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We know that the spread of COVID-19 has brought a lot of fear to our communities and interrupted many sales channels and supply chains. The past year has been a time of rapid change, and we are here to support farms and other Local Hero businesses. Below are resources and information relevant to Massachusetts farms and food businesses, which we are updating regularly the situation changes.
Please note that CISA is not a public health agency — we won’t dispense our own recommendations about slowing or stopping the spread of COVID-19, though we can help answer your questions and refer you to guidance from regulators and public health experts. If you need support spreading the word about COVID-related changes you’ve made to your business, please get in touch with Devon, Stevie, or Zoey, or call the office at 413-665-7100.
Massachusetts standards and guidance
Press Release: Baker-Polito administration to lift COVID restrictions May 29th
The Governor’s announcement that all remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted effective May 29, the face covering order will be lifted, and a new face covering advisory will be issued consistent with the CDC’s guidance. (updated 5/17/21)
General business guidance and workplace safety requirements from Governor Baker
Information to guide businesses in reopening. Massachusetts is fully reopened at present, and all requirements have been lifted as of 5/29/21. (updated 6/1/21)
Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People from the CDC
Update that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance. (updated 5/13/21)
COVID-19 vaccination locations
People age 12 and older who live, work, or study in Massachusetts can get vaccinated against COVID-19. The vaccine is safe and effective. You don’t need an ID or insurance to get it. Please visit this page for more information in English and Spanish that you can share with your employees about how to access the vaccine.
COVID-19 testing access points for farm employees and others
COVID-19 testing is widely available in Massachusetts, with a large number of options for you and your employees to access testing free of cost, with or without insurance. See updated details on where to access testing here.
FSA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP)
The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) administers CFAP, which provides assistance to farmers to help offset impacts of the pandemic. Additional assistance may still be available to producers through CFAP in 2021, though details are evolving as the Biden administration evaluates next steps. Review the latest program details and updates at this link, and contact your local FSA office for more information on what current assistance may be available and details on how to apply. More information on the first two rounds of CFAP assistance in 2020 is available from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition here.
Economic Injury Disaster (EID) Loans
These low-interest working capital loans of up to $2 million are available to help small businesses meet their ordinary and necessary financial obligations through the disaster recovery period. EIDL funds can be used to cover a wide array of working capital and normal operating expenses, such as continuation to health care benefits, rent, utilities, and fixed debt payments. See more information here and click here to apply. Assistance in applying for EID funds is available through the Franklin County CDC, SCORE, and other local organizations.
Employee Retention Credits (ERC) – fully refundable tax credits
The ERC offers a “fully refundable” tax credit for eligible employers that equals 70% of qualified wages. Qualified wages include up to $10,000 per employee per quarter for each of the first two quarters of 2021, so the maximum credit an employer can receive per employee in 2021 is $14,000. Businesses are eligible to take this credit for any quarter in which they are impacted by forced closures or quarantines and have seen more than 20% drop in gross receipts in the quarter compared to the same quarter in 2019 OR during any quarter in which they are compelled to fully or partially suspend operations due to a government order. The credit is taken on the employer portion of social security taxes, but if the credit is greater than social security taxes owed, the remaining amount will be paid (aka “fully refunded”) to employers. Note that as of 2021, the ERC tax credit is available even to businesses that took a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), including first-round PPP borrowers who originally were ineligible to claim the tax credit; however, the credit can only be taken on wages that will not be forgiven under PPP. See this link for key additional details on this credit.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
Those who are self-employed (including farmers and other business owners) are eligible to claim unemployment under the federally funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. Owners can request partial or full unemployment compensation. See more information on this CISA tipsheet on COVID-related expansions to unemployment compensation, and you can apply for PUA here.
Support for improving food access in low-income areas: MA Food Trust Program
This program provides loans, grants, and business assistance for increasing access to healthy, affordable food in low-income, underserved areas. Grants typically are given to support businesses receiving loans through the Food Trust, though at present businesses that have not received a loan may also apply for a grant if they can demonstrate that it will significantly improve their ability to provide healthy food to low-income communities.
Support for restaurant and service workers: One Fair Wage support fund
This campaign is providing cash assistance to restaurant workers, delivery workers, and more who need emergency funds.
CISA tipsheet on grants and financing opportunities for farms
This page provides a comprehensive list of the grant and financing opportunities for farms that do not specifically relate to the pandemic. Many MDAR grants are currently open for applications – contact Stevie at CISA if you would like help understanding or applying for any of these grants.
CISA tipsheet on expanded employee leave benefits during the pandemic
This CISA tipsheet discusses laws on employee leave that apply to Massachusetts employers, including details on the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which temporarily provides employees with federally funded paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for COVID-19-related reasons during the period from April 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020. (last updated 4/13/20)
CISA tipsheet on expanded unemployment benefits during the pandemic
This CISA tipsheet discusses laws on unemployment insurance that apply to Massachusetts employers, including details on new state and federal regulations that expand access to unemployment compensation for employees who are laid off, have their hours reduced, or are unable to work due to COVID-19. Note that those who are self-employed (i.e. farm/business owners themselves) are also newly eligible to claim unemployment. (last updated 5/11/20)
Face mask requirements and the Americans with Disabilities Act
Helpful and thorough guide from the national Farmers’ Market Coalition on face mask requirements and how they intersect with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). How your market can comply, what you can and cannot do, how to deal with customers who refuse to wear masks, and more.
How to set up a hand washing station at a farmers’ market
How to set up a portable, relatively low-cost hand washing station. Please note, if your board of health is requiring your market to have a hand washing station, you should discuss with your local town government the possibility of them paying the fee for renting a portable hand washing station.
Resources from the Farmers’ Market Coalition
Market operators are developing communications, preparing contingency plans, and in some regions, beginning to modify operations and considering closures. This is a compilation of information and advice from farmers’ markets, state associations, health departments, and the Centers for Disease Control around the country. Note that much of the information is from other states and is not specific (or necessarily applicable) to Massachusetts.
Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting for produce farms – guidance from UVM
An excellent, practical guide to how to properly use products to clean, sanitize, and disinfect surfaces on farms to mitigate COVID-19 and food safety risks on farms.
Cornell Institute for Food Safety’s COVID-19 FAQs for the food industry
This page from the Cornell Institute for Food Safety includes answers to a wide range of FAQs related to farms and food businesses, including: whether COVID-19 can be transmitted through the food we produce, what to do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19, and much more.
FDA’s guidance on food safety and COVID-19
This page answers several frequently asked questions about food handling considerations related to COVID-19 spread.
CDC’s COVID-19 website
General information on COVID-19 symptoms, cases, and best practices for all audiences.
CDC’s frequently asked questions page
Up-to-date answers to questions about COVID-19, how it spreads, and how to protect yourself.
Food safety and the coronavirus: a comprehensive guide
This is a helpful article by chef and journalist J. Kenji Lopez-Alt that discusses fact-checked answers to common FAQs surrounding food safety and COVID-19. The author has regularly updated this article as new information becomes available.
MIRA Coalition’s resources on protecting families and communities
This page includes public health resources in multiple languages that can be shared with immigrant and refugee families; relevant information on immigration policy and enforcement; and information on vaccines as well as other resources.
This webpage is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture under award 2018-70027-28588, and by individual contributors and Local Hero members.