NYS Announces Casinos May Open; New Requirements for Schools to Report Testing Results; Facials Now Allowed with Restrictions

The Governor's Office has released several important updates and new guidance for businesses and schools this week. These include:

Casinos May Reopen with Restrictions
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced yesterday casinos and video lottery terminal facilities will be allowed to reopen starting September 9 with a 25 percent occupancy limit. All venues that choose to reopen will be subject to strict safety protocols, including strict enforcement of face coverings except when eating or drinking, social distancing, additional staff to control occupancy, traffic flow and seating to avoid crowding, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols. Casinos must also have enhanced air filtration, ventilation and purification standards in place in order to open. New York Forward guidance for gaming facilities has been posted on the Phase 4 website, which can be accessed here.

Schools Must Comply with New Reporting Requirements
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced earlier this week that New York school districts will be required to provide the Department of Health with daily data on the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in each school beginning Tuesday, Sept. 8. The information will be publicly available on a new online dashboard developed by DOH, which will be found here beginning Wednesday Sept. 9. DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker sent a letter to all school districts informing them of the reporting requirements and the new dashboard.
Personal Care Services Requiring Removal of Face Covering Allowed
Provided that: "Responsible Parties are prohibited from offering personal care services that may require customers to remove face coverings (e.g., face massage, facials, face waxing around lip or nose areas, face tattoos, facial makeup, cosmetic lip tattooing, lip or nose piercings, beard trimming or shaves), unless the employee is wearing a face shield or similar barrier in addition to their face covering. Further, any employee performing such services must be tested, at least once on or after September 3, 2020, for COVID-19 through a diagnostic test and receive a negative result prior to the employee performing services that require removal of a customer’s face covering."
Detailed guidelines can be found here.

The Chamber continues to advocate for NY Forward Guidelines for any industries not yet permitted to open - most businesses and organizations should be able to resume operations with the proper precautions in place, and deserve enough notice to plan ahead. Stay tuned for opportunities to support sensible and timely guidelines for all industry sectors.
From the Business Council:
Payroll Tax ‘Holiday’ Guidance Released
Frank Kerbein, Director, Center for Human Resources
There have been many questions about President Trump’s Executive Order on Payroll Tax Deferral, issued on August 8, 2020. That order used existing statutory authority to defer, but not cancel, the withholding of employee’s social security payroll tax for the period September 1 to December 31, 2020. It would provide temporary relief to employees that are “generally” paid up to $4,000 biweekly, or $104,000 per year. While the order instructed the Treasury Department to consider options for cancelling these deferred withholdings, no statue, rule or order has been issued doing so.
The IRS has issued implementation guidance, available here.
Key points from the Executive Order and IRS guidance for consideration by employers:
  • This deferral is optional, at the election of the employer. An employer can choose to NOT participate in this program, and no further action would be required by the employer. As example, there is no obligation for employers to post a notice or otherwise notify employees of the program and/or the employer’s decision to not participate.
  • This employee payroll tax liability is only deferred. The deferred amount must be withheld from employees and remitted to the IRS during the period January 1, 2021 to April 30, 2021, during which period employees may see their withholding increased to double their “normal” level. Moreover, interest and penalties will begin to accrue on May 1, 2021, with respect to any unpaid amount of deferred tax.
  • The deferral only applies to biweekly pay periods during which an employee earns $4,000 or less, so payroll processors must be aware of pay period pay levels to correctly apply the deferral. No deferral is available for pay periods during which an employee earns over that threshold – a compliance provision that will add complexity for some employers.

Even with this IRS guidance, there are many unanswered questions regarding this program:
  • If an employer opts into the program, do they have to apply the deferral to all eligible employees during all eligible pay periods?
  • Are their restrictions on when an employer can opt into, and once in, opt out of the deferral program?
  • Can an employer that opts into the program allow individual employers to opt in or out of the deferral program?
  • How are payroll taxes recouped if an employee no longer works for the same employer during the January to April 2021 period for recovery of deferred withholdings? Would employers be liable for any unrecovered tax liability?
  • What will Congress do? They could include a payroll tax “holiday” in an upcoming COVID relief bill, either forgiving taxes deferred under the Executive Order, or substituting a different program. To date, Congressional agreement on a payroll tax holiday has seemed unlikely.

In our view, due to the temporary nature of this employee “benefit,” the requirement for full recovery of deferred withholdings from employees in 2021, and the significant uncertainties regarding the program, it will make sense for most employers to not opt-in. 
Important Updates from Area Colleges
Cornell University
Cornell has updated its COVID-19 dashboard to reflect alert level "Yellow: Low to Moderate Risk" after a cluster of COVID-19 cases were identified, following several small gatherings which did not meet mask/social distancing requirements. Campus leaders sent several communications this week regarding behavioral expectations.
Ithaca College
Ithaca College issued a number of updates this week, including announcing the formation of a 17 member Public Health Task Force and the addition of a COVID-19 Tracking Dashboard. They have also hired an Off-Campus Community Living Coordinator, and created a new form for reporting noncompliance with the Community Agreement.
TC3 Moves to Remote Instruction After Positive Cases Identified
After consultation with the Tompkins County Health Department, Tompkins Cortland Community College moved to all remote instruction Thursday, Sept. 3 and Friday, Sept. 4 out of an abundance of caution to allow for thorough and safe contact tracing, after new COVID cases were discovered in the campus community.
Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy,
and safe Labor Day weekend!
Our Team is Here for You.

Just call the Chamber at 607-273-7080, or email us at info@tompkinschamber.org. For specific need areas:
Ritza Francois, Membership Referrals & Support
Carly Hansen, Operations/Account Assistance
Diane Hemly, Bookkeeper - AP/AR Questions
Jennifer Tavares, Economic Recovery/Communications & PR
David Walton, Event & Program/Sponsor Inquiries & OJT Grants
Note: Our offices will be closed on Monday, in recognition of Labor Day. Our office is open by appointment. Just let us know if you need to visit us!