COVID-19 Update 5/8/2020

 

 

MN Workers’ Comp Reporting

Minnesota will allow employers to report/record payroll for paid employees who stayed home during the Stay-at-Home orders under a special code other than their normal classification. These payments will not be used in the calculation of premium so long as the employer keeps detailed records of that payroll. Make sure to keep separate, accurate and verifiable records so that these payroll amounts can be excluded in your next audit.

Additional information can be found here.

 

MN Legislative Update

AASP-MN lobbyists, Kevin Walli and Sam Richie, report as follows:

The economic dislocations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are having dramatic consequences for businesses and government entities alike. Governor Walz requested a somewhat more detailed budget and economic outlook for May as a basis for any budget activity that may be forthcoming from the 2020 Legislative Session.

The Report from Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) presents a significant challenge for the state. The projected surplus of $1.5 billion has vanished – replaced by a deficit of $2.426 billion. The state budget reserve, or Rainy Day Fund, is available to fill gaps created by the reduction of business activity and corresponding loss of revenue.

Probably the most significant statement in the May budget outlook is provided in the final sentence of the single paragraph which MMB used to transmit the budget and economic outlook, “Given the uncertainty about the path of pandemic, the economic outlook will remain volatile for some time.”

Minnesota’s budget and economic outlook has significantly worsened since the coronavirus pandemic. A deficit of $2.426 billion is now projected for the current biennium, which is almost a $4 billion change compared to the February forecast. Revenues are expected to be $3.611 billion lower and spending, including appropriations enacted since February, is expected to be $391 million higher. The $2.359 billion budget reserve remains available to mitigate the budgetary impact of the crisis. Given the uncertainty about the path of pandemic, the economic outlook will remain volatile for some time.

As of May 8th, there are just seven business days left in the 2020 Legislative Session. The Constitution provides that no bills can be passed on the last day of Session — which is Monday, May 18. All we will see on the 18th are the retirement speeches of the Legislators who are not running for re-election.

We do expect there to be a Special Session in June to determine whether and how long the COVID – 19 emergency will continue. One issue which we will be following for AASP-MN is whether additional resources will be brought to bear to help businesses survive the downturn caused by the pandemic. There has been discussion on this front but no bi-partisan consensus.

We will keep you informed of Legislation that would impact the auto repair industry.

 

City & County Resources Available

Businesses around Minnesota need assistance to withstand the challenges of COVID-19. Many cities and counties throughout the state have grant or loan programs available to businesses, so their local economies can compete and thrive. The Minnesota Chamber’s Grow Minnesota! Partnership has compiled a list of available funding at the city and county level that can be found here.

 

Members Sharing Resources

During the May 6th BS Session, AASP-MN President, Matt Feehan, Fix Auto Minnesota, offered to share the following info:

  • NFIB Weekly Briefing for Small Business – a slide deck containing federal legislative information as well as details about the Paycheck Protection Program, including calculating and documenting loan forgiveness and other alternative funding options.  Note – this information was current as of 4/22/20 and may be subject to change. 
  • PPP Expense Tracker – Excel Spreadsheet

During the May 7th Mech XChange, Seth Thorson and Tony Newman shared the following sources for protecting their employees and customers:

  • Neck Gaiter – Tony Newman, Dale Feste Automotive, suggested a neck gaiter as being a good alternative to a face mask.  This is what he’s ordered. 
  • Customized Face Mask – Seth Thorson, Eurotech Auto Service, provided the following referral for reusable face masks that can be customized with your logo.  Call Mat Turbes at 763-639-0003 to learn more.  Cost is $7.99 each for AASP-MN members who place a minimum order of 100 masks.

 

Talking Shop

The Zoom Mech XChange and BS Sessions have proven to be a popular way for members to connect with each other.  The sessions have been informative and inspiring, with members sharing their experiences and advice for dealing with the multitude of changes and challenges that have come their way during this crisis.  At members’ request, follow-up programs have been scheduled as follows: 

  • Collision members, attend the BS Session on May 20th.
  • Mechanical members, attend the Mech XChange on June 3rd.

Both programs are scheduled from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

 

AASP-MN Golf Outing Canceled

Unfortunately, due to the current/anticipated requirements for social distancing to stop the spread of the coronavirus, it will not be possible to hold our golf outing on June 16th at Keller Golf Course.  We are bummed, but the health and safety of our members and the general public take priority over what is normally a fun day of handshakes, hugs and genuine camaraderie.

It remains to be seen whether the event can be rescheduled for later this fall or if it will have to wait until 2021.  Stay tuned…

 

Rules for PPP Continue to Evolve

Here is a good article outlining the tax implications of receiving a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.

Additionally, the Small Business Administration (SBA) in conjunction with the Treasury has issued updated PPP Frequently Asked Questions  (here) and a new Interim Final Rule.  The new guidance states that ALL loans in excess of $2 million, in addition to other loans as appropriate, will be reviewed for economic need following the lender’s submission of loan forgiveness application. This action is to further ensure PPP funds go to intended recipients. This is a follow-up to information that large businesses and public companies received at least $1 billion in round 1 PPP funding.

PPP applicants are required to make a number of certifications in connection with their applications, for example concerning their eligibility and the purposes for which they will use the loans. Attention to these certifications is extremely important, given the severe penalties that are possible for submitting false or misleading certifications to the government.

 

Bonus Depreciation for Capital Expenditures

The law providing relief due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic contains a beneficial change in the tax rules for many improvements to interior parts of nonresidential buildings. This is referred to as qualified improvement property (QIP). The CARES Act now allows most businesses to claim 100% bonus depreciation for QIP, as long as certain other requirements are met. What’s also helpful is that the correction is retroactive and it goes back to apply to any QIP placed in service after December 31, 2017.  Make sure to ask your accountant if these changes may be beneficial to your business.

 

CDC Perspective on Handling Vehicle Interiors/HVAC

As reported in the May 5th edition of Repairer Driven News  (RDN), the Center for Disease Control (CDC) responded to the publication’s inquiry regarding methods for treating a vehicle brought to a shop for repair. RDN was following up on a request from the Mobile Air Conditioning Society to the CDC asking for guidelines on cleaning vehicle interiors – particularly HVAC systems – during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

According to RDN’s report, CDC press officer Donnica Smalls responded as follows:

HVAC

“Regarding the cleaning and/or maintenance of ventilation systems within automotive vehicles, it is worthwhile to note that CDC has not posted guidance on the decontamination of building HVAC systems (to include air filtration systems) potentially exposed to SARS-CoV-2,” Smalls wrote. “To date, we have not identified confirmatory evidence to demonstrate that viable virus is contaminating these systems. Should such systems actually become contaminated with viable virus, the most likely scenario is believed to be that the virus would lose its viability naturally within hours-to-days, and thus, there is no guidance advocating proactive system shutdown for decontamination and/or filter exchange.”

Repairers with concerns could follow a three-step process, Smalls wrote.

Should there be reason to suspect that an automobile ventilation system was contaminated with SARS-CoV-2, the following suggestions are believed, based upon current knowledge, to provide enhanced worker protection from exposure:

  1. If possible, a 24-hr wait period that maximizes sun exposure will increase the likelihood that any previously generated virus will be deactivated.
  2. Conduct a ventilation system “Blow Out” by carefully positioning the vehicle outdoors, setting the heater to max temperature, ensuring the system is not set to recirculation mode, then operating the blower motor at max setting for approximately 5-minutes, with the car vacant, doors open and windows down. (Note: a partial vehicle interior surface disinfection may be required to enable safe car relocation and ventilation system setting adjustments.)
  3. Upon conclusion of the waiting period and/or system Blow Out, initiate surface disinfection of the car’s interior following the disinfection guidance …

No further vehicle ventilation system cleaning or maintenance is believed to be required. If active viral particles were captured on a cabin air filter or otherwise captured inside of the ventilation system, there is no known reason to believe they will not stay there and lose any remaining viability within hours to days of capture.

Vehicle Interiors

As far as vehicle interior disinfection, Smalls wrote:

CDC will continue to provide recommendations based on the best available science to help people make decisions that improve their health and safety. In addition to the Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers, below are general guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting vehicles that may be useful for those in the auto repair industry:

  • For hard non-porous surfaces within the interior of the vehicle such as hard seats, arm rests, door handles, seat belt buckles, light and air controls, doors and windows, and grab handles, clean with detergent or soap and water if the surfaces are visibly dirty, prior to disinfectant application. For disinfection of hard, non-porous surfaces, appropriate disinfectants include: 
    • EPA’s Registered Antimicrobial Products for Use Against Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for concentration, application method, and contact time for all cleaning and disinfection products.
    • Diluted household bleach solutions prepared according to the manufacturer’s label for disinfection, if appropriate for the surface. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.
    • Alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol.
    • For soft or porous surfaces such as fabric seats, remove any visible contamination, if present, and clean with appropriate cleaners indicated for use on these surfaces. After cleaning, use products that are EPA-approved for use against the virus that causes COVID-19and that are suitable for porous surfaces.
    • For frequently touched electronic surfaces, such as tablets or touch screens used in the vehicle, remove visible dirt, then disinfect following the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products. If no manufacturer guidance is available, consider the use of alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol to disinfect.

    Gloves and any other disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) used for cleaning and disinfecting the vehicle should be removed and disposed of after cleaning; wash hands immediately after removal of gloves and other PPE with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. If a disposable gown was not worn, work uniforms/clothes worn during cleaning and disinfecting should be laundered afterwards using the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely. Wash hands after handling laundry. 

    RDN noted that the CDC might revise this information or issue specific instructions for the auto repair industry, stating “Shops might wish to keep an eye on the agency’s COVID-19 CDC’s Businesses and Workplaces and  Transportation and Delivery portals.”

    A shout-out to RDN for its continued excellent reporting on all things collision repair related.  RDN is curated and delivered by the Society of Collision Repair Specialists.  To subscribe, click here.

     

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    Note: This content and analysis is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult your legal and financial advisors for detailed information before taking any action.

     

    Written by aasp@aaspmn.org

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