Dear Friends,

I will start my message today with some levity by sharing a video that my mom sent me of Italy. By now many of us have probably participated in a family ZOOM call or a Facebook Live happy hour. I think that we should remember about safe ways we can still connect in-person while observing social distancing. Apparently, the Italians in Florence have started to engage in music and dance parties on their balconies to end each day. We can learn from the Italians that we can keep our spirits happy and hopeful even in these difficult times.

I want to thank all our industry members who continue to reach out to us with their questions and ideas for supporting each other. NYWGF will continue to provide timely and appropriate updates, and we will do our best to interpret what policy and relief resources mean for our industry. We do want to acknowledge that we are not experts in the intricacies of unemployment insurance or applying for federal loans. We will connect you with the best resources for information. And, we encourage you to reach out to your own experts, like your insurance broker, accountant and attorney to better assess how these changes/relief programs apply to your particular business situation.

I have some good news to share about our alcohol beverage laws. The SLA held a full board meeting on Tuesday, and Chairman Bradley made some important announcements at the beginning of the meeting.  The SLA will release Advisories/Guidance shortly with all of the details, but in anticipation of that becoming available, here are the highlights:

  • Pricing for the month of April: The wholesalers have made a request to re-open their pricing on March 25 – March 27 to allow them to re-post retailer prices DOWNWARD ONLY. There will also be the ability for wholesalers (if they choose to) to lower volume needed to receive volume discounts.
  • Imposition of Penalties: Any licensee that receives a new imposition of penalties (for the time being) will not receive a letter stating such penalty is due for 60 days. Typically they then have 28 days to pay. However, any revocation or cancellation that is already imposed to date will still happen. They reserve the right to adjust the 60 days depending on where things stand at that time.
  • Renewals: For March and April renewals, any renewal paperwork must be sent to the SLA on time. However, if there is a financial hardship, payment may be delayed for 60 days (until June 1).
  • Deficiency Letters: If additional time is needed to respond to a deficiency letter request, send a request by email to the SLA.

There are a couple of other changes that are not necessarily relevant for the wine industry, and the NYS Hospitality Alliance provides full coverage of the changes on their website.

Utility rate increase relief is coming too as Governor Cuomo announced that the Public Service Commission (PSC) ordered utilities to suspend rate increases. The PSC Chair today approved an order that will allow New York American Water (NYAW) to delay implementing the previously approved rate increase scheduled to take effect April 1 under its existing four-year rate plan. The Commission’s Chair approved a second order allowing National Grid’s upstate electric and gas utility to postpone implementing previously approved delivery rate increases that would have also taken effect on April 1 under its existing three-year rate plan.  PSC will be asking other utilities to consider postponing rate increases, depending on continued movement reductions due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

This continues to be a challenging shift in our daily lives as we all experience different kinds of stress and anxiety. I highly recommend an article recently published by the Harvard Business Review (HBR) that equates what we are experiencing as part of the stages of grief. HBR has other excellent articles posted for free to help businesses work through COVID-19 challenges.  Governor Cuomo also announced today that more Than 6,000 Mental Health Professionals Have Signed Up to Provide Free Online Mental Health Services. New Yorkers can call 1-844-863-9314 to schedule an appointment.

Thank you for staying up to date with us. Next update will be issued Friday evening unless there are any significant developments with the federal stimulus bill.