LEGISLATIVE UPDATE March 23, 2020
The Senate has decided to reconvene on Tuesday to try to pass an omnibus COVID-19 bill, as well as a couple of other needed pieces of legislation. Tim Ashe, Senator Pro Temp, indicated that sixteen senators are needed for a quorum, but all Senators are invited. The Senate chamber would have only 10 people in at a time and Senators would be brought in to vote. Senator Ashe also indicated that he hopes that the entire chamber will reach a “prearranged agreement” on noncontroversial bills that need to be voted on.
* Reimburse for empty nursing home beds
* Waive co-pays and deductibles for COVID-19 treatment
* Quickly relicenses retired health care workers
* Relax or waive healthcare workforce regulations
* Expand the use of telemedicine
* Boost nutrition assistance for elderly Vermonters and children
* Give flexibility on car license renewals and vehicle inspections
* Let employees care for a sick person without losing unemployment insurance time
Sec. 2. Amends 21 V.S.A. § 1325. Employers’ experience ratings
- The employer temporarily lays off employs at a specific location because it has ceased operations at that location due to COVID 19; or
- The employee is temporarily laid off in order to comply with a quarantine recommendation related to COVID-19; and
- The employer rehires the employee when it resumes operations or the employee’s period of quarantine is completed.
- Relieves charges for a maximum of 4 weeks.
- Employer will also not be charged for benefits paid to an individual who voluntarily leaves employment to care for a family member with COVID-19.
These changes dealing with COVID-19 would be repealed as of March 33, 2021.
less in General Fund revenues due to less in personal income taxes and meals and rooms taxes.
* Transportation Fund -possibility of $15-20 million (gas tax) as people drive less over the next few months
- The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced today that the federal income tax filing due date is automatically extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020.
- Taxpayers can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment tax.
- Taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms or call the IRS to qualify for this automatic federal tax filing and payment relief. Individual taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the July 15 deadline, can request a further filing extension by filing Form 4868 through their tax professional, tax software or using the Free File link on IRS.gov. Businesses who need additional time must file Form 7004.
FROM THE AGENCY OF AGRICULTURE
The Agency has created a COVID-19 resource page for access to the latest industry guidance and resources for agricultural related service providers, businesses and interested parties. This page can be found on the Vermont Agency of Agriculture,Food & Markets website, at https://agriculture.vermont.gov/covid-19-information.
Congress has passed a $1 billion stimulus bill that will address some of the problems associated with the coronavirus outbreak. Some of the key provisions in the bill include:
- Food benefits for needy workers and students
- Allows states to use money from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to boost aid for kids who qualify for free or reduced price school meals.
- Students from schools that have closed for at least five days could get extra food stamp benefits to the value of the school meals they are missing.
- Sets aside $500 million for pregnant women and mothers under the WIC program.
- Also sets aside another $400 million to distribute items to food banks. These are the ag related provisions. Other provisions include COVID-19 testing and many additional health related matters. * The
- Agriculture & Food Availability:
- At this point, farmers and retailers are saying the U.S. food supply is stable.
- USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service which is required by law to be present at the 6,200 slaughterhouses across the country are saying that the plants are operating as normal.
- Although food is flying off the store shelves, there are no shortages and supplies are plentiful so far.
- Fresh produce from Mexico continues to flow across the southern border as 50% of the U.S. fruit and vegetable supply comes in from our neighbor to the south.
- The food retailers state that this is a demand issue, not a supply issue.
- Our dairy industry has a number of challenges.
- Since milk is a perishable product, it needs to continually flow to the market.
- So far, we have not seen any disruptions in milk from the farm to our processing facilities.
- However, with schools, restaurants and other businesses closing, there is going to be an excess of fluid milk production that will have to be shifted to butter, cheese, non-fat dry milk powder or other products. There is only just so much storage capacity for manufactured products.
- We want to avoid dumping milk at all costs.
- Also, illness from coronavirus among plant employees will be a serious problem and, of course, at the farm as well.
- There are a number of ideas in the works. The federal government under its Section 32 program could purchase and store excess dairy products.
- We need to ensure that the transportation of dairy products, including hours of service for truck drivers are sufficient to cover their needs in transporting products.
- We need to examine the potential for reopening the Dairy Margin Coverage Program for sign-ups.
- Enrollments in the DMC for 2020 were down to 13,059 dairy farms as of mid-March compared to 23,389 in 2019.
- DMC payments are projected to be made for March and April and perhaps beyond based on current forecasts at the $9.50 margin level.
- There are many options that need to be explored for dairy and we are doing that.
To contact the Sergeant of Arms, call 802 828 2228