North Dakota Small Business Central For Coronavirus News and Resources

Date: April 01, 2020

A single-source story, regularly updated, on the information NFIB members should be aware

The Governor announced today a public/private partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield. BCBS will begin handling the calls for negative tests to alleviate extra stress of the contact tracing team at the Dept of Health so they can focus on positive cases and tracing.

June 24, 2020 –The Governor previously signed executive order 2020-07 which recognized driver’s licenses that expired after March 1 as still legal and effective. Today the Governor signed executive order 2020-06 to continue recognizing these as legal until August 31, 2020. This simply adds an end date. On Sept 1, all driver’s license and motor vehicle registrations need to be up to date. NDDOT is focused on the back log and sending out reminders in order to process the nearly 70,000 transactions that need to be completed by August 31.

Real ID has been extended until October 2121. Those coming to update driver’s licenses should review the requirements for Real ID and can complete both at the same time. More info at dot.nd.gov.

There are 212 (out of the 218) assisted living facilities that have met the requirements to enter into Phase 1 of re-opening, which allows for communal and group events and dining, as well as outdoor visitation. Thirty-five facilities have entered into Phase 2, which allows for indoor visitation. These are among the first in the nation to open for indoor visitation. Families need to follow protocols when visiting relatives and should reach out to their facility for more information. There is a pilot project being conducted at Augusta Place, where families are being tested before being allowed to visit. The state will continue to work closely with the Long Term Care Association and long term care facilities to continue opening up safely. Long term care COVID guidance can be found here.

Parks and Rec: The North Dakota Parks & Recreation Department has released its revised guidelines for campsites this summer. Group camping and multi-unit camping is now available. Permits should be purchased online. More info here.

Transportation:  Gov. Doug Burgum today announced all renewals for vehicle registration and driver licenses, which expired March 1 or later, have been extended until August 31. This new executive order takes the place of Executive Order 2020-07 which waived expiration dates for vehicle registration and driver licenses during the state of emergency. Due to CDC guidelines on social distancing, these services are available by appointment only. To schedule an appointment, visit our website at dot.nd.gov or call 1-855-633-6835. NDDOT will be adding staff to handle volume of appointments as the office opens. Real ID deadline has been extended by one year and TSA will allow individuals to board a plane with expired driver’s licenses. On-site visits are by appointment only. More information available here.

Higher Ed: Bismarck State College is open and will offer in-person classroom and college experience to students this Fall and moving forward while minimizing risk. BSC employees directly involved with students began returning to campus June 15, and the college will be fully open by early August. Most student services offer face-to-face service again along with virtual campus connection points (email, phone and/or video conferencing) that will remain in place. More info here. UND announced its Restart Safety Levels, which can be found here. NDSU is in Phase 1 of its Return to Work Plan. The plan is phased approach that will take place between June-August. More info here. The North Dakota State Board of Higher Education has determined that the North Dakota University System colleges can plan for in-person education in the Fall. The North Dakota University System has launched a task force led by Dr. Joshua Wynne to implement a three-tiered approach to re-opening North Dakota campuses. More info available here.

 

 

June 17th, 2020 –  The Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that it is reopening the EIDL/EIDL Advance portal to allow small businesses to apply for the EIDL and EIDL Advance, as the funding is not yet exhausted. This is a loan directly through the SBA. This money is first come, first serve, so time is of the essence. In addition to small businesses, the EIDL loan program is now available for agriculture producers and nonprofits.  These applicants were not included in the first round of EIDL funding. As a reminder, the EIDL is a low interest, long-term loan made through the SBA for certain business expenses including payroll costs and qualified expenses not already covered by a PPP loan. Applicants can request an advance of $1,000 per employee up to a combined $10,000.  This advance does not have to be repaid, and small businesses can receive an advance even if they are not approved for a loan. Applications are available here.

The PPP Flexibility Act has been passed and signed by President Trump. This provides additional flexibility for use of PPP dollars and triples the time allotted for small businesses and other PPP loan recipients to spend the funds and still qualify for forgiveness of the loans. There are nine significant changes that have been made to the PPP program. There will be a special business briefing this Thursday at 9 am to review these changes. Businesses can register here.

There will be additional updates next week on if the state or certain counties may move into more open phases.

Human Services: North Dakota State Hospital announced it has modified its campus visitation policy to allow family members and friends to visit loved ones who are receiving behavioral health services. More info here.

Commerce:  There will be a special business briefing this Thursday at 9 am to review the new PPP program changes implemented by the Payroll Protection Flexibility Act. Businesses can register here.  

 

 

May 6th, 2020 – Right now, the state is focused on three main goals: 1. Test 2. Trace 3. Isolate. These efforts will be concentrated in counties with the largest outbreaks, which are currently Cass County and Grand Forks County. There will be additional rapid response teams headed to Cass County to test, trace, isolate, and protect those in vulnerable communities. The rolling average of positive cases in Cass County has remained around 10%, which is low compared to the rest of the country but is over twice the average rate of the state.  

 

To further address concerns in the Red River Valley, the Governor has formed the Red River Valley Task Force. The RRV Task Force will include stakeholders across the county, including Fargo Cass Public Health, the mayors of Fargo and West Fargo, Cass County Commission, community health and housing partners, non-profits, and Clay County representatives. The RRV Task Force will focus on prevention measures and tests; daily and more accessible testing; and additional PPE to all staff in congregate living facilities. The additional focus on congregate living facilities will include not just the vulnerable in facilities related to age and health, but those in correctional facilities, developmentally disabled care facilities, and homeless shelters and other societal congregate living facilities (overall, only 36 of the 218 assisted living/basic/long term care facilities have had a positive case, one of the lowest percentages in the country, and the goal is to keep it isolated to those facilities). Once the RRV Task Force is up and running, the goal would be to replicate in other “hot spots” in the state.

 

The Mayors of Fargo and West Fargo gave their support for the RRV Task Force and the VP3 plan to protect those who are vulnerable. The Governor said it is possible to issue executive orders specific to Cass County if it is warranted.

 

Superintendent of Public Instruction Kristen Baesler gave an update on graduation ceremony guidance. Those can be found here. The Governor signed an Executive Order allowing for school to conduct graduation ceremonies and leaving those specific decisions up to the local School Boards. There will be more info next week on guidance for sports, tournaments, and summer activities.

 

The Governor announced the Bakken Restart Task Force to facilitate rapid recovery of the oil and gas industry and supporting sectors impacted by COVID-related demand shock. The task force includes Mineral Resources, Public Service Commission, Environmental Quality, Trust Lands, Pipeline Authority, Office of Management and Budget, Tax Department, Commerce, Bank of North Dakota and input requested from various industry subject matter experts. Already in North Dakota, 6,800 wells have been shut-in resulting in a reduction of 450,000 barrels per day and there are only 27 rigs operating. This will dramatically affect the state budget going forward as the oil and gas industry was forecasted to bring in $4.9 billion in direct revenue from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2121, which would have been 57% of all revenue to the state in that timeframe. This is clearly a vital industry to the state and an important long-term partnership. To ensure this industry can survive and return, the Bakken Restart Task Force will focus on three areas: 1) Regulatory relief and cutting red tape wherever necessary; 2) Economic stimulus; 3) Long term recovery included tax relief, low cost financing and other relief efforts. More information is available here.

Press conferences will now be held just three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 3:30. There will continue to be case, testing, and other information online each day.

More information can be found at: ndresponse.gov/covid-19-resources.

 

Mineral Resources: The Department of Mineral Resources has established the Bakken Restart Task Force to facilitate rapid recovery of the oil and gas industry and supporting sectors impacted by COVID-related demand shock. More info here.

 

Commerce:  The North Dakota Department of Commerce received more than 11,300 responses from the North Dakota COVID-19 Community Impact Survey. A report of survey results can be found at https://belegendary.link/NDCommunitySurvey

 

Job Service/Unemployment: The current total for unemployment claims since March 16th is 71,864. There have been 10,732 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims and 11,513 Pandemic Unemployment Compensation claims. The Unemployment insurance fund balance is at $114.9 million. Individuals are encouraged to review those federal programs to see if they can apply. Job Service is able to accept online claims from independent contractors, gig economy workers, self-employed individuals, and workers who may have exhausted the benefits available to them under the regular Unemployment Insurance system. More info here.

 

Public Instruction: Superintendent of Public Instruction Kristen Baesler gave an update on graduation ceremony guidance. Those can be found here. K-12 public schools will continue distant learning for the remainder of the school year. You can find additional information on schools here.  

 

 

April 27th – There was a new record high number of tests today. Today’s positive rate stays fairly steady at 3.8% with a cumulative rate of 4.2%. North Dakota has dropped to 5th lowest in the country in percent positives and is 6th highest in testing rate per capita. In addition, 37.2% of positive cases have recovered.

The executive order that closed businesses directly affected 6.7% of the ND workforce. The Dept. of Commerce, alongside the Dept. of Health and Dept. of Human Services, has been putting a plan in place for those businesses to re-open. The Governor addressed the status of the 8 ND Smart Re-start goals:

  1. Widespread rapid testing: This goal has been met given the state’s current testing per-capita. Continued goal is to increase testing capacity to 4,000/day in May and 6,000/day in June.
  2. Robust Contact Tracing: The state has met this goal by bringing on additional capacity for rapid follow-up. The team has gone from 18 employees at the beginning of the pandemic to 275 currently trained. There is still a focus on increasing downloads of the CARE19 app.
  3. Targeted Effective Quarantine: Goal is to have overall transmission rates decline and limited community spread. Currently this is flat.
  4. Protections for the vulnerable populations to ensure individuals in long-term care and congregate living facilities are protected. There has been significant work in this area and they hope to have final processes and procedures in place this week.
  5. Significant healthcare capacity. This goal has been met and exceeded.
  6. Adequate PPE. The current PPE stock can support treating 1,400 cumulative cases ample amount of PPE is available even if there was a surge.
  7. New standard operating procedures for opening. Commerce is working hard on these and what the guidelines/requirements will look like. This will be discussed further tomorrow.
  8. Prepared for Resurgence. This includes expanding test capacity and antibody testing and targeted procedures for closing/reopening. These guidelines are also being finalized, but testing capacity puts us in a good position.

As of today, the Governor feels good with 6 out of the 8 goals. The team is still finalizing protections for the vulnerable and the new standard operating procedures. These are all being worked on today and tomorrow. Openings will not occur in exact synchronicity. There may be certain cities/businesses that decide to keep some things closed. The state has been closely following the White House guidelines and is in line with most of that criteria. The hope would be to continue to see a declining rolling average, but we are still well positioned for a smart restart.

Results of the Dept. of Commerce survey show 98.8% of individuals are physically distancing. This has enabled ND to consider re-opening and is a great example of limited government and high individual responsibility working together.

Given that most of the goals and guidelines are being met, the intention is to let the current executive orders that closed businesses to expire on Thursday, April 30th. A new order to re-open using phase 1 guidelines will be issued on Friday. Those guidelines will be discussed tomorrow. All businesses who can telecommute should continue to do so and schools will continue distance learning for the time being. Bars and restaurants who are able to meet the re-start guidelines may re-open this weekend. This is all assuming that there is not a large surge in percent of positive cases in the next couple of days.

More information can be found at: ndresponse.gov/covid-19-resources.

Department of Human Services: The North Dakota Department of Human Services wants state residents to know help is available if they are currently having trouble paying their heating bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in household income. More info here.

Department of Commerce:  There will be a special business briefing this Thursday at 11. Go to www.ndchamber.com to register. All businesses are encouraged to participate. There will be guidance on CARES Act Phase 3.5, the new re-start guidelines, as well as BND loan programs. The North Dakota SBDC Launches 4R Project to Help ND Small Businesses Recover from COVID Disaster. More info here.

Job Service/Unemployment: The current total for unemployment claims since March 16th is 63,929. There has been a slight slowdown on all claims in the last week. The state has paid out $105.8 million, more than paid out in an entire year. Balance in unemployment fund is $144 million. In addition, there have been just over 17,000 claims to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance plan and Pandemic Unemployment Compensation plan. The additional $600 unemployment payment should be available this week.

Public Instruction: The Dept is looking at a range of options for either returning to classroom learning or finishing the school year with distant learning. This will be discussed further in the next week. Every school district has until June 30 to complete their school year. You can find regular updates on schools here.  

 

 

April 6th, 2020: The Governor reiterated that the state is well prepared, but everyone needs to continue to stay focused.

One of the key numbers the state reviews as it considers mandates is hospital capacity. Currently, North Dakota’s number of actual hospitalizations remains low. Considering all tiers of hospital options, 99% of potential capacity is still available. There will be more discussion later this week about status of hospital preparation.

The Governor reiterated the CDC guidelines that North Dakotans need to follow. They will continue to monitor activity reported by mayors, law enforcement, etc. While many have been calling for a “shelter in place,” things are not yet at a level where this is warranted. They will watch the situation closely and if it gets to a point where the curve is increasing dramatically or the percent of positive cases jumps, the state will revisit. However, if North Dakota continues to lead the nation in tests per capita, maintain a low positive rate and have significant hospital capacity, then we are doing what we need to do.

There were two new executive orders today. The first requires anyone testing positive for COVID-19 to self-quarantine for no less tan 14 days. In addition, any family members or individuals living with someone testing positive are ordered to self-quarantine for no less than 14 days. Violation of this order is a Class B misdemeanor with up to a $1,500 fine enforceable through local law enforcement.

The second executive order suspends visitation at long-term care facilities with exceptions for end of life and compassionate care.

“Operation Drive-in” testing was a success. This is one of the first instances of mass testing of individuals without symptoms done in the country. There were 367 samples collected from Slope County and 368 samples from the Gladstone Fire District. The tests were completed using the new oral swab/rapid test from Abbott Labs. Analysis of the tests will be completed this week, with the hope that this will provide an excellent baseline to shape models going forward. They are particularly looking for positive tests with no symptoms. The faster the state can identify positive cases and quarantine those individuals, the faster it can slow the spread. As of today, 94 of these tests have been analyzed and included in the state’s current numbers..

The Governor urged those struggling with behavioral health issues, such as stress, depression, etc. to contact the disaster distress hotline: 1-800-985-5990.

Small businesses/entrepreneurs are reminded to review the SBA loan programs and apply as soon as possible.

More information can be found at: ndresponse.gov/covid-19-resources

Transportation:  NDDOT is now scheduling limited Motor Vehicle large truck services by appointment only in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and the Governor’s emergency declaration. The Motor Vehicle office in Bismarck will begin scheduling appointments on Monday, April 6 and are only available for trucks weighing over 55,000 lbs. and vehicles (trucks) with registration weight changes. Bismarck appointments can be scheduled online at www.dot.nd.gov. Additional information is available on their website. 

Game and Fish: The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has revoked all fishing tournaments for April and May due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Organizers of other permitted North Dakota fishing tournaments scheduled June through October are advised of the possibility of having their permit revoked if the COVID-19 conditions persist.

 

 

April 3, 2020: The current percentage of positive cases in ND is 3.2%, which is the 4th lowest rate in the country. This indicates a we are doing a good job on testing (currently 10th in the country in testing per capita).

Many people are asking where to make donations during this time. If you know of local donation centers, those should be the first place you bring donations. In addition, the ND Community and Non-Profit Response Fund is now accepting donations.  You can go to NDCF website and they will help get resources where they need to go. Medical supply donations can be dropped off at NDDOT sites in Bismarck, Devils Lake, Fargo, Grand Forks, Minot, Valley City.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem gave an update on how to avoid scams during this pandemic and what the state is doing to protect citizens. There has been an increase in scam calls and they are asking everyone to be aware and inform those who are more vulnerable. A popular email scam is telling people they need to pay a fee or provide additional information to receive their CARES Act stimulus checks. There are also spam emails promising cures, masks, etc. Do not click on any of these. The AG also encouraged people to be very careful when donating to charities and support known, local charities. Do not give over the phone. Additional information can be found here.

The Governor issued one more executive order today regarding school board elections. It gives school boards the opportunity to use mail-in ballots for their elections to avoid people going to polling places.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of ND has announced it is waiving ALL out of pocket costs for individuals needing testing or treatment relating to COVID-19. More information on BCBS website here.

The Governor set out guidelines for grocery shopping reminding people to social distance, use sanitizing wipes, shorten their time in the store, and send just one person.

The Workforce Coordination Center is still looking for additional volunteers. More information here.

There is no update yet on when North Dakota may see the peak of the virus.

 

 

April 2, 2020: White House Approves North Dakota’s Disaster Declaration Request

This approval paves the way for North Dakota small businesses to receive funding at state, local, tribal, and non-profit level.

The Governor signed an executive order that state will start waiving the one-week waiting period to receive unemployment benefits. This will apply retroactively to claims beginning March 14th and going forward. Anyone who filed after March 14th will have the one week waiting period paid to them automatically. The federal government will pay the first week of benefits for states that waive the waiting period.

All orders closing restaurants/bars/gyms/cosmetology businesses has been extended to April 20th with an update to those businesses by April 15th.

The state is implementing a new procedure in order to protect first responders when responding to a location that may have presence of coronavirus. If the individual signs a waiver, the Dept. of Health will supply the information to State Radio, which through the applicable Public Safety Answering Point, will release the address to law enforcement and first responders. No other personal health information will be disclosed.

Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread provided an update on the insurance industry. If employers are offering benefits to staff, they should continue to do so as much as possible and leverage the federal funding under the CARES Act. Before terminating benefits, employers should talk to their insurance providers first and address on case by case basis with those companies. This extends to all lines of insurance. They have been asked to provide flexibility. If you recently lost health insurance, you can apply for ACA benefits through the ND Insurance website. There are also short-term plans that cover COVID-19 testing and COVID-19 related hospitalization, however these plans are meant for emergency purposes only and provide minimal coverage. Telehealth coverage has been expanded to include office visits, PT, OT, speech therapy, behavioral health, and others. Most insurance related agencies will be closed, but will be working remotely to handle claims. Citizens with other questions should reach out directly to their insurance companies. More information is available at insurance.nd.gov.

The state does yet have a dollar amount from the federal government on the disaster declaration that was granted. State agencies should track receipts related to COVID-19.

The Governor expects more energy sector companies with operations in ND to file bankruptcy in wake of the Whiting announcement. He believes there will be a strong need for federal assistance for the industry going forward. The current ability to budget is incredibly difficult, but they continue to focus on priorities and watch the projections versus revenues.

More information can be found here: ndresponse.gov/covid-19-resources

 

Agency Updates:

Government Offices: Access to government offices remains restricted to employees and necessary personnel. In addition, many employees are working from home. The state will continue to monitor the situation but encourages anyone who can work from home to do so.

Health Department: Health Department reports will start coming out just once a day at 11 a.m. with only one update per day as opposed to morning and afternoon.

Department of Commerce: Website provides regular updates here. They will offer business briefing calls on Thursdays at 11 am. Information can be found in the link.

Transportation: NDDOT is closed to the public and will be offering CDL services by appointment only; the Governor is looking at working with DOT to advance road projects that were slated for summer 2021 to have them start in 2020. He believes it is an appropriate time to do so given less traffic, the need for jobs, as well as a good time to bond and build. He is looking into emergency authority to bond and also working closely with BND and the State Investment Board to review options.

Job Service/Unemployment: The current total since March 16th is around 28,647. These were initially in the energy sector, but have since expanded to include a number of industries. They will work to get percentages per industry to the public. Currently the Governor is not looking to use the Legacy Fund to assist with unemployment expenses. How the Legacy Fund gets used is a decision for the legislature, but there could be a scenario where funds from the Legacy Fund are used to maintain the General Fund in order to keep government functioning. Federal funding through the CARES Act will help fill the state unemployment insurance fund and the state will likely ask for additional federal funding. The CARES Act covers individuals who typically weren’t covered (independent contractors, self-employed, etc).

Insurance: See the state update above. Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread announced the issuance of seven bulletins in response to executive orders made by Governor Doug Burgum and in the interest of protecting North Dakotans during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. They can be viewed here.

Cybersecurity: Chief Information Security Officer Kevin Ford, along with North Dakota’s Joint Information Center leadership team provided information regarding widespread phishing and social engineering attacks malicious actors are using to exploit the coronavirus pandemic. More info can be found here.

Tax: North Dakota is currently aligned with the IRS extension date. Individuals or businesses who are unable to file an income tax return or pay the tax by the April 15th deadline, can file and make payment through July 15, 2020, without penalty and interest. North Dakota taxpayers also have the ability to request additional time if they believe they will be unable to file a return or pay the tax in a timely manner because of a COVID-19 related situation. Refunds are being issued in a timely manner. More information on tax guidance here.

Public Instruction: All public and private schools are closed until further notice. Schools will start remote learning on April 1. Schools are not restarting or reopening school buildings unless they are providing K-5th childcare for essential workers. Every school district has until June 30 to complete their school year. The executive order limiting access to schools has been revised to allow schools to be used for daycare purposes. You can find regular updates on schools here.  

Gov. Doug Burgum  called on North Dakotans to take the coronavirus crisis seriously and step up social distancing efforts as the state Department of Health reported two additional deaths related to COVID-19.

The North Dakota Department of Health confirmed 11 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 109 confirmed cases. Nineteen individuals have been hospitalized and 20 have recovered. A total of 3,909 tests have been completed.

Despite broad and consistent messaging about the need for people to practice social distancing, as well as executive orders aimed at limiting large gatherings and person-to-person contact at businesses, Burgum said there continues to be reports of people gathering in large groups and not heeding social distancing guidelines. He urged North Dakotans to stay home if they’re sick, avoid unnecessary travel, refrain from holding gatherings of 10 people or more, and frequently wash their hands.

Burgum signed two executive orders today and amended an earlier executive order:

  • The amended order allows certain public school districts to open facilities through the month of May, for the limited purpose of providing child care services to children in grades K-5 only, for K-12 teachers and other health, safety and lifeline worker households, as identified by the Department of Human Services. 
  • In consultation with Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Burgum signed a new executive order that suspends the open meeting requirement of a physical meeting room and a speakerphone or monitor at a physical location, when members of the governing body are attending remotely. Meetings of a governing body where members appear by remote means must provide a conference dial-in number or an electronic link to real-time or livestream public access. 
  • The other new executive order allows temporary suspension of deadlines for public libraries to submit state aid applications and reports. It also extends the deadlines for livestock auction licensing and pesticide application licensing.

Click here for the details of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the relief it will provide for North Dakotans.

 

Gov. Doug Burgum has requested a major presidential disaster declaration to unlock federal assistance to support North Dakota’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The governor’s request seeks assistance for public infrastructure and facilities; mitigation grants for counties and tribal nations; assistance for individuals and households; and supplemental nutrition and transitional sheltering assistance, among other aid.

Burgum declared a state of emergency on March 13 and activated the state’s Unified Command to coordinate a whole-of-government and whole-of-community approach to the COVID-19 response. He has since signed more than a dozen executive orders aimed at combating the spread of the novel coronavirus and providing relief to North Dakota citizens, employees and employers, health care workers, first responders and others.

The request can be viewed here. For more information on the state’s COVID-19 response, visit www.health.nd.gov/coronavirus or www.ndresponse.gov.

 

State sees first COVID-19-related death as total increases to 68 cases

Gov. Doug Burgum expanded business closures in North Dakota to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and protect public health, while also suspending payment of unemployment taxes to allow employers to focus on their businesses and employees during the COVID-19 crisis.

Burgum offered his sympathies after the first confirmed death of a North Dakota resident due to COVID-19. The death occurred in a man in his 90s from Cass County who had underlying health conditions and acquired COVID-19 through community spread, meaning the source of infection was unknown.

Burgum announced that he signed an amended executive order directing the closure of all salons operated by licensed cosmetologists, including manicurists and estheticians, as well as massage therapy, barbershop and tattoo/body art facilities until April 6.

The governor noted that within the past couple of days, for the first time, North Dakota’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to community spread surpassed the number of travel-related or close-contact cases. The Governor’s Office also received a tremendous amount of input from business owners and technicians in the personal care sector, as well as the general public, asking to close these businesses for the health and safety of their workers and customers, Burgum noted. 

Today’s action amends the March 19 executive order that directed the closure of all recreational facilities, health clubs, athletic facilities and theaters, including movie theater and music or entertainment venues, as well as all restaurants, bars, breweries, cafes and similar on-site dining establishments, except for takeout, delivery, curbside, drive-through and off-sale.

In a separate executive order signed today, Burgum by suspending payment of unemployment taxes and suspending interest on all Workforce Safety & Insurance (WSI) employer accounts, which will allow them to focus on preserving their business operations and retaining critical cash flow.

The order suspends payment of unemployment taxes and filing of payroll reports that are due on March 31 for the first quarter of 2020, meaning those payments and reports won’t be due until July 1. This provides relief to all 26,500 Job Service North Dakota account holders and defers approximately $30 million in tax contributions, giving employers the opportunity to focus on their business and employees during this crisis.
Reports and payments will still be accepted by Job Service on the normal schedule if an employer chooses to do so. 

The order also suspends interest charges on all WSI employer accounts effective today through June 30, 2020. This provides relief to up to 25,000 WSI policyholders. During the same three-month period last year, from April to June of 2019, WSI assessed $225,000 in interest. Reports and payments will still be accepted by WSI on the normal schedule if an employer chooses to do so. More information is available on their websites at workforcesafety.com and jobsnd.com

 

Gov. Doug Burgum released modified operating practices and an emergency grant program for child care providers to help them through the COVID-19 crisis and ensure that child care services are available for health, safety and other lifeline workers. The governor also signed an executive order giving counties the option of mail ballot-only elections to protect public health during the coronavirus emergency.

The child care initiative is the result of a rapid planning process that began last weekend and involved the Department of Human Services (DHS), Department of Public Instruction and the Governor’s Office with input from child care providers and other stakeholders.

The planning process had three objectives:

  • Protect the health of children, families and child care workers;
  • Provide child care for health, safety and other lifeline worker households; and
  • Help sustain the child care sector during the emergency and recovery,

The final initiative has three key elements:

  • Guidance on how child care providers can continue to safely serve children through modified operating practices. This includes precautions such as a limit of 10 people per room, a screening process for access to the provider and guidelines for meals and playtime.
  • A Child Care Emergency Operating Grant to cover extra operating costs associated with the modified practices and to sustain vital child care services now and during the COVID-19 recovery. These grants will be available to all child care providers licensed by the state who agree to prioritize children of health, safety and other lifeline households.
  • Added flexibility to allow school districts to help care for children in grades K-5 whose parents work in vital health, safety and lifeline services. The governor will be amending an earlier executive order to allow this type of child access to schools.

For additional details, see the Provider Resources section on the DHS website at http://www.nd.gov/dhs/info/covid-19/index.html.

A separate executive order ensures every eligible North Dakota voter can cast a ballot in June, while protecting the health and safety of voters and poll workers.

The order waives the requirement that counties must provide at least one physical polling location on primary election day. This will give counties the flexibility and local control to conduct the June 9 primary election by mail ballot only – if the county chooses to do so. Currently, 33 counties offer mail ballot voting in addition to the physical polling locations required by law. The state’s 20 other counties also are eligible to conduct mail ballot voting.

 

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