Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
“This crisis shows how deeply we depend on one another to act for a greater common good. While social distancing may be necessary at this time, it is also increasingly necessary for us to come together to work through this crisis. While some will try to use this time to demagogue and sow distrust and fear, we need to overcome that by creating real community and trust and listening to experts and science.
In this frightening, uncertain moment, we must take care of ourselves and our beloved communities—so we are able to keep up the fight for the places and people we care about most deeply.” – The Sierra Club
Stay At Home Order Announced For Lancaster County | As of March 27, 2020
According to the governor’s office, people may leave their homes only to perform any of the following activities:
- Tasks essential to maintain health and safety, or the health and safety of their family or household members (including pets), such as obtaining medicine or medical supplies, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies they need to work from home
- Getting necessary services or supplies for themselves, for their family or household members, or as part of volunteer efforts, or to deliver those services or supplies to others to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences
- Engaging in outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking or running if they maintain social distancing
- To perform work providing essential products and services at a life-sustaining business
- To care for a family member or pet in another household
- Any travel related to the provision of or access to the above-mentioned individual activities or life-sustaining business activities
- Travel to care for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons
- Travel to or from educational institutions for purposes of receiving materials for distance learning, for receiving meals, and any other related services
- Travel to return to a place of residence from an outside jurisdiction
- Travel required by law enforcement or court order.
- Travel required for non-residents to return to their place of residence outside the commonwealth
The following operations are exempt:
- Life-sustaining business activities
- Health care or medical services providers
- Access to life-sustaining services for low-income residents, including food banks
- Access to child care services for employees of life-sustaining businesses that remain open as follows: child care facilities operating under the Department of Human Services, Office of Child Development and Early Learning waiver process; group and family child care operating in a residence; and part-day school age programs operating under an exemption from the March 19, 2020 business closure Orders.
- News media
- Law enforcement
- The federal government
- Religious institutions
For more information…please visit:
How is a Stay at Home order different than previous mitigation efforts?
Previously our focus was placed on institutions (education, businesses, etc.). People were encouraged to stay at home and non-life-sustaining businesses and schools were ordered to close.
While those focuses continue, this effort focuses on individuals. We want to ensure that the maximum number of people self-isolate in their homes to the maximum extent feasible, while enabling life-sustaining services to continue.
What does this order mean for life-sustaining businesses?
Life-sustaining business activities must abide by this order, but they are permitted to maintain physical operations in support of providing life-sustaining goods and services, while abiding by social distancing and other mitigation measures to ensure employee health and safety.
How does this order affect the order to close non-life-sustaining businesses?
The Stay at Home order builds on our previous efforts. For now, it is targeted to specific counties where community spread is assumed. The governor’s and Secretary of Health’s existing orders regarding business closures remain in full effect.
Mark Pontz with LoanDepot | As of March 25, 2020
As the current “at home” situation continues, we find that the mortgage process is becoming more flexible. We are, in any possible circumstance, allowing for “drive-by” appraisals. This allows the appraiser to remain safe as well as keeping the homeowner from the concern of having a new person in their home. This is mostly applicable to refinances. For purchase loans, we are in all possible scenarios trying for an appraisal waiver. This allows for an algorithm to review the value of the property, based on surrounding recent sales. This works best for purchase mortgages that have a 20% or larger down payment.
Rates have been extremely fluid as the stock market is on a true roller coaster of ups and downs. Rates have not yet reached the incredible lows of March 9-10, but they are close. All of the prognosticators in the mortgage industry are predicting the low rate environment to remain in place for the near future, and possibly even drop a bit further. Demand will be the true arbiter of rates, as the “at home” situation begins to lift.
I do predict a brisk home sales market after the crisis has abated. Much like the fall of 2001 when people were spending more time at home, and realizing that they would larger / different space. Once “allowed out,” I believe that many will look to change / upgrade their current living space
- Underwriting/Processing – Continues apace, with all of our team members working remotely. Response times may be just a bit slower, but not of a notable delay.
- Closings – There is a “new normal” for now. Agencies are limiting the number of people “in the room.” We are using our Hybrid E-close in most circumstances, which cuts the closing time needed down to 15-20 minutes. We have our first “drive through” closing tomorrow – where the client will remain in their car to sign. Title agent was very receptive to this. It is really all about your comfort level, just let us know what yours is.
Dave Mersky with Mersky Law Group | As of March 24, 2020
The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts and the PA Governor’s Office of Counsel have agreed that law offices may perform certain functions from their brick-and-mortar offices. The nature of life-sustaining businesses under the Governor’s Orders, moreover, is consistent with guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure issued by the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency advisory.
The US Department of Homeland Security’s website and a Memorandum issued by the United States Department of Treasury refer to ‘workers who are needed to process and maintain systems for processing financial transactions and services, such as payment, clearing and settlement services, wholesale funding, insurance services, and capital markets activities; to provide consumer access to banking and lending services… support financial operations… and, key third party providers who deliver core services
Rich Weeber with First American Abstract of PA | As of March 21, 2020
As COVID-19 continues to rapidly spread across the US, we have had to dramatically change the manner in which we interact with our clients. For the protection of our staff and our clients, we have developed a drive-up method of closing. Our clients sign all settlement documents in their car while at our building. While this is extreme, we view this a necessary intervention to keep both our staff and our clients safe. It is also fair to say that we look forward to resuming face to face closings as soon as this virus has subsided.
Update Regarding COVID-19 from RE/MAX SmartHub Realty | As of March 20, 2020
The past several weeks have certainly been challenging for all of us. As developments continue relating to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), please rest assured that RE/MAX SmartHub Realty remains committed to meeting your real estate needs.
As of March 19th, RE/MAX SmartHub Realty has been operating under a work-from-home strategy. The Pennsylvania Governor’s decision to close all non-life-saving facilities as of midnight tonight (3/20/2020) will not impact our remote availability to our clients. That decision will, however, make in-person operations more challenging
Can a Realtor show me homes in Pennsylvania?
On March 19, 2020, PA Governor Tom Wolf issued an order requiring all non-life-sustaining businesses to close their physical locations. Subsequently, the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors determined that real estate activities conducted in person (including showing properties, hosting open houses and face-to-face client meetings) are prohibited under the Governor’s Order. However, RE/MAX SmartHub Realty has established a protocol to work with listing agents and sellers to use video technology to facilitate virtual showings that are in compliance with Governor Wolf’s Order. We are committed to employing this technology wherever feasible.
Can a Leasing company show me an apartment or rental?
Governor Tom Wolf’s order requiring all non-life-sustaining businesses to close their physical locations also prohibits PA licensed agents from showing apartments and other rental properties to prospective tenants. However, we are working with property owners to use video technology to facilitate virtual showings where feasible. This can be especially challenging for properties that are currently tenant-occupied, but we will work to provide this service whenever possible.
Can I still get qualified for a mortgage even if my employer is shut down due to the Governor’s Order?
Yes; Mortgage lenders and other financial services companies are considered “life-sustaining businesses” under Governor Tom Wolf’s Order. Many lenders and other financial services professionals are working remotely, but the entire mortgage prequalification and application process can be completed electronically and over the phone. Lenders generally do not need to contact your employer during the prequalification and application process–recent paystubs and/or W2 forms are usually sufficient. Shortly prior to closing, the lender will need to verify your employment, but this is typically done by phone or electronically as well.
How long will it take to get to closing and for me to be able to move in?
The amount of time necessary to get to closing depends on many factors, but under normal conditions, for transactions with a traditional mortgage, it can take from 30-60 days, depending on the type of mortgage product (Conventional loans typically require about 30 days, while FHA, VA, and USDA Rural Housing loans often require 45-60 days; cash transactions often take less than 30 days). During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, these timeframes will likely need to be extended, due to the unpredictable availability of services like walk-throughs, inspections, title work, and appraisals. The COVID-19 Addendum created by the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors is intended to facilitate such extensions easily. Buyers must generally wait until settlement (i.e., closing) has taken place before being able to move into their new home. In some circumstances, it may be possible to negotiate pre-settlement possession of the property, but this is rare and comes with risks. Your Buyer’s Agent can advise you regarding your unique situation.
Can I make an offer on a home that I’ve seen online?
Yes. In Pennsylvania, there are no regulations preventing a buyer from making an offer on a home they have not seen in person. However, we strongly recommend making any offer contingent on an inspection by an independent, certified home inspector, as well as a satisfactory walk-through of the property by the buyer. Because the dynamic nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has made the availability of services unpredictable, deadlines for completing tasks such as walk-throughs, inspections, appraisals, and title work may need to be extended. To address this issue, the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors has created a COVID-19 Addendum that may be used to protect all parties’ interests with respect to deadline extensions for necessary transaction-related events. We are familiar with this addendum and are incorporating it into all Agreements of Sale during the novel coronavirus pandemic in order to protect our clients’ interests.
How can I find out who services my loan?
Visit the Making Home Affordable website for links to instantly find out if Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae service your loan. https://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/get-answers/Pages/get-answers-find-out-mortgage.aspx
What if my loan is not backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac? If your loan is not backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, call your mortgage service provider or lender. Their contact information should be on your most recent mortgage statement. Lenders from all sectors, residential and commercial, are currently providing various forms of forbearance.
What is mortgage forbearance?
A mortgage forbearance agreement is an agreement made between a mortgage lender and a borrower in which the lender agrees not to foreclose, and the borrower agrees to a mortgage plan that differs from the original repayment plan. Forms of forbearance range from a temporary halt in mortgage payments (ex. no payments for 90 days) to loan modifications (ex. interest-only loans, lower interest rates, etc).
What does mortgage forbearance look like?
The steps for applying for mortgage forbearance vary by lender. Borrowers should contact their lenders for specific information. You need to sign paperwork with your lender before you are allowed to stop paying your mortgage. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and most lenders are expediting the process and requiring minimal paperwork.
Does mortgage forbearance impact my credit?
Mortgage forbearance usually has little to no impact on your credit.
“Generally, forbearance is not likely to have any impact on the credit score,” says Ethan Dornhelm, a FICO senior director of model development. According to the National Association of REALTORS, lenders may (or may not) report to credit companies the existence of a mortgage forbearance, but it definitely does not wreck your credit like being delinquent on a mortgage.
While The Jeremy Ganse Team and RE/MAX SmartHub Realty cannot commit to mortgage forbearance not impacting your credit, it is our opinion that in the face of COVID-19, it is unlikely that mortgage forbearance will impact your credit, as under normal circumstances it usually has no impact.
Help Available via Landlords
Landlords can take advantage of mortgage forbearance programs that are available to them and pass along relief to their tenants. We encourage landlords to check in with their tenants to see how they are doing and to take advantage of mortgage forbearance programs when needing to reduce their tenant’s rent.
Where do renters fit in?
Renters aren’t directly covered though the Federal Housing Financial Agency (FHFA) plans, although FHFA is offering mortgage relief to the owners of apartment buildings who are struggling when their tenants can’t afford to pay their rent.
At the State Level, Pennsylvania Residents cannot be displaced or forced to leave by an officer or judicial official “at any level” until at least April 3. The decision was included in a broader order imposing statewide restrictions on court systems, including closing courts to the public and the suspension of all jury trials.
“The Court is aware that the economic consequences of the covid-19 pandemic may cause individuals to suffer a loss of income, which in turn may delay rent payments, mortgage loan payments or the like,” states a portion of the emergency order made public shortly after 6 p.m on March 18, 2020.
Jeremy M. Allen, CPA, MST, Principal - The Walz Group | CARES Act 2020 | As of March 28, 2020
Yesterday the House approved the CARES Act of 2020 and it was quickly signed into law by the President.
As we have communicated over the past several days, more details will begin to come out on how these various provisions in the legislation will be administered.
The banks and lending institutions will begin to learn and develop systems for applications on the various loans, layout the required documentation requirements and understand how best to assist businesses looking to get funding through the numerous programs provided.
As a business owner or professional, you should be considering your next move and what funding you need. You should be looking at what this means to your workforce and the best way to keep them paid, sustain the business and how to be positioned when this all passes.
This is a difficult time however, I am confident that everyone will find a way forward. I am convinced that the days ahead will be better and more fruitful than the current times we are experiencing.
Please know myself and all the professionals at Walz Group are here to help you in any way possible. We have been learning and communicating various aspects of this legislation since it first passed the Senate on Wednesday. We will continue to provide information and advice in the next few days as more information becomes available.
Please let me know how I can help. Please reach out and let me know if there is anything Walz can do to assist you. We will be prepared to assist on loan calculation projections, loan application support and many other things as more is known and details emerge on how exactly the legislation will be carried out.
Jeremy M. Allen, CPA, MST, Principal - The Walz Group | CARES Act 2020 | As of March 27, 2020
I want to get something in your hands regarding the loan and tax provisions in the proposed law. The House is currently taking up the Senate version today. There are lots of goodies in here all of which I am prepared to address.
The Net Operating Loss provisions, the payroll tax rebate and delay in depositing are all possible planning opportunities for enhancing cash flows The rules on qualified leasehold improvements retroactive to 2018 will be help commercial landlords.
Yesterday I encouraged you to talk to your banker about the loan provisions of the Care Act. The banks are getting information in real time but the legislation hasn’t even passed yet. The most enticing part of the proposed lending package is that there are fewer requirements and part of the loan used to pay payroll may be turned into a grant. My suggestion to talk with your banker was meant to start a preemptive conversation. My preliminary understanding is that Care loans will only be available through the banks and not directly thru the SBA.
However, please note, the banks are not fully up to speed on application, timing, funding and other requirements at this time. They are waiting on information.
Click Here to find a briefing for Wolters Kluwer, our tax research affiliate with various tax provision details in the new law.
In addition, below is a link to an article we found that has the best summary of the various LOAN details, timing, calculations and other specifics of the new act.. This is an easy read but I caution you. It is A LOT.
I desire to get this information to you as quickly as possible. Please note, NOTHING is final as the House is still working through approval.
It is my understanding that current businesses, still operating and able to make payroll are still eligible for this loan. The amount of the loan that is forgiven is tied to employee retention and not to profit or cash need. Again, this is our current understanding and is not final.
I know it’s confusing because the Cares Act loan provisions are going to be different than the SBA loans rolled out last week.
Jeremy M. Allen, CPA, MST, Principal - The Walz Group | CARES Act - One Priority Today | As of March 26, 2020
The proposed Cares Act which Congress has not yet fully approved could be a critical source of funds.
We don’t have all of the details (final bill still pending) but the proposed loans can be fully or partially forgiven based on payroll and full time equivalent employee count. At WORST, any amount not forgiven can termed out over 10 years.
Priority for today: Please contact your banker to get in line for assistance. Download: SBA Disaster Assistance Resources for Businesses
The loans will most likely be given out by any SBA approved lender. We don’t know if they are going to use the same application as SBA is using for the loans which became available last week or not (see attached). I did notice this morning that you can now download these application forms and prepare offline instead of having to do it online which was extremely slow.
Begin the process of gathering the documents you will likely need for the application: (If Applicable)
- 2019 Financial Statements
- 2019 Federal Tax Return
- 2020 Internal Financials / Profit & Loss
- 2020 Projection – 3 month expenses
If your tax return is not completed now is the time to get it finalized. If you are not sure how to make a projection, contact us so we can assist you with the process.
As always feel free to contact us for any information we can help with in preparing the application.
There will be more to come in the near future on payroll tax deferrals, net operating loss carrybacks, the change in the leasehold improvement rules and many other tax provisions in the law but right now getting in line for the loans is probably the most important task.
Jeremy M. Allen, CPA, MST, Principal - The Walz Group | As of March 25, 2020
All businesses are adjusting on the fly and making tough employee, HR and business operations decisions. Decisions that most business owners often feared they would need to make at some time. However, these decisions were not close to many business leaders minds 2 weeks ago as the US economy continued to run smoothly.
Issues facing many owners – what do I do with my employees? Do I lay off all employees and send them to unemployment? Unemployment benefits have been eased and are available immediately. That is a benefit. However, the maximum benefit via unemployment compensation is $573 a week. That is often below what employees were earning.
Do I give my employees the option of taking PTO for a period of time, maybe two weeks, to keep paying them and then see where the things stand in early April?
Do I have enough cash to continue to pay bills, pay employees, and keep the business afloat so that my employees have a job to come back to when we get to the other side and the virus is contained?
Congress has provided increased FMLA and emergency sick time payments that are eligible for my employees. In order to qualify for these benefits they need to remain employed. Does the business have significant cash or access to funding to make these payments?
If a business owner makes these payments for FMLA and emergency sick time pay, there are now tax credits available to help offset those payments. However, the bulk of the cash flow for wages and taxes will go out now and the tax credit relief will not be seen until weeks later or even possibly into mid-July when Q2 payroll reports are due and the credits can be claimed.
These are just a few of the questions that are being asked. Some of the hardest hit industries include restaurants (with no carry out / delivery option), the live event and entertainment industry, real estate, and construction. This is not an all-inclusive list because the reality is that all businesses are impacted.
There are ideas on relief that are being talked about and may be coming. Loan programs through the EDC and SBA that will continue to provide low interest funding to keep operations going. However, there are questions on as to application process, approval and funding timelines. Not to mention the idea that most of these loans will need to be paid back at some point.
Congress has floated the idea of loans for payroll that will be forgiven as long as it is paid to keep people employed during the economic slowdown.
These truly are unprecedented times. Businesses are faced with many difficult decisions. Business owners should lean on their advisors for up to date and accurate information. There is a lot of mis-information floating around. A Business owner should reach out to their trusted advisors and seek input on funding options, tax credits and other business advice. CPAs and other business advisors are here to assist.
Mike Simpson, Stone Independent | FAQs About COVID-19 Answered by a School Leader
In mid-March 2020, Governor Wolf announced the closure of all PA schools due to the growing concern surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) breakout. The Department of Education has been doing their part to help support and facilitate home-schooling, but right now, we’ve encountered more questions than there are answers.
To get an insider’s take on the new norm for our students, we connected with Mike Simpson, Head of School at The Stone Independent School, to help us answer a few frequently asked questions we’ve been hearing from both parents and students. Located in Downtown Lancaster on New Holland Ave, The Stone Independent School, or Stone for short, is a private high school committed to inspiring work that matters by connecting education to the real world. Believing in their students and developing their ability to choose are just two of their six primary guiding principles—each designed to help a student learn who they are and whom they will become.
Read the complete blog here or see below for his answers to specific questions.
Will my child advance a grade year next Fall or be required to retake the year?
The short answer is: if your student wasn’t in danger of repeating the year before the recent shutdown, it’s highly unlikely that they might have to now. While most schools in Pennsylvania are governed by Act 80—that’s the 180 Day Rule—Governor Wolf made it clear when he first closed the Pennsylvania Public School system that he intended to waive Act 80 and provide schools with much-needed flexibility. In passing Senate Bill 751, Harrisburg made it official that, regardless of what happens next, no Pennsylvania school would be in a position where they would be obligated to extend the school year past June 30th (that’s the end of the fiscal year and an important deadline for many schools).
Senate Bill 751 also requires that school districts develop a plan to offer remote learning for all k-12 students—that means, despite the 180 Day Rule waiver, your student has not necessarily “completed” their school year. The Department of Education has requested all districts to post on their website their expectations for “online” learning. My advice is to check your school’s website and communicate with your district early and often!
My school is providing limited to no virtual learning options. What should I do?
It’s important to remember just how complex a proposition it is to move a school to a “virtual” learning model. It’s also important to remember that the larger the school, the greater the complexity. While we live in an internet-saturated world, not all students have access to internet-ready devices or have internet service at home. Some students may not even live in a municipality that is serviced by ISP’s. To pivot to “virtual,” schools need to support their entire community, they need a dynamic cloud-based Learning Management System (like Schoology, Canvas, or—here at Stone—Google Classroom), they need hardware infrastructure and a tech support team. Most importantly, they need the pedagogy to make it work. Pivoting to virtual doesn’t (and shouldn’t) mean packing a Zoom meeting with students and teachers—it’s about incentivizing deep and rich learning in a brand new ecosystem, and that pivot takes time. This pivot demands that teachers across all schools almost immediately drop all of their planning, tools, technique, etc. and become entirely different teachers. It certainly isn’t impossible, but it’s a challenge with a steep learning curve.
That being said, the vast majority of schools in Pennsylvania either are or are about to roll out virtual learning plans. If you are looking to supplement those plans, you’re in luck! We live in an era where a near-infinite number of great (and free!) online learning opportunities already exist. Here at Stone, we lean heavily on the experts at Global Online Academy—GOA runs classes for students as well as for teachers and is deeply committed to designing best practices for rich online learning experiences. I’d also encourage families to look at Khan Academy and the Khan Academy Lab School, and when in doubt, explore YouTube. As it turns out, YouTube is about as good a resource as is imaginable for learning how to do just about anything!
I’m not a teacher. How do I maintain sanity in my home and make sure my child doesn’t fall behind?
My number one piece of advice for anyone teaching-from-home? Cut yourself a lot of slack! You probably aren’t a trained teacher, teaching is incredibly challenging even in the best of times, and most teachers I know feel the same way you do when they try to teach their own kids: it’s hard! So, forgive yourself, and remember: what’s hard for you is also hard for everyone else too (despite what all of your friends are posting on social media!). And remember too: we are living through unprecedented times. It’s probably the case that taking care of each other, expressing love for one another, and spending “good” time with each other is more important than, say, writing a book report on The Great Gatsby. As Jennie Weiner, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at the Neag School of Education, recently wrote in the New York Times, “My kids are watching TV, playing video games and eating cookies. It’s fine.”
A different question might be something like, “What kinds of habits do I want to instill in my children while we are all living together for this extended time?” We all want our students to be curious, to love to learn, to solve problems, and to be healthy. At Stone, we talk a lot about putting “make-sense” boundaries in place at home.
A few boundaries we recommend include: be online exactly as much as is necessary and absolutely no more than that. Turn off screens 30 minutes before students go to sleep. Maintain normal and healthy sleep habits (most adolescents need between 8-10 hours of sleep). Count your steps, drink a lot of water and eat nutritionally. We also ask that, if necessary, our families “turn off” the internet at night to incentivize healthy habits.
What we’ve found after a few weeks of Learning-From-Home is that working on those habits while at home—remembering that this isn’t a “vacation,” it’s a shift in learning—has helped our students feel more connected to themselves and has helped them be more present and engaged in their teaching and learning practices.
Should I transfer my child’s enrollment to a PA Cyber School for the rest of the school year?
I wouldn’t advise transferring anywhere just for the sake of the remaining 50-60 days of the 2019-2020 school year. Transferring school has inherent challenges (especially when it comes to matching up credit hours), doing it twice in 60 days may have unintended consequences, and most learners can find interesting ways to learn and stay engaged until the end of May.
However, I encourage all learners everywhere to seek “fit.” When we reconvene schools, next Fall, I suspect there will be significant questions to ask about what school “should be” in the future. All the tenets of “traditional school,” (Standardized testing, traditional assessment models, AP and IB courses) have fallen by the wayside in this “new normal.” Across the country, schools are seeing the impact of distance learning on traditional learning paradigms. It is forcing schools to explore inquiry-based models, pass-fail and competency-based assessments, and context-based pedagogies for this time of real uncertainty. In fact, Forbes.com just published a great piece, “The Hard Reset,” that basically argues “school” will necessarily have to become more project-based, more competency-based, and more future-ready.
As the Head of School of a project-based, competency-based institution, I couldn’t be happier to hear this news!
Karen Hurley, Roots Beer Distributor | Why is Roots Beer Distributor an Essential Business?
To give you a glimpse into the day-to-day for a local, essential business operating during the Coronavirus crisis, we interviewed Karen Hurley, president of Roots Beer Distributor, located in Mount Joy. Check out her response in our blog: Why is Roots Beer Distributor an Essential Business?