SBA Loans Available for Indiana Small Businesses

The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to Indiana small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). SBA acted under its own authority, as provided by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that was recently signed by the President, to declare a disaster following a request received from Governor Holcomb. The disaster declaration makes SBA assistance available in the entire state of Indiana.

FMCSA Extends Hours of Service Waiver

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) extended the expiration date for its nationwide emergency declaration to May 15, 2020.  The declaration waives hours of service requirements for motor carriers providing direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks, including transportation to meet immediate needs for fuel.  FMCSA also amended the scope of the declaration to include liquefied gases used for refrigeration and cooling systems.
The updated FMCSA Emergency Declaration waives hours of service requirements for the transportation of essential supplies.  FMCSA specifically identifies the relief services eligible for the hours of service waiver:
  1. Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19;
  2. Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19 such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants;
  3. Food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores;
  4. Immediate precursor raw materials — such as paper, plastic or alcohol — that are required and to be used for the manufacture of items in categories (1), (2) or (3);
  5. Fuel;
  6. Liquefied gases to be used in refrigeration or cooling systems;
  7. Equipment, supplies and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities related to COVID-19;
  8. Persons designated by Federal, State or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes;
  9. Persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services, the supply of which may be affected by the COVID-19 response.
The FMCSA Declaration specifically states that “Direct assistance does not include routine commercial deliveries, including mixed loads with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of this emergency declaration.”
Please review the NPGA Hours of Service webpage for updates to the list of state and federal declarations. Hours of service waivers are also accessible via PLAN. Guidance on emergency declarations and waivers by the National Association of State Energy Officials is available here. Please direct any questions to or share new information with Sarah Reboli, NPGA Deputy Counsel, Regulatory Affairs.

CDC Guidance for Critical Workers Potentially Exposed to COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC) recently published new guidance tailored to critical workers, as defined in Guidance on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The CDC guidance recommends practices for critical infrastructure employers and employees with potential exposure to COVID-19, but who do not themselves have COVID-19 symptoms. The CDC defines potential exposure: being a household contact or having close contact within 6 feet of an individual with confirmed or suspected COVID-19; the timeframe for having contact with an individual includes the period of time of 48 hours before the individual became symptomatic.
The CDC guidance does not apply to all workers in the propane industry. Companies should carefully review the guidance to understand when the recommended practices are permissible so as to avoid violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, which generally prohibits medical examines like taking employees’ temperatures.
The intent of the guidance is to permit critical infrastructure workers to continue essential functions following potential exposure to COVID-19 with additional precautions to protect workers and the community.

DOR Waives Certain Motor Carrier Requirements Due to COVID-19

In support of Governor Eric Holcomb’s Executive Order 20-02 declaring a public health disaster emergency in Indiana due to COVID-19, Indiana Department of Revenue (DOR) Commissioner Bob Grennes has waived several Motor Carrier Services (MCS) requirements until May 22, 2020.
The waivers affect:
  • Out-of-state motor carriers who are delivering COVID-19 supplies do not need to obtain trip permits or register with the International Registration Plan (IRP) or the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) before entering Indiana. Upon request, drivers must be able to prove they are hauling food, goods, medical supplies, other equipment and supplies to address the public health threat posed by COVID-19. This waiver will expire on May 22, 2020.
  • IRP or Base Plate registrations (BPR) expiring on March 31, 2020, or April 30, 2020, will not expire until May 31, 2020. Also, an Indiana-based IRP or BPR registrant may delay a registration renewal and/or payment for registrations effective May 1, 2020, until May 31, 2020.
  • Any delayed IRP renewal registrations and/or payments must have an effective renewed IRP registration submitted to DOR by June 1, 2020.
  • Indiana-based IFTA licensees that file quarterly motor carrier fuel tax returns may delay the first quarter’s return (ordinarily due April 30, 2020) to May 31, 2020. Also, following IFTA’s recommendation, DOR waives the requirements to display or possess IFTA credentials until May 22, 2020.
Although DOR in-person customer service is currently suspended due to the COVID-19 health emergency, our MCS customer service team continues to provide support by phone and email, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., EST.
To find contact information for specific MCS sections, refer to the contact information listed online.

Temporary Propane Installations for COVID-19 Response

As more states begin to address the impacts of the advancing COVID-19 disease, NPGA has been made aware of temporary facilities being erected to prepare for the increased testing, hospitalization, and quarantine rates that are anticipated. As a result, these temporary facilities are installing propane tanks to fuel space heating and possibly other types of equipment.
Please note that from a code perspective, NFPA 58 provides the necessary requirements to safely make these types of installations. The code defines “Temporary Service” as an installation made for not more than 12 consecutive months at a given location. The 2020 edition of NFPA 58 addresses the installation of portable storage containers for temporary use (Section 6.8.5). The code also provides requirements for the temporary use of skid tanks (6.6.2) and porta-pacs (6.6.3).
Typical ASME containers are also allowed to be used for temporary installations as long as they comply with the requirements for appropriate separation distances from buildings. Also, the separation requirements for relief valve discharges, fill valves and fixed maximum liquid level gauges from sources of ignition will come into play as well as the requirements for regulator vent discharges.
Propane has a role to play in all emergency situations and its safe use will be especially important as communities respond to the COVID-19 outbreak by providing safe, isolated care facilities for people infected by the virus.
Please contact Bruce Swiecicki with questions or for additional information.

Indiana Emergency Pricing

The IPGA has full faith that our member’s top priority is to the health and safety of their employees and customers during this COVID-19 pandemic but it is always a good reminder that there are orders and statutes on pricing in times of emergency. As a company you should be aware of this important information.

Indiana Executive Order on Price Gouging

Indiana Price Gouging Statute

Non-Essential Indiana Workers Ordered to Stay at Home: Propane industry NOT included in the order

Governor Eric Holcomb has just issued an order that all non-essential Indiana workers should remain in their homes beginning March 25th through April 6th. To review the Executive Order, please click here.

Please be advised, the Indiana propane industry has been deemed an essential service. This means that Indiana retail propane operations and operations of those in the propane supply chain that make it possible for the propane industry to provide its services REMAIN ESSENTIAL to the state of Indiana. Likewise, this means that the IPGA and its members should continue to provide its services and propane fuel to those that rely on propane for their homes and businesses.

The IPGA continues to recommend that ALL IPGA members take the precautions to maintain social distancing, practicing the highest standards of hygiene, and frequently wash hands and surfaces at your workplaces. The IPGA also recommends members make adjustments to limit contact with your customers during home deliveries and at your retail operations. The IPGA recommends any members with showrooms discontinue those operations. The IPGA recommends members utilize more drop box payments and credit card payments to limit customer interaction. The IPGA also encourages all members to encourage your employees that are sick to remain at home. Above all, be smart with how you conduct yourselves, your employees and your operations during this crisis.

Please be advised that the IPGA will continue to place COVID related news updates for the industry here on this page. The IPGA staff will continue working but staff be working from home. The best way to reach the IPGA will be vial email at [email protected].

Your Propane Business and COVID-19

As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue, the IPGA would like to share a few important thoughts. Our goal is not to add to the hysteria or suggest a reason to panic, but to offer reasonable guidance for your business operations during this challenging time. These are only suggestions and you can decide if or how they may benefit your company.

Consumer Interaction

The propane industry by nature tends to have minimal interactions with customers as drivers and techs perform their functions in a controlled environment. Still, you may want to discuss with field personnel their interaction with customers. Understandably, people may be more wary of contact with others.

Similarly, you may want to consider notifying your customers that your drivers are being asked to limit customer interaction. Let them know you appreciate their faith and trust in you, and that in return your employees are keeping an eye on customer safety from all angles.

Consider limiting employee exposure to customer homes in non-emergency situations. When in-home customer assistance is needed, remind your employees to limit customer exposure and practice sound hygiene to limit liability and exposures.

If you do not already have one, consider a payment drop box to limit exposure to those customers that pay bills in person. It’s true that customers and staff often enjoy good relationships and the opportunity to visit over the counter, but some may feel more comfortable with a hands-off option.

Encourage more customers to pay bills via credit card or online payments to limit exposure and lines in your office. It might be time to review your credit card processing supplier and shop for lower fees as this option is increasing in demand while interest rates drop.

Impact on Low-Income Customers

COVID-19 will impact the lives of everyone to some degree. Low-income customers, however, will have fewer options if employment and benefits are interrupted.

Wage-earners whose place of employment is closed or families that lose daycare and have to miss work to stay home will feel immediate financial strain. The processing of low income assistance payments may be impacted if/when state work stoppages or employee absenteeism occurs. Homebound residents may also go through product a little faster than expected, so keeping an eye on tank levels even as the winter fades may be a good idea. Anticipate these customer needs and work with them to have a plan. We’re all in this together.

Employee Situations

Beyond your company’s previous experience with flu or other seasonal illness outbreaks, COVID-19 may present a new challenge for your workforce. How will you handle employee absenteeism should it strike several members of your workforce for extended periods? Treatment for diagnosed or suspected outbreaks could idle an employee for two weeks or more. If schools or daycares close or remain closed as a result of COVID-19, how will your employees and their families juggle the demands of in-home care with the needs of supplying propane to your customers?

There may be no “right” answers to these questions but it’s important to ask them before the moment comes. Please consider how your company and its employees will respond to the potential workforce impacts of a COVID-19 outbreak.

NPGA COVID-19 Resources

There is now a new section on NPGA’s website with COVID-19 response documents. To access the documents, click here, then look for “COVID-19 Documents” under “Benefits and Services.”

The documents include language that can be made specific to a company should an employee contract COVID-19, language that can be made specific to a company on general COVID-19 prevention practices, the OSHA bulletin on worker safety regarding COVID-19, a FAQ for COVID employee/employer questions, as well as a summary of marketer common practices. Please note we plan to update these materials as needed. And as this situation evolves, we also appreciate any feedback on what you or your members need.

IPGA will post information at indianapropane.com with information and updates relevant to the Indiana propane industry. Continue to check back for updates.