Energy

Fuel Line Newsletter 3/20/20

Our economy and our lives will be altered over the next few months as we all face an uncertain future. VFDA is focused on the health and safety of the employees and customers of Vermont’s energy providers. VFDA staff is on the job and available to answer your questions and help where we can. This is an unprecedented challenge for all of us, but we are stronger when we work together.

Vermont marked its first deaths from the coronavirus on Thursday: a Windsor County man who had been hospitalized at the VA Medical Center in White River Junction and a female resident of a Burlington elderly care facility. 

Schools, childcare centers, bars, and restaurants are closed until at least April 6. When it comes to childcare centers, Governor Phil Scott encourages “continued operation exclusively where needed to provide childcare services for workers who are essential to Vermont’s ongoing effort in community mitigation of COVID-19.” The Vermont State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) is compiling an “Essential Persons List for COVID-19 Response.”  Click here to download. If you or one of your employees is in need of child care, click here to fill out an online form or call 1-877-705-9008 to speak to a childcare referral specialist with the Vermont Department of Children and Families.

The Vermont Legislature is still working. They are meeting via conference call and VFDA’s legislative team is participating. VFDA has testified and will continue to offer information on the impact of COVID-19 on fuel suppliers and heating service companies. If you have any information to share, please contact Matt Cota.

The state could face a revenue shortfall of $200 million due to diminished economic activity and delayed tax payments. The general fund could lose up to $50 million because of a reduction of personal income and meals and rooms taxes.

There has been an unprecedented spike in unemployment insurance claims in Vermont: a 1000% increase over a two week time period. Go to labor.vermont.gov for more information on unemployment insurance.

While some businesses are laying off employees, others need help. We’re working with other business organizations to collect information about companies that are hiring. If you have a job that needs filled, click here to fill out an online form that will get posted to a job board hosted by the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce. 

Financial resources are available for Vermont businesses. Please fill out an Economic Injury Loan form (found here) and send it to commerce.covid19@vermont.gov so we can provide the federal government with an estimate of the economic toll in Vermont. In addition, Congress has passed legislation that creates emergency sick leave for employees and provides loans for small businesses.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued a national emergency declaration to provide hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the nationwide coronavirus outbreak. While fuel is included in this declaration, it is not clear what is meant by “transporting emergency relief.” VFDA is working with our regional and national partners on a more concrete definition. Click here to download the declaration. Keep a copy in your driver files and on the road where the hours of service of the driver may be questioned. The waiver is effective through midnight, April 12, 2020.

While the Canadian border is closed to “non-essential traffic,” the transportation of gasoline, diesel, propane and heating oil is considered essential and is still permitted.

The Fair Haven Welcome Center and the Randolph I-89 Southbound Rest Area buildings and facilities are now closed due to COVID-19 concerns. The parking areas of these two locations are still open to the public.

All Vermont DMV in-person transactions have been suspended until further notice. Transactions can still be completed through the mail, electronic methods or over the phone. Vermont has issued a temporary waiver of IRP/IFTA and 72 hour trip permit requirements. Vermont asks that no enforcement action be taken against vehicles with no or expired IRP or IFTA credentials for 90 days from the date of the Emergency Declaration. All fuel distributor reports required to be filed with DMV are still required to be filed on time.

Any Vermont vehicle registration or drivers license expiring March 31, 2020 will be valid for an additional 90 days. VFDA has confirmed that a 90 grace period is in the works for oilheat and gas certifications. Legislation may be required to create a similar grace period for electrical and plumbing licenses.

The Public Service Department has moved to performing only outdoor field inspections on jurisdictional propane accounts until further notice. The PSD will not be scheduling any indoor records inspections at the operators’ offices until further notice.  

All routine fuel oil tank inspections should be delayed, but there has been no determination on whether first fill/new tank inspections should continue. VFDA has asked the Department of Environmental Conservation to consider hitting pause on this requirement.

If you have a customer having trouble paying for heating fuel, there is still crisis fuel assistance money available. The Fuel Assistance Office has confirmed to VFDA that they are working to ensure that those that recently lost their jobs receive eligibility consideration by removing the 30 day income “look back” requirement. Vermonters in need of help should call 1-800-479-6151 to apply for emergency heating assistance. 

As a reminder, propane companies can not deny service to a customer if they have cash for a minimum delivery, even if they have back balance. Existing law (CP-111) also requires a propane dealer to notify their customer at least 14 days before disconnecting service. Service must be reconnected if the customer offers a reasonable repayment plan.

Looking for ways to protect your family, your employees and customers? Click here to check out a free online training that covers basic techniques to protect yourself and others from the spread of illness. The New England Fuel Institute (NEFI) is providing COVID-19 related guidance to heating fuel and energy service providers. This includes best practices on how to keep employees and customers safe and healthy. It’s available at nefi.com/coronavirus. The CDC has information on Managing Stress and Anxiety, including resources and tips for yourself, families and children, and first responders.

We are constantly updating our website to provide the information and resources important to  VFDA members. Go to vermontfuel.com/coronavirus or contact us if you have any questions.

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Copyright 2020 by the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association.  All rights reserved.

Vermont Fuel Dealers Association
P.O. Box 1370
Montpelier, VT 05601-1370
info@vermontfuel.com

Phone: (802) 223-7750
Fax: (802) 419-3313
vermontfuel.com
facebook.com/vtfuel
twitter.com/vermontfuel

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