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Coronavirus

Coronavirus Resource Center

As this global pandemic unfolds around us, we at AmericanHort want to provide our members and the industry as much helpful information and access to pertinent resources in as timely a manner as possible.

Please consider this page a resource center where we will update you on late-breaking news, provide helpful links to expert information and resources, and share tips and tools to help each one of our businesses navigate the days ahead.

Member Communications

Click here for the latest message from AmericanHort.

Federal Relief Efforts

Several proposals are under consideration by the Trump Administration and Congress to address the stresses of nationwide efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

President Trump has already signed two bills into law to address the fallout from Coronavirus containment and mitigation efforts across the nation.

The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (H.R. 6074)

U.S. House of Representatives:
Passed 415-2 (3/4/20)

U.S. Senate:
Passed 96-1 (3/5/20)

White House:
Signed into Law (3/6/20)

This legislation provides emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the coronavirus outbreak including funding for loans to support affected small businesses.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201)

U.S. House of Representatives:
Passed 363-40 (3/14/20)

U.S. Senate:
Passed 90-8 (3/18/20)

White House:
Signed into Law (3/18/20)

This legislation expands job-protected leave for American workers and expand unemployment insurance programs, among other relief initiatives. Click here for a high-level summary of the law’s paid leave-related provisions.

For most, the Spring season is essential to success, and businesses with limited liquidity are not well positioned to shoulder a huge financial burden at the time the industry should be heading into peak activity and cash flow generation. We have profound concerns about the burdens being placed on employers who are suffering from capacity, liquidity, and overall business problems. In the end the imperative for Congress to act outweighed the will to amend the issues with the bill that affected our members. Read AmericanHort’s response to the Senate.

Compliance Advice

On March 24, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued official guidance explaining the various leave provisions included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that take effect on April 1, 2020. As described in the press release:

The guidance – provided in a Fact Sheet for Employees, a Fact Sheet for Employers and a Questions and Answers document – addresses critical questions, such as how an employer must count the number of their employees to determine coverage; how small businesses can obtain an exemption; how to count hours for part-time employees; and how to calculate the wages employees are entitled to under this law.

For additional information from the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) on issues employers face in responding to COVID-19, click here.

On March 26, the DOL made available a compliance poster (Spanish) for employers which must be displayed to fulfill notice requirements under the new law. A Field Assistance Bulletin describing WHD’s 30-day non-enforcement policy is available as well.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748)

U.S. Senate:
Passed 96-0 (3/25/20)

U.S. House of Representatives:
Passed (3/27/20)

White House:
Signed (3/27/20)

OOn March 27, the President signed the CARES act into law. This legislation provides a sweeping stimulus to the American economy, financial support for businesses, and a backstop for state and local governments and institutions to address the Coronavirus in their community.

The legislation includes the following provisions:

  • Rebates of $1,200 for low- and middle-income individuals (gradually phased out for AGIs between $75,000 and $99,000), and an additional $500 for every child.
  • $350B in small business loans available to protect payrolls and other operating expenses, which may be forgiven in certain circumstances.
  • A 50% refundable payroll tax credit on wages paid, up to $10,000 in certain circumstances.
  • A delay on Social Security payroll tax payments for employers.

For a full summary of the bill text, click here.

Updates on Foreign Labor Processing

FAQs for H-2A Users

AmericanHort and CJ Lake have assembled a list of FAQs for users of the H-2A visa program. Click here for the full list of FAQs

General Announcements Related to H-2 Processing

On March 26, the Department of State announced that Secretary Pompeo and the Department of Homeland Security had authorized consular officials, at their discretion, to waive the visa interview requirement for first-time and returning H-2 applicants who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility. Read the announcement here.

Status of Diplomatic Operations in Mexico

On Monday, March 16, the U.S. diplomatic mission to Mexico announced that processing of routine immigrant and non-immigrant visas would be suspended until further notice.

Status of Diplomatic Operations in Guatemala

On Sunday, March 15, the U.S. diplomatic mission to Guatemala announced that Guatemalan restrictions on travel to the United States had canceled almost all flights leaving Guatemala and advised travelers to confirm flight details directly with their carriers. No notice was posted regarding the processing of applications in-country.

Status of Diplomatic Operations in Honduras

The U.S. diplomatic mission to Honduras announced that all routine visa services at the Consular Section of the Embassy in Tegucigalpa are canceled until further notice. The notice states the embassy will be open for emergency services only

Additional Labor Updates

On March 20, the Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) released a document of addressing Frequently Asked Questions relating to the COVID-19 outbreak.

On March 19, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a partnership to “facilitate the identification of foreign and domestic workers that may be available and eligible to transfer to other U.S. agricultural sector employers to fulfill critical workforce needs within the U.S. under existing regulatory authority during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

More information is available in the USDA Press Release.

If you or your organization is interested in helping the effort to combat the spread of COVID-19, FEMA has established a website (www.fema.gov/coronavirus/how-to-help) with more information. For non-medical supplies, services or equipment, if you are interested in doing business with FEMA, visit our Industry Liaison Program.

Keeping Horticultural Businesses Open

Announcement on Critical Infrastructure

On March 28, the Department of Homeland Security issued revised federal guidance on critical infrastructure sectors and essential workers. The most significant change for horticulture businesses is the explicit inclusion of “landscapers” under the Public Works and Infrastructure Support sector. Some revisions were made under Food and Agriculture Sector that may be at least somewhat helpful with respect to garden retail, depending on business model. Note that the federal guidance is advisory only, and final authority resides at the state and sometimes local level. But these changes may be helpful as AmericanHort and state partners work to support state/local decisions on who may operate consistent with health and safety guidance. Read the document here.

Garden Retail Centers

Amid a growing trend of mandated business closures, many are wondering what they can do to help their business weather the storm. Decisions on whether businesses can operate will be made, and those with the ability to influence those decisions will be best located, at the state or local level. Our strategy is to equip our members and state/local partners with the arguments to make their case in those discussions.

AmericanHort has collaborated with other industry leaders and organizations, to develop a statement you can use in communicating with government officials. We encourage you to borrow this statement and proactively reach out to your leaders to demonstrate the essential nature of retail garden centers in discussions about mandated business closures.

On March 18, AmericanHort briefed the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture on our concerns about the importance of these retail operations. State Agriculture Secretaries and Commissioners are key allies in the effort to articulate why these businesses should be allowed to continue operations, even in a modified capacity.

We have also been in communication with the office of Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and other USDA staffers requesting that they keep the green industry in mind as “essential agriculture” as any new regulations are developed.

Growers & Producers

We are not currently aware of any jurisdiction limiting the ability of growers to continue operations. As a rule, agricultural production is generally considered a critical/essential component of the national infrastructure and we expect it will continue to be treated as such in these circumstances. If you're hearing anything different, please let us know.

Landscaping

On March 18, AmericanHort joined a letter articulating the landscaping industry industry’s importance.

State-by-State Agricultural Information

AmericanHort has begun to collect information sent to us by members in several states that may be of assistance in securing operating protections for your business as more closures are announced. This list is not complete and if you have seen a similar information not mentioned here, please forward them to us.

New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Interim Guidance for Horticulture

North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Coronavirus Page

Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry Statement on Essential Agriculture (March 20, 2020)

Announcement from the Governor of Oregon on Required Business Closures

Transportation Logistics

Updates from FMCSA

On March 24, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) put out guidance for drivers who have had, or will have, their licenses expire over the next few months or those who need updated medical exam. A waiver is being granted until June 30 for drivers who had valid credentials as of March 1. The text of the guidance is here: Notice of Enforcement on Licenses. Waiver.

Income Tax Filing and Payment

On March 20, President Trump announced that the IRS would extend filing and payment deadlines for individual filers until July 15, 2020. There will be no penalties or interest on taxes owed if filed by the new deadline. More information available in IRS Notice 2020-18

The deadline to file business taxes has also been moved to July 15, 2020.

There has been no guidance as it relates to 2020 estimated tax payments or an extension of payment for payroll taxes. We will keep you advised of any official announcements, but at this time we are only hearing proposals and speculation.

AmericanHort Premium members have access to dedicated experts at K-Coe Isom. For more information on these benefits, click here.

Guidelines for Communicating with Employees, Customers and Clients

In times of uncertainty communication is more important than ever. We suggest companies consider two important paths of communication and deliver information in as calm a manner possible. The first path is for employees to help alleviate their concerns; and the second path is to connect with your customers and clients. Here are some suggestions on what your messages to these audiences might address.

Employee communication:

  • An overall statement that “we value the health and wellbeing of our employees and their families and are here to listen to your concerns”
  • Share what the company doing to protect its employees from the virus (handwashing, sanitizing, limiting meetings, limiting in-person contact, etc.)
  • Share your remote working/telecommuting options, guidelines (if available)
  • Review your processes for how the company will communicate to employees in the event of a mandatory shut down
  • Review your HR policies regarding sick time or leave. This may be a time to make some temporary modifications (i.e.: provide an advance on paid time off)

Client or customer communication:

  • Share whether the company open for business, has modified hours operation, offers delivery or order pickup services, etc.
  • Share what the company is doing to protect its customers from the virus? (handwashing, sanitizing, adding additional hand-wash stations, limiting visitors, limiting meetings, limiting in person contact, etc.)
  • Share the positive fact that plants impact our health, wellness and the environment – “gardening has not been cancelled”
  • Ask how the company can help its customers/clients in this time of uncertainty through service, payment terms, or other support

Click here for printer friendly version of the above tips.

AmericanHort: What Members are Doing to Respond to Coronavirus

Paley Rothman: FAQs about responding to questions about teleworking, feeling sick and more

Pennsylvania State University: Best Management Practice for the Green Industry

The Health, Wellness, and Economic Benefits of Plants

National Garden Bureau – pre-designed social media graphics to showcase the benefits of plants and how they can make our lives better. Here are a few examples but you can find more here

Get Outside & Garden – creative ideas for easy kids gardening activities are here.

National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture (NICH) Plants Do That A variety of helpful resources to promote plants; for print or digital use

Embrace Your Space – TNLA (Texas Nursery & Landscape Assn.)

Encourage customers to take advantage of their own backyards and remind them why it feels good to get your hands in the dirt.

The Benefits of Plants - various resources and research available from Dr. Charlie Hall, AmericanHort Chief Economist.

Federal Government Resources

Small Business Administration (SBA)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Communication Tools

The CDC provides free online communication tools you can use to help communicate with your employees. Many resources are available in multiple languages.

Guidance:

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Registered Antimicrobial Products for Use Against Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the Cause of COVID-19 (3/3/20)

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Interim guidance and other resources for preventing exposures to, and infection with, COVID-19

State Government Resources

State & Territorial Health Departments

NASDA (National Association of State Departments of Agriculture) As the Federal Government is leading efforts to respond to coronavirus (COVID-19), states are serving on the front lines. Here is a link to the NASDA website where you will find a quick summary of all the main resources that might be helpful to you and your staff.

Information from other Resources:

Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security – Latest Updates

Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering – Global Cases

Global Health Council - COVID-19 Response

World Health Organization (WHO) - Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak page

Shopping from the Consumer’s Perspective

Thursday, March 26, 2020, 2 PM, EST

Download PowerPoint slides here

In this webinar, Dr. Bridget Behe helps retailers construct a better retail environment and an easier shopping process for the consumer. She presents timely information to help Garden Centers with near-term options given the Coronavirus outbreak and IGC strategies for the new rules that may be legally or ethically in place. This webinar is the final in a 3-part series by Dr. Behe and has been modified to reflect the difficult times we are in. Part 1 and Part 2 are available to AmericanHort members in the Knowledge Center.

Part 1 - Enhance Retail Signage for Improved Sales

Part 2 - Creating More Compelling Retail Displays


The Families First Coronavirus Response Act - Answering Tax and Labor Questions

Wed, Mar 25, 2020 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM EDT

Download PowerPoint Slides here

Join us for an informational update about recent legislation Congress passed in response to the Coronavirus emergency and its effects on your business' labor and tax policies from two of AmericanHort’s expert partners—CJ Lake and K-Coe Isom.


Legislative & Economic Update

Monday March 23, 2020 at 11:00 AM

Download PowerPoint Slides here

AmericanHort’s Craig Reggelbrugge, Sr. VP of Advocacy & Research and Chief Economist Dr. Charlie Hall who will provide updates on the latest legislative activity and general state of the U.S. economy considering the global Coronavirus pandemic.

Due to technical difficulties, audio commentary is missing from portions of the recorded presentation. However, slides can still be viewed in the video or downloaded at the link above.