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North Dakota Department of Commerce novel coronavirus (COVID-19) update

Small Business Administration declares economic disaster funds for North Dakota

The North Dakota Department of Commerce today announced that the Small Business Administration (SBA) has declared an economic disaster in North Dakota in response to the recent novel coronavirus (COVID-19) health crisis.

The declaration makes available Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) for businesses suffering substantial economic injury due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 North Dakota Business Briefing

Commerce partnered with the Greater North Dakota Chamber for an informative briefing call to discuss updates, information and resources for businesses and employers impacted by novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Gov. Burgum provided opening remarks to more than 650 participants. Partnering state agency leaders also joined to discuss valuable information pertaining to their agencies. The collaboration between agencies will continue as we work to efficiently serve our business community.

The COVID-19 North Dakota Business Briefing is now available online for those who were not able to call in. Click on the video below to listen.

Further updates will be provided on Commerce’s website and social channels. Please be sure to follow @CommerceND on Facebook and Twitter and North Dakota Dept. of Commerce LinkedIn for real-time updates on all matters related to North Dakota business and employers.

Below is a brief recap of notes from March 19 call:

Economic resources

Commerce ED&F Division Director James Leiman provided overview of financial resources and advice for businesses:

Commerce recommends a three-step process that will hopefully assist each company in the state requiring assistance. They are:

  • Local bank
  • SBA Disaster Loan
  • State programs

Our team will provide weekly regional calls to provide additional details to communities and economic developers to best assist companies

We are seeing potentially new opportunities given temporary environment - as some sectors are impacted by coronavirus, other opportunities are emerging to support critical national infrastructure.

Bank of North Dakota

Bank of North Dakota President Eric Hardmeyer discussed three ways BND can assist. According to Hardmeyer, the bank can:

  • Provide liquidity to state government
  • Work with banks, SBA and the Commerce Department to potentially augment federal funding
  • Look at BND's existing portfolio and see if we can adjust current loans

BND stands ready to help where it can with needs, such as political subdivision liquidity and other working with other state agencies to look for solutions to help in this time of need.

Daycare guidance

Commerce Deputy Commissioner Shawn Kessel provided the following information and resources:

Child Care Aware North Dakota has a number of resources available both for families and for child care providers related to COVID-19. You can find these resources at www.ndchildcare.org.

We anticipate that if COVID-19 is found in a childcare setting, closures will occur. If that happens, the North Dakota Department of Human Services (DHS) should be notified within 24 hours www.nd.gov/dhs. DHS also requests that providers report closings to Child Care Aware® at 800-997-8515

Otto Bremmer Trust has made $50 million available in our region for community organizations that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. StrengthenND is providing free technical assistance on accessing the Otto Bremer funding.

Labor law questions

North Dakota Labor and Human Rights Commissioner Erica Thunder provided answers to commonly asked questions:

No state or federal laws require an employer to provide its employees with paid time off (PTO). Therefore, an employer can set all of the terms and conditions for the use of and/or awarding of PTO.

Relative to the current pandemic, we are aware that some employers are requiring employees to stay home and self-quarantine, both with and without pay, and with and without the use of PTO. The employer has sole discretion as to making these decisions. Separate from this question, but an important reminder - if an employer is requiring an employee to undergo COVID-19 testing, the employer is responsible for the cost of that testing.

Another question relating to PTO and the pandemic may be whether an employer may designate employees as “essential” and “non-essential” via its employee handbook or other policies, and apply different PTO requirements. As I mentioned, the employer has the sole discretion to make these designations and may treat essential and non-essential employees differently with regard to their PTO policies so long as the differing treatment is not related to any protected class.

ND tax questions

North Dakota Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger provided updates about both state and federal taxes:

(*Notes have been updated to reflect current facts)

The federal government extended the IRS income tax filing and payment deadline from April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020, to provide relief during the COVID-19 situation.

Rauschenberger announced a waiver of income tax penalty and interest to provide relief. Individuals or businesses unable to file an income tax return or pay the tax by the April 15 deadline can file and make payment through July 15, 2020, without penalty and interest.

As a North Dakota taxpayer, individuals and businesses have the ability to request additional time if they believe they will be unable to file a return or pay any other taxes in a timely manner because of a COVID-19-related situation, please contact the Office of State Tax Commissioner.

For all other tax types (sales, oil, motor fuels, etc.) anyone unable to meet a deadline to file and pay related to a COVID-19-related issue needs to contact the tax office and we can provide an extension.

ND insurance questions

North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread, provided resources and advice for businesses:

The spread of misinformation happens quickly. Rely on North Dakota resources (NDDoH, Commerce, etc.) for the information you’re receiving about COVID-19. Utilize nd.gov.

A lot of the insurance policy questions were receiving, like business interruption insurance, continued business income insurance or civil authority coverage, fall back on the requirement of physical damage of property for the loss to be triggered. At this point, a pandemic of this nature is not considered a physical loss but we are working on it. The federal government is also working on this.

It is important for businesses to look at other options that are becoming available. It’s dangerous to simply rely on your insurance at this point.

Talk with your agent because they typically know your business better than we do.

One-stop webpage for employers

Commerce Tourism Division Director Sara Otte Coleman promoted the new Business and Employer Resources webpage created by Commerce:

Commerce has launched a COVID-19 business and employer resources webpage. This information will curate the most business-relevant information from state and federal sources. The site is accessible on state portals or direct at www.commerce.nd.gov

This site will evolve as business needs and assistance programs develop. Partners are encouraged to provide a link to this page as a trusted source for information.

This site will provide links to recordings of these calls, news releases and the ability to provide input and ask questions.

The next call is scheduled for March 26 at 11 a.m. CT. For more information, or to register, go to Greater North Dakota Chamber .

COVID-19 Business and Employer Resources page

To best serve North Dakota businesses and employers, Commerce has created a page designed to provide real-time updates on both state and federal resources available to those impacted by COVID-19.

Program Updates

North Dakota Development Fund Board votes to suspend all NDDF loan payments for 30 days

Commerce announced that the North Dakota Development Fund (NDDF) Board voted to suspend all payments for both principal and interest for all outstanding North Dakota Development Fund (NDDF) loans for 30 days, effective March 19, 2020.

Innovate ND and LIFT programs on hold until further notice

“Unfortunately, our circumstances have changed, and the Department of Commerce will focus the next several weeks on assisting businesses through continuity and finance measures,” said Josh Teigen, head of investments for the Commerce Department.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) information for North Dakota’s Tourism Industry

The North Dakota Tourism and state marketing team is working with the Office of the Governor, North Dakota Department of Health and Joint Information Center to closely monitor the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.

Tourism is working on several ways to communicate and connect:

  • At 2 p.m. CST, on Monday, March 23, we will host a conference call to provide the best information and resources for our state industry partners, as well as facilitate collaboration. The intention is to host weekly conference calls for as long as needed. Join the call online at https://join.me/TravelNorthDakota
  • Please make sure you are signed up for the Tourism Industry newsletter. This is how alerts and information will be shared. To subscribe, please email Scooter Pursley.

"This is a rapidly evolving matter and I appreciate the dedication and resiliency that I have already witnessed. Our state is strong, and by working as a unified team our strength will grow. It is my hope with what we do today and going forward will not only be an example for North Dakota but for the nation, as how a state reacts during a time of uncertainty."

Commerce Commissioner Michelle Kommer