Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources

What Utilities are doing during COVID pandemic


APGA’s thoughts and prayers with you, your families and your communities during these challenging and rapidly changing times.  Your safety as well as your family’s, employees’ and community’s safety is our greatest concern.  

APGA's focus during these times will be to support our members in any way we can to help them navigate the COVID-19 related challenges they are facing.  APGA staff is participating on frequent calls with both industry and government partners through the Oil and Natural Gas Subsector Coordinating Council (ONG SCC) and the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC).  The focus is to ensure that there is consistency among utility response and activities, such as accessing customer homes, as well as to inform the government on company efforts and any needs.  Updates and developments that come out of those calls are being posted on the APGA Community, and we have many resources below for APGA members from virtual roundtables where members can network, preparedness materials, and links to helpful articles and guidance.

Need a login? If you are an employee of an APGA member system or company, please email info@apga.org or press the Contact Us link at the top of our website, and we will be happy to create credentials for you!


Utility Member Virtual Roundtables


APGA has created a virtual roundtable that is held at 11:00 AM ET every Wednesday dedicated to discussing the COVID-19 situation and how it is impacting daily natural gas distribution operations.

The purpose of these roundtables is to create a platform for APGA members to share how they are modifying policies and procedures during this time.

Registration is not required. Please use the dial-in information which is available on the APGA Community at community.apga.org.
We are pausing our Roundtable series for the summer! We plan to be back with even more content for our members.
In the meantime, do not miss our upcoming Virtual Anual Conference July 20-23! There will be important Operations & Safety updates. Visit www.apga.org/annualconference for more!


Utility COVID-19 Statement Template



APGA has developed a statement for members to use when communicating with customers about COVID-19. Please feel free to use the attached statement and modify as needed.

The statement can be viewed at community.apga.org (login required - members' only content).  

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APGA COVID-19 Webinars



In April, APGA held a webinar to discuss the federal resources available to publicly owned utilities and their customers. 

In March, APGA held a webinar addressing utility emergency preparedness and response plans to help our members prepare for pandemic planning. 

These webinars can be viewed at www.apga.org/webinars.  APGA Member login required to view.

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APGA Community



The APGA Community is a private virtual network for our members to be able to network, share, and collaborate on industry best practices. Here are important threads for our members to view (members only login required to view):

>>Utility Emergency Preparedness and Response Plans

>>Virtual Roundtable COVID-19

>>(member example) Minimizing Employee Exposure to COVID-19

>>(member example) Protocol for Handling Service Call Requests

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CARES ACT

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act, is now law. Below is a summary of how this legislation, as well as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), can assist public natural gas utilities through this challenging time. There is also a separate section about information to share with your customers, who may be in need of aid.

DISCLAIMER: APGA is providing this material purely as a reference to its members. Any decisions either by the utility and/or its customers should be discussed with certified legal or accounting professionals.

Information for Public Natural Gas Utilities

Employer Rights


Temporary Rule: Paid Leave under the FFCRA

On April 1, 2020, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced new action regarding how American workers and employers will benefit from the protections and relief offered by the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, both part of the FFCRA. The Department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) posted a temporary rule issuing regulations pursuant to this new law, effective April 1, 2020. 

The leave provisions are created by a time-limited statutory authority established under the FFCRA and are set to expire on December 31, 2020. The temporary rule is effective from April 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020. In this temporary rule, the Department:
  • Issues rules relevant to the administration of the FFCRA’s paid leave requirements.
  • Provides direction for the administration of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA), which requires that certain employers provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave to employees who need to take leave from work for certain specified reasons related to COVID-19. These reasons may include the following:
    • the employee or someone the employee is caring for is subject to a government quarantine order or has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine;
    • the employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking medical attention; or,
    • the employee is caring for his or her son or daughter whose school or place of care is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
    • Provides direction for the effective administration of the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA), which requires that certain employers provide up to 10 weeks of paid, and 2 weeks unpaid, emergency family and medical leave to eligible employees if the employee is caring for his or her son or daughter whose school or place of care is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
  • FFCRA reimburses American private employers that have fewer than 500 employees with tax credits for the cost of providing employees with paid leave taken for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The law enables employers to keep their workers on their payrolls, while at the same time ensuring that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus.
  • Local governments and public utilities are not entitled to the refundable tax credits that are available to private employers. In the past, when employer tax credit programs have been created, tax-exempt employers, such as counties, municipalities, and school districts, were allowed to claim a credit against social security tax for wages paid to employees. This social security tax relief has not yet been extended through the FFCRA. However, public employers are not exempted from the provisions relieving employers of the obligation to pay FICA/Medicare for FFCRA wages. Therefore, local governments need not pay FICA or Medicare for wages paid to employees on leave granted pursuant to the FFCRA.
For more information, see https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/ffcra.
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Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Fact Sheets

Employee Paid Leave Rights

Webpage

PDF

Employee Paid Leave Rights

Webpage

PDF

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Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Posters

Employee Rights

Federal Employee Rights

Frequently Asked Questions

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Field Assistance Bulletin 2020-1: Temporary Non-Enforcement Period Applicable to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

View Bulletin

Information for Public Utility Customers

Protection from Scams and Cybercrimes

The federal government, specifically the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), urges companies and individuals to be on the lookout for a surge of calls and email phishing attempts about the Coronavirus, or COVID-19. These contacts can lead to fraud and identity theft. Watch not only for emails but text messages, websites, and social media attempts that request money or personal information. Don't open or click on attachments or links. Go to IRS.gov for the most up-to-date information.

As a reminder, scammers may:
  • Emphasize the words "Stimulus Check" or "Stimulus Payment." The official term is economic impact payment.
  • Ask to sign over economic impact payment check to them.
  • Ask by phone, email, text, or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up economic impact payment.
  • Suggest tax refund or economic impact payment can be received faster by working on the taxpayer's behalf. This scam could be conducted by social media or even in person.
  • Mail a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, then tell to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.
Those who receive unsolicited emails, text messages or social media attempts to gather information that appear to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), should forward it to phishing@irs.gov. Learn more about reporting suspected scams by going to Report Phishing and Online Scams.

Paycheck Protection Program

Prioritizes millions of Americans employed by small businesses by authorizing up to $349 billion toward job retention and certain other expenses. Small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations, Veterans organizations, and Tribal businesses described in the Small Business Act, as well as individuals who are self-employed or are independent contractors, are eligible if they also meet program size standards. Information about the Paycheck Protection Program: 
  • Provides small businesses with funds to pay up to 8 weeks of payroll costs including benefits. Funds are provided in the form of loans that will be fully forgiven when used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities (due to likely high subscription, at least 75% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll).
  • No collateral or personal guarantees are required. Neither the government nor lenders will charge small businesses any fees.
  • Forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels. Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease.
  • Small businesses with 500 or fewer employees—including nonprofits, veterans organizations, tribal concerns, self-employed individuals, sole proprietorships, and independent contractors— are eligible. Businesses with more than 500 employees are eligible in certain industries.
Starting April 3, 2020, small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply. Starting April 10, 2020, independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply. Apply as quickly as possible because there is a funding cap.

Apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. Consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating. All loans will have the same terms regardless of lender or borrower

A list of participating lenders, as well as additional information and full terms, can be found at sba.gov.

Economic Impact Payment


The Treasury Department and the IRS announced that distribution of economic impact payments will begin soon and will be distributed automatically, with no action required for most people. However, some taxpayers who typically do not file returns will need to submit a simple tax return to receive the economic impact payment.

Tax filers with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 for individuals and up to $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns will receive the full payment. For filers with income above those amounts, the payment amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000/$150,000 thresholds. Single filers with income exceeding $99,000 and $198,000 for joint filers with no children are not eligible. Social Security recipients and railroad retirees who are otherwise not required to file a tax return are also eligible and will not be required to file a return. 

Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 will automatically receive an economic impact payment of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples and up to $500 for each qualifying child. Other valuable information can be found on the IRS website at https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/economic-impact-payments-what-you-need-to-know.

Tax Relief


The deadlines to FILE and PAY federal income taxes are extended to July 15, 2020Go to https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus on the IRS.GOV website for more information.

Employee Retention Credit

This program, run by the Treasury Department and the IRS, is designed to encourage businesses to keep employees on their payroll. The refundable tax credit is 50% of up to $10,000 in wages paid by an eligible employer whose business has been financially impacted by COVID-19

The credit is available to all employers regardless of size, including tax-exempt organizations. There are only two exceptions: State and local governments and their instrumentalities and small businesses who take small business loans.

Qualifying employers must fall into one of two categories:
  1. The employer's business is fully or partially suspended by government order due to COVID-19 during the calendar quarter.
  2. The employer's gross receipts are below 50% of the comparable quarter in 2019. Once the employer's gross receipts go above 80% of a comparable quarter in 2019, they no longer qualify after the end of that quarter. These measures are calculated each calendar quarter.

Small Business Administration Loans

$10 billion is available to provide grants in the form of $10,000 advances to small businesses that apply for a Small Business Administration (SBA) economic injury disaster loan. The advances should come within just three days of applying. Businesses need not repay the advances, even if applicants are eventually denied a loan. Small businesses, private nonprofits, sole proprietorships, independent contractors, tribal businesses and co-ops are eligible. The application is available online here: https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/

$17 billion is provided for “immediate relief” for small businesses that have existing SBA loans, including 7(a) loans for financial assistance and 504 loans for economic development.

The SBA will cover all loan payments for existing borrowers, including principal and interest, for six months. There is also a six-month window after the bill is signed when small businesses can get “protection on payments and forgiveness” on the loans.

The bill also waives fees for veteran small business owners and their spouses who take out 7(a) express loans, which has been described as a permanent fix.

Assist the Government’s Response

If one of your customers is interested in helping the effort to combat the spread of COVID-19, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has established a website (fema.gov/coronavirus/how-to-help) with more information. Examples for the private sector include:
  • To sell medical supplies or equipment, please submit a price quote under the COVID-19 PPE and Medical Supplies Request for Quotation. Full details can be found in the solicitation (Notice ID 70FA2020R00000011)
    • This solicitation requires registration with the System for Award Management (SAM) in order to be considered for award, pursuant to applicable regulations and guidelines. Registration information can be found at www.sam.gov.  Registration must be “ACTIVE” at the time of award.
  • If wanting to donate medical supplies or equipment, please provide details.
  • If wanting to produce a product related to the COVID response – email nbeoc@max.gov.
  • If interested in doing business with FEMA and supporting the response to COVID- 19 with non-medical goods and/or services, please submit inquiry to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Procurement Action Innovative Response Team (PAIR) team at DHSIndustryLiaison@hq.dhs.gov.
For additional information please visit FEMA’s website: https://www.fema.gov/coronavirus/.

Support for Department of Justice Facilities


Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it is making $850 million available to help public safety agencies respond to the challenges posed by the outbreak of COVID-19. Funds may be used to hire personnel, pay overtime costs, cover protective equipment and supplies, address correctional inmates’ medical needs and defray expenses related to the distribution of resources to hard-hit areas, among other activities. Click here for more.

For the most up-to-date information, please see www.coronavirus.gov.


Operations & Safety Guidance and Resources

Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA)'s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic: Eligible Emergency Protective Measures: https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2020/03/19/coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-eligible-emergency-protective-measures

Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA)'s 
Planning Considerations for Organizations in Reconstituting Operations memo: click here to read

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)’s
Guidance to State Pipeline Safety Program Directors: PHMSA_Guidance_to_States_Partners_Regarding_COVID19_.pdf

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)’s Notice of Stay of Enforcement and Notice of Enforcement Discretion: PHMSA_Notice_on_Enforcement.pdf


Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council's Assessing and Mitigating the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): APGA staff is participating on calls with both industry and government partners through the Oil and Natural Gas Subsector Coordinating Council (ONG SCC) and the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC). The focus is to ensure consistency among utility response and activities, such as accessing customer homes, as well as to inform the government on company efforts and any needs. Check out this updated Resource Webpage developed in collaboration with the ESCC.

The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) has made some critical standards available free of charge to aid in the fight against COVID-19. These standards include coverage for the installation of natural gas appliances and equipment including venting, combustion air requirements, clearances, etc.

Note - The UPC and UMC are adopted in mainly western states and jurisdictions.


API Pandemic Planning Guide
https://www.api.org/~/media/Files/EHS/Process-Safety/API-PandemicGuide-2016.pdf

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Webpage on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response: Read here


National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):


General Guidance and Resources

U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC): For authoritative information and resources on COVID-19, including situation reports, guidance, and more, visit U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) website and CISA.gov/coronavirus.

Coronavirus Rumor Control: The purpose of this FEMA page is to help the public distinguish between rumors and facts regarding the response to coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Rumors can easily circulate within communities during a crisis. https://www.fema.gov/coronavirus-rumor-control

CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html and their infographics for employers: Link

FBI Guidance on Defending Against Video-Teleconference (VTC) Hijacking The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has released an article on defending against video-teleconferencing (VTC) hijacking (referred to as “Zoom-bombing” when attacks are to the Zoom VTC platform).  https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/current-activity/2020/04/02/fbi-releases-guidance-defending-against-vtc-hijacking-and-zoom

OSHA
 Guidance – Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19:  https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf


National Institute of Health's Protecting Yourself from COVID-19 in the Workplace Training Materials: tools.niehs.nih.gov/wetp/covid19worker

NIOSH Guidance on Coronavirus in Workplaces: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/emres/2019_ncov.html

National Safety Council (NSC) echoes recommendations from OSHA and CDC, which include:

  • Practice proper infection control and sterilization measures
  • Frequently wash hands with soap and water; if soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home when you are sick, and see a doctor immediately to be evaluated for COVID-19
  • If a worker becomes infected, insist that he or she fully recovers before returning to work.


U.S. States Coronavirus Information & Websites

APGA has complied a list of the health department's coronavirus websites for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to the individual state pages, here are two sites with compiled details from the 50 states:


National Conference of State Legislatures: State Quarantine and Isolation Statutes https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-quarantine-and-isolation-statutes.aspx


State Department of Health Coronavirus Websites