Top Ten Q & A's
Regarding Your Workforce Decisions
1: Are there tax credits also available for maintaining insurance premiums for my employees?
In the tax credit heading of the Employer paid Leave Fact Sheet the DOL states “Applicable tax credits also extend to amounts paid or incurred to maintain health insurance coverage”. More guidance on this is expected soon.
2: If I currently have an employee out on a regular FMLA protected leave. Do they also qualify for another 12 weeks under EFMLA?
Yes. Another 12 weeks specific to the six circumstances as outlined in the law:
- Is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19
- Has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19
- Is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis
- Is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in(2)
- Is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19; or
- Is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.
3: If the federal, local or state government mandates my business to close does that qualify my employees for Emergency Paid Leave and/or EFMLA?
The Employer and Employee Fact Sheet states: The Act provides that covered employers must provide all employees “expanded family medical leave (and sick leave) where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State or local government order”.
4: What are my notice requirements regarding Emergency Paid Leave/EFMLA?
Link to the required posting:
Link to Frequently Asked Questions regarding Notice:
5: Are employers under 50 exempt from Emergency Paid Leave and Extended FMLA?
There is a statement that small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business. More guidance on this is expected soon.
6: Are Insurance companies allowing delays in premiums payments?
This past week we have been polling insurers on relaxing their contractual provision on premium grace periods. No universal change in the contractual grace period has been communicated.
7: Can I remove or suspend my retirement plan employer contribution?
- Yes. If your employer contribution is discretionary within your plan document, no amendment should be required. First, confirm with your retirement plan vendor that you can make this change without an amendment, and once confirmed, provide a notice to your employees informing them of the change.
- If your employer contribution is a safe harbor match, a safe harbor non-elective contribution, or your employer contribution is specifically written into your plan document, removing or changing that contribution requires a plan amendment with appropriate notice to employees. Work with your retirement plan vendor to understand the ramifications of this amendment, especially with discrimination testing considerations when removing safe harbor provisions.
- Note: The CARES (Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act and the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act include key retirement plan and loan provisions that are in proposal phase and have not yet been signed into law. If passed, these Acts may provide guidance for employers regarding their employer contribution requirements. We are closely monitoring all legal and regulatory action that could impact retirement plan provisions. We will provide updates as additional information becomes available.
8: Do employee layoffs impact my retirement plan?
- If severance of employment impacts 20% or more of your eligible participants, a partial plan termination may be triggered, which provides 100% immediate vesting for those impacted participants for all employer contributions? Speak with your retirement plan vendor if you are close to this 20% threshold.
- Note: The CARES (Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act and the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act which include key retirement plan and loan provisions are in proposal phase and have not yet been signed into law. If passed, we will keep you informed if partial plan termination rules are impacted.
9: If I have an employee on short term disability can they still qualify for state or federal benefits such as unemployment or paid sick leave?
In general, Short Term Disability plans have an offsetting provision when government plans also pay. Often the Short Term Disability plan is the primary payer while the government plans pay secondary. The Short Term Disability carrier will likely offset their weekly benefit payments received from government sources. Your SHC broker or account manager can help you find out how your Short Term Disability carrier will pay the benefit.
10. Is there a difference between layoff and furlough?
These 2 terms are often used interchangeably and essentially have the same meanings. Regarding Unemployment qualifications or maintaining benefits there is no difference.
SevenHillsCleveland is not a law firm, and those employed with SevenHillsCleveland are not acting as your attorney. The information provided does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information is prepared and provided for general informational purposes only.
DEED Minnesota Call for Businesses (TODAY):
Notes from Conference Call 3/30/2020
APPLE VALLEY CHAMBER NOTE:
These State Agency Commissioners will only be conducting these conference calls MONDAY-WEDNESDAY-FRIDAY going forward. The very last question at the end entails enforcement being done at the local level. We are trying to get clarification on that for businesses.
The following are rough notes of a conference call with the commissioners this morning at 7 a.m. It is intended to give you a heads up early. Always check agency websites for confirmation.
Monday, March 30, 2020
Steve Kelley, Commissioner of Commerce
Nicole Blissenbach, Asst Commissioner of Department of Labor and Industry
Neal Young re critical industries
Robert Dody, Dept of Revenue
Steve Grove, Commissioner of DEED
Kevin McKinnon, Deputy Commissioner of DEED
John Kelly, Governor's Policy Advisor
Darielle Dannon, Legislative lead
Anna Peterson, DEED Chief of Staff
daily business call, intended to create a consistent bridge between government and business, provide critical updates
Questions are being circulated into the forum through this daily communication. Always seeking ideas for more targeted supports.
MOVING FORWARD, THESE CALLS WILL BE M-W-F.
DEED, Steve Grove
- Wkg with Dept of Admin re critical sectors guidelines at www.mn.gov/deed/critical.
- Guidance continues to evolve. Over the weekend, chief legal counsel worked on updated clarifications and definitions. About 13pp long now, with clarifications by sector. Also an FAQ tab re employers and employees. Also additional resources tab.
- Keep asking questions and offering guidance; they are helping us to continue clarifications.
Federal legislation that came through last week, Darielle Dannon
- Friday, President signed COVID-19 aid relief and economic security -CARES - act.
- She hesitates because we are still waiting on some federal direction from the federal agencies.
- Significant component provides additional funds to small businesses (better addressed by SBA partners).
- 4 major components of the federal legislation that impacts UI:
- Pandemic unemployment assistance
- Modeled after the disaster assistance UI program)
- Each state needs to design and roll out its own program.
- Assistance for reimbursing employers
- If you are employer that is Tribe, NP, govt entity: some federal funding to reduce reimbursements to state trust funds by 50%. And may provide flexibility in repayments.
- "UI top up" additional $600/week, added to UI benefits. Extends thru 7/31/2020. Was last implemented during the recession, Congress is doing this again. Not sure when it will show up, but should be quicker to roll out.
- Extended unemployment. Congress added an additional 13 weeks. If UI benefits are exhausted, can get those additional 13 weeks through 12/31/2020.
Business Finance Team re the MN Loan Guarantee Program, McKinnon
- Legislature acted last week, Gov signed on Sat.
- Loan guarantee program enacted in the legislation. Allocates $10M for this program, and allows lenders to extend credit to businesses seeking financing.
- We are going to enroll lenders into this program starting today, Monday.
- These loan guarantees, to be eligible: 250 FTEs or fewer. 80% guarantee of up to $200K, so that would reflect a maximum $250K loan.
- Rates and terms are up to the lender; you do not come to DEED. You go to the enrolled lenders, list will be posted on DEED website as we get it up and running.
- Uses: machinery, equipment, and working capital.
- Open for up to 12 months from date of Peacetime Health Emergency declared.
- Working on language, guidelines, to get this up and running.
- As lenders are enrolled, they will be eligible to provide this financing to businesses across the state.
Commerce, Steve Kelley
- We now have authority from Legislature to grant delays or extensions for deadlines for various of our regulated entities re licenses or other actions required under our statutes.
- This morning, there will be an order published extending deadlines for 15 of the licensees' organizations we are responsible for regulating.
- The order won't name the particular industries, but there will be regulatory guidance on our website for each of the 15 groups covered.
- Insurance agents are the most pressing because a number of licensees had licenses due at EOM March. Will be extended.
- Licensees should get emails, but proactively check our website as well.
- We continue to get requests regarding "critical" determination or exemption from Stay At Home Order. Direct people to DEED website first.
DLI, Nicole Blissenbach
- FAQ list now has been added to our website. includes questions we are seeing from both employers and employees…
- Also includes additional guidance re OSHA and other units of this division.
Revenue, Robert Dody
- Last week I mentioned the importance of going to our website to understand questions about any of our 30 tax types and differences re federal vs state level, and questions about filing deadlines/extensions.
- We have announced extensions for individual income tax out to 7/15, as well as sales tax for monthly filers out 30 days.
- A lot of other tax types and potential questions. Please, I encourage you to go to our website.
- Additionally, reviewing CARES Act, particularly overall taxability to individuals who receive stimulus checks. More on that to come.
Governor's Office, John Kelly
- As much as people are reluctant to contact email boxes rather than specific people, they are intended to help us review questions. Folks are responding to those emails.
- Send your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Entire team is working to turn these requests around within 24 hours. Thank you for your patience.
- This really is the fastest way to get clarification on the critical nature of your business.
- Lots of questions re CARES. Grove: don't have answers quite yet, working feverishly to get them. Will answer them as we have guidance.
- What guidance does DEED have for local loan terms? Should cities follow DEED's example like favorable terms and 0% interest? McKinnon: assuming this is for RLFs… cities can determine their own terms and rates, can follow DEED's guidance if they choose.
- How will DEED be promoting critical businesses as they need to ramp up employees? Grove: have begun highlighting industries hiring… in the 2pm daily briefing w/Governor. Get updated job vacancy stats by the week, we'll be sending out. That's part of the answer. The other: during these 2 weeks, state govt is realigning along key workstreams that need to get done to prepare the state. A big piece of that is partnerships between govt and private sector. Several workstreams: increasing PPE, hospital capacity, security… partnering very specifically to increase the preparedness of our state. DEED can highlight those who are hiring, AND partner directly to help increase capacity. Will continue to hear more on this. We will need your help.
- How are lenders enrolled in the guaranteed program? Does DEED select them? And when will the DEED loan guarantee be active? McKinnon: lenders will submit application and DEED will review. Once approved, will post on our website. Keep in mind that banks, public entities, and NP economic development agencies are eligible to apply and be lenders. We hope to have, and it should be posted today, enrollment form on website.
- What programs are being designed/available for self-employed people who are not able to operate their business - including artists? Grove: for one, if you're self-employed and paying into UI, you can apply for that. As you look at new federal legislation, additional supports are there for those not covered by UI. Pandemic unemployment disaster insurance program (see above). Will be issuing guidance soon re how to apply for that. All the small business loan programs - this one, EIDL, SBEL - all apply for even single FTE businesses.
- How will SAH order intersect wit federal paid sick leave for nonessential employees? Blissenbach: have received this question a couple times, looking for clarification on when to take up to 80 hours paid sick leave. The one most applicable to this situation is the one that outlines people having to stay at home because they are subject to quarantine or isolation order. I looked at US DOL website… don't give additional guidance on that as to whether an EO SAH order qualifies. So US DOL has to give official guidance. My read: an EO would not qualify as an "isolation or quarantine order." But, again, definitive guidance is waiting on DOL to make that call.
- If a co has laid off employees due to COVID-19, and those employees receive UI benefits, and then the employer is subsequently able to pay payroll with loans (and pay backdated wages), are employees required to pay back UI payments? Grove: I don't think so. Dannon: US DOL call on Friday included this. Guidance may take a little longer when it comes to interaction between programs. I would suspect that will take a little more time, though DOL attorneys are working on that now.
- Are first responders and health care workers who contract COVID-19 eligible for workers comp? Blissenbach: the workers comp law currently as written does not preclude the filing of workers comp for contracting something like COID-19 while work. That said, is a bit of hurdle to proving that is a workplace illness. There have been conversations at legislature on the floor of the Senate to look at that. Expression by both R and D to continue that conversation. As of right now, can make a workers comp claim, but circumstances will dictate whether or not it goes through.
- If you see a nonessential business working, who do you call to report a violation? Grove: if you have a concern, talking to your local law enforcement is your best step. There are penalties in the EO. That said, we don't always know what's going on in a business, to know if some portion of their business is "critical" in nature.
Important Update on Applying For Unemployment Insurance Benefits
Now Determined By SSN & Day of the Week
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesota's Unemployment Insurance team members are processing more applications for unemployment benefits than ever before.
To ensure the system can handle the increased activity they are asking that *new* unemployment insurance applicants apply online on an assigned day, based on your social security number (SSN).
If you need to apply for unemployment benefits for the first time, please refer to the schedule below to learn when you are scheduled to apply. You will only be allowed to apply on your assigned day - or on Thursday or Friday if you missed your assigned day.
The table below lists the day and time to start an application based on the last digit of your SSN. For example: a person with the SSN XXX-XX-XXX6 would apply on Wednesday.
Important Things to Know
- The date of application will not affect the amount of benefits you will be paid.
- If you already have a Unemployment Insurance account, you can still login anytime.
- Please do not call the Unemployment Insurance office to ask about the status of your application. Your online account will be updated when more information is available.
- If you have questions please visit the Need to Know page on the UIMN.org site.
Have more questions about whether you qualify for Unemployment Insurance, how to apply and what the process is? Please visit the
UI Need to Know page.