Statewide Announcements

Guidance and Directives

May 27, 2020: WIC Waiver Extension

The USDA has issued a letter allowing states to continue operating under already approved waivers through June 30. This extension includes stocking waivers. The USDA has also indicated it will continue to monitor COVID-19 as it considers future extensions.

CGA expects CDPH to create a regulatory bulletin to be released later this week with more details. If you have any questions in the meantime, email Leticia Garcia for more information.

May 21, 2020: Advisory: Pharmacists Can Order and Administer FDA-Approved COVID Tests

The HHS Office of Inspector General has issued an advisory opinion clarifying that pharmacists are authorized to order and administer FDA-approved COVID tests even in states with laws that would otherwise prohibit pharmacist testing. To read the advisory opinion, click here.

May 11, 2020: May Extra SNAP Allotment

CGA has learned that the May Extra SNAP allotment will be issued June 13.

May 6, 2020: Governor Issues Workers’ Compensation Executive Order

Two weeks ago, CGA learned Gov. Gavin Newsom was considering changes to the state’s workers’ compensation program due to COVID-19. Concerned about how devastating the potential workers’ comp Executive Order would be, CGA worked with a coalition and submitted a letter of concern on the rumored points of the E.O. to the governor’s office. CGA also submitted its letters of concern and later met with the governor’s staff to ensure they understood the damaging impact of expanding the program.

Late Tuesday, CGA got wind of a pending governor’s announcement regarding workers’ compensation benefits for employees contracting COVID-19 during the statewide stay at home order.

It materialized Wednesday noon as Gov. Newsom announced Executive Order N-62-20, that “creates a time-limited rebuttable presumption for accessing workers’ compensation benefits applicable to Californians who must work outside the homes during the stay in home order,” according to the governor’s press release.

The governor’s staff contacted CGA just before his noon announcement with the Executive Orders general points.

Highlights of the order include:

  1. Is for COVID-19 tested or diagnosed positive by doctor cases only
  2. Establishes a rebuttable presumption that worker tested positive as a result of work
  3. Covers all employees required to work outside of home
  4. The rebuttable presumption is in effect for 60 days from today, but coverage continues after that expiration date
  5. Requires that they use all available sick leave
  6. Employer has 30 days to rebut claim rather than the regular 90 days

April 27, 2020: Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

Two weeks ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order bringing supplemental paid sick leave to companies with 500 or more employees.

The California Department of Labor has released a FAQ clarifying a number of important aspects of Executive Order N-51-20, such as how to calculate sick leave for part-time employees. The Department has also issued a poster to be displayed for employees.

April 24, 2020: Rules for Employee COVID-19 Testing

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released guidance permitting mandatory coronavirus testing for employees prior to entering the workplace. The FAQ containing the new guidance can be found here.

We recommend members review the Commission’s FAQ in its entirety. But, one particularly important aspect to keep in mind is that the EEOC’s guidance also sets forth that employers remember that the ADA requires all medical information about employees must be stored separately from their personnel file and limit the access to this confidential information.

Paid Sick Leave Poster

Governor Newsom’s supplemental paid sick leave executive order requires companies with more than 500 employees to post notice their workers. This poster is available for download here.

April 23, 2020: Newsom Signs Executive Order Suspending In-Store Takeback and Bag Ban

As part of CGA’s work with Gov. Gavin Newsom and labor advocates, the Association pressed the Governor to provide relief from CRV redemption requirements and flexibility in terms of grocery bag policies.

This afternoon, Governor Newsom suspended regulations requiring grocer participation in the CRV redemption program and the statewide ban on single-use bags by signing a new executive order.

This executive action allows retailers to issue reusable bags free of charge at the point of purchase or — when it is not feasible to provide a reusable bag or recycled paper bag — allows grocers to issue single-use bags.

Local jurisdictions with existing bag ordinances grandfathered in by state law are not subject to the order and can be enforced by the city or county. CGA is communicating with these municipalities to have them adopt a similar suspension. Please review the attached list to check the areas within which you operate.

The executive order will be in effect for 60 days and represents a significant victory for the industry, which has long sought recycling relief, and more recently, flexibility on bags due to supply-chain issues and concerns for employee safety. Read the full order here.

April 17, 2020: Important Information for Prospective WIC-Authorized Vendors

The California Department of Public Health has released new electronic benefit transfer capability requirements, stating vendors must have EBT-capable point-of-sale (POS) equipment.

In order to help onboard prospective vendors, the Department is offering one FREE stand-beside POS machine to those who apply by May 15, 2020. Learn more about how to apply here.

April 15, 2020: Department of Labor Issues COVID-19 Recordkeeping Guidance

Our partners at Kahn, Soares & Conway, LLP, have shared with us the following guidance on coronavirus recordkeeping:

The U.S. Department of Labor has issued interim guidance for enforcing OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, as it relates to recording cases of COVID-19.

COVID-19 is a recordable illness and employers are responsible for recording cases of COVID-19 if the case:

1. Is confirmed as a COVID-19 illness;

2. Is “work related” as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5; and

3. Involves one or more of the general recording criteria in 29 CFR 1904.7, such as medical treatment beyond first aid or days away from work.

In areas where there is ongoing community transmission, employers may have difficulty making determinations about whether workers who contracted COVID-19 did so due to exposures at work. Accordingly, until further notice, OSHA will not enforce its recordkeeping requirements to require these employers to make work-relatedness determinations for COVID-19 cases, except where: (1) There is objective evidence that a COVID-19 case may be work-related; and (2) The evidence was reasonably available to the employer.

April 14, 2020: Online SNAP

The Online SNAP Process In an earlier edition of this daily email, we shared that FNS had approved California for online SNAP purchases. CGA has obtained a streamlined set of requirements for grocers that wish to participate. The document can be reviewed here.

April 13, 2020: Trucking Weight Limits

As the industry works to meet heightened consumer demand during this crisis, we’ve continuously delivered the message to Gov. Gavin Newsom and his staff that trucking weight limits need adjusting.

Moving forward, California will allow trucking weight limits to rise from 80,000 lbs. to 88,000 lbs. on a case by case basis. This means grocery companies will need to apply for the increased load capacity for each truckload. Here is the document you’ll need.

April 9, 2020: WIC Substitution List Released

In an earlier alert, we shared that grocery operators could expect WIC substitutions to be allowed, with the list of approved items forthcoming.

Late yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services released its Notice of Temporary WIC Authorized Food List. This list can be reviewed here.

April 7, 2020: WIC + SNAP Update

CGA can confirm California has received approval for substitution waivers. Stores will not need to change anything on their end as DSS will update their system and the updates will automatically be processed.

We expect to receive a list substitutions will be later this week.

CGA also received word that FNS has approved California to participate in online SNAP purchases. To be able to participate, retailers need to (I’m not sure how this sentence ends, read your original paragraph) the following guidelines. FNS is working on a streamlined set of requirements for retailers that would like to participate.

April 5, 2020: Newsom Issues New Price Gouging Orders

In addition to the existing price gouging laws, which went into effect upon State of Emergency declaration, Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued an executive order that aims to further protect consumers from cost hikes.

First, the new order waives the current timeline for price gouging — usually ending 30 days after a state of emergency has concluded — and mandates price gouging laws stay in effect until September 4, 2020.

Second, from April 4, 2020 through September 4, 2020, the price of any items under this law cannot be raised over 10 percent from what the price was on February 4, 2020. This tweak to existing law accounts for producers and suppliers, covering the whole supply chain down to the retailer.

You can review the Governor’s executive order here.

April 4, 2020: Legislature Further Delays Return

In the wake of COVID-19, the California State Legislature voted unanimously to suspend its session until April 13. On Friday, April 3, the state’s legislative body decided to push their return date further out — to May 4 — in order to give public health officials additional time to combat the virus.

When the Legislature does return, they are expected to focus solely on coronavirus-related lawmaking.

March 19, 2020: Customer Management Plans

As the industry adapts to what is, at least in the near term, a new normal, two essential questions need answering. Do you have a customer management plan? Have you shared this plan with your local law enforcement agencies?

A customer management plan can mean different things to different businesses at different times, but currently should take into consideration your methods for managing access for vulnerable populations and how to protect your customers and employees during these tense times.

Across social media a groundswell of support has grown around special shopping hours for vulnerable community members. You may choose or have already chosen to implement them. This is being viewed today as a socially responsible and sensitive thing to do by the broader public and many elected officials.

It has been widely publicized that Gov. Gavin Newsom has asked Californians who are 65 or older or medically at-risk to stay home. Nevertheless, this direction is not law. Instead, the Governor hopes to ask these groups to change their behavior, relying on delivery or assistance from healthier individuals to facilitate their food needs. There are significant questions concerning how to enforce and execute these special shopping hours.

At the same time, CGA is tracking local governments, such as Lynwood, Calif., that are now legally requiring “Senior Shopping Hours.”

What’s our advice? Follow the law and make the best decision possible for your community, its vulnerable populations and your business. We will update you with any changes as we learn more from the Governor’s office.

The second prong of your customer management plan should be developing open lines of communication with your local law enforcement officials. On your behalf, CGA has reached out to the California Police Chiefs Association and other local law enforcement groups to share our industry’s concerns around store safety.

We’ve heard anecdotally, that law enforcement has begun the process of reaching out to local grocery stores. But if you have not yet heard from them, please reach out directly.

When speaking with law enforcement leaders, we recommend you ask to be a part of their local emergency action plans. You can also ask to be categorized as a vulnerable location, which will secure you highly-visible patrols and priority response if a dangerous scenario arises.

As we continue to reiterate to elected officials and law enforcement, we are all in this together. Keeping communities secure, calm, civic-minded, and well-fed is of the upmost importance.

Have a question about customer management plans? Email Kelly Ash, VP, Government Affairs.

March 18, 2020: Newsom Takes Action on Commercial Driving

Through the hard work of CGA and its members, Gov. Gavin Newsom was pressed into taking direct action that eases restrictions on commercial drivers.

This action by the Governor, signed into law via executive order, will ensure key commodities can be delivered to California retail establishments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration took similar action, by issuing its own emergency waiver.

It should also be noted Newsom’s executive order suspends existing law for employers directly impacted by coronavirus and directs the Labor and Workforce Development agency to provide guidance to impacted employees.

Read the full executive order here.

March 17, 2020: Governor Issues Restaurant and Social-Distancing Directives

Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued directives for statewide social distancing. These new guidelines focus on securing California’s most at-risk groups, altering how restaurants and other social venues operate, and moving the homeless to temporary shelter locations.

In particular, the Governor is advising the home isolation of all Californians 65 or older and those who suffer from chronic conditions. All bars, nightclubs, brewpubs and wineries are to be closed statewide. Restaurants are expected to focus on delivery and pick-up orders to ensure appropriate social distancing between customers.

We expect directives by the Governor to change and be adjusted as the situation progresses. Timely updates to statewide directives are available here.

In-store Dinning Restrictions

Statewide directives and local government orders ask for dining within grocery stores to be treated similar to restaurants. This means a focus on take-out and delivery of orders with no in-store dinning or similar gathering. It is expected this mandate will impact all of California over the next few days.

Events and Accommodations for Customers Over 65 or with Health

Conditions Some retailers across the country and in California are attempting to hold special events for customers over 65 or with existing health conditions. An example is early shopping hours limited to these populations. Grocery stores are highly discouraged from holding these types of events.

While the service to these populations is vital, events of this type directly disregard federal, state and local mandates for these individuals to shelter in-place. In fact, events of this type would not only put these populations at greater risk for contracting the virus, but could be considered an illegal act by the company.

We do encourage grocers to offer other accommodations such as home-delivery or similar access to food and goods which do not encourage vulnerable populations to leave their homes.

March 15, 2020: Governor Issues Restaurant and Social-Distancing Directives

On Sunday afternoon, March 15, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued new directives for statewide social distancing. These new guidelines focus on securing California’s most at-risk groups, altering how restaurants and other social venues operate, and moving the homeless to temporary shelter locations.

In particular, the Governor is advising the home isolation of all Californians who are 65 or older and those who suffer from chronic conditions. All bars, nightclubs, brewpubs and wineries are to be closed statewide. Restaurants are expected to focus on deliver and pick-up orders as their occupancy should now be half of what was previously allowed to construct appropriate distances between patrons.

CDPH Releases Guidance on Gatherings

The California Department of Public Health has announced policy guidance regarding gatherings in an effort to protect public health and slow the spread of COVID-19. 

In summary, the CDPH policy guidance is as follows:

  • Large gatherings with 250 people or larger should be postponed or canceled. 
  • Small gatherings that do not allow distancing of six feet per person should be postponed or canceled.
  • Gatherings of individuals at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should be limited to no more than 10 people.

Gov. Newsom Declares State of Emergency

California’s governor has declared a State of Emergency in response to COVID-19.

State of Emergency declarations have become common in response to wildfires, extreme weather, earthquakes, and other similar scenarios. For reference, California had five declarations of a State of Emergency in 2019.

The declaration allows the state government several opportunities to make response and recovery funding available, enable mutual aid between local, state and federal governments, and more efficiently direct state resources.

Read more about the implications for grocers.