E-Newsletter

Texas Retailers Association

April 2020

In This Issue...

  1. Letter from the President
  2. Special Announcements -  Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources
  3. Advocacy Update - 
  4. Free Resources - Coronavirus Risk Mitigation from Marsh Wortham
  5. Grocery Industry Update -  SNAP & Health and Produce Trends

Letter From the President

Hello Texas Retailers:

As you all know, the COVID-19 virus, also known as the Coronavirus, has significantly impacted our society and industry for most of March, and now likely through all of April as well. TRA has been working seven days a week for the past six weeks and will continue doing so to be a key resource for our members and industry, as well as local, state and federal authorities during this challenging time. Details are below, in this newsletter, and on the TRA website

TRA is actively engaged as a key resource for retailers in Texas on how to manage through the increasing impacts of the Coronavirus. We are in close communication with our members so that we can be aware of measures they are taking to manage through this disruptive time. Specifically, we are keeping the TRA website continuously updated with as much relevant information as possible, and we are also hosting our Tax & Legislative Committee calls weekly (they are typically monthly calls) and sending out timely blast emails and alerts to provide members with the most updated information.

Additionally, TRA is coordinating with state and local authorities, while advocating for retailers and monitoring actions as well as serving as a key resource to state and local authorities who are making critical decisions for the communities across our state. We are also actively engaged with our national retail and food industry trade association partners regarding all that is happening related to the Coronavirus on an industry-wide basis, as well as at the federal level.

Rest assured that TRA is here to help Texas retailers get through this challenging time. As always, thank you for supporting TRA.


 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources for Retailers

Check out the TRA Coronavirus Member Update Dashboard. View the latest up-to-date information directly from each member company and TRA affiliate posting updates related to the Coronavirus pandemic.

See comments from: H-E-B, National Retail Federation (NRF), Walmart, Kroger, Lowe's Markets, Albertson's Markets, Target, Brookshire's, Brookshire Brothers, National Grocer's Association (NGA), Retail Leaders Association (RILA), Officer of the Governor Greg Abbott, The Hill, Food Marketing Institute (FMI), Center for Disease Control (CDC), JCPenney, The Home Depot, Walgreens, Dollar General, Lowe's Home Improvement, Academy Sports & Outdoors, Macy's 

If your company would like to be added to the Coronavirus Member Update Dashboard, please contact TRA.

TAX ADVISORS GROUP RESOURCES FOR PROPERTY TAX ISSUES

As you may know, due to the impact of COVID-19 on Texas businesses, the deadline to file business personal property (BPP) tax renditions has been extended from April 15th to May 15th by more than 20 appraisal districts (CADs), including most major metro counties. Our partners at the Tax Advisors Group (TAG) have put together the informative attached document to help your business prepare for the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Texas property taxes. The document covers changed deadlines, tax rates, and modified protest changes.

Please feel free to reach out to Stephen Sharpe with TAG directly at 972-503-7506, if you need any assistance with property tax issues. Click here for more information

TALENT EXCHANGE TO AID WITH HIRING

COVID-19 has created an unprecedented worker supply and demand mismatch. While some sectors are
forced to shut their doors, furloughing and laying off workers, other sectors are faced with unprecedented
demand that current hiring processes cannot meet. To help employees and companies navigate the current situation, FMI has partnered with Eightfold.ai to build and launch a technology platform that rapidly matches worker supply and demand.To help employees and companies navigate the current situation, FMI has partnered with Eightfold.ai to build and launch a technology platform that rapidly matches worker supply and demand. Click here for information on this valuable resource. 


 Advocacy Update

As we enter the second month under Texas’ Disaster Declaration for the COVID-19 virus there appears to be some hope on the horizon but this time has also brought serious concerns to many about the long term impact to our state and nation. Operational changes seem to be happening on a daily basis due to our access to products, new health concerns, or orders from various governmental entities trying to guide their constituents through the pandemic. For Texas legislative and regulatory issues, we need to all take note of both positive and negative experiences we encounter throughout this process as we will likely see numerous proposals next session that will directly address the decisions that have been made over the last few weeks and those to come. 

The economic impact of the current situation has also been and will be a very important consideration for us all. Its effects will certainly have budgetary impacts on our businesses, state and local government’s budgets but the severity has not yet been fully determined.

Additionally, it seemed to only take a short amount of time to shut things down across the state as the virus first began to spread,  as we move forward expect the reopening and return to normal to take much longer.

For now, please reach out to TRA regarding any state or local ordinances that are impacting your business and know that we are working on your behalf every day to get us back to better times.  TRA has assembled a COVID-19 dashboard that is updated daily with news from state and local elected officials, regulatory agencies and our fellow retailers so please click here for all the latest news and updates.


Free Resources from Marsh Wortham

 

Marsh has excellent resources to assist clients with response and risk mitigation surrounding these and other Pandemic outbreaks.  Marsh is providing TRA members some free resources below: 


If you want to follow up with Marsh Wortham regarding their resources, please contact David Hebert using the contact information below. The Marsh Wortham Pandemic Risk team is the best in the business!

Texas Retailers Association is still exploring opportunities to source best-in-class benefits for members, including medical, vision, dental, life insurance, and more. But WE NEED YOUR HELP

Please click here to take this five-minute survey.
If you are not the right person to fill this out, please pass the message on to human resources or operations manager to assist us with gauging interest in the program.

More Information about Marsh Wortham: 

Marsh Wortham is a division of Marsh USA Inc. the largest insurance broker in the U.S., and provides insurance placement and employee benefits, and risk management consulting services. 

  • We are comprised of offices across Texas, and in Oklahoma and Louisiana. Our parent company is Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), the leading global professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy, and people. 
  • Marsh places more than $1 billion in premiums every year for our retail clients which comprise more than half of the top 100 retail companies in the U.S. and all of the top 10.


Contact
David J. Hebert, Vice President - Client Executive
Office 713.276.8012
Cell: 281.606.2247
[email protected]

Christina Scott, Vice President - Client Executive
Office 572.379.2698
Cell: 512.497.4626
[email protected]




A Financial Wellness Partnership Is Important!

As you take precautions to keep your employees healthy, you may also be thinking about how to help them weather the financial storms they are likely to experience as a result of COVID-19.  

Did you know that 59% of employees say finances are their top source of stress*.  Today, more than ever, financial stress is increasing exponentially daily!  Southwest Financial invites you to participate in our free Financial Wellness Partnership! 

Here are a few ways a Financial Wellness Partnership can benefit you and your employees:

  • Provides your employees with easy access to a banking partner like no other
  • Increases direct deposit penetration, which reduces overall payroll costs
  • Provides your employees with free financial education
  • Gives your employees access to credit they may not be able to get elsewhere
  • Enhances your employee benefits package at no additional cost to you
  • Include Southwest Financial as part of your health, wellness and benefit enrollment

During this time of uncertainty, we are offering a Financial Health Loan with rates as low as 5.99% APR** and no payments for 90 days.  We are also offering no payments for 90 days on new, used, or refinanced auto loans.**

Credit union affiliation is a free way to improve your benefits package, improve employee engagement and provide added value to your employees.  Contact Venoka Daniels today at [email protected] or 214.580.9930 to give your employees access to a financial wellness benefit. 

*PWC’s 8th Annual Employee Financial Wellness Survey.

**APR=Annual Percentage Rate.  Rate and term based on creditworthiness and products and services purchased.  Offer may end at any time without prior notice.


 


As a member, you receive 10% off LifeLock services and you can live freely knowing that LifeLock is searching over a trillion data points every minute of every day looking for potential threats to your identity. When LifeLock finds your personal information being used, they will alert you through their patented Identity Alert System. Click here to sign up today!


 

 A TRA-endorsed service provider since 2002, Amerex is the largest OTC (wholesale) natural gas, electricity and emissions trader in North America. Their real-time involvement in the wholesale energy market and their customized service has consistently yielded significant cost savings to TRA members. Click Here to Learn More

Email: Brandi Peck,
281.340.5208 phone
713.560.2772 cell
www.amerexenergyservices.com 

 


 Grocery Industry Update

 

As part of the COVID-19 relief legislation passed by Congress, additional funding was approved for SNAP participants.

  • The Texas allocation is $168 million for April and an additional $168 million for May. The additional funds will take the SNAP Individual/family to the max. benefit based upon family size. Texas SNAP began loading additional funds to cards on April 8 and will be staggered in the month.
  • Texas SNAP is holding a weekly call each Friday at 1:30PM to give updates and answer questions.
  • Many new SNAP applications are being processed. About 10,000 individuals are applying for SNAP.
  • As these applications are approved, benefits will be loaded to new Lone Star cards between the 15th of the month and the 28th of the month. This will help our food retailers with scheduling, ordering and customer flow.
  • Two additional plans: Texas SNAP has requested a hot food waiver due to the closing of most schools. The USDA must approve this waiver.

In addition, Texas SNAP has requested approval for additional SNAP funds to compensate families who have school age children eligible for free or reduced lunch. We are waiting approval of this plan. More details to follow.
Lastly, Texas SNAP is moving forward to allow SNAP customers to use their Lone Star card to order online for store pickup or delivery.

Applications for the Texas SNAP online program are being accepted by the Health & Human Services Commission .
For more details click here.

Acosta has published a very good report regarding customer shopping during the COVID-19 season. Click here for this report. 

FAQ's on Safety and Food Packaging from USDA/FDA

In the event you hear of concerns from a customer purchasing food that comes from a processing plant that has been closed due to COVID-19 or from a store who is concerned about selling such a product, we have compiled a FAQ with responses from both FDA and USDA on the safety of food and food packaging.

Q: Can I become sick with Coronavirus (COVID-19) from food?

USDA Answer:
We are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices (i.e., wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, and refrigerate foods promptly) when handling or preparing foods.

FDA Answer: Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness. Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person. This includes between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. However, it’s always critical to follow the 4 key steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill – to prevent foodborne illness.

Q: Are meat products compromised by the Coronavirus?

USDA Answer: We are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices (i.e., wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, and refrigerate
foods promptly) when handling or preparing foods.

For questions on Grocery Industry Issues, please contact Gary Huddleston


Fisher Phillips has assembled a cross-disciplinary taskforce of attorneys across the country to address the many employment-related issues facing employers in the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The COVID-19 Taskforce has created a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document, which has been continually updated since first published on March 3 and will continue to be updated as events warrant. You can contact your Fisher Phillips attorney or any member of the Taskforce with specific questions, and a full listing of the Taskforce members and their practice areas is at the end of this publication.

Can we ask an employee to stay home or leave work if they exhibit symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus or the flu?

Yes, you are permitted to ask them to seek medical attention and get tested for COVID-19. The CDC states that employees who exhibit symptoms of influenza-like illness at work during a pandemic should leave the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) confirmed that advising workers to go home is permissible and not considered disability-related if the symptoms present are akin to the COVID-19 coronavirus or the flu.

Can I take an employee’s temperature at work to determine whether they might be infected?

Yes. The EEOC confirmed that measuring employees’ body temperatures is permissible given the current circumstances. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) places restrictions on the inquiries that an employer can make into an employee’s medical status, and the EEOC considers taking an employee’s temperature to be a “medical examination” under the ADA, the federal agency recognizes the need for this action now because the CDC and state/local health authorities have acknowledged community spread of COVID-19 and issued attendant precautions.

However, as a practical matter, an employee may be infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus without exhibiting recognized symptoms such as a fever, so temperature checks may not be the most effective method for protecting your workforce.

Note: If your company does business in the State of California (e.g., if you have one or more locations, employees, customers, suppliers, etc. in the state), and your business is subject to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), then you must provide employees a CCPA-compliant notice prior to or at the same time as your collection of this information. For advice on CCPA compliance, please reach out to any member of our Data Security and Workplace Privacy Practice Group at any of California offices.

What precautions are needed for individuals who are taking the temperatures of employees, applicants or customers?

To protect the individual who is taking the temperature, you must first conduct an evaluation of reasonably anticipated hazards and assess the risk to which the individual may be exposed. The safest thing to do would be to assume the testers are going to potentially be exposed to someone who is infected who may cough or sneeze during their interaction. Based on that anticipated exposure, you must then determine what mitigation efforts can be taken to protect the employee by eliminating or minimizing the hazard, including personal protective equipment (PPE). Different types of devices can take temperature without exposure to bodily fluids. Further, the tester could have a face shield in case someone sneezes or coughs. Further information can be found at OSHA’s website, examining the guidance it provides for healthcare employees (which includes recommendations on gowns, gloves, approved N95 respirators, and eye/face protection).

An employee of ours has tested positive for COVID-19. What should we do?

The infected employee should be sent home until released by their medical provider or local health provider. You should send home all employees who worked closely with that employee to ensure the infection does not spread. Before the infected employee departs, ask them to identify all individuals who worked in close proximity (within six feet) for a prolonged period of time (10 minutes or more to 30 minutes or more) with them during the 48-hour period before the onset of symptoms to ensure you have a full list of those who should be sent home. When sending the employees home, do not identify by name the infected employee or you could risk a violation of confidentiality laws. If you work in a shared office building or area, you should inform building management so they can take whatever precautions they deem necessary. The CDC provides that the employees who worked closely to the infected worker should be instructed to proceed based on the CDC Public Health Recommendations for Community-Related Exposure. This includes staying home until 14 days after last exposure, maintaining social distance from others, and self-monitoring for symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath).

How long should the employees who worked near the employee stay at home? Those employees should first consult and follow the advice of their healthcare providers or public health department regarding the length of time to stay at home. The CDC recommends that those who have had close contact for a prolonged period of time with an infected person should remain at home for 14 days after last exposure. If they develop symptoms, they should remain home for at least seven days from the initial onset of the symptoms, three days without a fever (achieved without medication), and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath).

The CDC has released relaxed guidelines for critical infrastructure workers, as previously defined by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, who have been potentially exposed to COVID-19. Under the relaxed guidelines, critical infrastructure workers potentially exposed to COVID-19 may continue to work following exposure provided they remain symptom-free and employers implement additional precautions to protect the employee and the community.

For more information and legal resources please visit Fisher Phillips - Coronavirus Resource Page.


 


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