establishes went into effect on March 14, 2020.

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(Pending Legislation): In January 2021, Missouri lawmakers filed various pieces of legislation to provide protection from civil actions during the COVID-19 state of emergency. As of January 25, 2021, the Bills have been combined into Senate Bill No. 51. The Bill provides that healthcare providers who provide care necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic are not liable for any civil damages unless the damages are a result of malicious or intentional misconduct. This protection would apply to all civil actions filed on or after the effective date of the bill. Further, a premises owner is protected from liability from an individual’s claim for COVID-19 exposure, unless a plaintiff can prove intentional harm. There is a rebuttable presumption in favor of the owner when the owner posts a warning notice, with the specific language specified in the Bill.

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Senate Bill No. 65, signed into law on February 10, 2021, provides an affirmative defense for businesses and other private entities against legal liability in the event someone is injured or dies after being exposed to COVID-19 on their premises. To avail themselves of this shield, businesses must take “reasonable measures” to follow public-health guidelines. The only exceptions to this shield are actions constituting gross negligence, or willful and wanton misconduct, or intentional torts.

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(Pending Legislation): The Nebraska Legislature is considering Legislative Bill 139 intending to incentivize compliance with federal, state, and local safety standards and regulations by providing a “limited, temporary liability protection for those who comply with safety standards and regulations related to COVID-19.” The main components of the bill include: (i) a bar against lawsuits except in the case of hospitalization or death due to COVID-19; (ii) a bar against suing entities that were following federal and state laws or public health orders; (iii) a requirement that plaintiffs demonstrate, by clear and convincing evidence that an entity acted with gross negligence or willful misconduct; and (iv) additional liability protections for healthcare providers who caused or contributed to the death or injury of an individual through acts or omissions while providing or arranging for healthcare services. Further, the Bill would create a two-year statute of limitations on claims of gross negligence and willful misconduct. If the Bill were to pass, it would apply to any cause of action accruing on or after the effective date and before the earlier of (i) December 31, 2022, or (ii) one year after the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency.

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Nevada passed SB4 providing most businesses with immunity from liability where there is an alleged personal injury or death as a result of COVID-19 exposure, so long as they follow local, state, and federal health standards and the business doesn’t act with gross negligence and such negligence was the proximate cause of the personal injury or death. Expressly excluded from the law’s protections are home nursing agencies, facilities for hospice care, facilities for intermediate care, facilities for skilled nursing, hospitals, independent centers for emergency medical care, and public school entities for preschool, kindergarten, or grades 1 through 12, including school districts, charter schools or university schools for profoundly gifted pupils. The legislation is effective through the later of (i) the date of termination of the Governor’s Declaration of Emergency for COVID-19 or (ii) July 1, 2023.

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New Hampshire

(Pending legislation): On January 19, 2021, SB63 was introduced. This Bill would provide that no business organization shall be liable from personal injury resulting from or related to an actual or alleged exposure to COVID-19 in the course of such business’s activity or while working for such business organization, where that business organization was following applicable government standards. The liability shield will not apply to gross negligence, willful misconduct, intentional criminal misconduct or intentional infliction of harm. The Bill would also create a one-year statute of limitations for lawsuits alleging injury from COVID-19.

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New Jersey

New Jersey’s Governor Murphy signed Senate Bill No. 2333 granting immunity to healthcare professionals, facilities and systems during the COVID-19 emergency. The immunity extends to (i) civil liability for injury or death as a result of an act or omission by the healthcare professional, healthcare facility or systems in the course of providing care, including acts or omissions undertaken in good faith by the healthcare professional or facility to support the effort to treat or prevent the spread of COVID-19, and (ii) civil and criminal liability for any damages related to the allocation of ventilators or other scarce medical resources.

(Pending Legislation): New Jersey is considering Senate Bill 3006 which would restore civil liability of nursing homes and related facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, which were granted immunity under SB 2333. Additionally, two bills were introduced in 2020, Assembly Bill 4189 and Senate Bill 2502, establishing immunity for businesses against any damage claims resulting from COVID-19 exposure occurring at the premises owned or operated by the employer, or during activity managed by the employer. The grant of immunity protection would not apply to willful misconduct, reckless infliction of harm or intentional infliction of harm.

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New Mexico

New Mexico’s Governor Grisham signed Executive Order 2020-083, in December 2020, providing for professional liability protection for medical professionals that are providing healthcare services related to COVID-19. The order highlights several issues that practitioners have faced during the pandemic, including but not limited to, extended hours with heavy workloads, personal illnesses and fewer resources.

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New York

New York’s Emergency or Disaster Treatment Protection Act immunized healthcare facilities and professionals from certain forms of liability during the COVID-19 pandemic, if they met certain conditions under the Act. Additionally, volunteer organization are immune from civil and criminal liability for any damages at their facilities that are a result of the state’s response to the emergency declaration. The Act expanded on Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 202.10, signed on March 7, 2020, that provided protection for physicians and nurses from civil liability for acts or omissions that result in injury or death during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Act applies retroactively from March 7 and lasts until the New York COVID-19 emergency declaration expires. On August 3, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed Senate Bill 8835 rolling back some of the protections in the Emergency or Disaster Treatment Protection Act. In particular, the Bill removed the immunity protection for (i) treatment that was not directly related to treating a known or suspected case of COVID-19 and (ii) any preventative treatment related to COVID-19.

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North Carolina

North Carolina’s Act to Provide Limited Immunity from Liability for Claims Based on Transmission of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) provides limited immunity to businesses, individuals, government agencies and subdivisions, and other protected entities, referred to as “Covered Entities.” To receive the immunity, the Covered Entity must take some sort of protective action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on its premises and provide reasonable notice of such safety plans to individuals present on the property. Covered Entities will not be liable for any act or omission alleged to have resulted in the contraction of COVID-19. The protection only applies for claims that arise within 180 days of the rescission or expiration of the Governor’s State of Emergency Executive Order.

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North Dakota

(Pending Legislation): On February 5, 2021, the North Dakota House of Representatives passed House Bill No. 1175 to shield employers from COVID-19-related lawsuits. The Bill was written to prevent civil lawsuits brought by employees—even employees working for healthcare providers—alleging contraction of COVID-19 following exposure at work, unless the employee believes that the employer intended to hurt the employee. As written, the Bill would apply retroactively to exposures occurring from the beginning of 2020.

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(Pending Legislation): Ohio has two separate pieces of legislation aimed at providing protection for business regarding COVID-19 liabilities. On December 16, 2020, the House passed the Grant Immunity to Essential Workers Who Transmit COVID-19 Bill providing that no civil action for damages regarding injury, death or loss to person or property shall be brought against any person if the cause of action is based on COVID-19, unless it is established that exposure or transition was by reckless conduct or intentional misconduct on the part of the person. Under the Bill, “person” includes a school, for-profit or nonprofit entity, a governmental entity, a religious entity or a state institution of higher education. The second piece of legislation is Senate Bill 308 providing that no service provider shall be liable for damages to any person in a civil action resulting from a person’s exposure to COVID-19. This protection is set to expire on April 1, 2021.

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Oklahoma has two laws providing liability protections in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. First, Senate Bill 1946 provides businesses and individuals with immunity from any civil action claiming injury from exposure or potential exposure to COVID-19, if the act or omission alleged to violate a duty of care was in compliance or consistent with federal or state regulations, a Presidential or Gubernatorial Executive Order, or guidance applicable at the time of the alleged exposure. Applicable guidance includes that which is issued by the CDC, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Oklahoma State Department of Health, and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. Second, Senate Bill 1947 provides product liability immunity to any person or business that designs, manufactures, labels, sells, distributes or donates disinfecting and cleaning supplies or personal protective equipment during and in response to COVID-19 that does not make such products in the ordinary course of business, unless the person or business had actual knowledge that the product was defective or acted with deliberate indifference to or conscious disregard of a substantial and unnecessary risk that the product would cause serious injury to others.

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Oregon’s Governor signed House Bill 4402 which provides protection for schools, both public and private, so long as they open in accordance with the Oregon Health Authority’s guidance on reopening schools. Such guidelines dovetail with county-by-county guidelines, whereby schools opening outside of their county’s risk level’s guidelines might not be afforded liability protections. The law applies to COVID-19 claims brought during the coronavirus state of emergency, currently in effect until March 3, 2021.

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Pennsylvania’s Governor signed Executive Order to Enhance Protections for Health Care Professionals, which provides healthcare practitioners protection against liability for good faith actions taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic at any healthcare facilities, including nursing facilities, personal care homes, assisted living facilities and more. Further, the Executive Order provides immunity for any person or organization allowing real estate or other premises used for the treatment of COVID-19 patients from any liability in the case of death, injury or loss or damage to the property. The Executive Order does not grant immunity for acts or omissions that constitute a crime, gross negligence, or fraud, malice or willful misconduct. The Executive Order will remain in effect for the duration of the disaster emergency.

(Pending Legislation): The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed House Bill 1737 in November 2020. The bill included protection for medical professionals, manufacturers providing personal protective equipment and many other businesses. Additionally, the Bill would have protected farmers that provide agricultural tourism activities such as apple picking, corn mazes and Christmas-tree cutting. Governor Wolf vetoed the Bill on November 30, 2020.

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Rhode Island

Rhode Island Governor Raimondo’s Executive Order 20-21 provides immunity for certain healthcare workers and healthcare facilities. Specifically, the Executive Order classifies the following people as “disaster response workers” entitled to immunity and entitled to provide services beyond or without a license as permitted under Rhode Island Law: (i) healthcare workers providing community-based healthcare, services at surge hospitals and services in existing hospitals, nursing facilities and alternative nursing care sites, and (ii) landlords making the surge hospital locations and alternative nursing care sites available to the State, plus their employees, management companies and contractors providing services to construct, operate or decommission the surge hospital locations.” This Executive Order was only effective until May 8, 2020.

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South Carolina

(Pending Legislation): South Carolina is considering the COVID-19 Liability Safe Harbor Act. If passed, the COVID-19 Liability Safe Harbor Act would shield any business and non-profit organizations that adhere to the public health guidance from COVID-19 claims.

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South Dakota

The South Dakota legislature passed House Bill 1046, on February 8, 2021, prohibiting any claim or action for damages or relief alleging exposure or potential exposure to COVID-19, unless the exposure results in a COVID-19 diagnosis and the exposure is a result of intentional exposure with the intent to transmit COVID-19. This law applies to healthcare providers, business owners, and even personal protective equipment manufacturers and distributors. Governor Noem signed the legislation into law on February 18, 2021. The law covers claims from January 1, 2020 through December 31, 2022.

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Tennessee Governor Lee signed the Tennessee COVID-19 Recovery Act, prohibiting claims “against any person for loss, damage, injury, or death arising from COVID-19 unless the claimant proves by clear and convincing evidence that the person proximately caused the loss, damage, injury, or death by an act or omission constituting gross negligence or willful misconduct.” The protections are applicable to claims pursued against a broad category of “persons,” including healthcare providers, business entities and schools, as well as to claims pursued against governmental entities or employees.

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Governor Abbott has urged state law makers to pass legislation that would protect business owners, however, at this time, no such legislation has been introduced.

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Utah Governor Cox signed Senate Bill 5003, which provides immunity from civil liability if a person is exposed to COVID-19 on a person’s premises. The immunity protects any person from civil liability if someone is exposed to COVID-19 while on the premises of that person. “Persons” include businesses and organizations. Further, this immunity is in addition to any other immunity found under Utah law. The immunity is not absolute and does not include immunity for willful, reckless or intentional misconduct.

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Addendum 9 to Executive Order 01-20 provides that healthcare facilities, healthcare providers and healthcare volunteers are immune from civil liability for any death, injury or loss resulting from COVID-19-related emergency management services or response activities, except in the case of willful misconduct or gross negligence.

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SB 5082, signed into law by Governor Northam, provides immunity from civil lawsuits to hospices, assisted living facilities, and related providers related to injury or death from exposure to COVID-19 or from other injury that was a result of lack of resources due to the COVID-19 disaster.

Virginia Code Sections 8.01-225.01-02 similarly provide immunity to all healthcare providers during a disaster, for response to a disaster or withholding from healthcare when a state or local emergency has been declared. The liability protection does not cover acts of gross negligence or willful misconduct.

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At this time, no pending or current legislation exists in Washington that would shield any entity from liability from injury as a result of exposure from COVID-19.

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West Virginia

At this time, no pending or current legislation exists in Washington that would shield any entity from liability from injury as a result of exposure from COVID-19.

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Sections 98 through 104 of the 2019 Wisconsin Act 185, effective April 15, 2020, provide liability for healthcare workers. Healthcare workers must have in good faith substantially complied with direction, guidance, recommendations, or statements made by federal, state or local officials or guidance published by state or federal health departments. Further, wanton and reckless conduct is not covered. Further, any person who manufactures, distributes, sells, or donates emergency medical supplies is immune from civil liability.

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Wyoming’s COVID-19 liability protections under Enrolled Act No. 2 include protections for businesses and employees, who act in good faith in responding to the COVID-19 health emergency and follow the instructions of state, city, town or county officials, from civil suits related to actual or potential exposure to COVID-19. There is no protection for willful, reckless, intentional or grossly negligent misconduct, and employees are not barred from filing workers’ compensation claims related to actual or potential workplace exposure to COVID-19. These protections expire on June 30, 2021.

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Democratic Mayoral Candidates Talk Making the City More Business-Friendly

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warby parker business nyc

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A Warby Parker event (photo: Demetrius Freeman/Mayor’s Office)

This past week, advocacy group Tech:NYC and glasses company Warby Parker, among others, co-hosted a forum with seven leading Democratic candidates for mayor, who appeared one at a time to answer questions from Business Insider columnist Josh Barro about the city’s future and their agendas.

The participating candidates, in order of appearance, were entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, former federal housing secretary Shaun Donovan, former Wall Street executive Ray McGuire, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Maya Wiley, a civil rights attorney and former counsel to Mayor de Blasio. The event was co-hosted by AT&T, Bowery Farming, Etsy, Harry’s, Via, WeWork, and Zola, among others.

The questions, somewhat uniform to each candidate, focused on issues relevant to the tech and business communities, such as how to attract business to New York City in the post-COVID-19 economy, the failed Amazon ‘HQ2’ deal, housing development, and expanding broadband access.

Andrew Yang
Barro asked Yang as a businessman how he thought that businesses choose to locate in New York, and how as mayor Yang would make them more interested in the city. Citing his experience in start-ups, Yang argued that the location of companies depends on where their employees would like to be. He said that “if there’s one thing that makes the world goes around for founders, it’s talent.”

To make the city more attractive to employees, Yang honed in rectifying quality-of-life issues such as “getting schools open to garbage pick up to public safety concerns.” He reiterated his oft-cited stance that the city must restore its “value proposition” to business owners and others alike to make some of the challenges of the city, like cost and commutes, worth it.

Barro asked why “garbage is piled high on the sidewalks” and why the city has not moved to containerized pick-up. Yang called out the cuts to the Department of Sanitation budget, saying that “if you’ve noticed more trash on the street, that’s why,” and saying that is something he would restore funding to.

Barro moved on to ‘HQ2,’ which was slated for Queens before activists and elected officials who opposed the Amazon deal pushed the company to back out, and the role of subsidies in attracting major technology companies to New York City. Saying that “Manhattan has a natural draw,” Yang acknowledged the role of subsidies in attracting companies to the other boroughs.

Yang said that he supported ‘HQ2’ for Queens, and falsely said, “I’m one of the only mayoral candidates who’s said on the record that losing Amazon was a mistake for the city.” Barro pressed Yang on whether the “billions in subsidies” that Amazon would have received would have been worth it. Yang said it wasn’t great policy. “You can’t just let them walk away,” Yang said, citing the many thousands of jobs the campus was slated to create and support of the service industry it would have provided.

Barro then asked if changes to corporate structures that allow for remote work, accelerated by the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, affected the city’s ability to attract tech companies. “New York City is fundamentally a place-based economy,” Yang said, and “the New York City advantage will still be there.” Barro pressed Yang further on the difference of attracting workers versus attracting firms, asking Yang how his strategy to attract companies would change. Yang admitted that the city will have to “compete and make its case” in a way it did not have to in the past, adding that he is exploring “incentives” for workers to commute to the city five times a week, mentioning gift cards to New York City bars and restaurants as a possibility, and making investments to increase tourism.

Barro asked Yang about reducing the sky-high costs of the city’s capital projects. Yang said he would have the city “be more disciplined” about having contractors focus on the quality of their work rather than sub-contracting. He also mentioned he would streamline bureaucracy, saying that it was not user-friendly for small businesses.

Asked how many housing units the city should build over the next ten years, Yang did not present a specific figure, saying only that it would be in “the tens of thousands” for his first term and that he would want to increase the rate of housing development in the city. Seemingly underprepared to discuss housing development goals, Yang pivoted to his pledge to reduce street homelessness “by 50%” over his first term, and said he would want to convert some vacant hotels into affordable and supportive housing.

Barro concluded by asking Yang if he had connected with any of the other mayoral candidates, to which Yang responded that he was “a huge Kathryn Garcia fan” and that she was someone he “admired a great deal.”

Kathryn Garcia
Asked why she is the best candidate for mayor, Garcia told Barro that “understanding how the city works is absolutely critical, because then you can actually fix things” and “know where the pain points are.” She said her managerial experience in various roles in city government made her the strongest potential next leader for New York City.

Barro asked Garcia about the city’s garbage situation, asking if it was possible to “get it off the sidewalks and into closed containers,” to which Garcia said it was fully possible, and that part of that effort would require the city “rethink the public realm” about how street space is used. She mentioned that as sanitation commissioner she had launched a pilot program for commercial corridors that is being implemented.

Asked how she thought public spaces were being underutilized, Garcia advocated that “you need people walking the streets of New York, spending money” and that public space management efforts should look at “Open Restaurants, Open Culture, but also thinking about greening the city,” with references to two recent pandemic-era public space programs launched by the city.

On attracting companies to the city, Garcia said she would focus on a “liveable city,” as companies “locate where they have really strong labor forces.”

“We have to do way better” building housing, Garcia said, adding that her efforts would target “unlocking the private sector by getting rid of the bureaucracy” and building between 20,000 and 30,000 units a year. Citing that “time is money in construction” and that “we don’t actually do good planning,” Garcia said she would increase community input and reduce bureaucracy. Barro challenged her on this point, asking how she would resolve situations where increased considerations would conflict with expeditiousness, citing her support while working under de Blasio for special construction permits for hotels. Garcia sidestepped the first part of the question, only defending her support of special permits for hotels.

On expanding broadband access, Garcia said she would target lowering costs, facilitating rule changes to make the expansion of broadband easier in communities, and having the city connect residents to broadband themselves if companies did not create broadband access where the city would like.

Eric Adams
Adams said that he is the best candidate for mayor because of his life experiences from growing up in poverty, experiencing police brutality, becoming a police officer himself, and his diabetes diagnosis that he went on to beat through a healthy lifestyle. As “someone who has gone through a lot,” Adams said he was in the best position to help other people “going through a lot.”

On how companies should be “respectful” in the city and be good neighbors, something Barro brought up as Adams has discussed it in the past, Adams said he would challenge corporations to think on the question “how do I involve myself in the communities put in place long before me?” such as working with the Department of Education to teach children life skills. On how he would actually accomplish these partnerships, Adams pointed towards working with specific organizations and not “demonizing companies” and creating “this synergy that we are in this together.”

Examining his stated plan to name an “efficiency czar” to make city government work better, Barro asked how Adams’ approach to reducing waste differed from past tactics under Bloomberg and de Blasio. Adams argued that “the city is dysfunctional” because “agencies are not aligned” and pointed to his record in the NYPD using data and technology as part of the department’s modern evolution. When pressed by Barro on how agencies would operate differently, Adams cited his mother saying “What gets measured, gets done. If you don’t inspect what you expect, it’s all suspect,” and said he would want real-time data for examining basic city services.

Barro gave Adams the same question he gave to Yang on whether the city should push for tech companies to locate in boroughs other than Manhattan and whether Adams would support subsidies to make that happen. Adams denied that the city needed a subsidy program, and turned to discussing quality-of-life issues. To “build the proper environment” for companies to locate all over the city, he would focus on providing services such as access to transportation, public safety, and high-speed internet, he said.

Barro brought up the defeated Industry City rezoning in Brooklyn, an expansion and development proposal promising thousands of jobs and more economic activity along the Brooklyn waterfront that was ultimately defeated by local activists and City Council Member Carlos Menchaca. “It’s really unfortunate that we could not seal the deal in Industry City,” Adams said, adding that on development projects in general he would want to focus on being inclusive but also on “how can we get to a yes.” On whether or not local Council members have too much power to kill projects in their districts, Adams argued that for projects that affect the entire city, one member of the City Council should not have the power to shut them down, an informal practice known as “member deference” where the full Council defers to the local member whose district the proposal is slated for.

On housing, Adams told Barro that asking how many units of housing to add was “the wrong question” and that the city should audit its current housing to see where there are vacancies or lack of use and go from there. Barro pushed back, saying that even with auditing vacant housing more housing must be developed because of the city’s growing population, on which Adams deflected and instead pressed his desire to identify unused housing.

Shaun Donovan
Barro opened his conversation with Donovan, the former head of housing in the city and nationally under Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama, on housing. Donovan said the city should add 50,000 units per year, a very large goal, and touted his “15-minute neighborhoods” plan to ensure every New Yorkers lives in a great neighborhood with access to everything they need.

On rezonings, Donovan said he was open to upzonings for more housing, such as what the de Blasio administration is currently attempting in SoHo. He added that there should be a “citywide land use budget” to “make sure every community is doing its fair share,” through looking at ways to add density and using citywide inclusionary zoning.

After Barro asked what he would do differently to add housing from his time under Bloomberg, Donovan said the scope of the city’s housing problem is wide enough that “changing the trajectory” for the city takes years. He also said he was proud of the Bloomberg legacy on upzoning wealthier communities.

On lowering the cost of construction, Donovan discussed “building differently” such as using new technologies and having an administration “that brings innovation to every phase of what government does.”

On attracting increasingly mobile workers and firms to New York City, Donovan called himself “an urban optimist” and that the question was about whether or not specifically New York City could manage the challenge. New York City can become the “tech center” of the world, he said, and he would make it happen through his specific plans and by focusing on quality-of-life issues.

Ray McGuire
McGuire argued that he was the best candidate for mayor because of his private sector experience, where he was one of the top executives at Citi and on Wall Street more generally, saying that “this is not the time where someone gets to the mayoral spot to learn how to manage or lead.”

On attracting businesses, McGuire said that the city should “incentivize businesses to do more business here, not less” and that he would work on uniting business interests with the rest of the city, rather than pursuing divisive measures such as increasing taxes.

To move “job centers out to the outer boroughs,” McGuire supported using subsidies, which he referred to as incentives. McGuire said the collapse of the Amazon ‘HQ2’ deal was a mistake and that the project would have been a big net positive for the city, even with the subsidies.

On expanding broadband access, McGuire said it’s essential for education, and pointed to his economic comeback plan, which would include efforts to create universal broadband access.

To improve the efficiency of the city’s capital projects and “to bring costs under control,” McGuire said he would “bring all constituents to the table.” He said that he “wasn’t in anyone’s pocket” and that his “sole focus” is on what is best for the city, that he’s not “focused on sub-agendas.” He referenced de Blasio’s tagline of the “Tale of Two Cities,” saying that now New York City was a “fractured city.”

Calling his answer “nonspecific,” Barro pushed McGuire to elaborate on what made his leadership skills unique. McGuire said that, having led a global business, he was the only candidate with the skills to unite the diverse constituencies of New York City and focus on “shared prosperity.”

On housing, McGuire said he would like to increase the city’s housing units by 10%, or 350,000 units. Barro asked McGuire for a timeline on such development, which McGuire side-stepped, pointing to lowering construction costs and the economic benefits new construction would bring.

Scott Stringer
Stringer said he should be the next mayor in part because he is a “real seasoned government leader, who has vision and experience.”

Barro asked Stringer how he would seek to regain jobs lost in the COVID-19 pandemic, confronted with “an economy that may be permanently different in certain ways,” citing business travel as something that may permanently decrease.

Stringer replied that he would focus on small businesses, including by directing $1 billion from the city’s federal stimulus money to them. He would provide tax incentives for new businesses to locate in the city in “vacant corridors” and would make sure small businesses are not “fined and fee-ed into oblivion.” He said small business owners would not need to hire an expediter to get projects approved in the city and he would create a tech platform for small businesses to use to efficiently navigate city processes.

Asked what he would do differently from Bloomberg and de Blasio on the issues of inefficiency in small business processes, Stringer lambasted de Blasio by saying “what he didn’t do was govern.” Saying “you gotta manage this town,” Stringer said that he would focus on actually accomplishing goals that the city sets for itself.

On attracting tech companies to boroughs other than Manhattan and the role of subsidies in those conversations, Stringer said “it’s exciting that we’re spreading our economy out,” that “if we build it, they will come,” that he would focus on quality-of-life issues such as transportation, and that attracting businesses relies on the “value proposition” of what the city can offer businesses.

On how many housing units he would seek to create as mayor, Stringer said “as many as possible,” but he said key to his vision is creating enough “low-income housing” to actually meet the need in the city. Looking at the legacies of Bloomberg and de Blasio, he said, “We’ve had mayors talking about these big numbers, but they have not helped people get housing.” His efforts would focus on housing that targets those close to homelessness and would focus on true affordability. He would create 10,000 units of low-income housing and “catalogue” the vacant parcels the city owns for potential developments.

Maya Wiley
Saying that the COVID-19 pandemic “pulled the curtain back” on the issues the city faced, Wiley said that the challenge for the next mayor would be to “create a more unified city.” Doing this requires “very different leadership” to pursue “transformative policy,” Wiley said, adding, “I’m not a politician, and I think that’s the point.”

On expanding broadband, Wiley pointed to her work on universal broadband when working for de Blasio at City Hall by soliciting input from outside groups such as Girls Who Code, and by unifying the efforts of different agencies to work on the project. When Barro pushed Wiley for concrete steps for accomplishing universal broadband, she said she would focus government efforts on the “last mile problem in highly, highly, underserved areas” by “asset-mapping” current city resources that could be used to provide universal broadband. She would also pursue public-private partnerships, and look at technological innovations, she said.

On small businesses, Barro asked about why Wiley’s platform would have the city increase the number of restaurant health inspections, but to have those inspections announced in advance. Wiley said sometimes the city’s efforts to protect health can backfire by “jeopardizing the business rather than serving the public,” and that her plan would maintain restaurants’ compliance with health code violations while

Adding to her response, Wiley said she would streamline small businesses’ interactions with the city and grow their relationship with the city. She would want the city to be more proactive in their assistance to small businesses, so that they work together to solve problems rather than having the city shutting down actions after the fact. As an example, she mentioned having the city release blueprints for COVID-19-safe outdoor dining vestibules, rather than punishing restaurants for non-compliant vestibules after those businesses spent thousands of dollars “that they don’t have” on them. This would be “business-friendly, without sacrificing the issues we have to protect for the public,” she said.

Barro asked Wiley if there were other “big pilots” such as Open Streets she would want to pursue as mayor. “City government is a city unto itself,” she replied, and said that it is important to “recognize where government needs to partner with itself” better. To that end, she mentioned her plan to create an Office of Public Space Management, which would unite different agencies to create a centralized approach.

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Here’s a list of pandemic assistance programs for small businesses

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Allie Salas, owner of Reno Aspire Fitness, stands in her gym on Feb. 18, 2021.  Women and minority business owners continue to struggle amid the pandemic.
Allie Salas, owner of Reno Aspire Fitness, stands in her gym on Feb. 18, 2021. Women and minority business owners continue to struggle amid the pandemic.

This story is free because it is part of the Reno Gazette Journal’s essential coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic. This kind of journalism takes time and resources. Please consider subscribing.

Despite the improved numbers for new cases and deaths compared to the peak of the pandemic, COVID-19 continues to have an outsized impact on small businesses.

The passage and signing of the American Rescue Plan Act in March kicked off another round of funding for COVID relief, which includes several assistance programs for small businesses. While this is good news for struggling business owners, many either don’t apply or underestimate the amounts that they qualify for, said Kayla Banda, a business development advisor with the Nevada Small Business Development Center.

Some business owners and independent contractors don’t even know that relief options exist, especially smaller assistance programs run by local and state entities.

“The big thing is that a lot of businesses don’t know that they can qualify for assistance,” Banda said.

“I’ve talked to clients who had no idea that they could actually qualify as a new business, for example. I’ve also had clients who left money on the table when they could’ve gotten more.”

This makes it especially important for small business owners to not just keep tabs on the various assistance programs but also educate themselves about the benefits they qualify for. Business owners should also move quickly as funding will eventually run out, particularly given the high demand for these programs.

For subscribers:Shell company transparency law takes aim at a key Nevada industry. Will it have an impact?

Here’s a list of several pandemic assistance programs for businesses, including those that provide financial assistance and forgivable loans for entrepreneurs impacted by COVID-19:

  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)
  • Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG)
  • Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF)
  • SBA Debt Relief
  • Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2
  • COBRA Premium Assistance
  • Pandemic assistance from state and local governments

Here is a quick rundown of the various pandemic assistance programs available for businesses.

An image showing several small mom and pop shops lining Victorian Plaza in downtown Sparks on Friday, Oct. 24. A group of local business owners, known as 39 North Downtown, hope to revitalize Sparks and attract new businesses to the area.

Paycheck Protection Program

The PPP, which is overseen by the Small Business Administration, is arguably the most widely known pandemic relief program for businesses. It’s designed to incentivize small businesses to keep workers on the job by providing funding for payroll.

The biggest draw of this program is that while it is technically a loan, borrowers can have the amount written off if they apply for forgiveness within 10 months of the last covered period of their agreement. It’s basically free assistance for those who qualify for it.

Also, while the PPP is designed as a payroll assistance program, it can also apply to small businesses that do not have any employees.

“Some people like sole proprietors and independent contractors think that, ‘Oh, I don’t have payroll because I don’t have any employees so I can’t qualify,’ which is totally not true,” Banda said. “If you receive a Schedule C (profit or loss form from the IRS) … you can actually use that to calculate your loan amount.”

For more details about the program, including help for finding a qualified lender, visit the SBA’s official PPP website. Otherwise, call your local SBA District office for more details. In Northern Nevada, the number is 775-885-7647.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan

Also known as EIDL, this is another program overseen by the SBA and provides economic relief for small businesses as well as nonprofits that have suffered from a temporary loss of revenue. The assistance can be used to pay for financial obligations or operating expenses that a business would have been able to cover on its own had the pandemic not occurred.

Like the PPP, this program has been around for a while but has one key difference.

“It’s not forgivable,” Banda said. “But it’s still a pretty good option for businesses.”

Borrowers can also apply for both the PPP and EIDL, but funds from both are not allowed to be used for the same purpose. Applicants also must be physically located in the United States and have fewer than 500 employees.

The maximum loan amount is $150,000, with loans above $25,000 requiring collateral. The interest rate is 3.75% for businesses and 2.75% for nonprofits, with payment terms up to 30 years.

For more information or to apply for a loan, visit the SBA’s official EIDL website.

Shuttered Venue Operators Grant

Known as SVOG for short, this program was amended by the American Rescue Plan Act and provides more than $16 billion in grants to venues that have been closed due to COVID-19. Of that number $2 billion is set aside for smaller operations with 50 employees or less.

Applicants that qualify for the program will receive grants equal to 45% of their gross revenue. The maximum grant amount for one applicant is $10 million.

Entities that are eligible for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant include:

  • Live venue operators or promoters
  • Theatrical producers
  • Live performing arts organization operators
  • Relevant museum operators, zoos and aquariums who meet specific criteria
  • Motion picture theater operators
  • Talent representatives

Note that booking agencies can qualify even if they don’t operate a venue per se.

“They can qualify if 70% or more of their annual revenue comes from booking the talent for the venues,” Banda said.

Keep in mind, however, that while it’s possible to receive assistance via the SVOG grant after getting PPP assistance, the reverse is not true, Banda warned.

“If you apply for the SVOG, you can no longer apply for the PPP so people need to get their PPP first before applying for the SVOG,” Banda said.

For more information or to apply, visit the SBA’s official SVOG site.

Restaurant Revitalization Fund

Server Delaney Fine, left, brings some drinks to customers at the Squeeze In restaurant in Reno on May 13, 2020.

This $26.5 billion fund was established by the American Rescue Plan Act for food and drink establishments. The program, which will be awarded by the SBA, will set aside $5 billion of its funds for smaller businesses with gross revenues of less than $500,000. There will be a cap of $10 million for each business, including $5 million for each physical location of a business operation.

According to the American Rescue Plan Act, businesses that can apply for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund include:

  • Restaurants
  • Food trucks
  • Food stands
  • Food carts
  • Caterers
  • Inns
  • Saloons
  • Tavern
  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • Brewpubs
  • Taprooms
  • Tasting rooms

Publicly-traded companies are ineligible, which is good news for smaller operations that were squeezed out by large chains during the first round of PPP funding.

Funds will be allocated within phases, with businesses that lost a larger percentage of revenue being prioritized first. The RRF will also give higher priority to small businesses run by women, veterans and socially and economically disadvantaged proprietors.

“That’s good because my initial concern was that big restaurants will go in and just eat up those funds,” Banda said. “Eligibility for the program is so open and broad.”

According to the National Restaurant Association, eligible businesses “may receive a tax-free federal grant equal to the amount of its pandemic-related revenue loss, calculated by subtracting its 2020 gross receipts from its 2019 gross receipts.”

If you already received PPP funding, that amount will be deducted from your eligibility for the RRF.

As of early April, an official date has not been announced for program applications but it should be included in the SBA’s main COVID relief operations site once it is available.

SBA Debt Relief

The SBA Debt Relief Program provides financial assistance for borrowers of three types of SBA loans:

As part of the program, the SBA will pay six months of principal, interest, and any associated fees owed by borrowers for such loans that are in “regular servicing status.” The assistance will be automatically provided without needing an application and will apply to loans that were approved up to September 27, 2020.

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2


This program is administered by the USDA and was re-launched on April 5 after signups ended on Dec. 11. The program provides financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and other producers to absorb increased costs from market disruptions caused by the pandemic. Assistance is based on the type of commodities grown or raised by farmers and ranchers.

Commodities that are eligible for Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 assistance include:

  • Specialty crops
  • Livestock
  • Dairy
  • Row crops
  • Aquaculture
  • Floriculture
  • Nursery crops

The launch of CFAP 2 coincides with an increase in payment rates for commodities such as cattle under the original CFAP program.

“We did what we call additional top-up payments to folks who were already signed up and each commodity had a payment rate,” said Gus Wegren, acting state executive director for the USDA Farm Service Agency in Nevada. The first CFAP round accounted for nearly $26.7 million in payments for Nevada producers alone and more than $1.2 billion in California.

The USDA also expects to make $4.5 billion in payments to 560,000 producers as part of new CFAP 2 funding that pays $20 in assistance per acre. Total funds for the second round of CFAP 2 funding amounts to about $6 billion, Wegren said. There is a payment limit of $250,000 for each applicant but exceptions also exist for legal entities that have multiple members that provide active labor or personnel management. Examples include cattle operations that are set up as limited liability companies.

“If they can prove that each member provided at least 400 hours of active personal labor or management, then they can get $500,000 for two members or $750,000 for three members,” Wegren said.

Applications with a focus on CFAP 2 will also be expedited by the USDA for financial assistance under its cooperative programs. Award amounts for the cooperative agreements will range from $20,000 to $99,999 over a time period between six months and one year. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance or denial by June 20 and awards will be in place by Sept. 1.

Sign-ups for CFAP 2 will be open for at least 60 days from April 5. The USDA is also looking into launching a new program such as a potential CFAP 3 to provide targeted assistance for certain types of producers like organic farmers, for example, Wegren said.

For more information or to apply for CFAP 2, vist the USDA’s CFAP 2 website.

The USDA also offers various loan assistance programs for farmers and ranchers. More details on these programs are available at the USDA’s webpage for funding opportunities.

COBRA Premium Assistance

This program provides insurance assistance to employees who lost their coverage and the subsidy will come in the form of a payroll tax credit for employers. As part of the American Rescue Plan Act, the Department of Labor announced on April 7 that the federal government will provide eligible employees who lost their healthcare coverage a 100% subsidy on their COBRA insurance premiums between April 1 and Sept. 30.

For more details, visit the Department of Labor’s COBRA Premium Subsidy web page.

Pandemic assistance from state and local governments

Several state and local governments provided pandemic assistance during the initial round of federal funding and the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act is no different. In Northern Nevada, local governments such as Reno, Sparks and Washoe County were in the middle of assessing new assistance plans as of early April.

Here is the status of the various state and local pandemic assistance programs currently in Reno-Sparks. This article will be updated as new information is released.

Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development: The state economic development agency oversaw Nevada’s Pandemic Emergency Technical Support program, which paid out more than $50 million to applicants during its first round of funding. Nevada received about 13,500 applications for the program, which includes small businesses, non-profits, arts and culture organizations, and local Chambers of Commerce. Funds from the program can be used to cover capital such as rent, inventory, payroll and utilities, as well as protective equipment and retrofits for improving safety.

While applications have since closed, Gov. Steve Sisolak has requested an additional $50 million in funding from the Nevada Legislature. If approved, the state says it will continue to fund small businesses that submitted applications to the program, including those that were denied due to the lack of available funding.

For more details, visit GOED’s main PETS webpage.

City of Reno: The city of Reno is currently looking at its options to provide pandemic assistance from the funding provided by the American Rescue Plan Act.

“We do not yet have guidance on how these funds can be spent, so we do not have any programs yet for spending the ARPA,” said Matt Brown, a spokesman for the city of Reno.

“We are still gathering information. Also, we don’t have the funds yet and are not quite sure of when they will arrive, as of right now.  This is changing daily and, hopefully, we will get the guidance soon so we can prepare a plan for Council approval.”

City of Sparks: The city of Sparks is also assessing its options for providing pandemic assistance to small businesses from the latest round of federal funding.

“Right now we are still unsure as to how much money we will be receiving through the American Rescue Plan,” said spokeswoman Julie Duewel.

“It is looking like we should receive the first distribution right around May 10. We do know that we will be putting a substantial amount of these funds back into the community but no concrete decisions or direction has been made yet.”

Washoe County: Washoe County, which recently approved an extension of its Emergency Rental Assistance Program after receiving $6.5 million in funds from the Treasury Department, is also looking at its options to provide pandemic assistance from ARPA funds.

“We don’t actually know how much we’ll receive or what the parameters are around how it can be spent yet,” said spokeswoman Bethany Drysdale.

For small businesses who need advice regarding their options for pandemic assistance, including how to put together an application for the various options available, the Nevada Small Business Development Center provides free advice and counseling. For more details, visit the Nevada SBDC website or call (800) 240-7094.

Jason Hidalgo covers business and technology for the Reno Gazette Journal, and also reviews the latest video games. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhidalgo. Like this content? Support local journalism with an RGJ digital subscription.

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Schools closed, businesses damaged as unrest breaks out in Brooklyn Center following police shooting

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Schools closed, businesses damaged as unrest breaks out in Brooklyn Center following police shooting

Residents, curious onlookers and business owners in Brooklyn Center emerged early Monday to begin cleaning up and to see for themselves the damage left behind after violence and looting broke out overnight following the fatal shooting of a motorist by police Sunday afternoon.

Officers in riot gear stood sentinel at the city’s police station that was tagged with anti-police graffiti and where squad cars were damaged. The National Guard blocked the entrance to the Shingle Creek Crossing shopping plaza where several retailers had windows busted out and merchandise strewn on the floor. Flip-flops and bottles of fruity drinks littered the Walmart parking lot where a man who gave his name as Thomas was part of a small army of store employees picking up trash and debris.

“All of our large screen TV’s were taken,” he said.

Alarms blared at a Verizon store across the way where the front window was broken and a TV was ripped off the wall. Looters had ransacked the Icon Beauty Salon and left boxes of fake eyelashes behind in the parking lot. At Aspen Dental, only the front door sustained damage, but the clinic canceled all Monday appointments.

“I expected it to be way worse,” said Sara Trout, an employee who was on the scene just before 7 a.m. even though she had received a text message telling her not to come to work.

A quiet yet tense feeling enveloped the Hennepin County suburb as law enforcement lifted an overnight curfew at 6 a.m. With fears that unrest could erupt again as police have scheduled an 11 a.m. media briefing, Brooklyn Center Community Schools told students to stay home and do distance learning.

“We know our community experienced trauma and we need the time and space to process,” said Superintendent Carly Baker.

Adam New, a 1999 Brooklyn Center High School graduate who does not live in the city anymore, took a city bus to his hometown Monday morning to check out the aftermath of Sunday night’s mayhem.

“They want to burn the place down,” New said as he watched patrols guard the police station. “I’m sick of it. This has to spark change.”

Scores of motorists with phones in hand took videos as they rolled by the station. Others, like Eric Cullen, of Bloomington, stopped by police headquarters to assess the situation and get a firsthand view rather than relying on media accounts of what happened.

“I’m a see-it-to-believe-it kind of guy,” he said.

Events unfolded Sunday afternoon when a police officer allegedly shot Daunte Wright, 20, during a traffic stop about 2 p.m. in the area of 63rd Avenue and Orchard Avenue N. Wright drove a few blocks before he crashed into another vehicle and died. Wright had a warrant for his arrest at the time.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was on the scene and will conduct an independent investigation.

Protesters had assembled near the scene by Sunday afternoon and had been relatively peaceful until nightfall. That is when they marched to police headquarter near N. 66th Avenue and N. Humboldt Avenue and were locked in a standoff with police in riot gear. Police used tear gas, flash bangs and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd that had chanted Wright’s name and climbed atop the police headquarters sign.

On Monday, crime scene tape remained in yards near where the shooting happened. At the shopping complex, broken glass covered sidewalks and business owners surveyed the damage.

“Oh, they hit the Dominos and the Wing Stop,” Trout lamented. The manager of the pizza joint “is the nicest guy.”

The dental clinic where she works was largely spared. Other than broken glass, “nothing was stolen,” Trout said. “I’m not sad that it happened.”

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