On August 28, the IRS released its first notice regarding implementation of the President’s executive order on payroll tax deferral. The document can be found here.
The notice makes clear that if the employer opts to defer payroll taxes, the employer is the affected taxpayer, not the employee. But again, based on our read and the analysis of others, it appears that this action is voluntary for the employer.
The notice makes no mention of nor seems to contemplate the employee making the election to defer.
Therefore, this would appear to be a decision left to the employer.
Now, more than ever, it is essential that the public is able to make decisions about activities outside of their home based on complete and accurate information about the spread of coronavirus. The National Restaurant Association, together with our 50 state restaurant association partners, represents the entirety of the restaurant and foodservice industry, and our health experts review daily the greatly varying datasets available from state and local health departments. Additionally, we take seriously our responsibility to fairly and accurately present industry data and work alongside members of the media to help consumers make data-driven decisions. The success of our industry, and the millions of people it employs, depend on it.
Recently, a number of articles have been published with selective data points that fail to offer a thorough and accurate assessment of the safety of restaurants. Furthermore, the articles often use contact tracing as a way to draw a correlation between dining in a restaurant and the spread of the virus. Several health officials have noted that contact tracing data from state and local health departments have been generally inconsistent, which paints an unreliable picture. In areas where reliable data do exist, the data point to the fact that restaurants are responsible for a much smaller percentage of cases, especially in comparison to other businesses that remain open. Furthermore, a careful examination of the full data reveals that it is customer behavior outside the venue that is a major contributing factor in transmission.
Kimberly Hertin, Disease Surveillance Supervisor in the Office of Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance for the Southern Nevada Health District, recently stated that contact tracing efforts focus on the person with a confirmed case to make sure they don’t spread it to others, not identifying the source of that person’s infection. She has said “Once you’ve reached the point of community spread with this virus, it’s hard to jump to that conclusion of any clusters or outbreaks.” Similarly, in Washington, DC, city officials have not closed restaurants because they are unable to identify which permitted activities are driving new infections.
For example, in Maryland, 9% of people who tested positive for COVID-19 indicated they had been to a restaurant; however, almost twice as many people who tested positive were traced back to family gatherings. That’s a critical piece of the dataset that consumers need to know. In Louisiana, an ‘outbreak’ is considered two or more cases that have visited the same site within 14 days; however, a correlation between outbreaks and actual number of cases cannot be made. In the data provided from Louisiana, there were 38 ‘outbreaks’ in restaurants resulting in 167 cases. Yet, in casinos, there were 7 ‘outbreaks’ resulting in 200 cases.
While some states may point to indoor dining at restaurants as a risk factor, we still cannot find evidence of a systematic spread of the coronavirus coming from restaurants who are effectively following our Restaurant Reopening Guidance, encouraging guests to wear masks, social distancing, and practicing good hand hygiene. In effect, the lack of a direct correlation should be evidence that, when restaurants demonstrate effective mitigation efforts, the risk is low.
Having balanced and accurate information is critical for consumers, businesses, and government officials. The experts at the National Restaurant Association are always available to serve as a resource for any journalist or media professional working to interpret data points on the spread of coronavirus.
Together, we share the goal of equipping the public with clear data that can help them understand the facts and make well-informed decisions.
Please contact Vanessa Sink, email@example.com, for more information.
What to Do After a Hurricane?
After it is confirmed by authorities that the storm has passed and it is safe to go outdoors, you can begin to assess any potential damage to your home and property. Follow these tips after the storm is over:
After a disaster like a hurricane occurs, if you were required to or decided to evacuate, it’s important to take the time to consider what you need before you return to your home or business.
Return to your property or business only after authorities advise it is safe to do so. Keep informed and up-to-date on any changes in weather or related conditions, or any guidance from authorities, by listening to the radio, TV or various social media sources. The hurricane may have produced hazards and other potentially unsafe conditions, such as downed wires/power lines, gas leaks, flooded areas, damaged trees and other debris. Remain cautious when you return to your home or business.
Your personal safety and the safety of others during the recovery effort is the primary concern. You want to assess what provisions, tools, supplies and assistance you may need based on disaster area conditions. The availability of critical resources such as water, electricity and food, or services such as police, fire and medical may be limited.
The following websites provide useful information related to post-storm recovery tips:
Assessing Your Property
Once you have been given the OK to be allowed back into your home or business, carefully inspect the property and building for damage. You'll want to consider your home or business during the period of restoration as a work zone. You may not be fully aware of physical, chemical or biological hazards and may need to protect yourself with personal protective equipment, such as a hard hat, gloves, boots, safety glasses and a dust mask. If your property has been damaged, document conditions and promptly report the claim.
Here are other considerations:
Restoring Your Property
Not all hazardous conditions may be readily apparent during your initial assessment. Throughout your recovery, consider hiring qualified professionals experienced in restoration services. Licensed restoration companies can be found by consulting the Better Business Bureau for recommendations.
Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an order today that extends Phase Two and the statewide mask mandate, closure of bars to on-site consumption and gathering size limits in Louisiana for another two weeks, until September 11, 2020. Despite progress in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in the state, The White House Coronavirus Task Force still has Louisiana in the red zone for new cases, just as schools and colleges return to campus and Hurricane Laura is set to impact the state. Further, almost half of the state’s parishes have positivity rates in excess of 10 percent.
The Governor’s current order expires on Friday, August 28. He signed a new order today.
Just this week, I had a conversation with Dr. Deborah Birx, who is coordinating the response for the White House, and she noted Louisiana’s improvement, but also recommended that we keep the current measures in place until we get positivity, cases and hospitalizations even lower. In addition, Hurricane Laura has caused Louisiana to pause its testing, which means that we will be flying blind with data for a couple of weeks when we need it the most to gauge the impact of resuming K-12 schools and higher education. Finally, tens of thousands of our neighbors from southwestern Louisiana, the area with the highest priority, ahead of Hurricane Laura’s landfall, and there will be additional sheltering after the storm – perhaps for an extended period of time. Extending Phase 2 until September 11 will allow us time to restart our testing and assess where we are after the storm."
The City of New Orleans' renewal deadline for Alcohol Beverage Operator (ABO) permits is being extended again, until Sept. 30, 2020. (The previously extended deadline was Aug. 31, 2020). ABO expiration deadline will extend through Oct. 31, 2020. (The previously extended expirations deadline was Sept. 30, 2020).
The City continues to process a healthy number of permits, as the Office of Safety and Permits is open for emailed submissions. Payments also are being accepted online.
Residents may also drop off payments at City Hall.
For any questions, email the ABO staff at ABO@nola.gov.
As of this morning, Laura has strengthened into a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to grow even stronger as it heads toward Texas and Louisiana.
Please tune into your local government officials for announcements that could affect your operations. Hurricane Laura currently has maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, according to data from a NOAA hurricane hunter plane, and is likely to become a major Category 3 storm or higher over the next day or so. The center of the storm is located 625 miles from Lake Charles, Louisiana, and it's moving at a rapid clip of 17 mph.
Here is a list of best practices and resources to help you prepare and navigate through the coming days:
Please tune into your local news and weather station for the latest information on Hurricane Laura's track and forecast. We urge you to adhere to local government orders and remind you not to drive or walk through standing water as the depth of flood waters and electrical currents may be unclear.
If there is anything that we at the LRA can do to assist during this time, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Communications Team is standing by.
GNOF, Gayle Benson, McIlhenny Company Announce $194,000 in New Grants from the Louisiana Service & Hospitality Family Assistance Program
The Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF) announced $194,000 in new grants from its Louisiana Service & Hospitality Family Assistance Program, an initiative to support low-income restaurant, hotel, bar, catering and event staffing company employees who have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and who are working hard to support their dependent children and elderly parents. Total grants from the program now total over $1.4 million.
The program, launched with leading contributions from New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner, Mrs. Gayle Benson’s Community Assistance Fund at GNOF and the McIlhenny Company, maker of Tabasco® brand pepper sauce, has also received generous contributions from the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority, the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Dennis and Alisson Allen, and JP Morgan Chase. Other generous supporters include Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, the Sherry and Alan Leventhal Family Foundation, the Eugenie and Joseph Jones Family Foundation, New Orleans Original Daiquiris, JP Morgan Chase, Metabolic Studio, Republic National Distributing Company, Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, The Robert Henry Boh and Katherine Sandoz Boh Foundation, Dr. and Mrs. Neil J. Maki, Harry and Mary Ann Barkerding, and Ellen and Mac Ball. Our newest donor is Crystal Hot Sauce/Baumer Foods, Inc.
“Given the announcement of substantial additional layoffs in our region’s hotels and restaurants in recent weeks, the aid this fund provides to families in Southeast Louisiana is even more critical,” said Andy Kopplin, President and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation. “Thanks to the investment of so many additional supporters, we are thrilled to announce we have the resources to make available another round of family assistance grants.”
The 194 grants awarded in this new round from the Louisiana Service & Hospitality Family Assistance Program will help the families of unemployed bar, hotel, and restaurant workers. Of the recipients, 11 were employed at bars, 103 at hotels, 70 at area restaurants, 7 at catering companies, and 3 at event planning companies with an average annual income of $28,600 per year, raising between one and four children. This pandemic has adversely impacted working families in all southeast Louisiana communities. Round IV grant recipients are residents of Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, and Terrebonne parishes.
“New Orleans’ Hospitality Industry is the life line of our city,” said Pepper Baumer, President of Baumer Foods, Inc. “These workers are the reason New Orleans has the reputation it does across the globe. They are the ambassadors of our city, and why people want to come visit! Not only is it our duty to help support these individuals, it’s also the right thing to do. That’s what makes New Orleans, New Orleans! We are always willing to help one another.”
Thanks to the generosity of new donors, we will award a new round of grants. Applications will be accepted for the next round of Louisiana Service & Hospitality Family Assistance Program grants until Friday, August 28, 2020 at 5 pm. To apply, please visit https://www.gnof.org/service-and-hospitality-employee-family-program/. All questions should be emailed to email@example.com.
To qualify, individuals applying must:
The National Restaurant Association and its members applaud the decision of Sen. Chuck Schumer to co-sponsor the Senate version of the Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed To Survive Act of 2020 (RESTAURANTS Act of 2020). Sen. Schumer’s decision highlights his support of this cornerstone American industry and his understanding of the on-going threat the pandemic poses to its survival.
“Restaurant jobs are the heartbeat of local communities across New York and the nation and the lifeblood of our economy, employing more young people, single mothers, and immigrants than most industries. As one of the hardest hit industries during this pandemic, we must do everything we can to ensure our restaurants and our restaurant workers are protected, otherwise we will shortchange our entire economy,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “I am proud to stand with the National Restaurant Association and support the RESTAURANTS Act to give restaurants the relief they need to weather this crisis so they can eventually fully reopen and bring back to work millions of workers who have lost their jobs. Restaurants can’t wait. Congress needs to act now to pass this important legislation and other critical assistance that struggling small businesses and workers are in desperate need of.”
“We appreciate Sen. Schumer’s leadership and his support of this vital legislation,” said Tom Bené, President & CEO of the National Restaurant Association. “The Senate version of the bill helps the widest array of restaurants which are all facing the same economic roadblocks. This important difference will mean that irrespective of their business model, more small business restaurant owners can hope for survival.”
The RESTAURANTS Act follows the form of a recovery fund the Association called for in a letter to Congress on March 18, just days after the industry was forced to shut down, and continued to refine in the Blueprint for Restaurant Revival. The fund would provide vitally needed immediate access to capital that would allow restaurants to endure. Between March and June, the industry lost more than $145 billion in sales and is on track to lose more than $240 billion by the end of the year.
According to Association research, at the height of the pandemic, 93 percent of New York state restaurants reported losses in sales and 80 percent of the state’s restaurant employees had been laid off or furloughed.
“The New York State Restaurant Association thanks Sen. Schumer for his support of restaurant owners and employees – both here in New York and across the country,” said Melissa Fleischut, President and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association. “The restaurant industry is a vital and important economic engine in every community across our state. The support small business owners would get from this bill would be felt not only in our dining rooms but by other small business owners who help us make sure there is always a place at our tables.”
Read the full Senate RESTAURANTS Act here.
This week, the City of New Orleans launches a series of initiatives that are designed to support outdoor dining as restaurants continue to grapple with the impacts of the pandemic. The City’s Outdoor Dining Program will utilize portions of the public right of way to support businesses, promote safe places and physical distancing, and activate our City’s streetscapes. The City is managing the program with support from the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA). Overall, the City has committed $250,000 to the initiative.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve asked my administration to think outside of the box and develop innovative new ways to support our business community and rethink the manner in which we use the public streetscape. The Outdoor Dining Program is one example of these efforts by doing what New Orleans does best: celebrating and making community in the street,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell.
“We know that the health regulations have taken a particularly hard toll on restaurants, which are some of the cornerstones of our community and culture. The Outdoor Dining Program has multiple benefits. It supports our businesses, it creates safe spaces for physical distancing, and it activates our streets. We’re excited to be building tools like the curbside dining and parklet permit to support our businesses for the long-term,” said Jeff Schwartz, Director, Office of Economic Development.
The outdoor dining efforts launch today, Wednesday, Aug. 12, with a small grant program. Through this program, the City will give out $2,000 each to 50 restaurants operating outdoor dining areas in sidewalk cafe spaces or in off-street parking lots. Both of these opportunities have been available to restaurants since the beginning of the pandemic, and these smaller grants are an effort to support restaurants operating outdoor dining options.
“As the accredited economic development organization for the City of New Orleans, the Business Alliance is proud to continue our efforts to support this important part of the local economy," said Quentin Messer, President and CEO, NOLABA. "We applaud the City of New Orleans for taking this step to help our struggling restaurants, while recognizing that there is much more that can and must still be done. In the midst of this unprecedented crisis, it is critical that we collectively deploy innovative approaches to ensure the sustainability of our local businesses and the rapid reattachment of our residents to employment."
Within a month, the City will launch a Curbside Dining and Parklets pilot, which will enable restaurants within City-designated corridors and districts throughout the city to expand their operations into the public, on-street parking spaces. The pilot will run for one month and enable the City to learn more about operating the new curbside dining and parklet permit program over the long term, as well as gather feedback from restaurants, stakeholders and the general public.
"As a longtime advocate for parklets and similar adaptive uses of the public space, I am excited that the City is putting in resources to help our local businesses make ideas like this a reality," said Kristin Gisleson Palmer, District C Councilmember. "The past five months have brought unprecedented challenges, but New Orleanians have shown time and again what a resilient and creative people we are. Grant programs like these will help support recovery in the short term, while creating a pedestrian-friendly streetscape in line with our overall Complete Streets policy."
Once the pilot concludes, the City will make the curbside dining and parklet permit available citywide and launch a second round of Outdoor Dining Grants. These grants will be up to $6,000 to support the construction of al fresco curbside dining and parklet areas.
For more information and to apply, please visit outdoordiningnola.com. The City will be hosting an FAQ webinar on Friday, Aug. 14, at 2 p.m. (CDT) to answer any questions about the Outdoor Dining Program. More information can be found on outdoordiningnola.com.
Gov. Edwards Officially Extends Phase 2 Order, Statewide Mask Mandate, Bar Closure to Continue to Slow the Spread of Covid-19 in Louisiana
Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an extension of his order keeping Louisiana in Phase Two and extending his statewide mask mandate, the closure of bars to on-premises consumption and the limitation on gatherings of more than 50 people for at least another 21 days, through Friday, August 28.
Gov. Edwards’ order to mandate masks and restrict bars matches recommendations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the advice of public health experts advising the Governor. The Governor’s order was upheld by Judge Janice Clark in the 19th Judicial District Court today.
The Governor’s order is largely unchanged from his previous one. The new order does remove a provision that allowed parishes to opt out of the statewide mask mandate if their parish dropped below a certain incidence level of COVID. No parish meets this requirement, and recommendations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force support a statewide mandate.
Louisiana has seen modest improvements in its COVID-19 situation in recent days, following the Governor’s mask mandate and bar restrictions. Reports of COVID-like illness, case counts and hospitalizations are trending down statewide, per data from the Louisiana Department of Health.
“We’re just asking everyone to do your part and to understand that the progress we have started to see over the last several days is positive, but we can lose it. If we do what we did after Memorial Day, we will lose our positive gains,” Gov. Edwards said. “On the other hand, if more people will comply with the mitigation measures, we will actually accelerate the improvements we are making and they will be long lasting. We can lower our transmission rate and save lives. We’ve got a long way to go, but I am optimistic that we are going to get there. We have flattened the curve once, and we can do it again by doubling down on these effective, proven mitigation measures.”