May 26, 2020

Dear MNLGA Members:

If you are a new member, you may wish to check our COVID-19 Resources Page for past e-blasts. For quite a long period, updates were issued daily, including information on recovery and relief programs, CDC guidelines, employee and employee relations information, retail promos, etc.

There is quite a lot of new and significant info, below. 

New Information Today :

PPP Loan Forgiveness – If you have a PPP loan, then its time to think about the forgiveness portion. The reporting on loan forgiveness, I hear, is quite a bear. Last week, AmericanHort hosted a PPP loan forgiveness webinar, which I highly encourage you to review. Find a PDF of the Powerpoint slide deck here .  There is a lot of good information in this webinar, including info on how to recalculate your seasonal employment (more liberal definition than originally stated), details about little relaxation on the payback period, exemptions to FTE reductions, and more. Its just 19 slides – not overwhelming at all, but very good information!

If you really want to delve into it, below are links from SBA – be forewarned – these are legalese:

OSHA – new guidance on how COVID-19 illnesses should be assessed – will cases be deemed work-related, or not? Depends. This is important, please read

CISA Guidance – Definition of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers
Thank you, Craig Regelbrugge for forwarding this information – as it relates to the federal definition of essential workers.  Link to Guidance .
“First, DHS has issued Version 3.1 of its Critical Infrastructure/Essential Worker guidance. Have not scrubbed the whole thing for changes, but the Food and Ag sector language has been tweaked in several place, including to explicitly include the word “greenhouses.””

USDA Announces Coronavirus Farm Disaster Relief  - nursery and greenhouse not yet really included in this relief package, however AmericanHort is working diligently to “fix” this issue.  Read full AmericanHort summary here to become familiar with the relief effort and to be prepared if/when the opportunity to apply becomes available. 

New Grants – offered by Chesapeake Bay Trust for implementation of specific projects.
The Outreach and Restoration Grant Program will fund a variety of clean water, improved habitat, and community education project types, including but not limited to:
  • Constructing stormwater features like rain gardens, bioretention cells, or rain barrels
  • Increasing tree canopy and streamside forest buffers
  • Greening vacant lots and communicating environmental messages
  • Training community members through green jobs training, especially in the stormwater realm
  • Engaging workers newly trained in stormwater green jobs
  • Promoting environmentally responsible communities through behavior change program development
  • Educating community residents about natural resources and stormwater improvement practices, like down spout disconnection or rain barrels, proper waste management, rain gardens, pervious pavement, etc.
  • Removing hard surfaces like asphalt and replacing with pervious features or practices
  • Creating, restoring, or enhancing wetlands or living shorelines
  • Installing agriculture best management practices, including fencing, buffers, and wetlands
  • Stormwater Management projects on large scale school property projects that restore habitat, improve water quality, and establish outdoor classrooms on school grounds. (School-based projects should contribute to Maryland Green School certification efforts, should be integrated into classroom curriculum, and must have a plan for continued use of the project area as an outdoor classroom beyond the term of the grant.)

These types of projects and more are all eligible as part of the Trust’s Outreach and Restoration Grant Program . The grant program is accepting proposals now through August 4, 2020 within three distinct funding tracks:
  • Track 1: Outreach: up to $30,000 for projects focused on education and awareness as project outcomes and up to $50,000 for behavior change projects. 
  • Track 2: Restoration: up to $50,000 for restoration implementation projects.
  • Track 3: Outreach and Restoration: up to $75,000 for projects that combine outreach projects with restoration projects to achieve meaningful and measurable outcomes.
Interested applicants are highly encouraged to watch the Outreach and Restoration Grant Program webinar that includes helpful information regarding the project tracks, eligible applicants, and more! The ~20 minute webinar can be found here or on the Trust website . Also available as a resource to you, the Trust has prepared a “How to Apply for a Chesapeake Bay Trust Grant and Other Award Opportunities” webinar which includes helpful information regarding starting an application. This ~13 minute webinar can be found here or on the Trust website .

Attached  please find the results of the COVID-19 Membership Impact Survey that was conducted several weeks ago. The survey was sent only to active, key contacts of the MNLGA’s members, which numbered 314. We received 74 completed surveys, which is a 23.5% response rate. Thank you to all of the members that completed the survey!

The survey yields some expected, as well as some interesting results. Expected – businesses have been negatively impacted by the virus due to supply chains being shut down, employees not being able to work, time spent following restriction guidelines and applying for recovery and relief programs, etc. Interesting – some businesses report (12% of respondents) that the pandemic has had a positive influence to positive effect on their business sales, while another 16% there has been no impact to sales due to COVID-19.

On a weekly basis I talk to many MNLGA members, as well as MANTS exhibitors, and the overall feedback is one of optimism. Despite the challenges, many businesses have remained open and busy since the beginning of restrictions in mid-March. There has been a lot of creative thinking and planning to do so. It is also an encouraging sign that the market remains, overall, in high demand for our industry products. Many have expressed cautious optimism that the normal spring season will be extended as homeowners are expected to travel less this summer, hence may wish to do more home improvements and gardening.

Some of the survey respondents had specific challenges and questions. I encourage you to call me at 410-823-8684, as I may have resources or answers to offer. For instance, there may be relief to those with an excess of H2A workers this year; AmericanHort has been working on this issue, with, I believe, some positive expectations.

Older Information – but still important

The Governor’s office is encouraging businesses that are open to sign and display “The Maryland Strong: Back to Business Pledge.”   This pledge shows the company’s good faith and compliance with:
  • Create an environment that allows for physical distancing between individuals (6 feet is recommended) to the extent possible.
  • Ensure our place of business is routinely cleaned and encourage our employees to frequently wash their hands.
  • Provide flexibility to our employees, provide training and education and clearly communicate policies and procedures.
  • Reduce and disinfect as many ‘high touch surfaces’ as possible.
  •  Additionally, follow guidance provided by the CDC, the Maryland Department of Health and our own industry.

CDC Reopening Guidance – see this link for guidelines on sanitation and COVID-19 precautions to consider and implement in your workplace.

Remember to utilize the COVID-19 resources page on the MNLGA website . It includes resources to help connect with consumers, explanations and access to state and federal recovery, employment, and relief efforts, and more.

Please keep me in the loop and let me know how the MNLGA can help you.

Vanessa A. Finney
Executive Director, MNLGA