COVID-19

Coronavirus guide for realtors® in northwest montana

In response to growing concern regarding the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, Northwest Montana Association of REALTORS® is taking precautionary steps in order to protect our members and staff. These steps include closing the office to our members and the public, postponing upcoming classes and events, and utilizing video conferencing tools for meetings. 

We are providing the following guidance to help REALTORS® respond to the coronavirus’ impact on the real estate industry. This information was compiled with the assistance of the Montana Association of REALTORS® and the National Association of REALTORS® and will be updated as we receive new information.

What is Governor Bullock's plan for Montana's phased reopening?


Following is the governor’s three-phased plan for reopening the state (information courtesy of The Daily Inter Lake) :

Schools

  • Beginning May 7 all schools have the option to return to in-classroom teaching delivery.
  • The State recognizes that if reopened, schools will require the district to make adjustments and create plans, policies, and procedures.
  • If schools plan to reopen they should consider:
    • Implementing an alternative educational delivery model that includes a mix of in-person and remote learning.
    • Providing focused individual education, especially for at-risk students.
    • How to reconnect and meet the educational needs of students who fall behind in a remote learning environment.
    • The importance of maintaining the connection between students, teachers, and parents.
    • The important role that schools play in the health of students, families, and communities.
    • Graduation environments that can meet the social distancing requirements.

Phase 1

Individuals

  • ALL VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS should continue to follow the stay home guidance. Members of households with vulnerable residents should be aware that by returning to work or other environments where distancing is not practical, they could carry the virus back home. Precautions should be taken to isolate from vulnerable residents.
  • Vulnerable Individuals: people over 65 years of age and/or those with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and those whose immune system is compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer and other conditions requiring such therapy.
  • All individuals (non-household), WHEN IN PUBLIC (e.g., parks, outdoor recreation areas, shopping areas), should maximize physical distance from others.
  • Avoid GATHERING in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing.
  • MINIMIZE NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL and adhere to Montana guidelines regarding quarantine.

Employers

  • Continue to ENCOURAGE TELEWORK whenever possible and feasible with business operations.
  • When telework is not feasible it is encouraged to ACCOMMODATE ALTERNATE WORK SCHEDULES such as shift work and staggered scheduling in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
  • Close COMMON AREAS where personnel are likely to congregate and interact; or enforce strict social distancing protocols.
  • MINIMIZE NON-ESSENTIAL BUSINESS TRAVEL.
  • SPECIAL ACCOMMODATIONS should be made for members of a VULNERABLE POPULATION or those with vulnerable household members.

Specific Types of Employers / Activities

  • SENIOR LIVING OR ASSISTED LIVING FACILITIES must continue to prohibit visitors. Those who do interact with residents and patients must ensure strict protocols regarding hygiene and protection are followed.
  • This includes daily screening of staff for symptoms and preventing ill workers from working.
  • CHILD CARE FACILITIES can remain operational but should follow State and local guidelines regarding operational levels and occupancy.
  • ORGANIZED YOUTH ACTIVITIES can consider becoming operational if physical distancing guidelines can be implemented. Avoid GATHERING in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing.
  • RESTAURANTS / BARS / BREWERIES / DISTILLERIES / CASINOS can become operational on or after May 4 under strict physical distancing and reduced capacity protocols in accordance with State guidelines.
    • All patrons must be out of bars, restaurants, and casinos by 11:30.
    • Capacity must be limited to 50% of normal operating capacity to allow for adequate group spacing.
    • Tables must be limited to six people per table.
    • Establishments must provide for 6 feet of physical distancing between groups and or tables by:
      • Increasing table spacing, removing tables, or marking tables as closed;
      • Providing for a physical barrier between tables; or
      • Back-to-back booth seating provides adequate separation.
      • In-house dining for quick service restaurants should remain closed, if all guidelines can’t be met, including the cleaning of every table between customers.
      • Sitting or standing at bars or counters is not allowed.
      • In bars, drinks and food must be served to customers at a table.
      • Self-service buffets must be closed.
      • Drink refills are not allowed.
      • Self-service cups, straws and lids should be behind a counter and handed to customers
      • Self-service condiments should be eliminated.
      • Gaming machines that are operational must be separated by 7-foot center to center. Machines must be placed out of service if adequate spacing cannot be assured.
  • MAIN STREET AND RETAIL BUSINESSES can become operational on or after April 27 with reduced capacity and where strict physical distancing protocols can be maintained.
  • GYMS / POOLS / HOT TUBS remain closed.
  • OUTDOOR RECREATION can become operational if sites adhere to strict physical distancing between groups and exercise frequent sanitation protocols if public facilities are open.
  • PLACES OF WORSHIP can become operational on or after April 26 with reduced capacity and where strict physical distancing protocols can be maintained between non-household members. Avoid GATHERING in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing.
  • Other PLACE OF ASSEMBLY shall remain closed (e.g., movie and performance theaters, concert halls, bowling alleys, bingo halls, and music halls).
  • UPDATE 5/8: Governor Steve Bullock today announced additional Phase One guidelines that will allow gyms and fitness studios, movie theaters and museums the option to reopen beginning Friday, May 15 as long as they adhere to strict guidelines limiting capacity, requiring social distancing, and imposing thorough sanitation requirements.

Phase 2

Gatherings may expand to 50 people.

  • Vulnerable populations should continue to follow stay home guidance
  • Gyms / Pools / Hot Tubs can become operational.
  • In addition to houses of worship, other places of assembly can become operational under the group size restrictions and physical distancing guidelines in this phase.
Individuals and Employers
  • Avoid GATHERING in groups of more than 50 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing.
  • NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL guidelines remain the same as PHASE ONE for individuals traveling into Montana and for Montanans returning home.
  • VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS should continue to adhere to the stay home guidance.
  • Continue to ENCOURAGE TELEWORK as much as possible and where feasible but refer to guideline in PHASE ONE when telework is not possible.
  • SENIOR LIVING OR ASSISTED LIVING FACILITIES must continue to follow the guidelines of PHASE ONE.
  • CHILD CARE FACILITIES can increase capacity if physical distancing guidelines can be implemented.
  • ORGANIZED YOUTH ACTIVITIES remain operational and should avoid GATHERING in groups of more than 50 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing.
  • ALL BUSINESSES can remain operational and must adhere to physical distancing.
  • RESTAURANTS / BARS / BREWERIES / DISTILLERIES / CASINOS remain in the same operational status as PHASE ONE, but with an increase in capacity.
  • GYMS / POOLS / HOT TUBS can become operational with reduced capacity and only if they can adhere to strict physical distancing and they exercise frequent sanitation protocols.
  • OUTDOOR RECREATION remain in the same operational status as PHASE ONE.
  • PLACES OF ASSEMBLY can become operational with reduced capacity and must adhere to physical distancing. Avoid GATHERING in groups of more than 50 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing.

Phase 3

No limit on group size.

Vulnerable populations can resume public interactions, but should practice physical distancing, and continue to take precautionary measures.

Individuals and Employers

  • ALL INDIVIDUALS and EMPLOYERS should continue to operate consistent with updated CDC guidelines.
  • For ALL INDIVIDUALS there is no limit on group size, however everyone should consider minimizing contact time with others and limit time spent in crowded environments.
  • VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS can resume public interactions, but should practice physical distancing, and continue to take precautionary measures.
  • Employers can resume FULL STAFFING of workplaces.
  • Visits to SENIOR CARE FACILITIES can resume. Those who interact with residents and patients must be diligent regarding hygiene.
  • ALL BUSINESSES / PLACES OF ASSEMBLY can remain fully operational with awareness of physical distancing.
  • GYMS / POOLS / HOT TUBS can remain fully operational but must still exercise frequent sanitation protocols.
  • OUTDOOR RECREATION Interstate tourism travel resumes. Campground, group-use facilities, playgrounds and visitor centers are fully open.
  • There is no limit on GROUP SIZE during this phase, however PHYSICAL DISTANCING should still be observed.
  • Continue to follow GUIDELINES FOR ALL PHASES.

Are there any changes at NMAR that we should know about for Phase 2?


Yes, our office will be open for visitors starting on June 1, 2020. 

NMAR Phase 2 Guidelines are as follows:

  • Practice Social Distancing
    • Chairs are set up 6 feet apart from each other – do not move chairs
    • If tables are set up, please try not to touch the surface. Use disinfectant spray on surfaces you touched
    • Classroom is open – all other areas are closed (bathrooms are to be used only if necessary)
    • Group will not exceed 50 people
  • Do not bring food or beverages to share
  • Coffee station will be closed
  • Bring your own beverage and container for water
  • Masks and gloves are encouraged, but will not be mandatory (this may be reassessed)
  • Vulnerable populations should continue to follow stay home guidance
  • Telework is still encouraged. All NMAR staff are working full-time, but not all are at the NMAR building
    • Call or email is best for speedy assistance (contact information below)

Jeri Moon
Executive Officer
406-284-1777
jmoon@nmar.com

Jayne Yatchak
Professional Development and Accounts Manager
406-752-4313
jayney@nmar.com

Meagan O’Leary
Communications and Member Services Director
406-852-2894
moleary@nmar.com

Erica Wirtala
Public Affairs Director
406-249-9774
ericaw@nmar.com

What resources should I look to for credible information during this time?


For the most up-to-date reporting of Montana COVID-19 testing results, visit the DPHHS Coronavirus Page

For information regarding travel warnings and the coronavirus' current impact please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the World Health Organization

The National Association of REALTORS® has compiled several helpful resources regarding COVID-19 and the real estate industry:

What resources should I share with my clients during this time?

What preventative measures may be taken to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus?


The CDC urges individuals to take these measures to protect themselves and others:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Practice social distancing by staying out of crowded places, avoiding group gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Stay home if you have a fever, cough, shortness of breath or any other cold or flu-like symptom.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or cough or sneeze into your sleeve.
Additionally, to help prevent the continued spread of coronavirus, on March 15, 2020, the CDC recommended that for the next 8 weeks, all in-person events consisting of 50 or more people, such as conferences and assemblies, be cancelled, postponed or modified to virtual events. On March 16, 2020, President Trump announced new guidelines, advising that individuals avoid groups of more than 10 people for the next 15 days. Avoiding these in-person gatherings is an effective measure that will reduce your risk of contracting or spreading coronavirus.

Have there been any changes to our forms?


Yes, the Montana Association of REALTORS® Forms Screening Panel and Legal counsel have provided several forms for use during this time, including a COVID-19 Clause, Mutual Termination Form and a COVID-19 White Paper. 

In order to access the forms, you will need to login to MAR's website using your NRDS # as your username, and your last name (with the first letter capitalized) as your password. 

Access Forms Here

Families First Coronavirus Response Act: What do REALTORS® need to know?

Overview

Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act H.R. 6201(link is external) with broad bipartisan support (read summary(link is external)).

Emergency Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) Expansion Act (section 3102)

  • Employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees, who have been on the job for at least 30 days, have a right to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave under FMLA if they meet the following condition:
    • They are caring for a son or daughter if the school or place of care for the child has been closed, or the child care provider of the child is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions.
  • The first 10 days of leave could be unpaid, though a worker could choose to use accrued vacation days, personal leave, or other available paid leave for unpaid time off. Following the 10-day period, workers would receive a benefit from their employers that will be at least two-thirds of their normal pay rate.
  • The family leave pay is capped at $200 per day and $10,000 in total and is limited to 12 weeks of family leave pay in any one calendar year.
    Employers of employees who are health care providers or emergency responders are allowed to elect out of providing paid family leave to these employees.
  • The Department of Labor is granted broad authority to exempt from the paid family leave requirement employers with fewer than 50 employees if the requirement to provide leave would jeopardize the viability of the business.
    In effect from effective date of act through the end of 2020.

Payroll Credit for Required Paid Family Leave (section 7003)

  • Provides employers with a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of qualified family leave wages paid.

    • The tax credit is allowed against the OASDI (employer’s portion of Social Security taxes paid) and is claimed on the employer’s quarterly employment tax returns.  To assist with cash flow, employers can fund the family leave pay by accessing employment taxes that have been withheld and set aside for deposit with the IRS.

    • The amount of qualified family leave wages taken into account for each employee is capped at $200 per day and $10,000 for all calendar quarters.

    • The credit is triggered only after a covered employee has taken 10 days of paid sick leave.

    • The credit is increased to cover the cost of an employee’s health insurance premium if the employer is required by the Act to pay for it, and covered family leave pay is exempt from employment taxes otherwise imposed on the employer.

    • The employer’s deduction for the cost of the family leave pay is reduced by the amount of the credit.

Tax Credit for Family Leave for Self-Employed Individuals (section 7004)

  • Provides a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of a qualified family leave equivalent amount for eligible self-employed individuals.
    • Creditable against income and SE taxes and is refundable against the employer’s payroll taxes.
    • Eligible individuals are those who would be entitled to receive paid leave pursuant to the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (above) if they were an employee.
    • The qualified family leave equivalent amount is capped at the lesser of $200 per day or the average daily self-employment income for the tax year and is limited to 50 days.
    • The self-employed individual may only take into account those days they are unable to work for qualified reasons under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act and they must maintain certain documentation to be prescribed by the Treasury to establish their eligibility for the credit.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (section 5102)

  • Employers with fewer than 500 employees must provide employees with two weeks of paid sick leave that is:
    • paid at the employee’s regular rate if (in connection with COVID-19) the employee:
      • is subject to a quarantine or isolation order;
      • has been advised to self-quarantine;
      • is experiencing symptoms; or,
    • paid at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate if (in connection with COVID-19) the employee:
      • is on leave to care for an individual who is subject to an isolation order or who is a quarantined employee; or
      • is on leave to care for a son or daughter if the school or place of care for the child has been closed or the child care provider of the child is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions.
    • Full-time employees can receive up to 80 hours of sick leave, while part-time workers are eligible for leave based on their scheduled or normal work hours in a two-week period.
    • Paid sick leave is calculated based on the employee’s regular compensation but is capped at $511 per day for employees who fall into the first three categories above and at $200 per day for those in the two care-related categories.
    • Employers of employees who are health care providers or emergency responders are allowed to elect out of providing paid family leave to these employees.
    • The Department of Labor is granted broad authority to exempt from the paid family leave requirement employers with fewer than 50 employees if the requirement to provide leave would jeopardize the viability of the business.
    • Eligible employees are those employed for at least 30 calendar days by the employer.
    • Employers that already have existing paid leave policies must also provide workers with this emergency paid sick time.
    • An employer could be subject to civil penalties for a violation of paid sick leave requirements.
    • In effect from effective date of act through the end of 2020.

Payroll Tax Credit for Required Paid Sick Leave (section 7001)

  • Employer shall receive a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of qualified paid sick leave wages paid for each calendar quarter.
    • The tax credit is allowed against the OASDI (employer’s portion of Social Security taxes paid) and is claimed on the employer’s quarterly employment tax returns.  To assist with cash flow, employers can fund the family leave pay by accessing employment taxes that have been withheld and set aside for deposit with the IRS.
    • The amount of credit per employee is capped at $511 per day for employees who must self-isolate, obtain a diagnosis, or comply with a self-isolate recommendation with respect to COVID-19.
    • The amount of the credit is capped at $200 per day for employees caring for a family member or a child whose school or place of care has been closed.
    • The total number of days taken into account per employee may not exceed the excess of 10 over the total number of days taken into account in all preceding calendar quarters.
    • The credit is increased to cover the cost of an employee’s health insurance premium if the employer is required by the Act to pay for it, and covered family leave pay is exempt from employment taxes otherwise imposed on the employer.
    • The employer’s deduction for the cost of the family leave pay is reduced by the amount of the credit.

Tax Credit for Sick Leave for Self-Employed Individuals (section 7002)

  • Eligible self-employed individuals are able to claim a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of the qualified sick leave equivalent amount for those who must self-isolate, obtain a diagnosis, or comply with a self-isolation recommendation with respect to COVID-19.
  • Eligible self-employed individuals caring for a family member or for a child whose school or place of care has been closed due to COVID-19 receive a credit equal to 67% of a qualified sick leave equivalent amount.
  • The tax credit is refundable and is creditable against income and SE taxes.
  • Eligible individuals are those who would be entitled to receive paid leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act if they were employees.
  • For those self-employed individuals who must self-isolate, obtain a diagnosis, or comply with a self-isolation recommendation, the qualified sick leave equivalent amount is capped at the lesser of $511 per day or the average daily self-employment income for the tax year.
  • The self-employed individual may only take into account those days they are unable to work for qualified reasons under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and they must maintain certain documentation to be prescribed by the Treasury to establish their eligibility for the credit.

Additional Provisions

  • The legislation also requires insurers, Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health programs to fully cover testing and related services for COVID-19, without cost-sharing.
  • There is increased funding to Medicaid to allow states to cover tests for uninsured populations.
  • Additional funds are appropriated for HHS programs aiding elderly Americans, such as home-delivered nutrition services, and for access to nutrition assistance programs such as WIC and SNAP.
  • There is also increased funds for emergency transfers to state unemployment programs and increased flexibility for states to modify unemployment policies based on effects of COVID-19, such as waived work search requirements.

SBA Cares Act: What do REALTORS® need to know?


NAR has been working closely with Congress and the Administration to ensure the interests of REALTORS® and their clients are protected in any federal action in response to COVID-19. Many REALTORS® are small businesses, or work with them as clients. In the most recent relief package passed into law, the "Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act" or CARES Act, there were significant provisions aimed at assisting small businesses during this difficult time. The CARES Act appropriates more than $360 billion total for new Small Business Administration (SBA) programs - the 7(a) Paycheck Protection Program loans and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) advance grants program.

The SBA 7(a) Paycheck Protection Program loans (PPP loans) are intended to cover expenses for a business during any 8-week period between February 15, 2020 and June 30, 2020. They can be used for payroll costs, rents, mortgage interest, and utilities.

Businesses can get the lesser of either 2.5x the average monthly payroll expenses they had for the year prior to the loan or $10 million dollars. When calculating payroll expenses, individual employee salaries are capped at $100,000 (prorated per month).

Up to 100% of the 7(a) PPP loans are forgivable. In order to be eligible for loan forgiveness, borrowers must put the loan money toward an eligible use, with at least 75% of the total amount going toward payroll costs, and keep the same number of employees on staff. As the amount of the loan that goes toward payroll expenses goes below 75% and/or as the number of employees is lowered, the forgivable amount of the loan is phased out. However – there is an exception: you will not be penalized for a reduction in employment or wages during the period from February 15, 2020 to April 26, 2020, if you rehire employees that you previously laid off or restore any decreases in wages or salaries by June 30, 2020.

Read more information here.