You may have heard this already, but 2020 is not everyone’s favorite year. From global pandemics to thorny political and social issues, this has been a year many look forward to seeing in the rearview mirror. But when life gives you lemons, sometimes you just have to make Citra hopped mead (okay, okay… lemons to citrus to Citra hops is not my best pun, but you get the idea).

My friends down at Meduseld Meadery are not letting the pandemic stop them from innovating. They are opening a new microbrewery and gastropub, taking advantage of existing infrastructure in Manheim Borough. That inspired those of us here at #RKGTechLaw to write about some of the local technological innovation we’ve been keeping our eyes on in 2020:

Did we miss one of your favorite courageous Lancaster businesses? Email me at bsh@rkglaw.com or use the social media tag #RKGTechLaw to share it! And as always, if you are looking for legal representation, you know where to find us. We’ve been doing Zoom consultations since before the pandemic and have no plans to stop, not even when 2020 finally does…

Brandon Harter is a litigator and technology guru at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from William & Mary Law School and advises clients on issues of Civil Litigation & Dispute ResolutionMunicipal Law, and chairs the firm’s Tech Law Group.

It’s been another busy few days for the industry. Today’s hospitality update delves into what House Bill 2513 would and wouldn’t do, booking events with Governor Wolf’s restrictions still in limbo, and whether there’s personal liability attached to restaurant self-certification.

House Bill 2513

If you recall from my previous post, House Bill 2513 is the Bill that essentially reverses many of the Governor’s restrictions since July 15 (when he reduced restaurants to 25% capacity).  Just to be clear on what this Bill does and doesn’t do:

IT DOES:

  • Allow for a MINIMUM of 50% indoor seating, which can be increased if allowed by the CDC and Department of Health guidelines.
  • Allow for 50% capacity for event venues (banquet halls, private clubs or other establishments that regularly hold events).
  • Eliminate the self-certification requirement to operate at 50% capacity (More reason to hold off on completing this until October 5th).
  • Eliminate the requirement to serve a meal along with alcohol.
  • Allow for bar seating (provided social distancing or physical dividers are used).
  • Provide for some additional flexibility to immediately license outdoor areas.  Currently, the PLCB requires any outdoor area to be contiguous to the currently licensed premises for it to qualify for the PLCB’s emergency extension of premises. This Bill would allow for an outdoor area to be licensed if it is within 250 feet of the main licensed building.

IT DOES NOT:

  • Remove the current requirement to cease all alcohol sales at 11 p.m. and clear all alcohol from tables by 12 a.m.
  • Remove the restriction on having groups larger than 25 people indoors and 250 people outdoors.  There is another bill pending in the legislature that would address this restriction. See below for more information on this issue.

Looking ahead, the Governor has threatened to veto the Bill. However, it passed with significant bipartisan support, which could mean the House and Senate would have enough votes to override the Governor’s veto. (They would need a two-thirds majority in each the House and Senate)

From what I have heard from those within the capital, many of the legislators who supported the Bill appear willing to continue their support, even to override a veto.  Many legislators seem to recognize the very dire circumstances for those in the hospitality sector and acknowledge that this Bill, while not a magic solution, is at least a step in the right direction to help the industry.

Booking Events While the Constitutionality of the Governor’s Restrictions is In Limbo

Revisiting the decision by Judge William Stickman IV, you may have heard or read the reports that the Judge refused to stay or suspend the effectiveness of his decision until the Governor’s office resolves its appeal.  I still believe the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals may grant a stay. However, in the interim, it does appear that the PLCB/LCE recognizes that it will not be able to enforce the limits on the size of gatherings until something changes with the Courts.

Realistically, I think it would be hard to start booking events because the current status could change at any time if the 3rd Circuit grants a stay.  Given that most events are booked well in advance, it is hard to rely on the current state of the law today and assume they it will remain that way tomorrow (let alone weeks or months from now).  So if you decide to act on this and book large events, be aware that it could change at any time.

Personal Liability and Restaurant Self-Certification

Finally, even though I am recommending that you hold off on the self-certification process for right now, the website is up and running. The certification is available for review here. The process asks you to review this document and then complete the certification process, affirming that you will implement each of those requirements.  It also asks you to input your maximum fire code occupancy. Before submitting, you must check a box indicating that the information you entered is accurate and warns you that false statements are punishable under the law.

I have heard a lot of people claim that they are “personally liable” for the certification, and that is not technically correct.  The certification is asking you to affirm that the information you entered is correct. Theoretically, if you intentionally lied on this certification, you could be subject to punishment for making a false statement under oath.

With that said, it DOES NOT mean that any future violation or problem related to the operation of your establishment would result in some kind of personal liability.

Bottom Line

I am rooting for the eventual passage of House Bill 2513 to eliminate the self-certification process altogether. But, if that doesn’t get over the finish line, I would not refuse to complete the self-certification process simply because of the warning about false statements and potential punishment.

Obviously, you do not want to make false statements on the form. However, I am not significantly concerned that this is some trap the Government is setting to throw someone in jail for having too many people in their place of business.

Aaron Zeamer is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He practices in a variety of areas, including Business Law and Liquor License matters. Aaron works frequently with commercial real estate agents, brokers, restaurant and bar owners, breweries, distilleries, and wineries to facilitate the sale and transfer of PA liquor licenses.

Given all the crazy twists and turns over the past few months, I keep thinking that things cannot get more difficult or confusing for folks in the hospitality industry…

Clearly, I need to stop saying that. It somehow keeps getting worse.

To say this has been an interesting couple of weeks is a pretty serious understatement. Hopefully, this post can provide some guidance and explanation on increasing to 50% capacity, completing self-certification, and understanding what the recent court ruling may mean for your business.

Self-Certification for Restaurants to Operate at 50% Capacity

Let’s start with the Governor’s announcement from last week and an update to my previous post, Increased Occupancy for Restaurants – Finally Some Relief, Sort of….  The PA Department of Community and Economic Development, who will be involved in the self-certification process for restaurants to operate at 50% capacity, released an updated FAQ. I could probably spend the rest of this post detailing the additional information in just that FAQ, but there are some other important topics to cover. Please take a moment to read that FAQ and contact your attorney with more specific questions.

My biggest advice right now related to this increase to 50% capacity is this:

You should plan to increase to 50% indoor capacity starting September 21, but you DO NOT HAVE TO COMPLETE THE SELF CERTIFICATION UNTIL OCTOBER 5TH. 

I would encourage you to wait until October 5th to complete that certification process.  There are still so many questions and so much uncertainty about what that certification will look like and how it will be used.  You can still begin operating at 50% capacity starting September 21st, even if you do not complete the certification right away.  However, you must have it completed by October 5th to continue beyond that date at 50% capacity.

I am encouraging a “wait and see” approach until we know a little more.  With the way things have gone recently, who knows what could change between now and October 5th?

Federal Judge’s Ruling that Wolf’s Coronavirus Restrictions Were Unconstitutional Is Not What You Think

Moving on to the issue that has generated the most headlines this week: the Opinion from Judge William Stickman IV, a federal court judge in western Pennsylvania, declaring Governor Tom Wolf’s coronavirus shutdown unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated the 1st and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

I have heard about, been forwarded, and otherwise made aware of a LOT of rumors on social media about what this decision means.  Please be careful about what information you rely on in making changes to your business practices right now.  While the decision appears to be good news, in reality, it will have almost no impact on what you can do in the short term.  I say that for a few reasons.

1. The Appeal Is in Process

The Governor’s Office has already announced that it will appeal the decision and seek a stay (a fancy legal term for suspension of the decision) pending the outcome of that appeal.

2. There Have Been Contradictory Rulings by Other Federal Court Judges

While we may cheer the outcome of the decision, there have been two other decisions already issued by other federal court judges on very similar issues that were dramatically different. They came to the opposite conclusion about the constitutionality of the Governor’s actions.

I don’t pretend to be a constitutional scholar, but it does appear to me that Judge Stickman applied a very different analysis to reach his decision. I am not confident it will ultimately hold up.  It may, but my guess is that it will have to be sorted out by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals or even the US Supreme Court.

As you can imagine, that ultimate resolution is many months away.

3. The Decision Has a Narrow Scope

The other reason that I would not change your current operations based on this decision is that, by the Judge’s own words, his decision is relatively narrow.  Keep in mind that this decision stems from a lawsuit that was filed months ago, long before the Governor issued some of the more recent orders.

This case really only challenges:

  • the stay at home orders the Governor issued
  • the business waivers that were granted, and
  • the restrictions on large gatherings.

The last piece is the only one that impacts the hospitality industry (i.e., the current restriction preventing indoor gatherings of more than 25 people or 250 people outdoors).  Even if that were lifted, the 25% capacity limitation, the hours restrictions, and others that dramatically impact many bars, restaurants, and hotels, would remain in place.

Urge Your Representative to Pass House Bill 2513

Let’s revisit the issue of House Bill 2513.  You will recall that that was the Bill that would

  • force restaurants back to a minimum of 50%
  • allow for bar seating to resume, and
  • remove the restrictions that require food to be purchased in order to purchase alcohol.

So why am I harping on this Bill?  It is, in many ways, the clearest path forward for the industry in PA and should get all of our support.  It is currently working its way through the Senate.

If you have any questions about any of the Governor’s current orders, the recent Court Opinion, or anything else affecting your business, contact the attorneys at Russell Krafft & Gruber, who would be happy to talk through it with you.

Aaron Zeamer is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He practices in a variety of areas, including Business Law and Liquor License matters. Aaron works frequently with commercial real estate agents, brokers, restaurant and bar owners, breweries, distilleries, and wineries to facilitate the sale and transfer of PA liquor licenses.

If you have not already received it, you likely will in the coming weeks receive an automated email from the PLCB regarding the renewal of your liquor license.  I wanted to circulate some information to avoid any confusion about the current requirements regarding your liquor license renewals.

In order to provide licensees with some relief during the pandemic, the PLCB has deferred the requirement to renew your liquor license and pay the accompanying fees in 2020 until December 1st.  For many licensees, this assistance came too late because by the time the PLCB implemented this deferral, they already paid their renewal fee for 2020.

  • If you have already paid your renewal fee for 2020, there is nothing else you need to do for this year.
  • If you did not pay your renewal fee for 2020, the PLCB has allowed licensees to continue to operate even if they have not yet completed the renewal process and paid the fees.  This deferral is set to expire on December 1, 2020.

So if you still need to renew your license for this year, please make plans to do so by November 30.  To be clear, the PLCB has only deferred the time to pay the fee. They have NOT waived it altogether…. more on that below.

Deadline for Restaurant and Hotel Licensees

Your filing deadline depends on which district you are in.  Late fees are imposed beginning 60 days BEFORE your license expires.  Do not confuse your license expiration date with the deadline to renew.  If you do so, the PLCB will charge you a $100 late fee.

Deadline for Manufacturer Licensees (Breweries, Wineries, and Distilleries)

Your filing deadline is also 60 days BEFORE your license expires, but PLCB districts for these licenses are different than the districts for retail licenses. (Why the PLCB needs to have different districts for different types of licenses, I do not understand).  Please make sure to check which district you are in and then refer to the PLCB’s email blast to see when your filing deadline will be.

Again, do not confuse your license expiration date with the deadline to renew, or you will be charged a $100 late fee.

Currently, because of the deferral I explained above, if your renewal for next year is upcoming, you may choose to wait until November 30, 2020 to file your renewal without the imposition of a late fee.  As things currently stand, after November 30, the PLCB will again implement the late fee and begin requiring renewals in order to continue operating.

PA House Bill No. 2783 May Waive the 2021 Renewal Fee

As of right now, license renewals are still going to be processed as usual for 2021.  However, there is legislation pending that could waive the renewal fee for 2021.  This was introduced to provide licensees with some additional relief during the pandemic, but also because the legislature recognized that many licensees never got the benefit of the deferral because they already renewed their license by the time the deferral was implemented.

The Bill currently introduced in the House would provide relief from payment for one year if a licensee lost more than 25% of revenue because of the pandemic.  Please keep an eye out for any notices from the PLCB or news regarding license renewals.

To the extent the above bill is not passed this fall, please remember that you need to complete your license renewal on time, and what is “on time” depends on what type of license you have and which PLCB district you are located in.

~~~

The PLCB doesn’t explain any of the above very well and many licensees pay the late fee.  You give the state enough money each year, save yourself the late fee and submit your renewal before the renewal deadline! If you missed the changes regarding other restaurant news during COVID-19, find out more about outdoor dining and selling mixed drinks to go here.

Aaron Zeamer is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He practices in a variety of areas, including Business Law and Liquor License matters. Aaron works frequently with commercial real estate agents, brokers, restaurant and bar owners, breweries, distilleries, and wineries to facilitate the sale and transfer of PA liquor licenses.

So you made the jump and finally decided to go paperless on all of your billing and banking!  Think of all the space and trees you will save eliminating that excess paper from your daily life.  But what happens if you can no longer access those accounts?

I don’t mean what happens if you lose a password or accidentally lock yourself out.  I mean, what happens if you personally can no longer access those accounts due to death or incapacity?  What about your PayPal account? Your Etsy shop?  Your frequent flyer miles?  Your social media accounts?

Recent changes to Pennsylvania Estate Law

Until this July, the law in Pennsylvania was murky at best as to what happens to those digital assets.  However, Pennsylvania recently joined 46 other states in adopting laws to allow for fiduciary access to digital assets.  Under the right circumstances, your

  • agent under a power of attorney
  • executor under a will, or
  • trustee

can request access to your digital assets in order to properly administer your estate or manage your finances.  Under the right circumstances, someone else could have complete access to your assets and accounts.

While the terms of use agreements are still ultimately in control of how much access a fiduciary may have, how often do you read those terms in complete detail?  You may inadvertently be giving someone total access to your digital assets and not realize it. This open door can include transcripts of any chats you have had on the platform.

How do you protect your assets and privacy?

First, make sure you appoint someone you trust not to invade your privacy unnecessarily.

Second, read the terms and conditions to determine if there is any way to limit your fiduciary’s access to your digital assets.

Third, discuss with your attorney whether or not you want to include access to digital assets in your estate planning documents.

Finally, check to see if the platform has an online tool to appoint someone access.  Pennsylvania law allows the online tool to trump all other directives, regardless of when the directive was made.

What are these online tools?  What types of accounts use them?  What does this act actually look like in practice?  Check back soon for additional articles giving more details about the online tools and more practical applications of the act on real-life situations.

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas, including Estate Planning and Estate Administration.

On Tuesday, Governor Wolf announced that starting September 21st, restaurants may (but are not required to) increase their indoor seating capacity to 50%. This accommodation will finally provide some relief to the industry many believe has been the most significantly impacted by the Governor’s mitigation efforts.

On its face, this increased occupancy appears to be good news, but it comes with a catch that may significantly impact many operators.

Restrictions and Requirements

Most notably, along with the ability to increase occupancy to 50%, the most recent changes also prohibit the sales of alcohol after 10 p.m.  They also continue the prohibition on bar seating and continue the requirement that any alcohol sold for on-premises consumption be served in the same transaction with a meal. These changes were outlined in a press release, but we are waiting on a final Order from the Governor.

The other nuance that came with this Order requires that in order to increase capacity to 50%, the establishment must self-certify that they will implement and follow all of the public health measures and orders currently in place and issued by the Governor/Department of Health.  This process has not yet been finalized, but it appears that it will be handled online and require the business owner to

  • review the current restrictions
  • indicate they understand and will comply with those restrictions, and
  • state their maximum indoor capacity according to the fire code.

This self-certification must be completed by October 5 if businesses wish to continue with the 50% capacity.

When the Governor’s Office announced the increase in capacity, many initially celebrated the move. However, with the additional restrictions imposed along with the increase, it is in many ways a step backward.  In a time when every sale counts, limiting the sales of alcohol to 10 p.m. will hurt even more.

PA House Bill No. 2513 May Remove the Governor’s Restrictions

At a time when so much of the news is bad, perhaps I can end this update with some potential good news in the works.  Back in May, a Bill was introduced in the House that essentially removed all of the current restrictions imposed by the Governor since July 15.  You might remember that was the date the Governor reduced capacity to 25%, required food to be served with alcohol, prohibited bar seating, and otherwise got us to where we are today.

House Bill 2513 has recently gotten a lot of traction, in part because many legislators have heard from the hospitality industry that the current restrictions are putting them out of business.  The Bill has been passed in the House and is now moving in the Senate, with urgency.  If this Bill passes, it appears it will do so with broad bipartisan support and would hopefully be veto-proof.  So even if the Governor isn’t happy with it, he may not have a choice.

This Bill would be a huge help to the industry, one in desperate need of a win. I’ll provide additional updates on this Bill as it progresses through the legislature.

Aaron Zeamer is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He practices in a variety of areas, including Business Law and Liquor License matters. Aaron works frequently with commercial real estate agents, brokers, restaurant and bar owners, breweries, distilleries, and wineries to facilitate the sale and transfer of PA liquor licenses.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every facet of our lives.  With many people still out of work, some are struggling to figure out how they are going to make rent while putting food on their tables.  This became even more of a reality knowing that the Governor’s temporary ban on evictions and foreclosures ended on August 31.

Earlier this week, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a temporary moratorium on evictions that will extend to the end of the year.  Previous orders regarding evictions were given at the local and state levels. However, this ban on evictions prevents only those that are a result of tenants not making payment.  The Order does not apply to tenants who

  • engage in criminal activity
  • threaten the health or safety of other residents
  • damage the property, or
  • violate the lease in some other way.

And in no way does the Order forgive rent or prohibit a landlord or property owner from charging late fees or penalties under the lease. You can find a full copy of the Order here.

This unusual move has raised a lot of questions. Some of them are easier to answer than others.  While I’m sure more questions will arise over the coming days, we have put together a few answers for you below.

Who is covered under the new Order?

Only certain tenants are eligible for protection, and they must proactively seek out that protection.  The quick answer is that eligible renters are those who qualified for a stimulus relief check based on the CARES Act income requirements and would become homeless if evicted.

The Order protects tenants who certify the following:

  • They have used their best efforts to obtain government assistance for housing
  • They are unable to pay their full rent due to a substantial loss of income
  • They are making their best efforts to produce timely partial payments of rent and
  • They would become homeless or have to move into a shared living setting if they were to be evicted.

In addition, they must be able to show that one of the following financial criteria apply:

  • They expect to earn no more than $99,000 as an individual or $198,000 if they file a joint tax return in 2020
  • They were not required to report any income to the IRS in 2019, or
  • They have received an Economic Impact Stimulus Payment under the CARES Act.

What many tenants may not realize is that in order to qualify for these protections, each adult member of the property must sign a sworn declaration to all of the above and provide a copy of this declaration to their landlord. This declaration also states that the tenants understand that they are still responsible for rent and will be required to pay all back rent, including any fees and penalties, once the moratorium is lifted at the end of the year.

Because the rule is brand new, there are many questions that we do not have answers to.  These are things like:

  • Does the tenant need to provide any proof that they exhausted all of their efforts for government assistance, or is their signature on the declaration all that is required?
  • Does the tenant need to show proof that they received a stimulus check or a 2019 tax return?
  • Does the loss of income need to be COVID related?

What happens when the moratorium is lifted?

As mentioned above, the Order does not relieve a tenant’s responsibility to pay rent.  All rent due, including any late fees and interest as outlined in the lease, will continue to accumulate and the tenant will have to pay all of it.  This means that, come January, most tenants are going to find themselves saddled with a very large balance due to their landlord.

Whether or not landlords may be willing to work with tenants in making payments towards this balance remains to be seen, but it is probably not likely considering these landlords may have gone months without seeing any income from rental properties. In other words, once the ban on evictions is lifted, the courts could be bombarded with mass eviction actions.

The short of it is, this Order does not serve to prevent evictions; it will only delay the process until after December 31.  Tenants need to know they will still be on the hook for each month’s rent and should try to plan ahead accordingly.  Landlords and tenants should also pay attention to whether this moratorium is upheld in Court and if the government creates any new programs to assist people in paying rent.

Kathleen Krafft Miller is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University and regularly advises individuals on legal matters related to family law and domestic relations issues.

Back in April, I wrote about Student Loan Forbearance During Coronavirus under the CARES Act. Under the CARES Act, federal student loan payments were put on automatic forbearance by the U.S. Department of Education until September 30, 2020.

On August 8, 2020, with a little less than two months left on the original forbearance period, President Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum to the Secretary of Education continuing student loan payment relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Memorandum, the President authorized the Secretary of Education to

  • provide deferment to borrowers as necessary to continue the temporary cessation of payments and
  • waive all interest on student loans held by the Department of Education until December 31, 2020.

This means that until December 31, 2020, loan payments are suspended, collections are stopped, and interest is waived on Department of Education-held student loans.

Borrowers can continue to make payments if they choose to do so, which may allow some borrowers to pay off their loans more quickly and at a lower cost.

Many student loan servicers are in the process of updating their accounts to reflect the forbearance extension. Keep an eye on your account, especially towards the end of September, to make sure that the extended forbearance period has been applied to your account.

Bear in mind, this only applies to federal student loans. If you are having difficulty paying your private or other non-federal student loans, contact your loan servicer to discuss repayment options to avoid penalties and credit implications.

Laura McGarry is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Penn State Law and provides legal counsel to individuals and businesses in Lancaster and surrounding communities.

The COVID-19 Relief Pennsylvania Small Business Assistance Program is not brand new. Initially, it was anticipated to have four rounds of grants lasting until October 2020. The CARES Act passed in late March is providing the funding.  $96 million has already been distributed with about $104 million remaining for small businesses.

However, like everything else in 2020, things have changed.  Additional restrictions on bars and restaurants along with the falling GDP has caused Pennsylvania to rethink the distribution of these grants.

Now, instead of four rounds, there will be two rounds to get the money to those who need it.  The first round is already complete.  The second round opens on August 10, 2020.

Eligible Businesses

Your business must be physically located in Pennsylvania, certified to do business in Pennsylvania, and generate at least 51% of its revenues in Pennsylvania.  It must also have had less than $1 million in annual revenue before the pandemic and fewer than twenty-five full-time employees as of February 15, 2020.

Ineligible Businesses

  • Businesses that are in default with taxes or fees owned to Pennsylvania or the IRS (this does not include businesses on a payment plan).
  • Non-profits, churches, and other religious institutions
  • Government-owned entities
  • Businesses with no revenue loss or additional costs due to COVID-19
  • Businesses that are engaged in an activity that is illegal under Federal, State, or local law
  • Businesses that are engaged in socially undesirable activities or considered predatory in nature, such as pawnshops, rent to own, and adult bookstores
  • Businesses that obtained a loan from Pennsylvania or any federal agency and are currently delinquent or have defaulted on in the past seven years on said loan
  • Businesses that are primarily engaged in the business of lending
  • Passive real estate companies and investors
  • Private clubs or businesses which limit the number of memberships for reasons other than capacity

What you need to know?

Applications opened on August 10, 2020 and are due by midnight on August 28, 2020.

The grant decisions are being made by Pennsylvania nonprofit lenders (community development financial institutions).  In Lancaster County, those lenders are Community First Fund and Assets Lancaster.

They are prioritizing businesses that

  • are owned by low- or moderate-income owners
  • are located in areas of need
  • were most impacted by the economic shutdown
  • are owned by people from historically disadvantaged groups, and
  • are women-owned businesses

 

What grant amounts could you receive?

The grant amounts will be between $5,000 and $50,000 based on your business’s annual revenue: 

Eligible Business Annual Revenue Grant Amount Available
Up to $50,00.00 $5,000.00
$50,001.00 to $75,000.00 $10,000.00
$75,001.00 to $100,000.00 $15,000.00
$100,001.00 to $250,000.00 $20,000.00
$250,001.00 to $500,000.00 $25,000.00
$500,001.00 to $750,000.00 $35,000.00
$750,001.00 to $850,000.00 $40,000.00
$850,001.00 to $1,000,000.00 $50,000.00

 

What can you use the funds for?

Your business may use the funds for:

  • Payroll costs and costs related to group health benefits
  • Mortgage interest payments (so long as those payments are not mortgage prepayments or principal payments)
  • Rent payments
  • Utility payments
  • Working capital to cover the costs of reopening the business after being fully or partially closed during the state-mandated business closures
  • Any expenses incurred related to COVID-19, including, but not limited to, PPE, employee training to ensure compliance, specialized equipment, and barriers

How do you apply?

  • Review the application instructions.
  • Provide a government-issued photo ID
  • Provide a business’s financial information:
    • Revenue from March 1-March 31, 2019
    • Revenue from March 1-March 31, 2020
    • Most recently submitted Federal Tax Return for business and personal.
  • Provide proof of business registration with the Department of State.
  • Provide Bank Account information.

To apply with Community First Fund, click here.

To apply with Assets Lancaster, click here.

Nichole Baer is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Stetson University, College of Law and practices in several areas, including BusinessCommercial Real EstateEstate Planning, and Estate Administration.

Since March, various entities and political subdivisions have created loan and grant programs to assist businesses and individuals facing COVID-19 related losses and damages.  We have discussed in prior blogs a series of larger programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program. However, this post focuses on funding opportunities for farmers and ranchers.

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Dairy CARES Reimbursement Program

The Dairy CARES Reimbursement Program is designed for Pennsylvania dairy farmers who have experienced financial losses due to discarded or displaced milk during the COVID-19 pandemic during the period of March 6, 2020 through September 30, 2020.  The farmers may apply for payments to reimburse the losses they received.  All dairy farmers who experienced a loss due to discarded or displaced milk are eligible to apply, even those farmers who were assessed a fee by their cooperative for all milk discarded.

Each farm will be entitled to a minimum of $1,500.  Those farmers who experienced losses higher than $1,500 will be entitled to an additional pro-rata share of the remaining funds in the COVID-19 Dairy Assistance Program.  Click here for the Dairy CARES Reimbursement Program application.  

FFFI COVID-19 Relief Fund

The Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative (the “FFFI”) is a public-private funding program that invests in new or expanding grocery stores and other healthy food retail outlets in Pennsylvania.  FFFI provides a one-time grant to eligible applicants aimed at increasing access to healthy, affordable food.   In addition to the one-time grant, FFFI created a new fund called the FFFI COVID-19 Relief Fund, which will provide grants to food retail businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Applicants must be entities that operate and provide services in Pennsylvania and have 50% or more of their revenue from the sale of staple and perishable food to consumers or direct to retail.  The business must have operated prior to March 2020 and stayed in operation except for temporary closures due to COVID-19.  The fund will favor entities that serve customers that live in low- to moderate-income areas.  The grants may be used for a variety of expenses, including, but not limited to, infrastructure improvements, equipment purchases, inventory, innovative food access technology, and costs to expand access.

Award amounts will be up to $1 million for large or regional anchor supermarkets, up to $500,000 for full-service traditional grocery stores, and up to $100,000 for neighborhood markets and food enterprises (such as farmers’ markets and urban farms).  Interested applicants may find more information on the FFFI application here.

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (the “FSA”) created the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to provide financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who

  • have suffered a 5% or greater price decline or
  • had losses due to market supply chain disruptions as a result of COVID-19.

Eligible commodities include wool, livestock, dairy, specialty crops, and non-specialty crops.  The grant payments are subject to a per person and legal entity payment limitation of $250,000.  Applications for the FDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program are being accepted now through August 28, 2020.

While this post is not comprehensive, the opportunities listed here should provide help to those in the agricultural industry who are struggling during COVID-19. If you would like to talk to one of our attorneys about these or any other programs, contact us anytime.

Nichole Baer is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Stetson University, College of Law and practices in several areas, including BusinessCommercial Real EstateEstate Planning, and Estate Administration.