PIOGA COVID-19 Response2022-01-12T19:11:51-05:00

This page is updated frequently to include information and resources to help keep Pennsylvania’s oil and natural gas industry safely operating so that we are able to continue providing our essential products during the coronavirus pandemic. Items are placed in chronological order, newest on top.

Key information:

Attending a PIOGA meeting or event? Please read the PIOGA COVID-19 Waiver Agreement.

With the situation remaining fluid as state, federal and local governments act to attempt to stem the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus and to manage health-care impacts, PIOGA is here to help keep our industry informed and to ensure that our members can continue to provide their essential services. As the item at right notes, PIOGA staff members are working remotely from home to continue to offer all routine association services as well as advise you on matters related to our industry and COVID-19.

Under Governor Tom Wolf’s directives regarding which businesses are considered life sustaining and may continue operating and which are considered non-life sustaining and must close, the oil and gas extraction category is deemed life sustaining and may continue working, including travel by employees associated with those activities. It is our understanding that all activities related to operating and maintaining both conventional and unconventional wells may continue.

We also understand that work on well sites is considered life-sustaining and therefore can continue, as long as the pad is built and drilling is or has taken place. Work on midstream facilities can continue for the same reason. Gathering, processing and transportation operations and maintenance activities are considered life sustaining and can continue. Any active construction projects still have to be maintained from an environmental and safety perspective.

In addition to sending out emails as needed to all members as circumstances warrant, we will post all related information on this COVID-19 page on an ongoing basis. Bulk emails can often wind up in your junk folder, so please check regularly and make sure PIOGA is marked as a safe sender.

Posted Wednesday, January 5, 2022

OSHA Employer Temporary Standard on Vaccination and Testing: Readiness Guide for Pennsylvania Employers

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has prepared a readiness guide to help employers with 100 or more employees be prepared to implement the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for COVID-19 vaccination or testing.

OSHA provides two compliance options:

  1. Develop, implement, and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy
  2. Adopt a policy requiring employees to either get vaccinated or elect to undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work in lieu of vaccination

The ETS was published in the Federal Register on November 5, 2021. The text of the rule can be found on the Federal Register website, and OSHA’s website contains additional information, including FAQs.

On November 6, 2021, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency motion to stay enforcement of the ETS, temporarily suspending the ETS pending further judicial review. On November 15, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor acknowledged the Fifth Circuit’s Order and announced that OSHA is suspending its implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending further litigation. On December 17, 2021, the Sixth Circuit Court dissolved the Fifth Circuit Court’s stay of the ETS. On December 18, 2021, OSHA released guidance that it will resume implementation of the ETS.

Per OSHA: “OSHA will not issue citations for noncompliance with any requirements of the ETS before January 10 and will not issue citations for noncompliance with the standard’s testing requirements before February 9, so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard.” Litigation may be ongoing. Employers should refer to the OSHA website for updated guidance.

Employers must choose how to ensure compliance. Federal guidance states that employers can mandate vaccinations for staff. To support vaccinations, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) will continue to oversee a Commonwealth-wide vaccination program, and employers are invited to refer any staff seeking vaccination to one of hundreds of clinics in the Commonwealth providing vaccines. To find the closest vaccine provider, please follow this link. PADOH will not provide any customized support to private employers seeking to operationalize a testing program.

You can access the complete “Readiness Guide for Pennsylvania Employers” for detailed information about:

Thank you for your assistance in helping protect your employees and our nation from COVID-19.


Jennifer Berrier, Secretary, PA Department of Labor & Industry
Keara Klinepeter, Acting Secretary, PA Department of Health

Posted Thursday, June 3, 2021

The following is from PIOGA member Schnader Harrison Segal and Lewis LLP

New EEOC Covid-19 Guidance on Employer-Sponsored Vaccine Mandates and Incentives

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has maintained a Q&A page providing guidance to employers on specific issues that arise under federal anti-discrimination laws. On May 28, 2021, the EEOC issued long-awaited guidance regarding employer-sponsored vaccine mandates and vaccine incentives. The EEOC has explicitly stated that employers may maintain mandatory vaccination programs and vaccine incentive programs without violating any applicable employment laws.

According to this guidance, employers may establish a vaccine mandate in the workplace without violating federal anti-discrimination laws. However, employers may have to exempt employees from this mandate – namely, employees unable to receive vaccinations due to medical conditions or sincerely held religious beliefs.

Click here to read the full Alert.

Posted Friday, May 14, 2021

Revised PA masking order

On March 16,  the Acting Secretary of Health, Alison Beam, amended the Commonwealth’s Masking Order by adding language requiring the State to reflect the CDC’s guidance on face coverings.

This means that today’s CDC guidelines automatically go into effect in Pennsylvania. The State’s masking requirement will still be in place for unvaccinated individuals until 70% of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older are fully vaccinated; however, several restrictions will be lifted for those who are fully vaccinated.

If you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by Federal, State, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
  • If you travel in the United States, you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.
  • You need to pay close attention to the situation at your international destination before traveling outside the United States.
    • You do NOT need to get tested before leaving the United States unless your destination requires it.
    • You still need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding an international flight to the United States.
    • You should still get tested 3-5 days after international travel.
    • You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.
  • If you have been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you show symptoms.
    • However, if you live or work in a correctional or detention facility, or a homeless shelter, and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still get tested – even if you don’t have symptoms.

What you should keep doing:

  • You will still need to follow guidance at your workplace and local businesses.
  • If you travel, you should still take steps to protect yourself and others. You will still be required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
  • Fully vaccinated international travelers arriving in the United States are still required to get tested within 3-days of their flight (or show documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3-months), and should still get tested 3-5 days after their trip.
  • You should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick.
    • If you starting experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, you should get testedstay home, and away from others.
  • People who have a pre-existing condition or are taking medications that weaken the immune system, should talk to their healthcare provider to discuss their activities.
    • They may need to keep taking all precautions to prevent contracting COVID-19.

However, fully vaccinated individuals can resume activities as they did prior to the pandemic without wearing a mask or physically distancing except where required by law, rule, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.

New PPP guidance issued by SBA, Treasury

Posted Thursday, January 7, 2021; from the Journal of Accountancy:

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and Treasury issued guidance Wednesday night for the reconstituted Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

The guidance included two interim final rules (IFRs).

  • The 82-page IFR “Business Loan Program Temporary Changes; Paycheck Protection Program as Amended” consolidates the rules for PPP forgivable loans for first-time borrowers and outlines changes made by the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act, P.L. 116-260.
  • The 42-page IFR “Business Loan Program Temporary Changes; Paycheck Protection Program Second Draw Loans” lays out the guidelines for new PPP loans to businesses that previously received a PPP loan.

In addition, the SBA released a three-page “Guidance on Accessing Capital for Minority, Underserved, Veteran and Women-Owned Business Concerns.” That guidance includes a commitment from the SBA to make at least the first two days of the PPP application window open exclusively to applications from community financial institutions that serve minority- and women-owned businesses. The SBA did not set a date for restarting the PPP, but the program is authorized through March 31.

In a small change that is big for accountants, the 82-page IFR includes a provision that allows agents knowingly retained by a borrower to receive fees paid by the borrower. That’s a change from the first round of the PPP, which put the payment of agent fees on lenders. Lenders can still pay fees under the new rules but only for services the lender agrees to in a contract directly with the agent.

The total amount that an agent may collect from the lender for assistance in preparing an application for a PPP loan (including referral to the lender) may not exceed:

  • 1% for loans of not more than $350,000;
  • 0.5% for loans of more than $350,000 and less than $2 million; and
  • 0.25% for loans of at least $2 million.

Congress revived the PPP as part of the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill that was signed into law on Dec. 27. The original PPP provided $525 billion in forgivable loans over five months before it stopped accepting applications in August. The Economic Aid Act rebooted the PPP with many of the same parameters as the first program but also several important differences from the original PPP. The new PPP is authorized to operate through March 31. New PPP application forms have not yet been released but are expected in the next few days. The SBA has not yet announced when it will start accepting new PPP applications.

Second-draw PPP loans

One of the biggest changes with the new PPP is that Congress made funding available to businesses that had previously received a PPP loan. Borrowers are eligible for a second-draw PPP loan of up to $2 million, provided they have:

  • 300 or fewer employees.
  • Used or will use the full amount of their first PPP loan on or before the expected date for the second PPP loan to be disbursed to the borrower. The IFR also clarifies that the borrower must have spent the full amount of the first PPP loan on eligible expenses.
  • Experienced a revenue reduction of 25% or more in all or part of 2020 compared with all or part of 2019. This is calculated by comparing gross receipts in any 2020 quarter with an applicable quarter in 2019, or, in a provision added in the IFR, a borrower that was in operation for all four quarters of 2019 can submit copies of its annual tax forms that show a reduction in annual receipts of 25% or greater in 2020 compared with 2019.

The Economic Aid Act did not provide a general definition of gross receipts for determining a borrower’s revenue reduction, so the new guidance makes the definition consistent with the definition of receipts in 13 C.F.R. Section 121.104 of SBA’s size regulations. Specifically, the IFR defines gross receipts to include all revenue in whatever form received or accrued (in accordance with the entity’s accounting method) from whatever source, including from the sales of products or services, interest, dividends, rents, royalties, fees, or commissions, reduced by returns and allowances. Forgiven first-draw PPP loans are not included in the 2020 gross receipts.

First-draw PPP loans

The Economic Aid Act makes first-draw PPP loans available to borrowers that were in operation on Feb. 15, 2020, and come from one of the following groups:

  • Businesses with 500 or fewer employees that are eligible for other SBA 7(a) loans.
  • Sole proprietors, independent contractors, and eligible self-employed individuals.
  • Not-for-profits, including churches.
  • Accommodation and food services operations (those with North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes starting with 72) with fewer than 500 employees per physical location.
  • Sec. 501(c)(6) business leagues, such as chambers of commerce, visitors’ bureaus, etc., and “destination marketing organizations” that have 300 or fewer employees and do not receive more than 15% of receipts from lobbying. The lobbying activities must comprise no more than 15% of the organization’s total activities and have cost no more than $1 million during the most recent tax year that ended prior to Feb. 15. 2020. Sports leagues are not eligible.
  • News organizations that are majority-owned or controlled by an NAICS code 511110 or 5151 business or not-for-profit public broadcasting entities with a trade or business under NAICS code 511110 or 5151. The size limit for this category is no more than 500 employees per location.

In a change from the original PPP, publicly traded companies and businesses controlled, either directly or indirectly, by the president, vice president, head of executive departments, and members of Congress (or their spouses as defined by applicable common law) are not eligible for PPP loans.

PPP applicants must submit documentation sufficient to establish eligibility and to demonstrate the qualifying payroll amount, which may include, as applicable, payroll records; payroll tax filings; Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income; Form 1040, Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business, or Schedule F, Profit or Loss From Farming; income and expenses from a sole proprietorship; or bank records.

PPP loan maximum amounts

In general, first-time PPP borrowers may receive a loan amount of up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll costs (not counting employees who make more than $100,000 annualized) in the year prior to the loan or the calendar year. PPP borrowers with NAICS codes starting with 72 (hotels and restaurants) can receive up to 3.5 times their average monthly payroll costs.

The maximum for a first-draw PPP loan is $10 million, the same as in the original PPP. Applicants must provide a Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return, (or other forms with similar information) and state quarterly wage unemployment insurance tax reporting forms from each quarter in 2019 or 2020 (whichever is used to calculate the loan amount), or equivalent payroll processor records, along with evidence of any retirement and health insurance contributions.

Eligible costs

PPP borrowers can have their first- and second-draw loans forgiven if the funds are used on eligible costs. As with the first round of the PPP, the costs eligible for loan forgiveness in the revised PPP include payroll, rent, covered mortgage interest, and utilities. In addition, the following costs are now eligible:

  • Covered worker protection and facility modification expenditures, including personal protective equipment, to comply with COVID-19 federal health and safety guidelines.
  • Covered property damage costs related to property damage and vandalism or looting due to public disturbances in 2020 that were not covered by insurance or other compensation.
  • Expenditures to suppliers that are essential at the time of purchase to the recipient’s current operations.
  • Covered operating expenditures, which refer to payments for any business software or cloud computing service that facilitates business operations; product or service delivery; the processing, payment, or tracking of payroll expenses; human resources; sales and billing functions; or accounting or tracking of supplies, inventory, records, and expenses.

To be eligible for full loan forgiveness, PPP borrowers will have to spend no less than 60% of the funds on payroll over a covered period between eight or 24 weeks.

Simplified forgiveness

Borrowers that receive a PPP loan of $150,000 or less shall receive forgiveness if the borrower signs and submits to the lender a certification that is not more than one page in length, includes a description of the number of employees the borrower was able to retain because of the loan, the estimated total amount of the loan spent on payroll costs, and the total loan amount. The SBA has yet to create the simplified application form but must do so by Jan. 20. The form may not require additional materials unless necessary to substantiate revenue loss requirements or satisfy relevant statutory or regulatory requirements. Borrowers are required to retain relevant records related to employment for four years and other records for three years, as the SBA may review and audit these loans to check for fraud.

Minority, underserved, veteran, and women-owned businesses

The Economic Aid Act provided set-asides for new and smaller borrowers, for borrowers in low- and moderate-income communities, and for community and smaller lenders. The set-asides include:

  • $15 billion across first- and second-draw PPP loans for lending by community financial institutions;
  • $15 billion across first- and second-draw PPP loans for lending by insured depository institutions, credit unions, and Farm Credit System institutions with consolidated assets of less than $10 billion;
  • $35 billion for new first-draw PPP borrowers; and
  • $15 billion and $25 billion for first-draw and second-draw PPP loans, respectively, for borrowers with a maximum of 10 employees or for loans of less than $250,000 to borrowers in low- or moderate-income neighborhoods. The SBA has determined that at least 25% of each of those set-asides will go to each one of the groups: loans to borrowers with a maximum of 10 employees and loans of less than $250,000 to borrowers in low- or moderate-income neighborhoods.

The SBA announced in its three-page guidance that it would take a number of steps to ensure increased access to the PPP for minority, underserved, veteran, and women-owned business concerns. Most notably, the SBA said it will accept PPP loan applications only from community financial institutions for at least the first two days when the PPP loan portal reopens. In addition, the SBA said it would:

  • Direct Lender Match borrower inquiries to small lenders that can aid traditionally underserved communities;
  • Match small businesses through Lender Match with Certified Development Companies (CDCs), Farm Credit System lenders, microloan intermediaries, and traditional smaller asset size lenders;
  • Continue setting aside dedicated hours to process and assist the smallest PPP lenders with their PPP loans;
  • Continue to strongly encourage community development financial institutions and minority-, women-, veteran-, and military-owned lenders to apply to become PPP lenders. SBA said it would give full and prompt consideration to these applications to become PPP lenders consistent with program guidelines, including in cases where the lender does not meet all of the requirements listed on the updated SBA Form 3507;
  • Continue to work with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System on the PPP Liquidity Facility to enable PPP lenders, including nonbank lenders, to pledge PPP loans to the Federal Reserve as collateral for Federal Reserve borrowings to enhance lender liquidity and enable PPP lenders to expand their lending capacity;
  • Promote awareness of these policies and procedures via traditional media methods, SBA social media accounts, and guidance to lenders before the formal opening of the SBA’s loan systems;
  • Continue to work with federal partners. including the Department of Agriculture, the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Farm Credit Administration, and the National Credit Union Administration, to share the guidance with PPP lenders, borrowers, and the broader public.

Posted Tuesday, November 17; updated November 18 with link to mask-wearing FAQ

Wolf administration announces strengthened masking order, new traveling testing order

As Pennsylvania experiences a resurgence of COVID-19 cases with significantly higher daily case counts than in the spring and hospitalizations on the rise, the Wolf administration has identified four new mitigation efforts, which Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced today. Those that could have an impact on PIOGA members include the following:

Strengthened masking order

Dr. Levine first issued a masking order on April 15. The order signed today strengthens this initial order with these inclusions:

  • Masks are required to be worn indoors and outdoors if you are away from your home.
  • When outdoors, a mask must be worn if you are not able to remain physically distant (at least 6 feet away) from someone not in your household the entire time you are outdoors.
  • When indoors, masks will now be required even if you are physically distant from members not in your household. This means that even if you are able to be 6 feet apart, you will need to wear a mask while inside if with people other than members of your household.
  • This order applies to every indoor facility, including homes, retail establishments, gyms, doctors’ offices, public transportation, and anywhere food is prepared, packaged or served.

Frequently asked questions on face coverings.

Traveler testing
Dr. Levine issued an order requiring anyone who visits from another state to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the commonwealth.

If someone cannot get a test or chooses not to, they must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvanians visiting other states are required to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to their return to the commonwealth or to quarantine for 14 days upon return to Pennsylvania.

This order, which takes effect on Friday, November 20, does not apply to people who commute to and from another state for work or medical treatment.

Click here to read the full announcement, which also includes protections for the health care system and testing at colleges and universities.

Posted Wednesday, October 7:

PA Chamber launches initiative aimed at helping businesses move forward

The PA Chamber has launched the”Bringing PA Back” initiative aimed at providing businesses with the information and guidance they need to safely reopen their facilities and promoting public policies that will help to move Pennsylvania’s economy forward. For more information, visit BringingPABack.com.

Posted Tuesday, August 11:

Gov. Wolf Announces $96 Million for Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

Application Period for Final Round of Funding Now Open

Governor Tom Wolf today (August 10) announced that $96 million in state grants have been awarded to 4,933 Pennsylvania small businesses that were impacted by the COVID-19 public health crisis and subsequent business closure order.

Businesses in every Pennsylvania county received grants in this first of two rounds of funding, and 2,512 grants – or 51 percent – were awarded to historically disadvantaged businesses.

“As we continue to address this public health crisis, it’s critical that we also focus on our state’s economic recovery and supporting our small businesses across the state, which continue to be impacted by our necessary mitigation efforts,” Gov. Wolf said. “This funding will go a long way to help small businesses, including historically disadvantaged businesses, at a time when they need it most.”

The COVID-19 Relief Statewide Small Business Assistance funding was developed in partnership with state lawmakers and allocated through the state budget, which included $2.6 billion in federal stimulus funds through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, of which $225 million was earmarked for relief for small businesses.

The Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) distributed the funds to the Pennsylvania Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), which are administering the grants through three programs: $100 million for the Main Street Business Revitalization Program, $100 million for the Historically Disadvantaged Business Revitalization Program, and $25 million for the Loan Payment Deferment and Loss Reserve Program.

“The COVID-19 pandemic unexpectedly affected small businesses across the commonwealth, an unfortunate circumstance that could not have been predicted or prepared for,” said DCED Secretary Dennis Davin. “However, through the collective action of the Wolf Administration, the General Assembly, and the CDFI Network, Pennsylvania’s hardest hit and most at-risk businesses will be able to access the funding they need to shore up their resources and regain sound financial footing as we move into recovery.”

The second and final round of funding is open starting today through 11:59 PM on Friday, August 28. Eligible applicants not awarded in the first round do not need to reapply and will be rolled into the next round for consideration. More information on the COVID-19 Relief Statewide Small Business Assistance Program, including how to apply, is available on DCED’s website.

“The PA CDFI Network targeted these funds to reach the smallest and most vulnerable businesses across the state and we received an immense response with close to 50,000 applications submitted in the first round and more than $860 million in total requests,” said Daniel Betancourt, chairman of the PA CDFI Network and President & CEO of Community First Fund. “We are grateful to be part of this first step with Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania Legislature to get much needed resources to the small businesses that have been so adversely impacted by the pandemic.”

The grants may be used to cover operating expenses during the shutdown and transition to re-opening, and for technical assistance including training and guidance for business owners as they stabilize and relaunch their businesses.

“These grants and the relief they will provide are testament to what we can do when we prioritize the right initiatives,” said state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia, Montgomery), Democratic chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “It is because of collaboration and a collective focus that today we were able to deliver help to the auto body shops, the barbershops, the beauticians, the pizza shop owners, the soul food establishments and other businesses across the commonwealth. It is critical to understand that there is still a great deal of need and must continue to direct resources and aid to our small business community to help it recover from the devastation of the pandemic.”

“I could not be more proud or more grateful for the great work of DCED and Pennsylvania’s CDFI Network in delivering substantive, fair, equitable, need-based assistance to our state’s main street and historically disadvantaged small businesses. Our program design and the accountability it provides to taxpayers and to our federal funders is a model for the nation,” said state Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe), Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “I appeal to the US Congress and to our colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Harrisburg to recognize the success of this program in assisting small businesses devastated by the pandemic and to invest further in the program so we can help even more of them.”

“Our business community has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and is in need of immediate assistance. The grant program is targeted to help small businesses manage costs, handle expenses, and stay in operation in this exceptionally difficult time,” said state Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny, Westmoreland). “Since COVID struck our state and debilitated our business community, I have been advocating for bridge grants and sought millions in aid for impacted businesses and workers. The small business assistance grants are one of the tools we can use to bolster business, maintain jobs and help workers at a time of immense distress.”

“For minority and women-owned businesses in Pennsylvania COVID-19 didn’t create a crisis, it laid bare the crisis our minority entrepreneurs have been facing for decades,” said state Rep. Jake Wheatley Jr (D-Allegheny), Democratic chairman of the House Finance Committee. “While I’m glad to see the positive impact of these grants and I urge all local community businesses to apply for the next round of grants, we need to expand investment in programs like this because it’s long past time for the legislature to address the systemic flaws that are leaving too many marginalized people behind.”

“The burden that COVID-19 has put on business owners, employees and families in southeast Pennsylvania gets heavier every day,” said state Rep. Chris Sappey (D-Chester). “At this point, when we talk about addressing the pandemic, we must not only fight it with masks and social distancing, but we also must equally and strongly support our business community, where this fight for our health and safety actually is taking place. Commerce and industry must survive this virus, as well. Pennsylvania needs this aid now, and my office is eager to work with any business that needs help applying.”

Posted Tuesday, August 11:

US States’ Small Business Support Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

BestAccountingSoftware has published a guide to all the small business support that is available during the COVID-19 crisis. Unlike the IRS and SBA guides which focus on federal support we’ve dug into what’s available at a state level as well.

Updated Monday, July 6, to include link to FAQ:

Secretary of Health Signs Expanded Mask-Wearing Order

Expanding on the business safety order signed by Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine in April that requires the wearing of masks in businesses, Governor Tom Wolf today announced a new order signed by Dr. Levine that takes the mask-wearing directive one step further.

With this order, signed under Dr. Levine’s authority under the Disease Prevention and Control Act, masks must be worn whenever anyone leaves home. The order takes effect immediately.

“This mask-wearing order is essential to stopping the recent increase in COVID-19 cases we have seen in Pennsylvania,” Gov. Wolf said. “Those hot spots can be traced to situations where Pennsylvanians were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing – two practices that must be adhered to if we want to maintain the freedoms we have in place under our reopening.”

The order outlines the situations when a mask must be worn and includes limited exceptions to the face-covering requirement.

Each of the state’s mitigation efforts has helped to slow the spread of COVID-19, kept our health care systems from being overwhelmed, and allowed for Gov. Wolf’s measured, phased reopening to proceed. But, with nearly every county is the green phase of reopening, complacency cannot be the norm.

“It is essential that Pennsylvanians wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “While cases increase in some areas, we cannot become complacent. My mask protects you, and your mask protects me. Wearing a mask shows that you care about others, and that you are committed to protecting the lives of those around you.”

More and more health experts have called for mask wearing, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who said during a June 30 Senate hearing on COVID-19, “Americans who don’t wear masks may ‘propagate the further spread of infection.’”

The mask-wearing order will be sent to state and local officials, law enforcement and others tasked with education about the order for those not in compliance.

Download the July 1 order

FAQ regarding the face-covering order

Below is a brief summary of what is included in the order:

Face coverings are required while:

  • An individual is outdoors and unable to maintain a safe distance of six feet
  • An individual is indoors at a location with other members of the public
  • An individual is waiting for, riding in, driving or operating any public transportation service, a taxi, private car service or a ride-sharing vehicle
  • An individual is obtaining a service from the healthcare industry – e.g. a hospital, pharmacy, medical clinic, laboratory, physician or dental office, veterinary clinic, or blood bank
  • An individual is at the workplace or working at an off-site location and interacting with other individuals (both co-workers and members of the general public)

Face coverings are NOT required for:

  • An individual with a medical condition
  • An individual is put in harms way by wearing a mask while performing their job
  • An individual who cannot remove a mask without assistance
  • An individual under two years old
  • An individual who is communicating with another individual with a hearing-impairment or has another disability in which looking at a person’s mouth is essential
    • Individuals within the above categories do not have to show documentation as to why wearing a mask is not required

Posted Wednesday, May 6:

Federal Reserve Board announces it is expanding the scope and eligibility for the Main Street Lending Program

The Federal Reserve Board on Thursday announced it is expanding the scope and eligibility for the Main Street Lending Program. As part of its broad effort to support the economy, the Federal Reserve developed the Main Street Lending Program to help credit flow to small and medium-sized businesses that were in sound financial condition before the pandemic.

When the initial terms of Main Street were announced, the Board indicated that, because the financial needs of businesses vary widely, it was seeking feedback from the public on potential refinements. More than 2,200 letters from individuals, businesses, and nonprofits were received. In response to the public input, the Board decided to expand the loan options available to businesses, and increased the maximum size of businesses that are eligible for support under the program. The changes include:

  • Creating a third loan option, with increased risk sharing by lenders for borrowers with greater leverage;
  • Lowering the minimum loan size for certain loans to $500,000; and
  • Expanding the pool of businesses eligible to borrow.

Under the new loan option, lenders would retain a 15 percent share on loans that when added to existing debt do not exceed six times a borrower’s income, adjusted for interest payments, taxes, and depreciation and other appropriate adjustments. This compares to the existing loan options where lenders retain a 5 percent share on loans, but have different features. Under all of the loan options, lenders will be able to apply their industry-specific expertise and underwriting standards to best measure a borrower’s income. In total, three loan options—termed new, priority, and expanded—will be available for businesses. The chart below summarizes the different loan options.

Additionally, businesses with up to 15,000 employees or up to $5 billion in annual revenue are now eligible, compared to the initial program terms, which were for companies with up to 10,000 employees and $2.5 billion in revenue. The minimum loan size for two of the options was also lowered to $500,000 from $1 million. With the changes, the program will now offer more options to a wider set of eligible small and medium-size businesses.

The Board recognizes the critical role that nonprofit organizations play throughout the economy and is evaluating a separate approach to meet their unique needs.

The Main Street Lending Program was established under Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act, with approval of the Treasury Secretary. The Treasury will provide $75 billion for the program using funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Frequently asked questions and answers for lenders and borrowers are also available. A start date for the program will be announced soon.

Click here for a table showing the loan program options

Main Street Lending Program specific details and resources

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article: After push from gas drillers, Fed to expand Main Street loans to bigger businesses

Posted Tuesday, May 5:

Gov. Wolf Provides Business Guidance as Counties Move to Yellow Phase on May 8

To continue to limit the spread of COVID-19, Governor Tom Wolf on May 4 provided guidance that details procedures businesses must follow to conduct in-person operations in counties slated to move to the yellow phase of reopening on Friday, May 8. All businesses, including non-profits, permitted to conduct in-person operations are subject to this guidance. This guidance is based on the building safety and business safety orders, under which nearly all life-sustaining businesses have been operating during the red phase.

“Businesses in the 24 counties that may reopen beginning May 8 must take precautions to protect their employees, their employees’ families, and their communities,” Gov. Wolf said. “First and foremost, businesses that have been operating using telework must continue to do so to prevent the spreading of COVID-19 until the stay-at-home and business closure orders are fully lifted when we enter a “green” phase.

“All businesses, but especially those that were closed completely during the red phase under the business closure orders, need to carefully review this guidance and commit to ensuring the health and safety of their employees and their communities.”

Under the yellow phase of reopening, life-sustaining businesses that could not conduct either all or part of their operations via telework will continue to conduct their operations in-person, and many non-life sustaining businesses will be permitted to restart their in-person operations through the loosening of some restrictions under the stay-at-home and business closure orders.

In counties that have been designated as in the yellow phase, all businesses, except those categories specifically listed as remaining closed in the governor’s Plan to Reopen Pennsylvania, are permitted to conduct in-person operations, as long as they strictly adhere to the requirements of the guidance.

The guidance includes specific information on cleaning and disinfecting premises, limiting the number of employees in common areas and customers on premises, providing masks and sanitizing supplies for employees, installing shields or other barriers at registers and checkout areas to physically separate cashiers and customers, and creating a plan in case a business is exposed to a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19, among other provisions.

The full guidance can be found here.

Businesses that have questions about whether this guidance applies to them may contact the Department of Health at 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258).

Posted Friday, April 24:

Wolf Administration Issues Guidance as Construction Industry Prepares to Resume Work May 1

As the construction industry prepares to resume work, the Wolf Administration on April 23 issued guidance for all construction businesses and employees to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

All businesses in the construction industry in the commonwealth are permitted to resume in-person operations starting Friday, May 1 – one week earlier than previously announced.

Previously, Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine ordered most construction projects to cease unless they were supporting life-sustaining businesses or activities or were granted an exemption to perform or support life-sustaining activities.

The guidance, developed from guidance created by the General Contractors Association of Pennsylvania, provides universal protocols for all construction activity, as well as specific additional guidance for residential, commercial and public construction projects.

All business and employees in the construction industry must adhere to the Secretary of Health’s order providing for business safety measures, which requires that every person present at a work site wear masks/face coverings unless they are unable for medical or safety reasons and requires that businesses establish protocols upon discovery that the business has been exposed to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19.

All construction projects must maintain proper social distancing and provide hand washing and sanitizing stations for workers, as well as cleaning and sanitizing protocols for high risk transmission areas. Businesses must identify a “pandemic safety officer” for each project or work site, or, for large scale construction projects, for each contractor at the site.

Residential construction projects may not permit more than four individuals on the job site at any time, not including individuals who require temporary access to the site and are not directly engaged in the construction activity.

For non-residential or commercial projects, the number of individuals permitted on enclosed portions of a project varies depending on the size of the enclosed site. Commercial construction firms should also strongly consider establishing a written safety plan for each work location containing site specific details for the implementation of this guidance to be shared with all employees and implemented and enforced by the pandemic safety officer.

Contractors performing work at the direction of the commonwealth, municipalities or school districts should defer to those public entities to determine what projects may continue.

Local governments may elect to impose more stringent requirements than those contained in the guidance and in such instances, businesses must adhere to those more stringent requirements.

Local officials have been tasked with ensuring that construction businesses are aware that this guidance exists and notifying businesses that a complaint of noncompliance was received.

Businesses that have questions about whether this guidance applies to them may email the Department of Labor and Industry at RA-LIBOIS-BUILDINGS@pa.gov.

Updated Monday, April 23, to include link to guidance document (scroll to end of article):

Health Secretary Signs Order Providing Worker Safety Measures to Combat COVID-19

Dr. Rachel Levine, under her authority as Secretary of the Department of Health to take any disease control measure appropriate to protect the public from the spread of infectious disease, signed an order on April 15 directing protections for critical workers who are employed at businesses that are authorized to maintain in-person operations during the COVID-19 disaster emergency.

The order establishes protocols to help employees maintain a social distance during work:

  • Provide masks for employees to wear during their time at the business, and make it a mandatory requirement while at the work site, except to the extent an employee is using break time to eat or drink, in accordance with the guidance from the Department of Health and the CDC. Employers may approve masks obtained or made by employees in accordance with this guidance;
  • Stagger work start and stop times for employees when practical to prevent gatherings of large groups entering or leaving the premises at the same time;
  • Provide sufficient space for employees to have breaks and meals while maintaining a social distance of 6 feet, including limiting the number of employees in common areas and setting up seating to have employees facing forward and not across from each other;
  • Conduct meetings and training virtually. If a meeting must be held in person, limit the meeting to the fewest number of employees possible, not to exceed 10 employees at one time and maintain a social distance of 6 feet.
  • Ensure that the facility has a sufficient number of employees to perform all measures listed effectively and in a manner that ensures the safety of the public and employees;
  • Ensure that the facility has a sufficient number of personnel to control access, maintain order, and enforce social distancing of at least 6 feet;
  • Prohibit non-essential visitors from entering the premises of the business; and
  • Ensure that all employees who do not speak English as their first language are aware of procedures by communicating the procedures, either orally or in writing, in their native or preferred language.

Upon discovery of an exposure to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19, businesses are also ordered to implement temperature screenings before employees enter the business prior to the start of work and send any employee home who has an elevated temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Sick employees should follow CDC-recommended steps. Employees should not return to work until the CDC criteria to discontinue home isolation are met, in consultation with the health care providers and state and local health departments. Employers are encouraged to implement liberal paid time off for employees who are on home isolation.

Upon an exposure, businesses are also ordered to do the following:

  • Close off and ventilate areas visited by that individual;
  • Wait a minimum of 24 hours, or as long as practical, before beginning cleaning and disinfection;
  • Clean and disinfect all spaces, especially commonly used rooms and shared electronic equipment;
  • Identify and notify employees who were in close contact with that individual (within about 6 feet for about 10 minutes); and
  • Ensure that the business has a sufficient number of employees to perform these protocols effectively and immediately.

In addition to the social distancing, mitigation and cleaning protocols, businesses that serve the public within a building or defined area are ordered to implement the following, based on the size of the building and number of employees:

  • Require all customers to wear masks while on premises, and deny entry to individuals not wearing masks, unless the business is providing medication, medical supplies, or food, in which case the business must provide alternative methods of pick-up or delivery of goods, except individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition (including children the age of 2 years) may enter the premises without having to provide medical documentation;
  • Conduct business with the public by appointment only and, to the extent that this is not feasible, limit occupancy to no greater than 50 percent of the number stated on their certificate of occupancy as necessary to reduce crowding in the business and at check-out and counter lines in order to maintain a social distance of 6 feet, and place signage throughout each site to mandate social distancing for both customers and employees;
  • Alter hours of business so that the business has sufficient time to clean or to restock or both;
  • Install shields or other barriers at registers and check-out areas to physically separate cashiers and customers or take other measures to ensure social distancing of customers from check-out personnel, or close lines to maintain a social distance between of 6 feet between lines;
  • Encourage use of online ordering by providing delivery or outside pick-up;
  • Designate a specific time for high-risk and elderly persons to use the business at least once every week if there is a continuing in-person customer-facing component;
  • In businesses with multiple check-out lines, only use every other register, or fewer. After every hour, rotate customers and employees to the previously closed registers. Clean the previously open registers and the surrounding area, including credit card machines, following each rotation;
  • Schedule handwashing breaks for employees at least every hour; and
  • Where carts and handbaskets are available, assign an employee to wipe down carts and handbaskets before they become available to a new customer.

Failure to comply with these requirements will result in enforcement action that could include citations, fines, or license suspensions. Compliance with the order will be enforced beginning Sunday, April 19 at 8:00 PM.

Download Dr. Levine’s April 15 order

Read the full announcement

Download a FAQ regarding Dr. Levine’s April 15 order

Download the document COVID-19 Guidance for Life-Sustaining Businesses

Posted Monday, April 20:

Regulated Entities Should Consider Benefits and Limitations of EPA’s COVID-19 Policy in Light of Post-Publication Developments

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s March 26, 2020 temporary COVID-19 enforcement discretion policy establishes the steps regulated parties must take to qualify for enforcement protection for noncompliance caused by COVID-19.  Our previous Alert outlined the policy’s scope, eligibility criteria, and expectations.  In less than a month, EPA’s policy has generated significant controversy, conflicting media reports, congressional inquiries, and now a federal lawsuit.  Critiques of the policy and EPA’s evolving messaging make clear that entities affected by COVID-19 should be thoughtful and strategic in their reliance on the potential relief provided by the policy.

EPA’s Response to Backlash

In response to initial criticisms, EPA initiated several steps to explain its stance on environmental compliance and enforcement during the pandemic.  On March 30, EPA issued a news release to correct “the record on reckless reporting” by certain media outlets and clarify that the policy applies on a case-by-case basis.  To quell legislative opposition, EPA sent members of Congress a letter on April 2, defending the policy.  EPA has also created a Frequently Asked Questions webpage answering several questions on the scope and application of the COVID-19 policy.

Continue reading this alert from Babst Calland

Posted Monday, April 20:

DCED launches business-to-business directory for COVID-19-related supplies

State officials in Pennsylvania have announced creation of a business-to-business directory for supplies related to the coronavirus outbreak. The Department of Community and Economic Development says the business-to-business interchange directory is intended to connect organizations and businesses directly to manufacturers producing products and supplies.

Secretary Dennis Davin said it’s intended to provide Commmonwealth residents access to critical supplies “expeditiously without a middleman.” The directory currently includes manufacturers of N95 masks, fabric and other masks, and surgical masks. Additional supplies and materials will be added to the directory as the department identifies potential manufacturers.

Posted Thursday, April 16:

The following is an alert issued April 15 by PIOGA member Babst Calland.

EPA Publishes Interim Guidance on Site Field Work Decision-Making Related to COVID-19 Impacts

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt nearly all aspects of American life and business, including ongoing response activities being conducted under the authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  In connection with these impacts, on April 10, 2020, EPA published a memorandum entitled, Interim Guidance on Site Field Work Decisions Due to Impacts of COVID-19 (“EPA’s COVID-19 Field Work Guidance” or “Guidance”).  The Guidance offers guidelines, specific factors, and examples EPA Regions should consider in their decision-making processes to continue, reduce, or suspend on-site work.  Driving these case-by-case decisions are EPA’s two main priorities: (1) protecting the health and safety of the public, as well as EPA’s staff and cleanup partners; and (2) maintaining EPA’s ability to prevent and respond to environmental emergencies.  This Alert addresses questions regarding EPA’s guidelines and decision-making under the Guidance.To What Sites Does EPA’s COVID-19 Field Work Guidance Apply?

EPA’s COVID-19 Field Work Guidance applies to ongoing and emergency response actions conducted at sites across the United States under multiple federal programs, including Superfund, RCRA, and TSCA, where EPA is the lead agency or has direct oversight of or responsibility for the work being performed.  EPA acknowledges that any number of parties may actually be performing the work covered by its Guidance, including EPA, states, tribes, other federal agencies, or potentially responsible parties (PRPs).  Although the Guidance does not apply directly to states, EPA specifies that Regions should share the Guidance with states and assist states conducting state-lead RCRA cleanups.

In What Types of Situations Will EPA Regions Reduce or Suspend Response Actions?

The Guidance identifies multiple situations that have informed (or may inform) Regions’ decisions to reduce or suspend response actions.  Among these are where state, tribal, or local officials request a suspension of the response action, where a site worker has tested positive for COVID-19, or where field personnel are not able to work due to travel restrictions or medical quarantine.  The Guidance offers other examples and indicates that the list is not exhaustive, i.e., that similar situations have supported or may support a decision to reduce or suspend on-site field work.

What Factors will Regions Consider When Deciding to Continue, Reduce, or Suspend On-Site Field Work?

EPA’s COVID-19 Field Work Guidance identifies both general guidelines and site-specific factors Regions should consider in making site field work decisions.

  1. General Guidelines
    Regions should evaluate (and periodically re-evaluate) their respective ongoing response work in light of potential COVID-19 impacts and restrictions.  Such actions include considering applicable federal, state, tribal, or local health declarations in determining whether to continue work or secure a site until the declaration is resolved.  In the absence of such declarations, EPA instructs Regions to consider other relevant factors, such as the safety and availability of work crews and staff, the critical nature of the work, and logistical challenges.  Where work starts or continues, Regions must review and revise, as necessary, Health and Safety Plans to account for COVID-19 related guidelines.  If work is halted, Regions are advised to monitor site conditions and plan to safely resume work as soon as appropriate.
  2. Site-Specific Factors
    The Guidance lists three categories of site-specific factors that Regions should consider in determining whether response actions should continue, be reduced, or paused.  The first is whether a failure to continue a response action “would likely pose an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health or the environment, and whether it is practical to continue such actions.”  These types of scenarios generally include: (1) emergency response and immediate threats (e.g., Time Critical Removal Actions that address an imminent threat to public health and the environment); (2) an ongoing, or threat of, direct human exposures (e.g., on-site exposures to contaminants); and (3) prevention of exposures that pose an imminent threat to public health, welfare, and the environment (e.g., preventing groundwater plume expansion or releases to water bodies that could adversely affect drinking water sources).The second category of factors that Regions should consider involves situations where “maintaining any response actions would lead to a reduction in human health risk/exposure within the ensuing six months.”  Examples provided by EPA include activities such as continuing vapor intrusion investigations or residential site work involving current exposures to residents.The third category advises Regions to evaluate whether situations “that would not provide near-term reduction in human health risk” may be considered for delay, suspension, or rescheduling in coordination with applicable stakeholders.  Examples of these types of activities include periodic monitoring, certain types of sampling, and active remediation of stable conditions.  For each of the three categories, the Guidance provides additional examples and indicates that similar situations may inform Regions’ decisions to continue, reduce, or pause response actions.

How Does the Guidance Apply to Potentially Responsible Parties Performing On-Site Work?

The Guidance directs PRPs who believe the COVID-19 pandemic will delay compliance obligations to refer to their respective enforcement instruments for provisions regarding, for example, requesting schedule adjustments or invoking a force majeure provision, and providing applicable notices.  EPA cautions that any such modifications or force majeure determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis and will consider site-specific facts, including the type of work purportedly affected.  Although the Guidance indicates that EPA will make such decisions promptly, EPA nonetheless encourages performing parties to communicate regularly with their project managers concerning the status of their sites, including regarding anticipated COVID-19-related challenges.

How does EPA’s Guidance Affect Non-Field Site Work?

EPA expects non-field work such as report preparation, modeling, and negotiations to continue to the extent these activities can be conducted remotely.  EPA recognizes, however, that the Coronavirus pandemic may also impact off-site/non-field supporting operations (e.g., laboratories) and directs any party that believes its performance obligations may be delayed by such impacts to consult relevant provisions of its applicable enforcement instrument.

Posted Thursday, April 16:

Wolf Administration Provides Relief for Taxpayers Affected by COVID-19 Pandemic

Governor Tom Wolf announced today (April 15) the Department of Revenue is providing relief to Pennsylvanians and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The department is offering taxpayers increased flexibility, additional time to meet their tax obligations, and a pause on several of its standard enforcement actions.

“As we all work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it’s critical for us to take action that will provide immediate relief for Pennsylvanians and our businesses,” Governor Wolf said. “In addition to extending tax filing and payment deadlines, we are giving taxpayers more time and flexibility in other areas so that they can concentrate on their well-being. This is a needed step that will help everyone during this uncertain time.”

This temporary relief for taxpayers will remain in effect through at least July 15, 2020. Details on the specific relief can be found on the Department of Revenue’s website under its COVID-19 information page.

“While people focus on their health and keeping themselves and their families safe during the pandemic, our goal is to ease the burden for our customers and help everyone move forward,” Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell said. “We want to help people and businesses make it through this challenging situation.”

The Department of Revenue will:

  • Pause payments for existing payment plans upon requests from taxpayers.
  • Provide flexible terms for new payment plans.
  • Work to boost customer service for taxpayers impacted by the pandemic.
  • Suspend or reduce automatic enforcement actions regarding liens, wage garnishments, bank attachments, license inspections, requirements for tax clearances and use of private collection agencies.
  • Suspend the creation of new desk reviews and field audits in most cases.
  • Suspend in-person meetings with taxpayers in most cases.
  • Broaden audit penalty abatement and interest relief.
  • Continue to administer tax credit and incentive programs.
  • Abate penalties in most cases if taxpayers have remitted trust fund taxes they collected.

Taxpayer Service and Assistance

In addition to the relief announced today, the Department of Revenue also has:

With the department’s call centers closed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, taxpayers seeking assistance are encouraged to use the department’s Online Customer Service Center, available at revenue-pa.custhelp.com. You can use this resource to electronically submit a question to a department representative. The department representative will be able to respond through a secure, electronic process that is similar to receiving an email. Additionally, the Online Customer Service Center includes thousands of answers to common tax-related questions.

Find Alerts from Revenue Online

Taxpayers and tax professionals are encouraged to visit the Department of Revenue’s COVID-19 information page on www.revenue.pa.gov for additional guidance and updates on department operations. You can also visit the department’s pages on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn for real time updates.

Posted Tuesday, April 14:

New Pig: A PIOGA member making a difference in the COVID-19 fight

PIOGA member New Pig has switched directions in recent weeks amid the COVID-19 crisis and added two new products to their lineup: 100% American-made face shields and WHO-formula hand sanitizer.

If any members would like to purchase either product for their employees or to donate to local nursing homes, hospitals or first responders, please contact Penny McCreary at 855-744-5463.

If you are donating to a UPMC facility, all items are to go to a central point for distribution to where they are most needed. New Pig will place a printed “Donated by” sticker on each box with your company’s or individual’s name. That way, the personnel or first responder opening the product to use it, sees exactly who donated it. You can purchase one case of face shields and one case of hand sanitizer for $429 per bundle. New Pig will absorb the credit card fees and handling fees and PIOGA will cover shipping fees to the bulk facility.

If your company has items to offer during this critical time please let PIOGA know at Meghan@pioga.org so we can share the information with others.

Also note that the state Department of Community and Economic Development last week announced the creation of the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Call to Action Portal, intended to mobilize manufacturers that are producing COVID-19-related products and supplies or can pivot to producing COVID-19-related supplies.

Posted Tuesday, April 13:

USDA Unveils Tool to Help Rural Communities Address the COVID-19 Pandemic

USDA’s COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide Lists Federal Programs That Can Help Rural Communities, Organizations and Residents Impacted by COVID-19

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today unveiled a one-stop-shop of federal programs that can be used by rural communities, organizations and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide is a first-of-its-kind resource for rural leaders looking for federal funding and partnership opportunities to help address this pandemic.

Posted Tuesday, April 7:

Update: Paycheck Protection Program FAQs

The following is from PIOGA member Babst Calland.

Yesterday, the Small Business Administration (SBA) published “Frequently Asked Questions” guidance regarding the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), enacted as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Among other clarifications, below are some of the critical points that the SBA has clarified in the FAQ. The full FAQ can be found here. The SBA intends to update this document on a regular basis.

Monthly Payroll Verification by Lender

A lender is not to replicate an applicant’s calculation of “monthly payroll costs.” A lender’s minimal review of calculations based on a payroll report by a recognized third-party payroll processor, for example, would be reasonable. If the lender identifies errors in the borrower’s calculation, the lender should work with the borrower to remedy the error.  See FAQ #1.

Some Companies with More than 500 Employees can Apply for PPP Loan

Companies with more than 500 employees can qualify for the PPP loan if the company satisfies the existing statutory and regulatory definition of a “small business concern” under section 3 of the Small Business Act. A company can qualify if it meets the employee-based or revenue-based size standard corresponding to its primary industry. Visit www.sba.gov/size for the industry size standards.

Additionally, a business can qualify for a PPP loan as a small business concern if it meets both tests in the SBA’s “alternative size standard” as of March 27, 2020. This test is satisfied if: (1) maximum tangible net worth of the business is not more than $15 million; and (2) the average net income after Federal income taxes (excluding any carry-over losses) of the business for the two full fiscal years before the date of the application is not more than $5 million.  See FAQ #2.

Minority Shareholder’s Control Rights May be Irrevocably Waived to Eliminate Affiliate Designation

If a minority shareholder in a business irrevocably waives or relinquishes any existing rights specified in 13 C.F.R. 121.301(f)(1), the minority shareholder would no longer be an affiliate of the business (assuming there is no other relationship that triggers the affiliation rules).  See FAQ #6.

Employee Compensation over $100,000 Annually

The exclusion of compensation in excess of $100,000 annually applies only to cash compensation, and not to non-cash benefits.  See FAQ #7.

Use of a Payroll Provider

Payroll documentation by a payroll provider that indicates the amount of wages and payroll taxes reported to the IRS by the payroll provider for the borrower’s employees will be considered acceptable PPP loan payroll documentation.  See FAQ #10.

Time Period to Determine Number of Employees and Payroll Costs for Loan Amount Calculation

Generally, borrowers can calculate their aggregate payroll costs using data either from the previous 12 months or from calendar year 2019. Borrowers may use their average employment over the same time periods to determine their number of employees, for the purposes of applying an employee-based size standard. Alternatively, borrowers may elect to use SBA’s usual calculation: the average number of employees per pay period in the 12 completed calendar months prior to the date of the loan application (or the average number of employees for each of the pay periods that the business has been operational, if it has not been operational for 12 months).  See FAQ #14.

Accounting for Federal Taxes when Determining Maximum Loan Amount, Allowable Uses of a PPP Loan, and Forgivable Loan Amount

Under the CARES Act, payroll costs are calculated on a gross basis without regard to (i.e., not including subtractions or additions based on) federal taxes imposed or withheld, such as the employee’s and employer’s share of Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) and income taxes required to be withheld from employees. As a result, payroll costs are not reduced by taxes imposed on an employee and required to be withheld by the employer, but payroll costs do not include the employer’s share of payroll tax. For example, an employee who earned $4,000 per month in gross wages, from which $500 in federal taxes was withheld, would count as $4,000 in payroll costs. The employee would receive $3,500, and $500 would be paid to the federal government. However, the employer-side federal payroll taxes imposed on the $4,000 in wages are excluded from payroll costs under the statute.  See FAQ #16.

Authorized Signatory on Behalf of the Borrower

A single individual who is authorized to sign on behalf of the borrower may sign the application. However, such individual is to be an authorized representative of the applicant, as indicated on the application form. The individual’s signature is a representation to the lender and to the U.S. Government that the signer is authorized to make the certifications, including with respect to the applicant and each owner of 20% or more of the applicant’s equity, contained in the application form.  See FAQ #11

Updating Applications that have Already been Processed

Borrowers that have already submitted applications based on the PPP Interim Final Rule published on April 2 do not need to update their applications if they have been processed by a lender. Borrowers whose submitted applications have not yet been processed may revise their applications based on clarifications reflected in the FAQ.  See FAQ #17.

For more information on the above program or for assistance in applying for the program, please contact Babst Calland attorneys Moore Capito at 304-552-8986 or mcapito@babstcalland.com, Christian Farmakis at 412-394-5642 or cfarmakis@babstcalland.comor Andrew Terranova at 412-773-8717 or aterranova@babstcalland.com.

Posted Monday, April 6:

Wolf administration announces new resource for manufacturers to produce COVID-19-related supplies

The Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) has announced the creation of the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Call to Action Portal, which will mobilize manufacturers that are producing COVID-19-related products and supplies or can pivot to producing COVID-19-related supplies. If you are a current manufacturer of supplies and products or can pivot your existing manufacturing capabilities to meet the necessary demand, officials want to hear from you.

Use the link above to access the portal, and click here to read an announcement about it.

Posted Monday, April 6:

State health secretary signs order providing building safety measures to combat COVID-19

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine on April 5 signed an order providing direction for maintaining and cleaning buildings for businesses authorized to maintain in-person operations under her and the governor’s life-sustaining business orders announced March 19.

According to the Building Safety Measures order, “Cleaning, disinfecting, and other maintenance and security services performed by building service employees are critical to protecting the public health by reducing COVID-19 infections in the commonwealth.”

The measures outlined in the order are for owners of buildings of at least 50,000 square feet used for commercial, industrial or other enterprises, including but not limited to facilities for warehousing, manufacturing, commercial offices, airports, grocery stores, universities, colleges, government, hotels and residential buildings with at least 50 units.

In addition to maintaining preexisting cleaning protocols, the order outlines these new protocols:

  • Clean and disinfect high-touch areas routinely in accordance with CDC guidelines, in spaces that are accessible to customers, tenants, or other individuals.
  • Maintain preexisting cleaning protocols established in the facility for all other areas of the building.
  • Ensure that the facility has a sufficient number of employees to perform the above protocols effectively and in a manner that ensures the safety of occupants and employees.
  • Ensure that the facility has a sufficient number of security employees to control access, maintain order, and enforce social distancing of at least 6 feet, provided the security employees are otherwise responsible for such enforcement.

The order went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on April 6.

Posted Friday, April 3:

The following is an alert from PIOGA member Babst Calland.

PADEP Will Consider Requests to Temporarily Suspend Environmental Requirements Due to COVID-19

As businesses in Pennsylvania struggle to deal with significant disruptions and challenges to their operations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental agencies have recognized the challenges that the pandemic presents to achieving compliance with environmental obligations. For example, on March 26, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) issued a temporary policy for excusing COVID-19-related noncompliance (see Babst Calland’s March 30, 2020 Environmental Alert for further details). Similarly, on March 31, 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) issued an Alert announcing that it would consider requests to temporarily suspend certain regulatory, permit, and/or other legal requirements due to COVID-19. It also provided the form needed to make such a request. This announcement reflects a thought change from PADEP’s previous assertion that COVID-19’s impact on businesses in Pennsylvania would not excuse compliance with environmental laws, stating that “[a]ll permittees and operators are expected to meet all terms and conditions of their environmental permits, including conditions applicable to cessation of operations.”

What is Required to Request a Temporary Suspension?

Unlike USEPA’s temporary policy, which does not require regulated entities to submit documentation regarding an inability to meet routine compliance obligations, PADEP is requiring submittal of the request form. While PADEP did not elaborate on how it will review requests for suspension, it will generally evaluate (1) the reasons for the request in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and (2) the risk of harm to the environment or public health if the request is or is not granted.

Importantly, it will not be enough for entities to show that COVID-19 has restricted their ability to comply with regulatory, permit, or other legal requirements; entities must demonstrate that strict compliance would prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the COVID-19 emergency. This standard reflects the language of Governor Tom Wolf’s March 6, 2020 Proclamation of Disaster Emergency and 35 Pa. C.S. § 7301, which PADEP cited as authority for granting temporary suspensions.

The two-page request form asks 16 questions regarding topics including the following:

  • Alternate compliance options that have been explored;
  • Length of time the entity expects to be unable to comply and the necessary circumstances to return to compliance;
  • Extent of risk of additional pollution and/or how such increased pollution will be avoided;
  • Public health and safety benefits from granting the suspension; and
  • Negative consequences to the entity’s operations and the Commonwealth’s response to the COVID-19 emergency if the suspension is not granted.

Some of the more interesting, and potentially controversial, questions asked by PADEP include the following:

  • Do you believe cost gouging or supply hoarding is negatively affecting your ability to comply?
  • Would you possess a unique advantage over your competitors, or others in the same industry, if a suspension is granted?

It is not clear whether PADEP will be receptive to entities requesting suspensions from settlement agreement requirements using the request form, or whether PADEP will expect entities to rely primarily on the force majeure provisions typically provided in those agreements. However, the request form does allow entities to request suspension of regulatory, permit, “or other requirement(s),” indicating that entities may be able to request suspension of settlement agreement requirements using this recently-introduced process.

When are suspensions expected to be granted?

PADEP has not announced its expected time frame for responding to the likely large number of requests for suspension. PADEP also did not explain how it will evaluate and balance the factors outlined in the request form. However, in multiple places the form emphasizes that the entity should provide detailed and specific responses. PADEP stated that suspensions will initially not be granted beyond June 30, 2020.

We note that this procedure only applies to requests for suspension of state regulatory or permit requirements and requirements under federal programs delegated to Pennsylvania. Entities seeking relief from federal requirements, under only federal authority, are to contact EPA Region III and consult USEPA’s March 26, 2020 policy.

Additional Guidance on Conducting Chapter 102 Earth Disturbance Activities

At the same time as providing the temporary suspension request form, PADEP also issued COVID-19-related guidance for permittees and operators conducting permitted earth disturbance activities under Chapter 102 of the Pennsylvania regulations. Entities that are considered “life-sustaining businesses” under Governor Wolf’s March 19, 2020 Order, which required all “non-life-sustaining businesses” to close their physical locations, may continue to conduct earth disturbance activities to the extent such activities are in support of the operation of the life-sustaining business. However, “non-life-sustaining businesses” must cease earth disturbance activities. Upon doing so, the entity must implement temporary or permanent stabilization measures as required by the permit and applicable regulatory requirements. Once required stabilization measures are implemented, the entity is relieved from requirements to perform weekly routine inspections, but still must conduct other inspections required by the permit, such as Post-Storm Event and Corrective Action inspections. PADEP stated that it considers such inspections to be critical operational functions and not in violation of the March 19th Order.

Posted Friday, April 3:

COVID-19 response from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

If your company has dealings with FERC, please be sure to read these two notices from April 2:

Posted Friday, April 3:

Federal resources for businesses and the self-employed

Here is a useful all-in-one page from U.S. Senator Bob Casey explaining federal resources available to small and mid-size businesses as well as the self-employed.

Posted Thursday, April 2:

Important notice: Friday, April 3, is the deadline to seek waivers for exemptions from the governor’s shutdown order

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, businesses have until 5 p.m. on Friday, April 3, to seek a waiver to Governor Wolf’s order requiring “non-life sustaining businesses” to close physical locations. Businesses that do not file their exemption by the deadline may lose the opportunity entirely.

The application can be found here on DCED’s website. A link to the most recent list of life-sustaining and non-life-sustaining businesses is found near the top of our page.

Posted Thursday, April 2:

EPA relaxes enforcement because of COVID-19, but state and local governments do most oversight for major federal laws

Key takeaways from this StateImpact Pennsylvania article:

  • The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is developing guidance to evaluate requests from companies to waive permit conditions or other requirements when it is necessary for a response to the COVID-19 outbreak during the current emergency.
  •  DEP is not considering a blanket waiver policy.
  •  DEP is prioritizing field inspections of critical infrastructure and inspections that are critical to public health and safety.

Read the article

Posted Thursday, April 2:

Webinar – Understanding the CARES Act: Programs for Employers

Described as the most sweeping financial aid package ever passed by Congress, the CARES Act is packed with content, from paycheck protection loans that look too good to be true to robust unemployment expansions that will lead to a portion of the workforce earning more on unemployment than they earned while working. This recorded webinar from the law firm Pierce Atwood does an excellent job of concisely explaining the key provisions of the 800-plus-page law.

Posted Wednesday, April 1:

The following appeared yesterday on the Department of Environmental Protection’s alerts page (a good place to check for notices about office closings and other changes to the way DEP programs are operating).

COVID-19-Emergency Request to Temporarily Suspend Regulatory Requirements and/or Permit Conditions

In accordance with Governor Wolf’s Proclamation of Disaster Emergency of March 6, 2020 and the Governor’s powers pursuant to the Emergency Management Code, 35 Pa.C.S. §7301, the Governor has authority to suspend regulatory obligations and other legal obligations within his jurisdiction where strict compliance will prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the COVID-19 emergency.

To request a temporary suspension of regulatory requirements and/or permit conditions, fill out this form and submit to RA-EPCOVID19SuspReq@pa.gov.

*If you are requesting suspension of a Federal requirement, under only Federal authority, please contact US EPA Region III and refer to the US EPA March 26, 2020 Memorandum (COVID-19 Implications for EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program). To the extent the request relates to a federal program delegated to Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania will review requests submitted in this format.

Posted Wednesday, April 1:

The following is from PIOGA member company Babst Calland, issued on March 30.

Update: Assessing your organization’s stimulus program options

Earlier today, the U.S. Treasury Department  published additional information on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP Loan), enacted as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Below are critical points that the Department has clarified in the published guidance.

When can I apply?

  • Small businesses and sole proprietorships can begin submitting applications on Friday, April 3, 2020.
  • Independent contractors and self-employed individuals can begin submitting applications on Friday, April 10, 2020.

How much money can be borrowed?

The Department clarified that salary, wages, commissions, or tips are capped at $100,000 on an annualized basis for each employee.

How much of the loan is forgiven?

Due to likely high subscription, the Department anticipates that not more than 25% of the forgiven amount may be for non-payroll costs.

What is the interest rate of the loan?

0.5% fixed rate.

Read the latest guidance information issued by the Department of Treasury below.

For a top-line overview of the program, click here.

If you’re a lender, more information can be found here.

If you’re a borrower, more information can be found here.

The application for borrowers can be found here.

For more information on the above program or for assistance in applying for the program, please contact Babst Calland Attorneys Moore Capito at 304.552.8986 or mcapito@babstcalland.com, Christian Farmakis at 412.394.5642 or cfarmakis@babstcalland.com or Andrew Terranova at 412.773.8717 or aterranova@babstcalland.com.

Posted Monday, March 30:

Information for employers regarding the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

FFCRA will help the United States combat and defeat COVID-19 by giving all American businesses with fewer than 500 employees funds to provide employees with paid leave, either for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members. The legislation will ensure that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus while at the same time reimbursing businesses. Information about the act can be found here. Of particular note are:

Issued on March 30:

President Donald J. Trump Approves Pennsylvania Disaster Declaration

Read the notice

Posted Monday, March 30:

IPAA provides information about new Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act

The Independent Petroleum Association of America has provided important information about the newly enacted law that provides economic relief during the COVID-19 crisis. IPAA’s Barry Russell explains that the CARES Act opens a number of possible options to generate capital for oil and natural gas producers during this time of economic crisis. While details are intended to be finalized 10 days after its enactment, there is information being developed that provides some framework for understanding its elements.

Additional details will be evolving over the next few weeks. As they become available, IPAA will be sending more guidance.

Small Business Provisions
The CARES Act creates a number of small business provisions including the opportunity to obtain loans where a key purpose is to maintain payrolls. To the degree that these loans are used for specific payroll actions, the loan is converted to a grant. Specific details on how to obtain these loans will be forthcoming, but the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee’s minority office has developed an outline that can be accessed here. It is our understanding that these loans will be available through lenders that have been engaged in small business loans, but these details are not yet available.

Economic Stabilization Fund
This program is designed to distribute $500 billion to distressed businesses. Eligible businesses are those that are adversely affected by the Coronavirus, which would include the elements of oil and natural gas production industry since they would be severely harmed by demand destruction even if the Saudi-Russian conflict was not occurring. While a portion of the program is designated for certain industries, like the airline industry, most of it is broadly available. Following are some details that have been reported by analysts of the Act at Gibson Dunn.

The terms and conditions of the Assistance, including application procedures, loan eligibility requirements, and interest rates, will be published by the Secretary within 10 days of the enactment of the Act. The Act provides that the Assistance will be provided to businesses in exchange for a warranty, equity interest or senior debt instrument, and that the principal balance of any loan issued under the Act will not be forgiven.

The Secretary is given considerable discretion in determining the terms and conditions of the Assistance, subject to some general restrictions, which include, but are not limited to the following:
• Loans must be short-term (less than 5 years);
• Loans must be to U.S. domestic businesses with their primary operations and workforce located within the U.S.;
• Loans will be issued to businesses that incurred or expect to incur losses in the amounts that continued operation of the business is at jeopardy;
• Loans will be appropriately secured or include an appropriate interest rate;
• Loan terms will require the business to maintain employment levels (to the extent practicable, but not reduced by more than 10%) existing as of March 24, 2020 until September 30, 2020; and
• Loan terms will prohibit businesses from issuing dividends or buying stock of itself or of its parent during the term of the loan (and 12 months after termination).

Federal Reserve Programs or Facilities
Under the Act, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System are to establish programs or facilities for the purposes of “providing liquidity to the financial system that supports lending, eligible businesses, States, and municipalities.” The Act allocates $454 billion plus amounts not used under other provisions of this Act to achieve this purpose. The Act does not specifically identify entities that qualify for loans at this time, but we expect the Board of Governors to provide guidelines and application procedures under the programs or facilities it establishes.

The Act does, however, provide restrictions and conditions that eligible businesses must meet to receive loans under the Board of Governors’ programs or facilities, including the following:
• Businesses must be U.S. domestic businesses with their primary operations and workforce located within the U.S.;
• Businesses must agree to not repurchase their own equity securities, or the equity securities of a parent entity listed on the national stock exchange during the term of the loan and for 12 months following (unless contractually obligated prior to the date of this Act);
• Businesses must agree to not pay dividends or make capital distributions during the term of the loan and for 12 months following; and
• Businesses must comply with certain officer and employee compensation limitations as set forth in the Act.

The Act also includes assistance to mid-sized businesses, which include those businesses with between 500 and 10,000 employees. This provision is designed to provide financing to banks and lenders that can make direct loans to eligible mid-sized businesses. The direct loans are intended to have annual interest rates below 2% and the repayment of loans is to be deferred for six months, or longer as determined by the Secretary. Eligible Businesses seeking direct loans will have to make good faith certifications to their lender. These certifications will be similar to those required from Eligible Businesses seeking Assistance (as described above), including: restoration of the businesses’ workforce (i.e., employee numbers, compensation and benefits), bankruptcy proceedings, offshore jobs, and collective bargaining and union organizing efforts.

Tax Provisions
As previously described, the Act also contains tax changes that can be beneficial.

Net Operating Losses – The bill allows for a 5 year carry back. The effective date for this change means the change applies to tax years 2018, 2019, and 2020.
• The bill also made changes so that privately held companies could more effectively utilize this tax treatment.

Interest Deductibility – the cap was raised from allowing 30% of interest payments to be deducted in the year in which they occurred to 50%. The effective date for this change means it applies to both 2019 and 2020.

Posted Friday, March 27:

State office closings extended

The governor’s Office of Administration has notified state employees that paid office closings have been extended through Friday, April 3, for all non-essential employees whose offices are closed due to COVID-19. Additionally, employees who are reporting to work or are able to work remotely will continue to do so. We will provide any updates next week as additional guidance is provided regarding state office closures past April 3.

Posted Friday, March 27:

EPA announces enforcement discretion policy for COVID-19 pandemic

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on March 26 announced a temporary policy regarding its enforcement of environmental legal obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

EPA’s temporary enforcement discretion policy applies to civil violations during the COVID-19 outbreak. The policy addresses different categories of noncompliance differently. For example, under the policy EPA does not expect to seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting obligations that are the result of the COVID-19 pandemic but does expect operators of public water systems to continue to ensure the safety of our drinking water supplies. The policy also describes the steps that regulated facilities should take to qualify for enforcement discretion.

The temporary policy makes it clear that EPA expects regulated facilities to comply with regulatory requirements, where reasonably practicable, and to return to compliance as quickly as possible. To be eligible for enforcement discretion, the policy also requires facilities to document decisions made to prevent or mitigate noncompliance and demonstrate how the noncompliance was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This policy does not provide leniency for intentional criminal violations of law. The policy does not apply to activities that are carried out under Superfund and RCRA Corrective Action enforcement instruments. EPA will address these matters in separate communications.

EPA’s policy will apply retroactively beginning on March 13, 2020. EPA will assess the continued need for and scope of this temporary policy on a regular basis and will update it if EPA determines modifications are necessary.

In order to provide fair and sufficient notice to the public, EPA will post a notification on the page linked below at least 7 days prior to terminating this temporary policy.

Click here for the EPA Policy on Enforcement during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Note: One PIOGA member drew particular attention to the footnotes on page 3 of the March 26 EPA memo that describes the policy in detail. The footnotes discuss specific types of compliance monitoring and reporting done by the industry.

Posted Thursday, March 26:

What’s happening with Pennsylvania’s state agencies?

The following is excerpted from an alert posted by the law firm Cozen O’Connor.

Public Utility Commission (PUC) — All offices of the PUC are currently closed, but employees are working remotely through at least March 27, 2020. All hearings have been cancelled through April 10, 2020, and no public input hearings are being scheduled at this time. The consumer hotline is still open but it has limited staff, resulting in longer than normal wait times. The PUC’s public meeting scheduled for March 26, 2020, will be held telephonically.

On March 13, 2020, PUC Chairman Gladys Brown Dutrielle signed an Emergency Order imposing a moratorium on terminations of electric, natural gas, water, wastewater, telecommunications, and steam service unless (a) the termination is required to ameliorate a safety emergency, or (b) the PUC determines that the termination is permissible. This moratorium took effect immediately and will remain in effect during the pendency of Governor Tom Wolf’s Proclamation of Disaster Emergency (up to June 4, 2020, unless renewed by the governor).

In addition, on March 16, 2020, Chairman Brown Dutrielle signed an Emergency Order imposing a moratorium on all door-to-door, in person, and public event sales activities by agents of electric and natural gas suppliers. This moratorium applies to all customer classes, not just residential customers. It took effect immediately and will remain in effect during the pendency of Governor Wolf’s Proclamation of Disaster Emergency.

Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) — DEP has announced that in order to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus all DEP offices will remain closed for at least the 14 days beginning March 17. DEP staff that is able to do so are teleworking. This includes reviewing permits, responding to complaints and environmental emergencies, and other work.

Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) — The EHB has announced that due to the closing of the Pennsylvania state government offices to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, all offices of the EHB are closed until March 30, 2020. The EHB is continuing to operate remotely during this period. The EHB is encouraging the public to electronically file documents and, where possible, to refrain from mailing or faxing documents to the EHB’s Harrisburg office. Requests for extension or adjustments to scheduling may be filed with the EHB and will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.


Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) — SRBC employees are working from home. A limited number of staff in the Harrisburg offices are processing mail and accepting deliveries. The offices are closed to visitors until further notice. They are monitoring emails and voicemails. They will respond, but delays are expected.

Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) — The DRBC remains operational, but its West Trenton, N.J., office building is closed and staff are working remotely, until further notice.

Updated Wednesday, March 25:

Identifying your employees as workers in a life-sustaining business

Given that there have been a few sporadic reports of employees of essential businesses having been stopped and questioned by law enforcement, oil and gas related companies should consider providing their workers with a letter to carry in case they are approached by anyone questioning why they are working. Companies may want to consider having their counsel review and modify the text as necessary. A Word document of the following template can be downloaded here.



Please be advised that [NAME OF EMPLOYEE] is an [employee/contractor] supporting the operations of [NAME OF COMPANY] and thus is engaged in a life-sustaining business as defined in the March 19, 2020, ORDER OF THE GOVERNOR OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA REGARDING THE CLOSURE OF ALL BUSINESSES THAT ARE NOT LIFE SUSTAINING during the COVID-19 public health emergency. As a life sustaining business, the oil and natural gas operations of [NAME OF COMPANY] in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are authorized by the March 19 ORDER to continue physical operations, and the bearer of this letter is authorized to travel within the Commonwealth and to execute activities necessary for oil and gas operations.

You are also advised that energy workers and the energy sector supply chain are listed as Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers in the guidance document referenced in the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s March 19, 2020, letter.

If you have any questions concerning the matters addressed by this letter, please contact the undersigned at [PHONE NUMBER].

Very truly yours,

[NAME & TITLE OF RESPONSIBLE COMPANY OFFICIAL, such as General Counsel, President, Managing Partner, etc.]

The governor’s March 19 order referenced above is available here.

The CISA letter referenced in the letter template can be found here. In that document, the following are identified as Essential Critical Infrastructure workers:

Petroleum workers

  • Petroleum product storage, pipeline, marine transport, terminals, rail transport, road transport
  • Crude oil storage facilities, pipeline, and marine transport
  • Petroleum refinery facilities
  • Petroleum security operations center employees and workers who support emergency response services
  • Petroleum operations control rooms/centers
  • Petroleum drilling, extraction, production, processing, refining, terminal operations, transporting, and retail for use as end-use fuels or feedstocks for chemical manufacturing
  • Onshore and offshore operations for maintenance and emergency response
  • Retail fuel centers such as gas stations and truck stops, and the distribution systems that support them

Natural and propane gas workers

  • Natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines, including compressor stations
  • Underground storage of natural gas
  • Natural gas processing plants, and those that deal with natural gas liquids
  • Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities
  • Natural gas security operations center, natural gas operations dispatch and control rooms/centers natural gas emergency response and customer emergencies, including natural gas leak calls
  • Drilling, production, processing, refining, and transporting natural gas for use as end-use fuels, feedstocks for chemical manufacturing, or use in electricity generation
  • Propane gas dispatch and control rooms and emergency response and customer emergencies, including propane leak calls
  • Propane gas service maintenance and restoration, including call centers
  • Processing, refining, and transporting natural liquids, including propane gas, for use as end-use fuels or feedstocks for chemical manufacturing
  • Propane gas storage, transmission, and distribution centers

Posted Tuesday, March 24:

Federal government energy-related waivers

During energy emergencies, regulatory assistance (or a “waiver”) is often used to expedite restoration when the situation warrants. Temporarily waiving enforcement of certain safety, environmental, and statutory requirements, when appropriate, can accelerate response efforts, restoring power and moving fuel more quickly to affected citizens. The Department of Energy consolidated and verified resources from across the Federal Government to create this central location for common waivers and special permits used for energy response, to include background on the waiver or special permit, historical examples of past use, links to previously issued waivers, and an appropriate point of contact to request such waivers should the need arise.

Visit the Department of Energy’s Energy Waiver library.

Posted Tuesday, March 24:

Pennsylvania Governor: Oil & Natural Gas Industry is a “Life-Sustaining Business”

Energy In Depth blog post

Posted Monday, March 23:

Department of Labor information about the new paid leave act (Families First Coronavirus Response Act)

The IRS will issue guidance next week:  (1) for eligible employers who pay qualifying sick or child-care leave to retain an amount of the payroll taxes [federal income taxes, the employee share of Social Security and Medicare taxes and the employer share of Social Security and Medicare taxes] equal to the amount of qualifying sick and child-care leave that they paid, rather than deposit them with the IRS; and (2) for employers to file requests for an accelerated payments from the IRS if there are not sufficient payroll taxes to cover the cost of qualified sick and child care leave paid.  The IRS expects to process these accelerated payment requests in two weeks or less.

Additional information here

Posted Friday, March 20:

Do you have questions for DEP about compliance in this time of COVID-19 uncertainty?

Due to the recent announcements that all Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection offices statewide will be closed until March 31 (and likely beyond), our members may be left with many questions about compliance and your operations going forward. The Deputy Secretary of the Office of Oil and Gas Management, Scott Perry, has requested that if a company has questions, PIOGA act as a clearinghouse for those questions and answers. We will work directly with DEP to get the answers for you in a timely manner.

Please email Dan Weaver your questions at dan@pioga.org so PIOGA can get answers from DEP. We will provide an FAQ document once it has been compiled.

Thank you for your assistance to provide the DEP with feedback so we all know how to continue on with our operations during these difficult times due to COVID-19.

Posted Monday, March 16:

Important update from PIOGA:  2020 Spring Meeting postponed

Click here to read this news post.

State Resources

Federal Resources

Other Oil & Gas Industry and Business Resources

PIOGA Members Offering COVID-Related Products and Services

(Note, if you are a PIOGA member and would like to be added to this section, please contact Meghan Keely.)

USLED offers UV tubes and thermal imaging stations

USLED offers individual UV tubes that are placed in a standard light fixtures. Once turned on, they kill virus, bacteria and eliminate odor. They’re also available in desktop and floor model units. Also, they have a thermal temperature imaging temperature  scanner that can be used to monitor entrances and keep attendance records and a combination temperature reader/ hand sanitizing station. A bulk discount of 10% is offered to PIOGA members. Contact Brian Rutledge at brianr@usledgroup.com or 267-255-1284.

Direct Results has PPE to “Crush COVID-19”

Direct Results offers a variety of hand sanitizer, masks, tools and social-distancing floor decals.

AM Health and Safety – Surface sampling for coronavirus

AM Health and Safety, Inc. has announced a new service available for our clients. As of May 14, Coronavirus (CoV) Screen and SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) Qualitative Testing for surfaces has been added to our already extensive sampling capabilities.

To address the current coronavirus outbreak, companies are seeking solutions to monitor the presence of CoV/COVID-19 in their environments and to implement immediate disinfection, sanitation, and other measures to protect the health and
safety of their employees. With this new service, we will be able to assist our clients with determining the effectiveness of the surface cleaning and sanitation measures already put into place.

This test can be performed on all solid surfaces; however, it is recommended for surfaces that are, or expected to be, contacted by multiple personnel, e.g. door handles, stair railings, shared keyboards, tools, tables and table edges.

If you are interested in hearing about our new services, or about any of the other industrial hygiene and safety services currently being provided by AM Health and Safety, Inc., please contact us at 412-429-0560.

New Pig offers face shields and hand sanitizer

New Pig has switched directions in recent weeks amid the COVID-19 crisis and added two new products to their lineup: 100% American-made face shields and WHO-formula hand sanitizer. Contact Penny McCreary at 855-744-5463 to learn more. Additional products such as social-distancing floor mats, wipers and face masks can be found here.

KN95 masks from Oil and Gas Safety Supply

PIOGA member Oil and Gas Safety Supply reached out to let us know they have KN95 disposable respirator masks available for companies that need to provide them for their essential workers. Oil and Gas Safety Supply is getting 8,000 per week into its Rogers City, Michigan, warehouse and has begun shipping them. The masks can be purchased here.

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