Business Leaders Slate Virtual Monday Forum As Relief Fund Begins Disbursements
In an effort to address some of the most pressing questions and issues facing Newtown businesses challenged by coronavirus restrictions, Newtown Savings Bank President and CEO Ken Weinstein is heading up a virtual forum using Facebook Live Monday evening, April 6, at 5:30 pm, that is co-sponsored by the Newtown Chamber of Commerce and The Newtown Bee.
Local Realtor and Newtown Police Commissioner Andrew Sachs announced over the weekend that he was stepping forward to arrange a weekly virtual forum specifically addressing issues most pressing to local businesses and business owners. Attorney Francis Pennarola of Chipman Mazzucco Emerson LLC, and CPA Alan Clavette of Clavette & Company, LLC are participating along with Weinstein and First Selectman Dan Rosenthal.
The first of four planned events will focus on the newly released Paycheck Protection Plan. Participation is free and all local professionals and business owners are encouraged to participate.
“We think this is great idea and salute both the Newtown Chamber and The Newtown Bee for putting this together,” Weinstein said. The virtual platform will permit participants to ask questions.
Sachs envisioned a four-part weekly virtual forum for the sharing of critical information, best practices and ideas between key community leaders, and to build confidence across the Newtown community with an opportunity to see, hear and interact with leaders on key areas of concern.
He and the event's co-sponsors and participants also hope to establish communications, connections, and community teamwork to successfully overcome challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis, which physically is keeping everyone apart and making collaboration difficult.
The forum will be available for viewing as a Facebook Live stream on Sachs commercial Facebook site, facebook.com/YourConnecticutRealtor/ — or on the Newtown Chamber Facebook site, facebook.com/NewtownChamber/.
On April 3, the US Small Business Administration launched the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a $349 billion emergency loan program as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). The program provides forgivable loans up to $10 million to small businesses left financially distressed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The loans, which will be administered at the local level by a national network of banks and credit unions, including Newtown Savings Bank, are designed to maintain the viability of millions of small businesses struggling to meet payroll and day-to-day operating expenses.
Those eligible for the program include small businesses, certain nonprofits, veterans’ organizations, self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and other businesses meeting size standards based on their North American Industry Classification System code. The Paycheck Protection Program’s maximum loan amount is $10 million with a fixed one percent (1%) interest rate and maturity of two years.
The loans are available to cover up to eight weeks of average monthly payroll (based on 2019 figures) plus 25 percent, and payments are deferred for six months (interest does accrue). The SBA will forgive the portion of loan proceeds used for payroll costs and other designated operating expenses for up to eight weeks, provided at least 75 percent of loan proceeds are used for payroll costs. Eligible expenses for the eight-week forgiveness include:
*Payroll costs (excluding the prorated portion of any compensation above $100,000 per year for any person. Payroll costs include salary, commissions, tips; certain employee benefits including sick leave and health care premiums; and state and local taxes;
*Mortgage interest (not prepayment or principal payments) and rent payments on mortgages and leases in existence after February 15, 2020;
*Utilities such as electricity, gas, water, transportation, phone and internet access for services that began before February 15, 2020; and
*Additional wages paid to tipped employees.
For individual Newtown families, Connecticut United Ways COVID-19 Response Fund is beginning to disburse payments to those who are suffering the financial consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fund has raised approximately $450,000 for the first round of distributions to help Connecticut residents who have lost their jobs, lost hours at work, or may be facing other financial hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Fund is working with social service agencies across Connecticut to identify those most in need. Once a beneficiary has been pre-qualified by a participating social service agency, funds can be loaded to the mobile wallet on the beneficiary’s smartphone.
The funds can be used to pay for necessities, such as food, medicine, utilities, and gasoline. The electronic distribution of funds means that money can be given to those who need it most, without violating social distancing requirements.
Initially, recipients will receive $200 to pay for basic needs. Additional funds may be available as donations allow. Newtown Human Services Director Natalie Jackson told The Newtown Bee that payments of $200 each will be distributed to up to 15 families who have already been identified.
Executive Order 7U
As of Sunday, April 5, at 4 pm, Governor Ned Lamont reported the statewide total of positive COVID-19 cases stood at 5,675. To date, more than 23,270 tests have been conducted in Connecticut among both state and private laboratories.
Newtown Health District Director Donna Culbert was continuing to monitor 48 cases locally as of late Sunday, along with three in each of the neighboring district towns of Bridgewater and Roxbury.
Approximately 1,142 patients have been hospitalized, and the total statewide number of COVID-19 associated fatalities is 189. Fairfield County registered 3,050 positive cases with 531 hospitalized and 96 fatalities related to the virus.
Late Sunday, Lamont signed another executive order — the 22nd since he enacted the emergency declarations — that builds upon his efforts to encourage mitigation strategies that slow down transmission of the virus. Governor Lamont’s Executive Order No. 7U enacts the following provisions:
Protection from civil liability for actions or omissions in support of the state’s COVID-19 response: Protects health care professionals and health care facilities, including nursing homes and field hospitals, from lawsuits for acts or omissions undertaken in good faith in support of the state’s COVID-19 response. State statutes already provide similar protections for other first responders, including police, firefighters, and EMS.
Financial protections for the uninsured and people covered by insurance who receive out-of-network health care services during the public health emergency: Protects those who are uninsured and those who are insured and are treated by an out-of-network emergency services health care provider from surprise bills and other significant costs. This will ensure that individuals receiving care are not being financially burdened.
The governor also announced Sunday that Access Health CT — Connecticut’s health insurance marketplace — is continuing to enroll uninsured residents in health plans under a new special enrollment period that was created due to the exceptional circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The special enrollment period began on March 19 and was initially scheduled to end on April 2 but was recently extended to April 17.
To date, Access Health CT has processed 3,530 enrollments into qualified health plans during this period. A total of 1,498 of those enrollments were made possible by the new special enrollment period offered in partnership with Connecticut’s health insurance companies. This is in addition to 15,518 HUSKY enrollments during the same period.
Coverage for anyone who enrolled between March 19 and April 2 began on April 1. Anyone who enrolls between April 3 and April 17 will have coverage that takes effect May 1. Customers are reminded that anyone currently enrolled in qualified health plans through Access Health CT may be able to update their income and increase the amount of financial assistance for which they qualify.
To learn more about how to enroll, visit learn.accesshealthct.com.
For the most up-to-date information from the State of Connecticut on COVID-19, including an FAQ and other guidance and resources, residents are encouraged to visit ct.gov/coronavirus.
Individuals who have general questions that are not answered on the website can also call 211 for assistance. The hotline and corresponding website is available 24 hours a day and has multilingual assistance and TDD/TTY access.
It intended to be used by individuals who are not experiencing symptoms but may have general questions related to COVID-19. Anyone experiencing symptoms is strongly urged to contact their medical provider.
The Newtown Bee is continuing to provide and mirror information and messages coming from local and state agencies on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. Newtown residents can get more details by visiting:
*Town of Newtown COVID-19 web page - CLICK HERE
*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - CLICK HERE
*World Health Organization - CLICK HERE
Please check in regularly, share, and follow the newspaper’s hyperlocal coverage at newtownbee.com through the remainder of this public health emergency.
Associated Press content was used in this report.