Texas Chapter ISA COVID-19 Updates

US Center for Disease Control Website
Texas Department of Health Services Website

April 1, 2020

Our nation, state and all of us in our communities face serious challenges from this global pandemic. ISAT is open for business and will keep on working hard to bring you the latest tree related information. Here are the latest Texas tree care related updates:

Tree Workers are Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers:

The ADVISORY MEMORANDUM ON IDENTIFICATION OF ESSENTIAL CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE WORKERS DURING COVID-19 RESPONSE (Link) from the U.S.Department of Homeland Security (March 28, 2020) states: …PUBLIC WORKS AND INFRASTRUCTURE SUPPORT SERVICES – Workers such as plumbers, electricians, exterminators, builders, contractors, HVAC Technicians, landscapers, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, businesses and buildings such as hospitals, senior living facilities, any temporary construction required to support COVID-19 response…

The federal Homeland Security Memorandum above is just for guidance and not mandatory. Can your business operate under a ‘Shelter in Place’ type Executive Order in your service area? Gov. Abbott is allowing local jurisdictions to determine essential critical infrastructure workers and essential services. While it looks like most local Orders in Texas allow for residential landscaping, check with your local county or city for the most recent rules in your area.

  • City of College Station Shelter in Place Order. In the FAQ document, page 10 that accompanies the Order, tree pruning is described (below) as an essential function: …Can landscaping services continue? Landscaping services may continue only if they are necessary to protect the safety, sanitation, or operation of essential businesses, such as weed abatement and other fire prevention, tree trimming to prevent a dangerous condition, or clearance of irrigation infrastructure. In addition, residential landscaping, such as lawn mowing, may continue given that operators maintain social distancing standards and limit, to the greatest extent feasible, the number of employees. Landscapers performing services under contract with governmental agencies should consult the relevant agency to determine whether their services are deemed essential… (From City of College Station Shelter in Place FAQ)
  • The City of San Antonio Emergency Declaration of Public Health Emergency Page 3. Section ix. Services to Maintain Operations of Residences or Support Exempted Businesses: … 4. Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, moving services and other service providers who provide services to maintain the safety, sanitation, and operations of residences… and the Exempted Businesses Reference Card for Landscaping here.
  • Harris County’s Stay Home, Work Safe Order here.  vii.Essential Services Necessary to Maintain Essential Operations of Residences or Other Essential Businesses. … yard and maintenance crews, … and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of residences and Essential Businesses.
  • Nueces County Stay at Home Order here. ix. Essential Services Necessary to Maintain Essential Operations of Residences or Other Essential Businesses. …maintenance and security, … Plumbers, electricians, roofers, exterminators, air conditioner repair, appliance repair, equipment repair, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of residences and Essential Businesses. 
  • Dallas County Stay Home Stay Safe Order
  • Collin County Executive Order
  • Denton County Stay at Home Order
  • Travis County letter from the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association
  • City of Austin COVID-19 Information for Businesses and Industries …Landscaping (Residential): Permitted only when necessary for the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences. This includes services to bring a property into compliance with the City’s property maintenance regulations concerning weeds and high grass…

What type of tree work is essential?  Click here for the TCIA/ISA Statement

Texas Chapter ISA Events:

March 26, 2020 Wildfire Risk Reduction Qualification Course and Assessment POSTPONED
April 7, 2020 Healthy Soils Series – What is Healthy Soil – San Antonio CANCELLED
April 17-19, 2020 Texas Women’s Tree Climbing Workshop POSTPONED
May 11-13, 2020 ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualification (TRAQ) – Round Rock, Texas FULL – TBA
May 14, 2020 Pre-Climb Workshop, San Antonio POSTPONED
May 15-16, 2020 Texas Tree Climbing Championship POSTPONED
May 21-22, 2020 Oak Wilt Qualification Course and Assessment TBA
June 11-12, 2020 Oak Wilt Qualification Course and Assessment TBA

Online Learning Resources: Shelter in Place – Learn in Place

WEBINAR TYPE/DATETITLEINSTRUCTORPRESENTED BYNOTESLINKS/REGISTRATION
April 1, 2020Sensor-based irrigation monitoring and controlDr. John Lea-CoxUniversity of MarylandJoin Jennie D. Mazzone, Penn State University, for the 4/02/20 'Urban Forestry Today' noonhour (Eastern) webcast, as she outlines principles and discusses examples pertaining to urban tree health diagnosis.Register Here
April 2, 2020Tree Diagnosis in PracticeDr. Jennie Mazzone, Penn State UniversityUrban Forestry TodayRegister Here
April 2, 2020
Fertilizing for Foliage Webinar Joe AikenJoe Aiken, certified arborist and Technical Manager for plant health care science specialist Arborjet, is hosting a webinar focusing on fertilization! Now that much of the US is creeping into spring (some of us faster than others) it's a great time to offer fertilizing services to your customers. Learn the ins-and-outs FREE on this webinar.

2 Free ISA CEUs are available by passing the quiz at the end of the webinar.
https://www.facebook.com/events/507816456816377/">Register Here
April 3, 2020Oak WiltEmmett MuenninkArborjetRegister Here
April 4 at 10:00 AMWhat’s in a (Plant) Name? Brooke Best, PhD, Dir. of Research Programs, BRITBotanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) All modern biologists still use a form of Latin, if for no other reason than to name living things, from bacteria to plants to humans. However, until just a few years ago, botanists were probably the only people for whom Latin remained a working, technical language. This presentation will cover the story of how we progressed from Classical Latin to modern Botanical Latin, the people (mostly botanists) behind that story, and where Botanical Latin is today. Dr. Best says, "If you're a word nerd like me, I think you'll enjoy it!"
Q&A session to follow the lecture (using chat function in Zoom)
Register Here
April 8, 2020Invasive Forest Pests Q&ACliff SadofPurdue UniversityRegister Here
April 9, 2020 Electrical Hazards for Arborists - ONLINE ClassJeff Thierbach, BCMA, Utility Specialist, and CTSP.VG Consulting and Streamside GreenANSI Z133.1 requires employers to train all employees to recognize and avoid electrical hazards. This training, along with documented on-the-job training, meets that requirement.Information and Registration Here
ASCA WebinarsMany TitlesVariousAmerican Society of Consulting ArboristsASCA provides online learning to help Consulting Arborists learn and earn CEUs without having to leave their offices. Let experts lead you through timely topics and compelling lectures while you learn new skills and techniques you can immediately put to work for your clients. Since this is online self-directed learning, you can learn where you want and when you want! More Information Here
Climbing ArboristMany TitlesVariousClimbingArborist.comClimbingArborist.com offers a free comprehensive video library of knot tying, tree climbing and rigging techniques (basic and advanced). For novice, advanced and all levels in-between use our site as a tool to resource, practice and master your Arborist skills.More information here
Davey Resource Group Presents: 2020 WebinarsMany TitlesVariousDavey Resource GroupDavey Resource Group, Inc. is committed to providing up-to-date information on a variety of urban and community forestry topics. Our expert urban forestry consultants regularly present at local, regional, and national conferences throughout the world. With our breadth of knowledge and networks, we apply case study examples of how our clients are able to leverage their urban forestry projects into successful endeavors with meaningful results.More Information Here
Enrollment Ends April 5thUtility Vegetation Management Certificate programVariousUtility Arborist AssociationThis online program is designed and facilitated by industry professionals who lead you through the skills needed to plan and manage sustainable utility vegetation management program plans. These six courses are ten weeks each and use project-based learning to enhance your understanding and application of the industry’s best practices including safety, integrated vegetation management, environmental stewardship, and sustainability. Register Here
Forestry and Natural Resources Webinar PortalMany TitlesVariousSouthern Regional Extension ForestryOn-Demand and FreeForestry and Natural Resources Webinar Portal
ISA Arborist News and Arboriculture and Urban Forestry CEU QuizzesDozens of opportunities to earn CEU's while you are social distancing. VariousInternational Society of ArboricultureTo assist ISA members who hold credentials in earning continuing education units (CEUs), ISA is now providing online quizzes from both Arborist News and Arboriculture and Urban Forestry dating back to the beginning of 2018 at no cost to members.
Please note: CEUs for any given quiz/product may be earned only once per recertification cycle by each credential holder. Only online quizzes apply; mailed quizzes will not be accepted for CEUs. ISA will not issue refunds for previously purchased quizzes.
Online ISA CEU Quizzes here

Learn how to use online CEU quizzes here
ISA On-Demand Online CoursesIntroduction to Arboriculture,
Tree Anatomy, Urban Forestry, Tree Physiology, Biotic and Abiotic Disorders, Diagnosis, Tree ID, Tree Selection, and many more!
The World's Best ArboristsInternational Society of ArboricultureEducation and research are vital elements in the fulfillment of ISA’s mission to promote the professional practice of arboriculture and foster a greater worldwide awareness of the benefits of trees. ISA staff works with industry professionals and field experts to develop online resources that provide diverse educational opportunities and platforms for the presentation of new research, information, and technology.Learn More Here
Topics for ArboristsMany TitlesVariousTreeStuffdotcomYouTubeClick here for the videos
TREE Fund WebinarsMany TitlesVariousTREE FundOn Demand and FreeClick Here for More Information
Don't forget to leave a donation!
Urban Forestry TodayMany TitlesVariousRick Harper, University of Massachusetts Click here for more information
April 8, 2020Laurel Wilt Biology, Monitoring and ManagementDr. Albert MayfieldRegister Here

And From ISA: ISA encourages our members and credential holders to use this time to continue your arboricultural education. Visit the ISA store to learn about ISA’s many educational products such as the Certified Arborist Study Guide, the Municipal Specialist Certification Study Guide, the Tree Climbers’ Guide, the Utility Specialist Certification Study Guide,  earn CEUs through the Collection of CEU Articles and so much more.

Your ISA Credentials:

On March 17, 2020, ISA headquarters announced all paper, in-person exams will be cancelled until further notice.  Pearson VUE testing centers offering computer based exams have temporarily closed worldwide until further notice. The situation is being closely monitored and the Texas Chapter will update here as we get information from ISA headquarters. Click here for more information

ISA has extended the recertification periods for credential holders set to renew within the next 30-60 days from March 2020.  TRAQ holders will get a six month extension.  ISA COVID FAQ page

Business Tips:

TCIA: What Should Tree Care Businesses Know About the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak?

OSHA COVID-19 Guidance
Introduction to OHSA Webinar for Arborists from North American Training Solutions

Assessing the Risk of COVID-19 for arborists from North American Training Solutions

Arborisk’s Guide to Combating Coronavirus
Tree Business Management Strategies for Pandemics
Coronavirus Safety for Arborists

COVID Small Business Action Plan from Constant Contact

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) – Phase 3 SARS-COV-2 Recovery Bill (Passed March 27):

INDIVIDUALS

  • Provides rebates of up to $1,200 for single individuals and $2,400 for joint filers. This rebate is subject to a phase-out beginning at adjusted gross income of $75,000 and $150,000 respectively. Taxpayers with qualifying children will receive an additional $500. The rebates will be based upon 2019 returns if already filed. If 2019 has yet to be filed, then rebates will be based upon the 2018 returns. The IRS is still reviewing multiple methods of delivery.
  • Provides waivers on the 10% early withdrawal penalty for distributions made from qualified retirement plans and IRAs provided these distributions were made in 2020 for COVID-19 purposes. You may replenish your plan within three years without consideration of the regular maximum contribution limit. Additionally, there is relief on the regular taxation of this withdrawal by allowing the tax to be spread over three years.
  • Loosens loan thresholds and repayment terms for loans taken out from certain retirement plans. Please contact your employer to determine if your employer’s plan allows.
  • Waives RMDs (required minimum distributions) from certain retirement plans including IRAs. Please contact your plan administrator to determine eligibility.
  • Allows an above the line deduction of up to $300 of cash charitable contributions for those individuals claiming the standard deduction.
  • Allows a relaxation of the income limit for charitable contributions for those individuals itemizing their deductions.
  • Allows an employer to assist with your monthly student debt obligations tax free between March 26 and December 31, 2020 provided your employer has a qualified plan for such and is limited to $5,250.
  • Suspends retroactively to January 1, 2018 the excess business loss rules and postpones the enactment date to 2021.
  • Allows for Net Operating Losses arising in 2019 or 2020 to be carried back five years.
  • Provides for enhanced unemployment benefits of an additional 13 weeks and $600 more per week for the first four months. Previously Texas’ unemployment benefits had a max of $465 per week for 26 weeks.

BUSINESSES

  • Provides a deferral of payment option for the employer portion of payroll taxes. Caution – this is a deferral and not a release of such obligation.
  • Provides an employee retention credit of up to 50% of wages paid to certain employees during the COVID-19 crisis. This credit does have multiple qualifications so please consult your payroll specialist to determine if you are eligible.
  • Provides a retroactive technical correction for assets placed in service January 1, 2018 and forward deemed to be Qualified Improvement Property. This correction shortens the asset’s depreciable life from 39 years to 15 years.
  • Modifies the charitable contribution limitations based on income for corporations and extends this to donation of food inventory.
  • Allows employer to expand the definition of certain employee benefits to include employer’s ability to contribute up to $5,250 toward an employee’s student loan for payments made March 26 through December 31, 2020.
  • Allows for Net Operating Losses arising in 2019 or 2020 to be carried back five years.
  • Accelerates ability to claim certain minimum tax credits.
  • Modifies the business interest expense limitation temporarily and retroactively from 30% to 50%. Additional special rules apply depending upon the business entity type.
  • Provides additional funding options including the Paycheck Protection Program (referred to as PPP) under SBA 7a program guidance. The PPP does have a potential loan forgiveness portion.

For the complete legislative text, please click here.
For a section-by-section overview of the legislation, please click here.
For a summary of the provisions that will provide tax rebate checks to American families, please click here.
For a summary of the provisions that provide relief to small businesses, please click here. Also, click here for an additional FAQ document.

Under the broad category of “Small Business Relief”, the CARES Act appropriates nearly $350 billion to various programs. For business owners, one provision that should be reviewed closely is the “Paycheck Protection Program” (PPP) for small businesses. The PPP provides short-term cash flow assistance for small businesses (fewer than 500 employees) to help these businesses and their employees deal with the immediate economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Loans are made by lenders certified by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and guaranteed by the federal government, and the SBA will administer the PPP. The maximum loan amount is $10 million and can be used to pay workers, interest on mortgage obligations, rent, insurance, paid sick or medical leave, utilities, and payroll-related costs.
One of the most attractive features of these loans is that if employers maintain all employees at their pre-COVID-19 payroll, the loans of up to 8 weeks of payroll and other costs are forgiven. The PPP loans can be applied retroactive to February 15th, 2020, to help bring workers who may have already been laid off back onto payrolls.
You can read more on the specifics of this Act in the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship’s breakdown here: The Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act.
As the Small Business Administration (SBA) will be handling the administration of the PPP loans (and other disaster loans), so check back to www.sba.gov often for the most up to date information.

SBA Loans:

  • SBA Disaster assistance application, eligible disaster areas, and application status
  • On 3.21.20 Texas received approval from SBA for small disaster loans.
  • You are unable to apply if you have a credit line available from a bank.
  • Interest 3.75%.  Private non-profit can apply as well with interest at 2.75%.
  • Loan request of up to $2M
  • Loan term up to 30 years
  • One year deferment on payments.  Interest begins accruing upon disbursement.
  • Funds cannot be used for expansions or hiring.
  • May be more challenging to receive if you haven’t been open for 2 years.
  • Online applications or 1-800-659-2955.  Need Texas SBA declaration number of #16381
  • online webinars/tutorials available
  • Only $7 Billion available.  Deadline to apply is 12.21.20
  • If you already had a SBA loan and making payments, you can request forbearance.

Shared Work Program:

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) encourages employers to enroll in the Shared Work program as an alternative to layoffs. The voluntary Shared Work program was developed to help Texas employers and employees withstand a slowdown in business such as the impact of COVID-19.

For more information visit: https://twc.texas.gov/businesses/shared-work

Legal Help for Small Business Owners:

As a small business owner, you may be finding that COVID-19 and its effects present unprecedented issues with contract compliance. In considering a party’s performance under a contract, there may be several clauses built into your agreements that might be invoked to assist your small business.

Review your agreement for force majeure clauses – Force majeure clauses may be triggered when extraordinary events, sometimes called Acts of God, prevent a party from being able to fulfill its contractual obligations. Monitor the changing condition of the crisis and make note of government declarations and states of emergencies that making performance of your obligations impossible. Be aware, though, that an increased cost to perform your obligations or the likelihood of a poor performance may not be enough to invoke a force majeure clause.

Consider having an insurance specialist review your insurance policies – Your agreement may require that you carry business interruption insurance or other coverages that may apply to the presence of COVID-19. Review your policy for language about communicable or infectious diseases, or conversely, exclusions related to virus-related losses. It is best, if possible, to have an independent third party review the policy, rather than your broker or insurance company.

Consider sitting back down at the table – You and the other party to the agreement may be able to discuss whether there are alternative means to perform contractual obligations. The other party may be amenable to adjust performance under the circumstances, including extended deadlines or partial performance of obligations.

*Please note that contractual clauses can be interpreted differently, so it is important to discuss your situation with an attorney, whether you are seeking to enforce or excuse performance under your contract.

To learn more: https://www.liftfund.com/loans/

Unemployment Benefits:

On 3/17/20, Texas Governor Greg Abbott instructed the Texas Workforce Commission to waive the waiting week, for Unemployment Benefits. In addition to waiving the waiting week, the Texas Workforce Commission is exercising its authority under the Governor’s declaration of a Statewide Disaster to waive Unemployment Insurance work search requirements effective immediately.

Those seeking to apply for Unemployment Benefits will need to submit an application.

You will need the following:

Last employer’s business name and address
First and last dates (month, day and year) you worked for your last employer
Number of hours worked and pay rate if you worked this week (including Sunday)
Information related to your normal wage
Alien Registration Number (if not a U.S. citizen or national)
Additional Services: https://www.workintexas.com

Employer Paid Leave Mandate

IRS and Texas Comptroller Information:

IRS COVID-19 Tax – landing page for links to all IRS news releases and guidance related to COVID-19

IRS FAQs – filing and payment deadlines

IRS People First Initiative – additional relief on IRS actions and operations

Texas Comptroller – COVID-19 – currently gives statement regarding sales tax payment penalty and interest waiver

Business Related Webinars:

SCORE – Live & Recorded Business Webinars for Free

All Small Mentor Protege Program (On Demand, Free – Small Business Administration)

Competitive Advantage (On Demand, Free – Small Business Administration)

Financing Options for Small Businesses (On Demand, Free – Small Business Administration)

How to Write a Business Plan (On Demand, Free – Small Business Administration)

Introduction to Pricing (On Demand, Free – Small Business Administration)

Legal Requirements for Small Businesses (On Demand, Free – Small Business Administration)

A Guide to Winning Customers (On Demand, Free – Small Business Administration)

Pricing Models for Successful Business (On Demand, Free – Small Business Administration)

Sales: A Guide for the Small Business Owner (On Demand, Free – Small Business Administration)

Practical Information For Individuals:

Get the latest on COVID-19. Learn more about what to do if you think you have coronavirus symptoms, how to pay for coronavirus tests and treatments, and how to protect yourself when grocery shopping. Plus, go to CR’s Guide to the Coronavirus for even more articles, resources and information.

 

 

And remember – Social Distancing will end in Texas and we can all get together for more of this! (hint full screen and turn it up LOUD)