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Reopening Rhode Island
- April 9, 2021 - The Department of Labor has published the following information regarding ARPA's COBRA Subsidy:
- Model General Notice and COBRA Continuation Coverage Election Notice
- Model Notice in Connection with Extended Election Period
- Model Alternative Notice
- Model Notice of Expiration of Premium Assistance
- Summary of COBRA Premium Assistance Provisions under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021
- COBRA Premium Assistance under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 FAQs
- March 31, 2021 - On Wednesday, March 31st, President Biden released a summary of his administration’s proposed The American Jobs Plan (the “TAJP”). TAJP is a $2 trillion proposal focusing on public domestic infrastructure investments. To help incentivize infrastructure investments and fund the proposals, the TAJP summary includes tax related provisions. Click here to read the Client Alert by PS&H counsel Russell Stein.
- March 30, 2021 - The Rhode Island Department of Health has revised their regulations to eliminate the requirement that all businesses must keep a cleaning log (documenting the date, time, location and procedures for cleaning activities). The requirement tended to be one often missed by employers and was not particularly practical. The underlying cleaning requirements remain intact. Click here to view details.
- March 29, 2021 - The ARPA makes a sweeping change to COBRA, requiring employers to pay for eligible employees (and their family members) COBRA costs for up to six months while also providing employers a tax credit to recoup those costs. PS&H Employment & Labor attorneys explain in their Client Alert, Employers Should Brace Themselves for the ARPA's Burdensome Paid COBRA Mandate.
- March 23, 2021 - The recently passed American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) expands the scope of both the EPSL and EFMLA to allow employers to voluntarily provide additional leave from April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021. The new FFCRA leave under the ARPA is not mandatory. PS&H partners Michael Gamboli and Alicia Samolis detail highlights of the expansion in their Client Alert, New FFCRA Leave Starts April 1, 2021.
- March 22, 2021 - Massachusetts entered Phase IV, Step 1 of reopening through an Executive Order entitled "March 22, 2021 Appendix Adjusting Gathering Limits Set in COVID-19 Order No. 63" and Executive Order 66. Most significantly, there is now no Massachusetts travel order (only travel recommendations) requiring quarantine following any travel. In addition, stadiums, arenas and ballparks will be able to operate at 12% capacity. Gathering limits for event venues increased to 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors (private gatherings remain at 10 people indoors/ 25 people outdoors).
- March 19, 2021 - Rhode Island has loosened its restrictions pursuant to Executive Order 21-26 and Executive Order 21-27, both of which expire on April 17, 2021. Through the orders:
- The 90 day provision relating to vaccines (requiring the vaccination to have been completed within 90 days) has been eliminated, so that anyone fully vaccinated (following 14 days after vaccination completion) does not need to quarantine after close-contacts or travel. For those who have had COVID and recovered, the 90 day period remains (so that if the recovery was over 90 days ago, the person must still quarantine).
- Office-based businesses may have up to 50% of workers at the same time regardless of the ability to work from home. As before, despite capacity limits, employees who have to perform work onsite can still do so.
- Indoor dining has increased to 75%. There are no restrictions as to the number of households per table, but only 8 people may be seated at a table.
- Capacity at indoor catered events, retail businesses, gyms, religious services and venues of assembly have increased capacity.
- Capacity of indoor social gatherings (outside of catered events) is 15 people (50 outdoors). There are no further limitations related to the number of households.
- March 12, 2021 - Rhode Island Executive Order 21-24 was passed to amend Executive Order 21-22. The order makes small adjustments, such as allowing bars to remain open until midnight in the case of customers who are seated and order food by 11pm.
- March 11, 2021 - President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA”). The law contains provisions to help businesses and individuals recover from economic hardships due to Covid-19. Click here to read the Client Alert that provides a brief overview of the changes to the Employee Retention Credit and introduces the Restaurant Revitalization Grant program that is part of ARPA. Click here for a high-level summary of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
- March 5, 2021 - Rhode Island issued Executive Order 21-22, which is a slightly revised version Executive Order 21-17, regarding travel quarantines and business restrictions. The order will expire on April 3rd. The significant changes are as follows:
- Now an individual only has to quarantine after domestic travel to a higher risk state until he or she receives a negative test after entering RI (you will recall the previously-existing order, the test had to be taken after 5 days of the individual’s return to the state, and prior to that order, the test could be taken three days before that return). The other exceptions still apply.
- Pre-event testing is required for social gatherings where there is a caterer if the event exceeds 15 attendees (regardless of whether the event is at a restaurant, caterer or private home).
- Restaurant indoor capacity has increased from 50% to 66% indoors.
- Gyms/sporting facilities capacity has decreased to 1 person per 100 square feet (down from 1 person per 125 square feet).
- February 25, 2021 - Rhode Island issued two new executive orders, which provide lower quarantine standards for asymptomatic individuals who have recovered from COVID in the past 90 days or have completed the final dose of the vaccine within the last 90 days. Specifically, such individuals do not have to quarantine after travel or close contact with a positive individual. With respect to the recovery portion, the 90 day expiration period runs from the onset of symptoms (if there were any symptoms) or positive test date. With respect to the vaccine portion, the exception does not apply if the person lives in an assisted living facility or nursing home or is admitted to the hospital and the "final dose" must be received (meaning either one dose for those vaccines to be approved to be one dose or the second dose for vaccines approved only for two-dose use). Click to view Executive Order 21-17 and Executive Order 21-18.
- February 25, 2021 - Massachusetts has released its new order, effective March 1, 2021, moving the state into Stage 2 of Step III. This will allow for a building capacity limit of 50% for many industries, including office-based businesses. Restaurants will no longer have a percent capacity limit and will be permitted to host musical performances; six-foot social distancing, limits of six people per table and 90 minute limits remain in place. Click to view the Executive Order 65.
- February 23, 2021 - Rhode Island issued Executive Order 21-16, extending the previously issued Executive Order 20-19, allowing former employees to collect unemployment benefits for COVID-19 reasons without it negatively impacting their former employer’s unemployment insurance rate. The order is extended to March 24, 2021.
- February 12, 2021 - Rhode Island issued Executive Order 21-13, which slightly loosens COVID-19 restrictions. The Order expires on March 6, 2021. Of note is that social gatherings (public or private) now may include 2 households (indoors) and 3 households (outdoors). In addition, bar spaces (bar areas) are now open. They must be spaced out so that a maximum of 2 households (4 people total) are in each portion of a bar area (with a time limit of 90 minutes, and not later than 11pm). Churches are also allowed to have 40% (previously 25%) capacity.
- February 5, 2021 - Rhode Island passed Executive Order 21-11 and corresponding updated business guidance, which supersedes Executive Order 21-09 and makes a change to the office capacity requirement. Specifically, it states:
This would appear to mean greater than 33% of the workforce can work at the same time as long as they are performing tasks that require them to be on-premise.
The new order is more restrictive in some ways, than prior orders. The initial 33% limitation had a floor of 15 people (the greater of 15 or 33% working at one time). All prior capacity restrictions also had grandfathering provisions for companies that never shut down or reduced capacity. This was because Rhode Island does not have an essential business exception to its orders; rather, most essential businesses would have likely operated the entire time and thus be grandfathered under the old orders. Now an “essential” office that never closed will have to ensure either (a) only employees are working whose duties require them to be on-site or (b) no more than 33% of the workforce is working at one time.
Certain other restrictions have loosened as well. Two households can now eat indoors at restaurants (three outside). There is not a similar change to the prohibition on social gatherings outside of one household. In addition, gyms and indoor entertainment have an increased capacity.
- January 29, 2021 - Rhode Island Executive Order 21-09 extends restrictions that were previously determined by Executive Order 20-108, to be in effect until February 27, 2021. Two notable changes to the order includes:
- The international travel quarentine order has changed. Now the quarantine after international travel is the shorter of: (a) 10 days; or (b) seven days if a negative test is taken after 5 days.
- The curfews for restaurants haave been lifted.
- January 27, 2021 - Rhode Island Executive Order 21-08 extends the following orders to February 25, 2021 without any change:
- January 21, 2021 - Massachusetts Governor, Charlie Baker, issued Executive Order 62, which extends the reduced capacity limits (such as the 40% building occupancy office requirement and the 25% capacity for entertainment facilities and restaurants) until February 8, 2021. The order repeals the 9:30pm curfew for restaurants, entertainment facilities and liquor/cannabis stores.
- January 20, 2021 - Employers are no longer required to provide employees with FFCRA leave, but can opt to do so in the first quarter of 2021. PS&H employment attorneys explain how employers should handle the new FFCRA rules. Click to read more.
- January 17, 2021 - The CDC has published its travel order, which will become effective January 26, 2021. The order requires all travelers (including but not limited to US Citizens) coming to the United States from another country (except the US territories and possessions of the US) to present a negative COVID-19 test. The test must be taken within the 3 calendar days preceding the flight’s departure date from the foreign country. The passenger must attest to getting the negative test result and have written or electronic confirmation available for both presentation to the airline before departure and upon request of any U.S. government official or state or local health authority upon arrival that contains the following:
(ii) the test date (with the above date criteria).
(iv) the COVID-19 results state either “NEGATIVE” or “NOT DETECTED” (without being marked “invalid” in any respect).
There are special rules and/or exceptions for passengers with an overseas connection that last less than 24 hours or who are recovering from COVID, are crewmembers or who are younger than 2 years old. Airlines are responsible for confirming passengers onboard an inbound flight have such negative documentation and are required to have passengers attest that they have obtained the negative result. Passenger violations of the order come with criminal penalties. The full travel order can be viewed here.
- January 15, 2021 - Rhode Island Executive Order 21-05 extends the original order lifting "pause" restrictions to pre-"pause" requirements until February 18, 2021 without any change or modification. The original Order can be viewed here.
- January 8, 2021 - Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts extended his December 9, 2020 order placing all municipalities within Massachusetts back to Phase Three, Step One of the reopening plan, to January 24, 2021. Previously, the order was expected to expire on January 10, 2021. The extended order limits indoor gatherings to 10 persons; outdoor gatherings to 25 persons; and most businesses and other venues (including places of worship) are permitted to operate at no more than 25% capacity. The original order can be viewed here and the extention order viewed here.
- January 1, 2021 - Governor Raimondo has extended previously signed RI Executive Orders with no change to January 28, 2021. The extension order can be viewed here. Some of the notable Orders being extended include:
- Executive Order #20-19, which declares that employers' unemployment accounts will not be charged as a result of unemployment benefits paid to former employees due to COVID-19.
- Executive Order #20-94, which is the mask order.
- Executive Order #20-104, which, amongst other directives, mandates that except for persons living in congregate care settings, any person (a) who has been in known close contact (within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes within a 24-hour period) with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 or (b) who has been contacted by RIDOH to inform them that they were in such close contact must: (i) self-quarantine for 10 days following that contact or (ii) obtain a negative COVID-19 test on day 5 or later following that contact and self-quarantines until day 7 following that contact.
- December 22, 2020 - If signed into law, a portion of the new coronavirus relief bill labeled the “Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act,” would provide for a second round of PPP and EIDL loans, along with some important modifications to those programs. Read more. In addition, a portion of the new bill labeled the “Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act of 2020” would extend the following provisions of the CARES Act through March 14, 2021 and add some additional changes to the programs. Read more.
- December 21, 2020 - Effective today, the new RI Executive Order, lifts the “pause” restrictions to pre-pause requirements in most respects, as follows: (1) a restaurant’s indoor dining capacity is now 50% of an establishment's regular seating capacity; (2) venues of assembly may operate at up to 25% of capacity, subject to Phase III guidelines, to a cap of one hundred and twenty-five (125) people; (3) gyms may resume operations at one (1) person per 150 square feet with individuals remaining fourteen (14) feet apart indoors and six (6) feet apart outdoors, subject to Phase III guidance; and (4) Indoor and outdoor recreational or entertainment businesses and historical/cultural establishments, that are not venues of assembly, may conduct operations at one (1) person per 150 square feet and must require individuals physically exerting themselves to remain fourteen (14) feet apart from individuals outside of their household. The requirement for office employees to work from home when possible and the requirement for restaurants to seat one household per table inside (2 outside) remains in effect. The Order expires January 19, 2021.
- December 21, 2020 - United States Senate and House leaders have reached an agreement on an approximately $900 billion relief bill in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. If passed, this would be the largest relief package since Congress passed the CARES Act in March of this year. The full text of the relief bill has not yet been released; however, many details of the package have been reported by congressional leaders. Read more.
- December 11, 2020 - Massachusetts released revised industry specific workplace safety standards that go into effect on December 13, 2020. The new office capacity is reduced from 50% to 40%. View the full revised Workplace Safety Standards for Office Spaces here.
- December 11, 2020 - The Rhode Island "Pause" order has been extended until December 20th, per Rhode Island Executive Order 20-105. The quarantine order, Rhode Island Executive Order 20-104, was amended to (i) require close contacts to quarantine even absent a call from the RIDOH (prior to this order, you were not required to quarantine for close contact purposes unless or until the RIDOH contacted you to inform you of the quarantine requirement); and (ii) shorten the period of time for close contact to quarantine. Close contact now self-quarantine for 10 days following that contact, unless the person obtains a negative COVID-19 test on day 5 or later following that contact and self quarantines until day 7 or later following that contact. Those living in the a congregate setting must still quarantine for 14 days.
- December 9, 2020 - The Small Business Administration (the “SBA”) released Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) Loans FAQ #53, which provides additional information regarding the Loan Necessity Questionnaires (SBA Forms 3509 or 3510) that will be required for all PPP borrowers that, together with their affiliates, received loans of $2 million or more. Read more.
- December 9, 2020 - Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has released two new orders which will go into effect December 13, 2020.
- The first order will put all municipalities into Phase Three, Step One, whereas currently some cities and towns had been in Phase Three, Step Two. The "roll back" has very little practical impact on businesses, with the exception of indoor theaters and indoor recreational facilities with great potential for contact. View the Order here.
- The second order limits outdoor gatherings at venues to 25 people (50 with advance notice to the DOH) and private residence gatherings to 10 people indoors (25 people outside). View the Order here.
- December 4, 2020 - Rhode Island has announced $100 million in funding will be allocated to support those who are affected by the Rhode Island COVID-19 “Pause” Order (Executive Order 20-100), which runs from November 30 through December 13. $50 million will go directly to local businesses with a maximum of $50,000 to each business. This funding is for those businesses that are closed or severely limited during the “Pause” and the amount of funding awarded will be based upon revenue. Businesses may apply for this funding beginning today via the Division of Taxation’s website at http://www.tax.ri.gov/. Learn more here.
- November 30, 2020 - Executive Order 20-100, was signed by Governor Raimondo and is effective until December 13, 2020. This is the widely talked about "Pause" order, which makes a few additional changes to the prior order. Most significantly, the order continues to ban indoor social gatherings amongst non-household members. Changes to prior order to note:
- Indoor catering is prohibited.
- Gyms and sporting activities are closed.
- Indoor and outdoor assembly venues, as well as indoor recreational and entertainment businesses (concert halls, theaters, fairs, concerts, arcades, etc.) are closed.
- Recreational/entertainment elements within a restaurant/bar or other operation must be closed (e.g., pool tables/arcade games/live music within a restaurant).
- Indoor museums/historical sites are allowed to remain open but are limited to 1 visitor per 100 sq feet and cannot conduct tours or presentations.
- Religious organization activities are reduced to 25% of capacity (capped at 125 people).
- The language regarding work from home has been changed from strongly encouraged to required "when possible", with express allowance for employees' whose duties require an onsite presence to work onsite daily or sporadically.
- Restaurant indoor capacity is reduced to 33% and restaurants must ask patrons if they are all in the same household. A restaurant may seat up to 8 people in two households outside at the same table.
- Bar establishments remain open. No one can sit/use the bar countertop itself in any bar/restaurant.
- November 19, 2020 - A new Rhode Island executive order is signed by Gina Raimondo that is effective until November 29, 2020. Executive Order 20-98 can be viewed here. Four things to note:
- The order limits indoor and outdoor public and private "social gatherings, including holiday gatherings, parties and celebrations" to members of the same household. No further guidance on what is a "social gathering" yet; there are exceptions for weddings.
- Retail establishments must create a plan by November 24th in a form to be released by the DBR to limit the amount of people in stores.
- Slight reduction in capacity percentage