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REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley Coronavirus Update

March 27, 2020
Congress Clears Coronavirus Rescue Bill Filled with REALTOR® Benefits

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a historic $2.2 trillion COVID-19 rescue package Friday, sending it to President Trump for his signature.

The bill contains numerous benefits for REALTORS® that NAR fought hard for during the past three weeks, including unemployment eligibility for the self-employed and independent contractors; unprecedented aid for small businesses; and a delay in business payroll tax payments.

NAR has compiled a comprehensive guide to all benefits for REALTORS® and their customers found in this legislation

“This bill will go a long way to help people through these next weeks until the economy can open up again,” said Shannon McGahn, senior vice president of government affairs for NAR. “This is the third and largest rescue package to-date, and we are already working with Congressional leaders on round four.”

“The real estate industry supports nearly 10 million jobs in the United States and makes up 17% of our economy,” McGahn continued. “Congress understands that a strong housing market will lead the economic recovery.”

Review details of the relief package.

Please find the link below to learn more about what this means for Realtors® and small business:
https://narfocus.com/billdatabase/clientfiles/172/…/3613.pdf

March 27, 2020
Massachusetts officials announced Friday morning that the 2019 state income tax filing and payment deadline has been extended because of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

March 27, 2020
RAPV Weekly Membership Update Call on COVID-19

RAPV 2020 President, Sue Drumm, and CEO, Brendan Bailey will be hosting a video conference call to provide updated information on COVID-19 for our membership at 5:00 p.m. on Mondays.

Please see the call-in details below:

Monday RAPV All Member Call 
Mon, Mar 30, 2020 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM (EDT) 

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone. 
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/699612701 

You can also dial in using your phone. 
United States: +1 (669) 224-3412 

Access Code: 699-612-701 

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts: 
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/699612701 

March 26, 2020
Putting Members First With the Right Tools, Right Now

In light of the challenges presented by COVID-19, and its impact on the real estate industry, NAR is taking steps to support members through these uncertain times. 
nar.realtor/right-tools-right-now
 

March 26, 2020
Do you have questions about holding open houses? Follow the link below for the latest update from the NAR Legal Department.
Open House Guidance During COVID-19
 

March 26, 2020
Guidance from the Massachusetts Association of Realtors

MAR is committed to assisting Realtors® with information to safely practice real estate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Realtors® play a critical role in assuring shelter during this state of emergency. Realtors® are also actively engaged in keeping existing transactions going and providing critical help to homebuyers that may be caught in limbo with limited options.

Click here to access the guidance from the Massachusetts Association of Realtors
 

March 26, 2020
Guidance from the Baker Administration

The Baker Administration issued guidance for Realtors® during the COVID-19 State of Emergency. 

Showings and open houses are permitted and are subject to Governor Baker’s order limiting gatherings to ten or fewer people. If open houses are held, they must be limited to ten people at a time and social distancing must be enforced. Additionally, MAR recommends the use of hand sanitizer and thorough and frequent cleanings. 
 
Although allowed, MAR strongly encourages members NOT to host open houses in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
 
Real estate closings can continue, with social distancing for any in-person transactions.
 
Finally, because real estate has not been deemed “essential”, meetings with clients and prospective clients cannot take place at a real estate brokerages’ physical (bricks and mortar) offices but may take place with social distancing or remotely by phone or video.
 
Click HERE to view the FAQ issued by the Baker Administration.
 

March 25, 2020
A message from the CEO regarding COVID-19

 

March 25, 2020
Updated: Coronavirus Advocacy FAQs: RE Transactions, Independent Contractors, NAR Grants
Click here to access NAR’s updated Advocacy FAQ

Updated: Conronavirus Resources for Property Owners
Click here to access NAR’s updated Resources for Property Owners

March 25, 2020
New: Transaction Guidance Released for REALTORS®

This is general guidance ONLY. Members should consult their brokers, legal counsel, and government-provided public health information. In addition, members should check with their MLS for any changes to open house and showing fields, or other temporary rules in place due to local conditions.

In deciding how to address new day-to-day issues while conducting business, we urge members to find answers that will ensure first-class services to your clients, while also demonstrating care for the health and well-being of clients, agents, and the greater public welfare in reducing the risk of exposure to and spread of COVID-19.

Click Here for Access to Transaction Guidance for REALTORS® During COVID-19

General Guidance® for REALTORS® During COVID-19 has been updated here.

Open House Guidance for REALTORS® During COVID-19 remains available here.
 

March 25, 2020
New: Department of Labor Posts FAQ on Paid Leave from Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) announced its first round of guidance to provide information on the leave included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). If you recall, the FFCRA imposes new family sick leave requirements on certain employers for the employee's own health needs or to care for family members, with tax credits to reimburse small businesses and self-employed to cover the leave.

The guidance – provided in a Fact Sheet for Employees, a Fact Sheet for Employers and a Questions and Answers document – tries to address questions, such as how an employer must count the number of their employees to determine coverage; how small businesses may begin to obtain an exemption; how to count hours for part-time employees; and how to calculate the wages employees are entitled to under this law.

This guidance is not all-inclusive of every question or situation and is only the first round of resources to be provided. As more questions arise, DOL is soliciting feedback to address in future compliance assistance guidance, resources, and tools. Input is being collected until March 29, 2020, online at https://ffcra.ideascale.com.

CARES Act (Phase 3 Economic Stimulus Package) Update

Although it’s been reported that a bipartisan deal was reached on the $2 trillion package early this morning in the Senate, negotiations over the final bill text and details are still ongoing this afternoon. That said, the Senate is expected to vote on the final package at some point today. Speaker Pelosi said yesterday the House could approve a Senate-passed bill by unanimous consent – a procedure that would allow the chamber to pass the bill without calling members back to Washington, provided no lawmakers object. It remains unclear whether any objections will arise. In the meatime, Axios has released a good summary of what the bill will broadly include, though I should caution that details and provisions could still shift in the final version, especially if there are objections from the House.

NAR’s policy and lobby teams are analyzing the draft verions of the bill and will release a summary that will give an overview of the legislation’s impact on/benefits for REALTORS® and small businesses, as soon as the bill is finalized. Stay tuned

March 25, 2020
What is NAR doing for REALTORS®/Self-employed/small businesses.

NAR’s Federal Advocacy team has been working nonstop with policy makers in Washington – 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. We’ve focused specifically on advocating for self-employed and small business relief in every emergency response package and will continue to do so as more proposals are considered. Below are some of the most recent actions we’ve been working on to date.  For specific questions, please also check out a new FAQ resource we’ve developed on common questions related to these advocacy efforts.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) created emergency paid sick and family leave for workers affected by COVID-19, including self-employed. Specifically, the legislation expanded Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) and created a new federal paid sick leave program for those impacted by COVID-19 (read more here). The legislation created 100 percent refundable tax credits designed to provide an offset for small businesses and independent contractors to cover the cost of new paid sick and family medical leave benefits. 

In the relief bills currently being considered by the House and Senate (phase three), there is a focus on getting aid to businesses via the Small Business Administration 7(a) loan program.  They would increase funding significantly to this program ($350 billion), and businesses can get up to $10 million (based on previous year’s expenditures/income) which can go toward mortgage interest, rents, utilities, and payroll costs for businesses.  A portion of these loans would be forgivable, including payroll costs.  NAR worked with the drafters of the legislation to ensure that independent contractors and commission-based income will be eligible for the loans as well as the forgiveness provision.  The bills provide a boost in funding to the SBA to help expedite these loans, require little in the way of up-front certification, and also give the Administration the authority to temporarily bring additional lenders into the SBA loan program to increase the options for businesses.  

In addition, businesses can apply for SBA “Economic Injury Disaster Loans,” for up to $2 million to cover costs incurred as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. 

The phase three proposed legislation still being considered by Congress also currently includes a delay of payment of employer payroll taxes.  All of the payroll taxes of an employer and one-half of the self-employment taxes of a self-employed individual as well as one-half of the estimated taxes of the individual that arise between the effective date of the act and the end of 2020 would not be due to the Treasury Department until December 31, 2021 with the other half due by December 31, 2022, if passed.

There is also a specific section on relief for self-employed individuals in phase three proposed legislation to ensure these individuals could collect regular compensation under traditional state or federal unemployment laws, not typically available to independent contractors. This temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program would last through December 31, 2020, and would provide compensation benefits to self-employed individuals impacted by COVID-19. The amount of compensation will vary based upon what the self-employed individual has earned in the past traditionally. The Department of Labor would administer this program with states’ unemployment insurance programs.

These federal solutions are evolving hourly and we are in constant communication with Congress and the Administration to make sure your voice is heard. We’ve also developed additional resources for property owners (found here) that compiles helpful guidance from federal agencies and other trade associations on COVID-19 related issues.

Please stay tuned to https://www.nar.realtor/political-advocacy/nars-advocacy-work-towards-covid-19-relief for the latest.

March 24, 2020
RAPV COVID-19 Member Conference Call Highlights

Due to growing concerns related to the Coronavirus, RAPV 2020 President, Sue Drumm, and CEO, Brendan Bailey hosted a video conference call to provide updated information on COVID-19 for our membership on Monday, March 23, 2020.

Below are the highlights from the RAPV COVID-19 member conference call:
  • Real Estate was not explicitly noted as essential in Governor Baker’s latest order. The MAR Government Affairs Team is working with the Governor’s office to receive further guidance.

  • Enforcement: Enforcement of Governor Baker’s order is left up to the local municipalities to enforce. MAR is seeking guidance on the order to ensure that there is enforcement consistency across the Commonwealth.

  • Resources: Be sure to check out rapv.commarcovid19.com; nar.realtor.com for the latest updates

  • MAR is working to ensure availability of electronic notarization across MA

  • FHFA has stated that appraisals can be done by photos and there is now increased flexibility for employment verification

  • MAR is working with the Massachusetts Fire Prevention and Safety Association to determine which municipalities are still performing inspections and what mechanism Realtors® should use to notify them of homes that will need to be inspected during the 90 day period following the lift of the state of emergency.

  • Legal Advice: A health questionnaire may presented to clients however it must be given to all clients to be compliant with all Fair Housing regulations.

  • Fire Certificate Addendum is available on marcovid19.com

  • Realtor® Income Relief: NAR is working on this issue with Congress and the ongoing stimulus relief package discussions. All 3 current bills have language ensuring that independent contractors would receive the same benefits as W2 employees. Regarding unemployment each bill carries different version of what this would look like - full unemployment, a direct deposit into your checking account based on your tax fillings, or a combination of many systems

  • MA State Legislature: Expect this week to see passage of a moratorium for foreclosures and evictions.

  • Moving companies: Though the type of “moving” is not explicitly listed, “moving companies” are listed as essential.

Takeaway: In lieu of getting direct clarification that real estate is essential - all should operate as all other businesses- close brick and mortar stores but still function in our daily businesses remotely as much as possible. There are business aspects that can be done that do not involve being around others - however it is up to the municipalities to enforce which is why clarification for the enforcement across the Commonwealth is so critical.
 

March 20, 2020
Dear Government Affairs Directors,

Below is an important update from Shannon McGahn, NAR Senior Vice President, Government Affairs. Please share this information with your members.

  • We are continuing to work with Congressional leaders on behalf of the self-employed and small business during the COVID-19 Pandemic.  

  • In a letter submitted today, NAR urged House and Senate Leadership to ease the burdens for independent contractors in the developing stimulus bill.  

  • In the letter, NAR urges lawmakers "to recognize the millions of self-employed workers of America that lack the benefits and financial aid offered to traditional W-2 employees."

  • This latest communication includes more specific policy requests, and our belief is that additional protections for a broad swath of American workers and families will be implemented.

  • We sent a similar letter two weeks ago urging relief measures for the self-employed and small business, which were included in the bill President Trump signed into law this week.  

  • As we await the fallout of this crisis on employment, we cannot let our leaders in Washington forget that every two home sales in the U.S. generate one job.

  • NAR will continue fighting for relief for small businesses, employers and the self-employed workforce, which are the backbone of our economy. Please let us know if you have any additional questions.

March 20, 2020
As a result of the outbreak of the COVID-19, Massachusetts Governor Charles Baker has issued an executive order allowing smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarm certificate inspections as required under Sections 26F and 26F½ of Chapter 148 of the General Laws to be deferred so long as:

  1. The Parties to the sale or transfer have agreed in writing that the buyer assumes responsibility for equipping the property with approved smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms.

  2. The buyer agrees as a condition of taking title to equip the property with approved smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms immediately upon taking title.

  3. An inspection as otherwise required under sections 26F and 26F½ occurs no more than 90 days after the state of emergency is lifted.

The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® legal staff has drafted language that you may use to satisfy the conditions of this executive order.

Click here to view Governor Baker's Executive Order

 
 
March 20, 2020
U.S. tax filing deadline moved from April 15 to July 15.
 

March 19, 2020
Due to growing concerns related to the Corona Virus, the Realtor® Association of Pioneer building will be closed. Our Administrative Team will be working remotely. We will continue to monitor the ongoing situation and will notify all when the Association building is able to reopen.  Have no fear we are still open for business.  The Administrative Team will be available via email Monday - Friday between the hours of 8:15 a.m. and 4:45 p.m.

Brendan Bailey, CEO: Brendan@rapv.com
Laura Herring, Director of Operations: Laura@rapv.com
Erin Percoski, Controller: Erin@rapv.com
Kim Santos, Membership & Events Coordinator: Kim@rapv.com
Ayca Yavuz, Communications & Marketing Director: Ayca@rapv.com

It was a very difficult decision to close our doors, but it is the right decision to ensure the safety of our Administrative Team as well as our membership. Thank you to all for your flexibility and patience as we all work our way through an unprecedented time.  

We look forward to seeing you all again soon!

March 18, 2020
Important Information Related to COVID-19’s Impact on Pioneer Valley Real Estate

Fire Inspections:
We have spoken with multiple Fire Departments across the Pioneer Valley. Most of our cities and towns are taking appointments, however they are significantly decreasing their numbers if not suspending the service completely. Please be sure to call your respective fire department as their status may change quickly. The MAR legal team is working on this issue at the state level. We hope to hear further developments soon. 
 
Court Houses:
All state courthouses will close TODAY, Wednesday March 18, 2020. All trials and in-person appearances will be halted until April 6th by order of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. 
 
Register of Deeds:
 
Hampden County: The Hampden County Register of Deeds service plan will now include the following: Westfield City Hall is closed to the public. The Registry will only be able to accept e-files at this time. The Springfield office will also only be accepting e-files. Documents may be submitted by U.S. Mail.
 
Hampshire County: The Hampshire County Register of Deeds is open only for recordings and is encouraging e-fillings. No public searches will be permitted. Documents may be submitted by U.S. Mail.
 
Franklin County: The Franklin County Register of Deeds is accepting e-files and documents submitted by U.S. Mail. If a file must be dropped off please call (413) 772-0239 to notify a staff member to come outside and retrieve the document.
 
NAR COVID-19 Guidance: