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We know that the spread of COVID-19 is bringing a lot of fear to our communities and interrupting sales during a vulnerable time of year. Things are changing rapidly, and we are here to support farms and other Local Hero businesses. The resources below are those we have found to be most useful for Massachusetts businesses; we will add to this page as we discover new information. 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 refer you to guidance from regulators and public health experts.
Local Hero farmers and business owners, we want to hear from you! How is this affecting you, your employees, your sales? What sort of support do you need? Are you making changes to your business that we can help promote? If your business has developed a new sales outlet, (including online ordering and new delivery sites), or has closed, please let us know as we are sharing that information with the public here. Please get in touch with Devon, Stevie, or Zoey, or call the office at 413-665-7100. Staff is working remotely but will receive phone messages.
CISA guide to implementing workplace safety standards on farms
All MA businesses are required to implement new mandatory workplace safety standards during the pandemic. Use this guide to help ensure that you are adhering to applicable standards and following best practices for workplace safety. If you would like to walk through this checklist with CISA staff and discuss specific considerations and decisions related to your farm’s workplace safety practices, please contact Stevie by email (preferred) or phone at (413) 665-7100, ext. 24. (last updated 6/5/20)
CISA tipsheet for farm stands and farm stores: best practices
A helpful guide that provides steps on how to implement the mandates and recommendations for farm stands and farm stores from the MA DPH and MDAR. Use this checklist to go through and implement the items that are required of you and are best for your farm’s customer and staff safety. If you would like to walk through specific design and implementation for your farm stand or farm store, please reach out to Stevie by email or phone at 413-665-7100, ext. 24. (last updated 5/19/20)
Massachusetts standards and guidance
Farm labor management guidance for fruit and vegetable growers from MDAR
This guidance outlines requirements and best practices to maintain the health and safety of farm employees and reduce the impact of COVID-19 related illnesses on MA farms. The updated guidance includes new 2021 requirements for farms that provide housing to employees, such as completing this checklist to attest that the farm is taking proper precautions to protect their employees from COVID-19 (updated 3/11/21).
General business guidance and workplace safety requirements from Governor Baker
Information to help businesses meet the self-certification requirement to reopen or continue operation after May 25, 2020. All businesses must meet these requirements to operate in MA. (issued 5/18/20)
Retail businesses: safety standards and checklist
This webpage provides mandatory safety standards and recommended best practices for retailers that are in effect as of phase 3, step 1 of the MA reopening plan. They apply to all retailers except farmers’ markets and supersede earlier guidance issued by the Department of Public Health for grocery stores. (updated 7/10/20)
Restaurants: safety standards and checklist
This webpage provides mandatory safety standards and recommended best practices for restaurants that are in effect as of phase 3, step 1 of the MA reopening plan. They apply to all establishment that provide seated food service that is prepared on-site and under a retail food permit issued by a municipality. (updated 7/6/20)
Indoor and outdoor events: safety standards and checklist
This webpage provides establishes minimum safety standards in effect as of phase 3, step 1 of the MA reopening plan. They apply to any indoor or outdoor event that is not specifically addressed by other sector-specific COVID-19 safety standards. Note that some farm events would be covered by these standards (updated 7/6/20)
Businesses providing outdoor recreational experiences and educational activities
These workplace safety and reopening standards apply to businesses providing outdoor recreational experiences and educational activities during phase 3, step 1 of the MA reopening plan. Such businesses may operate, provided, that they implement the safety measures outlined in these guidelines. Many agritourism activities would be covered by these standards. (updated 7/3/20)
Livestock guidance from MDAR
This memo from MDAR indicates that there is currently no evidence that domestic animals can get or transmit COVID-19. (issued 3/23/20)
Nursery, greenhouse, garden center, and ag supply store guidance from MA DPH
MA nurseries, greenhouses, garden centers, and agriculture supply stores that sell food or food producing plants for human consumption are currently allowed to continue to operate brick and mortar premises, as long as they comply with the guidelines outlined in this document. Note that those operations that sells solely plants that do not produce food for human consumption shall remain closed. (issued 4/4/20)
PYO and agritourism guidance from MDAR
This guidance from MDAR for discusses steps for opening PYO operations in compliance with CDC guidelines for protecting consumer and worker safety. Note that other agritourism activities are not currently considered essential activities that are permitted on farms. (updated 7/20/20)
COVID-19 signage for use at farms and farmers’ markets from MDAR
MDAR has produced this series of signs for farmers and market managers to download and print for use at their farm businesses. Signs are also available in Spanish here. If you need help developing any other COVID-19 signs for use at your farm, please contact Kristen.
Guidance for agricultural workers and employers from the CDC
Interim guidance put out by the CDC and the Department of letter regarding measures those on farms can take help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
General guidance for businesses and workplaces from the CDC
Guidance for businesses regarding employee management, cleaning, worker safety, and more.
Selling online – farmer’s guide to direct sales software platforms
This page from the National Young Farmers Coalition lists online direct sales platforms, along with key features and pricing information.
Sources of PPE and hygienic supplies
CISA is updating this Google doc with the places one can find PPE, disinfectants, and hand sanitizer. We recommend ordering supplies ASAP, as it can take several weeks for materials to be delivered.
Strategy checklist for food facilities from the Cornell Institute for Food Safety
This document from Cornell’s Institute for Food Safety outlines a draft checklist on COVID-19 risk management strategy implementation for food companies. This is a guide only and any given business is strongly encouraged to modify this to fit their situation and circumstances.
Wearing masks and face coverings: guidance from MA DPH and from the FDA
It is currently mandatory for all employees and customers at MA businesses to wear face coverings. MA DPH guidance provides information proper usage as well as a list of helpful FAQs. FDA guidance provides information on wearing respirators, disposable face masks, and cloth face coverings by workers in the food and agricultural sector.
CDC Signage for customers and employees
Signs with versions in multiple languages (Spanish, English, Farsi, Portuguese, and more) that show the symptoms of COVID-19, how to wear and remove a face mask, stop the spread of germs, guidance for those living with large families, and more. The CDC also has posters on hand washing, again in multiple languages, geared towards children, teens, and adults.
Farm and food workers are now eligible to get COVID vaccinations
As of March 22nd, farm and food workers are eligible to schedule vaccine appointments. Appointments are still in short supply — 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 access is improving in Massachusetts, and there are an increasing 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.
COVID-19 testing guidance for food and agriculture essential workers from MDAR
This guidance document outlines testing availability for food and agricultural workers in the Commonwealth, and steps to take in the event workers are sick or exposed to COVID-19. (issued 6/4/20)
Amherst and Regional Small Business COVID Recovery Grant Programs
The Valley CDC is administering two COVID Recovery Grant Programs – one for Amherst businesses and the other for businesses around the region in Agawam, Easthampton, Granby, Hadley, Hatfield, South Hadley, Southampton, Southwick, and Westhampton. The program offers grants of up to $10,000 to businesses that have five or fewer employees (including the owner), that were operating prior to January 1, 2019, that can show records that support a loss of income due to Covid-19, and whose owners have a total combined family income that is at or below 80% of the Area Median Income. Grant funds can pay for or reimburse working capital expenses, business advising expenses, and a wide range of costs incurred to adapt to the pandemic. The online application portal is opened November 2, apply now!
COVID-19 Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program
The deadline for applying to this state program has now passed. Grants that have been awarded can be seen here. The program received a large number of applications and grant review may take a few weeks. If you have submitted an application, you can expect to hear from the state if you are awarded a grant AND if you are not awarded a grant. If you are awarded a grant, you cannot spend the money until the grant contract has been signed. The grants are reimbursable. If you need bridge financing to pay upfront costs before reimbursement, the Pioneer Valley Grows Investment Fund or the Massachusetts Food Trust may be able to help; contact Rebecca Busansky. This grant does not reimburse sales tax on purchases. However, if you are a commercial farm, you are already exempt from sales tax for many farm-related purchases. More on that here from NOFA. Contact Stevie at CISA if you have any questions or need help after receiving a grant.
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.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
Applications to round two of the PPP program are now being accepted until May 31, 2021 – both from businesses that have not yet received a PPP loan (“first-draw” borrowers) and from those that have (“second-draw” borrowers). Key updates to the program include that many farms are now eligible for significantly larger loans than before (based on gross instead of net income); expenses paid with PPP funds are now tax deductible; and borrowers with loans of $150,000 or less can now obtain loan forgiveness using a highly simplified application. To get an initial loan, businesses must self-certify that current economic uncertainty makes the loan request necessary to support their continuing operations. Businesses can qualify for a second loan if they had a 25% decrease in revenue in 2020 compared with 2019 (overall, or in any quarter of 2020 compared to the corresponding quarter from 2019). PPP loans can be fully forgiven if employee numbers and compensation levels are maintained, at least 60% of the loan is spent on payroll, and the remainder of the loan is spent on other eligible expenses. Find more information on the program at this link, and here is a detailed guide to the PPP for farmers.
Relief provisions of the CARES Act
The federal CARES Act contains many provisions that impact local businesses. Three of the most significant provisions impacting farms and other local businesses are described above – the Economic Injury Disaster Loans, Employee Retention Credits, and Paycheck Protection Program. However, there are a range of other CARES Act provisions that also may provide some economic relief to local farms and other businesses. This page describes several other key CARES Act provisions, and will be updated as we get additional information.
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 current public health crisis. 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. (updated regularly)
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 new 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)
Guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19 from OSHA
These recommendations from OSHA are advisory in nature (they don’t create any new legal obligations) and they may provide helpful guidance to assist you in providing a safe and healthful workplace.
Guidance related to COVID-19 confirmed positive or exposed workers from the FDA
This guidance, based on CDC recommendations, outlines key steps that employers and workers can take to help stay open, prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19, and support continuity of essential operations if workers are diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19, or show symptoms associated with COVID-19.
Guidance related to essential workers exposed to COVID-19 from the CDC
In this guidance, CDC advises that essential workers (such as many farm and food workers) may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community. This guidance details recommended safety measures for employers to implement in these cases.
H-2A workers: U.S. Department of Labor’s FAQ page on housing alternatives
The second question on this FAQ page discusses options for using temporary alternative housing for H-2A workers (i.e. housing that was not initially disclosed in the H-2A job order) to promote social distancing and slow the spread of the virus within the community or during a quarantine period. (issued 4/9/20)
H-2A workers: USDA’s page with updates on H-2A Visas
The USDA is sharing the latest updates and resources related to COVID-19 and the H-2A Visa Program here. This page includes information on embassy status in Jamaica and other H-2A sending countries, as well as links to information about workers in the U.S. on soon-to-expire H-2A contracts (who may be available for hire). We are being told that H-2A workers scheduled to arrive this spring in our region will likely be arriving one to three weeks later than expected due to embassy closures.
Letter to certify farm vehicles and suppliers as essential travelers
This letter template from MDAR can be used (and modified as needed) to certify that vehicles transporting food and agricultural supplies are designated as critical infrastructure, and/or that employees are traveling to perform essential services. Note, however, that as of 3/25/20, state and local police departments have not been directed to do any traffic stops to limit non-essential travel, nor are letters such as these being required from employers.
CISA COVID-19 Protocols and Sanitation Plan for Farmers’ Markets
Use this guide to submit to your local board of health as your market’s health and COVID-19 safety plan. This health plan incorporates all the requirements as stipulated the latest order from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for Farmers’ Markets, Farm Stands, and CSAs. As of February 23, 2021, the latest state guidelines are as of September 17, 2020. This health plan can be customized to fit your market’s needs; reach out to Zoey to do so. Please note that masks still must be worn by all market managers, staff, vendors and customers (with the exception of if someone has a medical condition or disability), regardless of vaccination status. (last updated February 23, 2021).
Farmers’ market guidance from MDAR
List of MDAR’s orders, recommendations of best practices, and other notices for farmers’ markets.
Order of the Commissioner of Public Health for Farmers Markets, Farm Stands and CSAs
The latest order from the Massachusetts Department of Health with requirements and recommendations for farmers’ markets, published September 17. While it doesn’t explicitly deliniate winter farmers’ markets, at this point in time (November 19, 2020) it is the latest guidance we have for farmers’ markets.
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.
Guidance for market managers from Mass Farmers Markets
Guidance on handling tokens, asserting welcoming values, policies for vendors, displays, and more. (last updated 4/7/20)
Cleaning and disinfecting – guidance from the CDC
CDC’s guidance on how to clean & disinfect various surfaces for coronavirus. Provides good bleach dilution recommendations.
Cleaning and sanitizing for fruit and vegetable growers – guidance from MDAR
Discusses the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting, and what products to use. (issued 4/17/20)
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.
COVID-19 FAQs for the consumer
This page from the Cornell Institute for Food Safety includes answers to a wide range of FAQs your customers may have related to food safety in the age of COVID-19, such as: how fresh produce should be be washed, whether different types of food pose more or less risk, whether extra precautions should be taken during home food preparation, and more.
Food safety and the coronavirus: a comprehensive guide
This is a helpful video by chef and journalist Kenji Lopez-Alt that discusses fact-checked answers to common FAQs surrounding food safety and COVID-19. See also this accompanying article, which includes a thorough list of FAQs that the author plans to update as new information becomes available.
Commonwealth Kitchen’s Guide to running a food business in the face of COVID-19
Compilation of resources available for HR, financial, and other aspects of your business that are impacted by COVID-19. Being continuously updated by the Commonwealth Kitchen.
MA Food System Collaborative’s list of resources
A frequently updated resource list from the MA Food System Collaborative that includes guidance and recommendations for farmers, market managers, and business owners, as well as information on local and national policy/advocacy efforts.
MDAR’s list of COVID-19 resources for agriculture
MDAR has compiled a list of guidance and resources to keep our agricultural community informed and aware of relevant policies and best practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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 other valuable resources, including details on key programs that sick or displaced workers may need.
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project’s resources for farm and food businesses
This Google doc has a compilation of resources related to the novel coronavirus, including general resources about the evolving health crisis, a list of online ordering platforms, and more.
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.