EPA Announces Enforcement Discretion Policy for COVID-19 Pandemic

EPA is announcing a temporary policy regarding EPA enforcement of environmental legal obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
EPA's temporary enforcement discretion policy applies to civil violations during the COVID-19 outbreak. The policy addresses different categories of noncompliance differently. For example, under the policy EPA does not expect to seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting obligations that are the result of the COVID-19 pandemic but does expect operators of public water systems to continue to ensure the safety of our drinking water supplies. The policy also describes the steps that regulated facilities should take to qualify for enforcement discretion.
"EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements," said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. "This temporary policy is designed to provide enforcement discretion under the current, extraordinary conditions, while ensuring facility operations continue to protect human health and the environment."
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Tools for our industry's self-employed individuals

The National Association for the Self-employed has a great informational webpage to guide self-employed individuals through available resources at the federal level. Visit the webpage here, Supporting America’s Self-Employed through Coronavirus Impact

Federal Level Resources in the Families First Coronavirus Relief Bill and CARES Act 

Families First Coronavirus Relief Bill  provisions for self-employed individuals: Tax credits for self-employed individuals

If you are a self-employed individual who is affected by the coronavirus emergency, the Act allows you to claim a refundable credit against your federal income-tax bill, including the self-employment tax hit. If the credit exceeds your bill, the government will issue you a payment for the excess.

The credit equals: 1) 100% of the self-employed person’s sick-leave equivalent amount plus 2) 67% of the sick-leave equivalent amount for taking care of a sick family member or taking care of your child following the closing of the child’s school.

The sick-leave equivalent amount equals the lesser of: 1) your average daily self-employment (SE) income or 2) $511 per day for up to 10 days (up to $5,110 in total) to care for yourself due to the coronavirus or $200 per day for up to 10 days (up to $2,000 in total) to care for a sick family member or your child following the closing of the child’s school due to the coronavirus.

In addition, you could claim a coronavirus emergency family-leave credit for up to 50 days. The credit amount would equal the number of qualified family-leave days multiplied by the lesser of 1) $200 or 2) your average daily SE income. The maximum total family-leave credit would be $10,000 (50 days times $200 per day).

These credits for self-employed individuals are only allowed for days during the period beginning on a date specified by the Secretary of the Treasury and ending on Dec. 31, 2020. The beginning date will be within 15 days of the March 18 date the Act became law.

CARES ACT provisions Expand unemployment insurance (UI) for workers, including a $600 per week increase in benefits for up to four months and federal funding of UI benefits provided to those not usually eligible for UI, such as the self-employed, independent contractors, and those with limited work history. *The Act has passed the House and Senate and awaits a signature from President Trump. 

State Level Resources 

Governor Whitmer Expands Unemployment Benefits for Michigan Workers   

 

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President Trump Signs the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act ( "CARES Act")

Breaking News: President Trump has signed the $2 trillion stimulus package, the CARES Act into law. The new law provides emergency relief to workers, families, small businesses and distressed industries. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) 

Provisions in the CARE Act that may help Michigan's oil and Gas Industry. (These provisions were advocated by IPAA on behalf of the nation's independent oil and natural gas producers). 

Net Operating Losses - The bill allows for a 5 year carry back. The effective date for this change means the change applies to tax years 2018, 2019, and 2020.  

  • The bill also made changes so that privately held companies could more effectively utilize this tax treatment. 

Interest Deductibility - the cap was raised from allowing 30% of interest payments to be deducted in the year in which they occurred to 50%. The effective date for this change means it applies to both 2019 and 2020. 

Small Business Loans - Raised the loan cap from $2 million to $10 million. Cap based on company revenues.  The final bill appropriates $367 billion for this program. Proceeds secured through these loans which are used for payroll, group health, and other covered expenses will be considered grant money and the borrower will not be required to pay those expenditures back. Additionally, those funds will not be considered revenue for tax purposes.

  • Applies to smaller companies – either 500 employees or the SBA definitions using NAICS codes. 
  • Currently, the SBA employee and revenue limits for our industry are:

-1,250 employees for oil production

-1,250 employees for natural gas production

-1,000 employees for drilling operations

-$41.5 million gross revenue for support activities for oil and gas extraction

Treasury Exchange Stabilization Fund

According to a summary from the House Ways & Means Committee, the bill provides for $425 billion for loans, loan guarantees, and investments in support of facilities established by the Fed under 13(3) authority for purpose of providing liquidity to businesses, states, or municipalities through purchasing obligations or other interests directly from issuers of such obligations or other interests.

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State Launches New Informational Website for Employers and Employees

The Michigan Attorney General's Office has launched a new website to provide Michigan businesses and workers pertinent information in the wake of Covid-19.

Guidance for individuals to determine when they can leave home

Guidance for business to determine who can perform in-person work

Additionally, the Q&A website on Executive Order 2020-21 (Stay Home, Stay Safe)is being updated regularly.

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MMA to host call on compliance resources for Federal Paid Leave Mandate

MMA will host another conference call in partnership with Honigman LLP on Monday, 3/30/20, at 10:15 a.m. ET to help members comply with the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which goes into effect 4/1/20. The new law expands the Family Medical Leave Act to all companies with fewer than 500 employees in the case of certain “qualified needs” related to COVID-19 and requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide Paid Sick Leave to employees impacted by COVID-19. The cost to employers for both of these programs will be offset through tax credits.

Attendees may dial-in with the following information:

  • 877-746-4263
  • Access Code 0284902#

About the Speaker
Matthew Radler is a labor and employment attorney who focuses his practice on wage and hour matters, counseling clients on compliance with an array of federal, state and municipal laws governing wages, working conditions and civil rights. (Read full bio.)

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Michigan Publishes Additional Guidance on Critical Infrastructure Workers in the State's Energy Industry. 

The State has published additional guidance for businesses on critical infrastructure workers,including an advisory list of those critical infrastructure workers in the state's energy industry.
The list mirrors the CISA Guidance previously shared with MOGA Members. Per the Executive Order 2020-21 (Covid-19), employers must determine which of their workers are "critical infrastructure workers" and inform their employees they’ve been deemed as such.
Critical Infrastructure Workers:

Petroleum workers:

  • Petroleum product storage, pipeline, marine transport, terminals, rail transport, road transport
  • Crude oil storage facilities, pipeline, and marine transport
  • Petroleum refinery facilities
  • Petroleum security operations center employees and workers who support emergency response services
  • Petroleum operations control rooms/centers
  • Petroleum drilling, extraction, production, processing, refining, terminal operations, transporting, and retail for use as end-use fuels or feedstocks for chemical manufacturing
  • Onshore and offshore operations for maintenance and emergency response
  • Retail fuel centers such as gas stations and truck stops, and the distribution systems that support them

Natural and propane gas workers:

  • Natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines, including compressor stations
  • Underground storage of natural gas
  • Natural gas processing plants, and those that deal with natural gas liquids
  • Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities
  • Natural gas security operations center, natural gas operations dispatch and control rooms/centers natural gas emergency response and customer emergencies, including natural gas leak calls
  • Drilling, production, processing, refining, and transporting natural gas for use as end-use fuels, feedstocks for chemical manufacturing, or use in electricity generation
  • Propane gas dispatch and control rooms and emergency response and customer emergencies, including propane leak calls
  • Propane gas service maintenance and restoration, including call centers
  • Processing, refining, and transporting natural liquids, including propane gas, for use as end-use fuels or feedstocks for chemical manufacturing
  • Propane gas storage, transmission, and distribution centers
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Tools to help our industry's small businesses

Small businesses are facing a range of issues related to Covid-19. Here are some helpful links that may be relevant to your business. MOGA will continue to update you as more information and clarification is released. 

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is making available Economic Injury Disaster Loans for affected small businesses.This Fact Sheet walks small business owners through the program and process of applying for these Small Business Loans.

Additionally, the Small Business Association of Michigan has a full webpage dedicated to helpful resources and communications to guide the state's small businesses through this hard time. Visit the webpage here, Small Business Association of Michigan Covid-19 Resources 

The U.S. Senate has passed bipartisan legislation to provide emergency relief to workers, families, small businesses and distressed industries. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) now moves to the US House where it is expected to see swift action. The bill features relief for small businesses. 

CLICK HERE to learn about the Senate CARES bill small business provisions.

MOGA will continue to update you as more information and clarification is released. 

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U.S. Senate Passes The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act ( "CARES Act")

Last Night, March 25th, The US Senate passed bipartisan legislation to provide emergency relief to workers, families, small businesses and distressed industries. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) now moves to the US House where it is expected to see swift action.

MOGA has reached out to IPAA for further clarification on what the CARES Act means for our industry 

CLICK HERE to learn about the Senate CARES bill tax provisions.

CLICK HERE to learn about the Senate CARES bill health provisions.

CLICK HERE to learn about the Senate CARES bill small business provisions.

CLICK HERE to learn about the Senate CARES bill distressed industries provisions.

Click Read More for an in-depth breakdown from the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. 

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Governor Whitmer Signs Executive Order Temporarily Allowing Administrative Hearings by Video Conference and E-Signatures on Related Documents 

On Wednesday, March 25th, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-23, which temporarily allows the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, Unemployment Insurance Agency, and other administrative hearings to be held by video conference or phone in place of in-person hearings. The order also temporarily allows e-signatures in place of written signatures on related documents.  Administrative hearing notifications, normally made in person, temporarily can be made by mail or email under the order.  

“Michigan’s workforce is making unprecedented sacrifices as we continue to fight the spread of COVID-19,” Gov. Whitmer said. “Through video conferencing and other electronic means, this order will allow us to continue addressing disputes in the workplace and ensure we are meeting the needs of those filing for unemployment benefits during this challenging time.”  -Governor Gretchen Whitmer

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U.S. Dept. of Labor Releases Initial Guidance on Federal COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Law

The US Department of Labor has issued initial guidance on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which requires employers with 500 or fewer employees to provide paid sick or family leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. Additional guidance will be released in the coming weeks but this initial round provides some insight on the law, including:

  • The requirements of the act will go into effect on April 1, 2020.
  • The Act will not apply retroactively. The leave requirements effective 4/1/20 are on top of any paid leave provided prior to that date.
  • The Department will be focusing on compliance assistance in the initial 30 days that the Act is effective. So long as an employer has acted reasonably and in good faith to comply with the Act, there will not be an enforcement action for violations.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Questions and Answers | U.S. Department of Labor

For additional information, visit the links below 

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Michigan Petroleum Directory Now Available!