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A Message from Tom Stenzel on Coronavirus/COVID-19

Apr 10, 2020

April 10, 2020; 5:30 pm EDT/2:30 pm PDT

Dear Produce Industry Member:

As many in our community are finding new ways to enjoy the Passover holiday remotely, or preparing for an Easter Sunday celebration online, I’m struck with our produce industry’s response to this crisis. Despite personal and business challenges, you’ve remained steadfast in feeding our neighbors, whether in harvesting and packing produce to send around the world, serving consumers directly in stores, take-out and delivery, or donating our healthy foods to those most in need.

Here’s what’s new to help us keep moving forward:

  • The Department of the Treasury has announced a new lending program designed to support liquidity in medium-sized businesses. The new Main Street Business Lending Program will enable up to $600 billion in new financing for businesses with up to 10,000 employees or $2.5 billion in 2019 annual revenues. The program will offer 4-year loans with principal and interest payments deferred for one year. Check out details here about loan terms. This is an important step to assist many of our members who do not qualify for small business loans.
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has extended its Emergency Declaration through May 15, continuing the emergency relief for hours-of-service rules for motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance in support of relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks.
  • USDA has approved our request and released guidance allowing schools to use their Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program dollars as part of alternative meal delivery. This also allows multiple servings to be distributed at once (for schools giving out a week’s worth of meals).
  • We continue to work with allied food associations to support government financial incentives for our essential food industry employees. A new proposal is going to the President and Congress tonight. We urge you to visit the United Fresh Grassroots Website to send a message to Congress supporting tax relief for our food heroes.
  • Finally, we continue to update our COVID-19 guidance for the broader food industry, working closely with FDA and CDC throughout this process. Information is changing quickly, so we’ve posted a new coalition website where anyone can find the latest recommended protocols. These include guidance for keeping operations moving if an employee tests positive, proper usage of face masks, guidance on social distancing in food facilities, and considerations for screening employees for symptoms of COVID-19.

In wrapping up tonight, I want to share some inspiration with you all. When we asked folks who had already registered for our in-person convention in June to consider donating those fees to our Foundation to help kids and their families, the response was overwhelming. With those funds, we decided to offer 25 $1,000 Foundation grants to produce distributors and companies who would support those in need in communities across the industry. In 24 hours, some 50 companies submitted applications – every one of them telling us they were already donating produce, but even our small grant would help them do more. Next week, we’ll share their stories on our website, in our social media and with all of you. If you’d like to help, you can donate here.

So, whatever your personal spiritual preferences, I hope you’ll say a word of thanks this weekend for each other and all of those who continue to help feed the world. You are amazing!

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