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Ask Us: COVID-19 & Your Business

Jump to topics:
BUSINESS SUPPORT
CERTIFICATES OF ORIGIN
COMPASSIONATE CARE
DONATION OPPORTUNITIES
FACE COVERING REQUIREMENT
FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE ACT
FEDERAL RELIEF EFFORTS
INSURANCE POLICIES
MAIL DELIVERY
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
PUBLIC HEALTH RECOMMENDATIONS
SMALL BUSINESS ASSISTANCE
UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

To submit or vote up questions, visit Slido.com and enter the event code #ASK4BIZ or simply click here to be directed to that page. Questions can also be submitted via email at ask@madisonbiz.com. We will collect and aggregate your questions and post responses here in as timely a manner as possible.

FACE COVERING REQUIREMENT

Question: Must bartenders wear masks at an outside bar?

Answer: Emergency Order #1 from the Office of the Governor of Wisconsin states that face coverings are required for every individual age five and older indoors or in an enclosed space, which is defined as “a confined space open to the public where individuals congregate, including but not limited to outdoor bars, outdoor restaurants, taxis, public transit, ride-share vehicles, and outdoor park structures.” Therefore, a mask is required for all staff and customers at an outside bar, including bartenders, except when eating or drinking.

Question: Are multi-family apartment buildings considered a commercial use requiring a mask sign? I know tenants don’t have to wear in their apartments, but I expect they do in common halls? Can you verify?

Answer: Yes. Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) states on their website that “[a]ll residential properties (such as apartment buildings and condominiums) that have shared common indoor spaces (such as mailrooms, lobbies, hallways) are required to post this sign (or a similar sign) about masks being required that is visible upon entering the property.”

This is in accordance with PHMDC’s Emergency Order #13, which requires face mask use indoors at all times with limited exceptions.

Question: Some workers do not cover their nose when wearing a mask. What is the correct way for wearing a mask?

Answer: Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC)’s Emergency Order #13 states that a face covering “is worn to cover the nose and mouth completely” and Emergency Order #1 from the Office of the Governor of Wisconsin defines a face covering as “a piece of cloth or other material that is worn to cover the nose and mouth completely.” Therefore, anyone not covering their nose is not in compliance with the order. It is imperative that masks are being worn properly to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Additionally, PHMDC’s order Emergency Order #13 states that all businesses are required to develop and implement a written protective measure policy and document staff receipt, acknowledgment or training on those policies. A template policy, training log and additional information about this requirement can be found here. You can also share this information from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) about the proper way to wear a mask.

Question: What do you do with a valued employee (as all of ours are) who will not comply with the face mask order?

Answer: Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) Emergency Order #13 requires face mask use indoors at all times with few exceptions. All businesses are required to develop and implement a written hygiene policy and procedure, a written cleaning policy and procedure and a written protective measure policy and document staff receipt, acknowledgment or training on those policies. A template policy, training log and additional information about this requirement can be found here.

During the Chamber’s July 9, 2020 Lunch(UP)date (a full recording of the call can be found here) several PHMDC staff gave additional guidance around employee non-compliance. Found at the 18:25 minute mark, with additional clarification at the 33:00 minute mark, PHMDC explained that if an employee will not wear a mask at work, the employer should remind the employee of the written policies outlined above. If the employee needs an accommodation to not wear a mask at work due to a disability, they need to obtain documentation of their disability. If they present that documentation, the employer should consider other means to accommodate those employees, which may include teleworking, reassignment or use of FMLA in conjunction with the CARES Act. If the employee does not have documentation of a disability and refuses to wear a mask after being reminded of the employer’s policies, the employer would need to follow their internal disciplinary protocols for non-compliant employees.

Question: Our company has a call center with cubicles that are physically distanced. Our employees are finding it difficult to communicate on calls with masks on. Because they are physically distanced, can they take calls without masks?

Answer: No, unless an employee has a documented disability. According to Emergency Order #13, Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) requires masks to be worn at all times while indoors, particularly in confined spaces, open office plans and/or when working in cubicles, regardless of physical distancing practices. PHMDC recommends exploring lighter face-covering materials to facilitate better communication in this situation.

Question: Our company is a door-to-door sales company. We are wondering what the new protocol will be for doing business that way? Right now we are following the six-foot distance between us and home owners, wearing masks and also using hand sanitizer before and after ringing a doorbell or knocking.

Answer: With Emergency Order #13, Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) requires that you wear a face covering when you are at the door or working with the customer, or if you are going door-to-door with another employee. If you are going door to door alone, while they encourage you to also wear a face covering outdoors at all times, it would not be required for you to wear the face covering while walking between doors as long as you will not come in contact with another person.

FEDERAL RELIEF EFFORTS

Question: We took a PPP loan for the full amount of salaries. We are still making some revenue, though, which could cover some of these salaries. If we fulfill the guidelines for full employment, will the whole loan still be forgiven? Is there any accounting for income or profit in the forgiveness decision?

Answer: You will likely qualify for forgiveness, as revenue is not a factor in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness.

The Wisconsin Bankers Association created a helpful PPP Borrowers Forgiveness Calculator to walk you through the factors that will likely be considered around forgiveness. That tool can be found here.

For additional U.S. Small Business Administration guidance on forgiveness, see page 3 here.

Question: Can PPP funds be used to pay owners? As a note, our current owners are managing partners and not 1099 or W-2 employees. To date, they’ve taken weekly draws from the business. Will these types of draws be included as eligible/forgivable PPP transactions?

Answer: It is possible, but without knowing your exact situation, we would encourage you to use this tool to help you calculate your loan forgiveness.

According to the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Borrowers Fact Sheet found here, the PPP loans cover payroll costs, which include:
*Salary, wages, commissions or tips (capped at $100,000 on an annualized basis for each employee);
*Employee benefits including costs for vacation, parental, family, medical or sick leave; allowance for separation or dismissal; payments required for the provisions of group health care benefits including insurance premiums; and payment of any retirement benefit;
*State and local taxes assessed on compensation; and
*For a sole proprietor or independent contractor: wages, commissions, income or net earnings from self-employment, capped at $100,000 on an annualized basis for each employee.

This video and blog post provide good additional resources for a variety of business situations.

We would strongly encourage you to discuss your situation with your bank or accountant as you consider applying for the PPP loans. If you need additional help, you can also reach out to one of the agencies tasked with assisting businesses with SBA loans. Those can can be found here.

Question: For applicants whose banks are no longer accepting applications for PPP, some lenders are recommending that applicants go through national companies like Kabbage. Does the SBA recommend this approach?

Answer: The SBA recommends utilizing their portal to find SBA-approved lenders in our area, which can be found here.

More resources to find lenders continue to pop up online, but as you look, please remember that this program has no fees to apply, so you should be cautious of any lender charging a fee to process your application.

Question: The Paycheck Protection Program says that loans are available for wages, benefits, taxes, etc., but it is limited to wages <$100,000. As we adjust our financials to exclude wages above $100,000, should we also adjust the taxes only for the withholding below $100,000?

Answer: We cannot give out specific financial or tax advice, so we would encourage you to discuss your own situation with a CPA or tax attorney. However, there is a great resource from the U.S. Senate that addresses many questions about the CARES Act and can be found here.

Question: I have a question about how to calculate payroll if I filed as an sole proprietorship, and I took an owner draw and wasn’t salaried. I did have four employees on payroll part-time.

Answer: According to the SBA’s PPP Borrowers Fact Sheet, the PPP loans cover payroll costs, which include:
*Salary, wages, commissions or tips (capped at $100,000 on an annualized basis for each employee);
*Employee benefits including costs for vacation, parental, family, medical or sick leave; allowance for separation or dismissal; payments required for the provisions of group health care benefits including insurance premiums; and payment of any retirement benefit;
*State and local taxes assessed on compensation; and
*For a sole proprietor or independent contractor: wages, commissions, income or net earnings from self-employment, capped at $100,000 on an annualized basis for each employee.

However, there are many pieces of the application process that you will want to consider and get clarity on, so we would strongly encourage you to reach out to one of the agencies tasked with assisting businesses with SBA loans. Those can can be found here.

Question: Can PPP funds be used pay independent contractors?

Answer: No. This is addressed in Question 15 in the PPP FAQ document that can be found here.

“Any amounts that an eligible borrower has paid to an independent contractor or sole proprietor should be excluded from the eligible business’s payroll costs. However, an independent contractor or sole proprietor will itself be eligible for a loan under the PPP, if it satisfies the applicable requirements.”

Question: We support nonprofits that have applied through their bank. What is the timing/process to find out if funding is confirmed?

Answer: According to the SBA, “the lender must make the first disbursement of the loan no later than ten calendar days from the date of loan approval.” This is answered in Question 20 of the SBA’s Frequently Asked Questions, which can be found here, along with other questions you may have about the PPP process.

Question: With the passing of the CARES Act, there were some changes to SBA Disaster Loans, one of which was, “Borrowers can receive a $10,000 cash advance that is forgiven if spent on paid leave, maintaining payroll, etc.” Do you know how a business applies for this cash advance?

Answer: According to this Q&A from the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, “These grants provide an emergency advance of up to $10,000 to small businesses and private non-profits harmed by COVID-19 within three days of applying for an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). To access the advance, you first apply for an EIDL and then request the advance. The advance does not need to be repaid under any circumstance, and may be used to keep employees on payroll, to pay for sick leave, meet increased production costs due to supply chain disruptions, or pay business obligations, including debts, rent and mortgage payments.” Therefore, you must apply for an EIDL in order to access this advance.

For more information about the EIDL application process, check out our resources here.

Question: What about those businesses that didn’t borrow money from a financial institution, but rather with a land contract? Are they eligible for some sort of financial assistance?

Answer: According to the SBA, land contract payments are the same as a mortgage, rent or lease payment and should be treated the same for either the EIDL programs that they are administering. To learn more about those programs, see the “SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans” section here. Another grant program that you may want to look into is the Kiva loan program, which can also be found at that link.

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SMALL BUSINESS ASSISTANCE

Question: Do you know yet what the criteria will be to qualify for an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan?

Answer: As of Friday, March 20, 2020 at 10 p.m., the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) made available Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) to assist businesses in Wisconsin affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. You can find more information about these loans, including information about eligibility and additional resources, at madisonbiz.com/smallbusiness

If you have additional questions about this program, you can submit a question at slido.com using the event code ASK4BIZ or simply click here to be directed to that page.

Question: The SBA disaster loan shows that it could be used for payroll, fixed bills, etc. Could it also be used for paying employees’ health insurance?

Answer: According to the SBA’s EIDL Frequently Asked Questions Fact Sheet, “[t]hese loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact.” Per the Wisconsin SBA Office, health insurance “is a monthly obligation of the business so they should include that in their application to help the Disaster Loan Officer determine how much the applicant should be receiving.”

If you have additional questions, you can email the Wisconsin SBA Office at wisconsin@sba.gov. You can also visit their website at sba.gov/disaster.

Question: Who are the CDFIs in Madison?

A list of U.S Treasury-certified Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) can be found here. Click to download an Excel spreadsheet of all current CDFIs and then sort the list to see only those in Wisconsin.

The three CFDIs active in the Madison area are the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC), Forward Community Investments and Habitat for Humanity of Dane County.

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PUBLIC HEALTH RECOMMENDATIONS

Question: Would a hotel or other overnight accommodation be contacted by the health department during a contact tracing analysis if a guest had stayed with us who was carrying coronavirus? I think most overnight accommodations would want to be alerted either by the health department or the guest themselves.

Answer: As of Aug. 3, 2020, Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) has not been notifying hotels if someone has stayed there while infectious. Their recommendation is to treat all rooms as though they are infected and use rigorous cleaning protocols and proper PPE when cleaning, as they would during any other time.

Question: What are the COVID-19 degrees of separation for social connections? For example, if one of my employees has a spouse who works and had contact with someone that was diagnosed with COVID-19, I believe this is three degrees of separation. Should I instruct my employee to stay home for 14 days to ensure he was not exposed and ensure safety for the rest of my employees?

Answer: Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) has a page for businesses with employees who have tested positive for or have been exposed to COVID-19, which can be found here.

PHMDC recommends that those who have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 self-isolate for 14 days after the last contact with the sick person and return to work after that period of time only if they have had no symptoms. Close contact is defined as “being within 6 feet of an infected person for a prolonged period (15 minutes or more) starting from 2 days before illness onset. The 15 minutes does not need to be continuous (e.g., 3, 5-minute periods would count)… ” Therefore, if your employee did not themselves have close contact, it is not necessary for them to self-isolate. However, as an employer, you may want them to self-isolate to keep you, your employees and your clients and customers safe during this time.

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UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

Question: My employees rely on the services they provide for commission and tips. If we temporarily close our doors, is there such a thing as temporary unemployment so they can collect benefits? The intention is that we will re-hire them post-crisis and that they intend on coming back to work.

Answer: As long as your business has been paying into state unemployment, your employees should be eligible to receive unemployment benefits if they lose employment through no fault of their own. Additionally, the governor has waived several eligibility requirements in order to make it easier for those unemployed during this outbreak to receive benefits. To file a claim, your temporarily unemployed staff should go to my.unemployment.wisconsin.gov and create an account. The Department will follow up with them.  

Please note that unemployment is treated on a case-by-case basis and that there are still some criteria for eligibility. In examining claims, the Department will look at the wages that you, the employer, have reported in your quarterly wage report. In the case of employees who receive commissions or tips, if tips or commissions have been declared and reported, then they are part of the claim. If a worker did not declare their tips or the employer did not include them on the W-2, then they are not included in the claim. If a worker disputes quarterly wages by saying they should be higher, they must be able to prove that claim. Declaring tips as income on their taxes is proof. 

You can find the Wisconsin Unemployment Insurance Handbook for Employers here. If you have additional benefits/claimant eligibility questions or need support from the Department of Workforce Development, the Unemployment Insurance Employer Assistance line is 414-438-7705. The line is staffed M-F 7:35 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. The Department of Workforce Development has also created a general FAQ regarding COVID-19 and Unemployment, found here.

Question: My business has closed and my employees have filed for unemployment. Can I continue to pay benefits for my employees including health insurance?

Answer: In general, all that matters is wages earned. When calculating unemployment benefits, the state Department of Workforce Development (DWD) is looking at gross wages, which includes everything that is calculated prior to deductions. The employer share of contributions to health insurance, retirement, etc. should not impact claim calculations. You as the employer can continue to make healthcare or retirement contributions without affecting gross wages and therefore impacting unemployment insurance claims.

Please note that unemployment is treated on a case-by-case basis. You can find the Wisconsin Unemployment Insurance Handbook for Employers here. If you have additional benefits/claimant eligibility questions or need support from the Department of Workforce Development, the Unemployment Insurance Employer Assistance line is 414-438-7705. The line is staffed M-F 7:35 a.m – 3:30 p.m. The Department of Workforce Development has also created a general FAQ regarding COVID-19 and Unemployment, found here.

Question: If my business is a salon, but my staff are all independent salon owners who are essentially renting space in my salon (they are all LLCs or S-Corps), can they file for unemployment? And would it be based on their 2019 taxes?

Answer: A representative at the Department of Workforce Development told us that as long as the salon owners have lost employment through no fault of their own, they should take the steps to file for unemployment. The Department of Workforce Development will conduct its own investigation into their circumstances to determine whether they are considered “independent contractors” under unemployment law and will then determine any unemployment benefits.

If you or they have additional benefits or claimant eligibility questions or need support from the Department of Workforce Development, the Unemployment Insurance Employer Assistance line is 414-438-7705. The line is staffed M-F 7:35 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. The Department of Workforce Development has also created a general FAQ regarding COVID-19 and Unemployment, found here. Please note that due to high call volumes, there may be a wait.

Question: My daughter just started a new painting business prior to the coronavirus. They have not been able to get any jobs as a result. Is there any place where they can find help with their rent and gas/electric bills since their business had not even gotten off the ground yet?

Answer: The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development launched the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Program, which is a new temporary federal program that provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals who are not eligible for regular Unemployment Insurance (UI), including:
*Individuals who are self-employed.
*Certain independent contractors.
*Individuals with limited recent work history.
*Other workers not covered by regular UI.

Based on the scenarios provided by the DWD here, your daughter may qualify for PUA. She would be able to apply online to determine eligibility here.

Additionally, we are regularly updating our Small Business Resources page, which can be found here. This page highlights the various other loans and grants available for small businesses. Depending on your daughter’s situation, she may want to look into one of the options found there, including the Dane County Small Business Pandemic Support Grant Program.

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INSURANCE POLICIES

Question: What should we look for in our insurance policy to see if this situation would qualify for a claim? 

Answer: It is important to fully understand what your insurance policy covers, so we would encourage you to reach out directly to your insurance agent or broker to discuss your coverage. 

For many businesses, their first-party property insurance policies will include coverage for not only property damage but also for lost profits resulting from that damage. The coverage for lost income often covers loss resulting from things like: damage to the property of a customer or supplier or a supplier’s supplier (contingent business interruption), government action such as evacuation orders (order of civil authority) and damage to properties that attach customers to the policyholder’s business (leader property). 

The main question to ask when it comes to property insurance coverage for all COVID-19-related loss is whether the presence of the virus can cause or constitute property damage and whether such damage played a role in the loss of income. Make sure to connect with your insurer to understand your specific coverage and be sure to keep proper records of losses (income and expense) resulting from the outbreak’s impact.

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FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE ACT

Question: When I read the Family Leave Act, what I think it says is I must pay staff that are home with school-age children. I have already paid them two weeks sick time; do I need to keep paying them at the 2/3 rate? They only work 24 hrs/wk. and have not asked to be paid. My business is fewer than 25 people.

Answer: The new changes made to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) program as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) require that an employers with 500 or fewer employees provide up to 12 weeks of leave. The first two weeks are technically unpaid, as those are accounted for with the two weeks guaranteed paid sick leave. The remaining weeks are paid up to 2/3 of the employee’s compensation, but no more than $200 per day or $10,000 total.

Note that you would receive a tax credit for the full amount of the benefit paid to the employee.

Additionally, employers with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for an exemption if the benefit would jeopardize the viability of the business. “A small business may claim this exemption if an authorized officer of the business has determined that:

*The provision of paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would result in the small business’s expenses and financial obligations exceeding available business revenues and cause the small business to cease operating at a minimal capacity;

*The absence of the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would entail a substantial risk to the financial health or operational capabilities of the small business because of their specialized skills, knowledge of the business, or responsibilities; or

*There are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, and qualified, and who will be available at the time and place needed, to perform the labor or services provided by the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, and these labor or services are needed for the small business to operate at a minimal capacity.”

For additional guidance, see Questions 58 and 59 here.

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PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

Question: I am researching cleaning and PPE suppliers outside of our normal vendors, specifically for securing disinfectant wipes for our business when we plan to reopen. Are there any recommended local suppliers for restocking office cleaning supplies?

Answer: There are quite a few Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce members who have been working hard to source cleaning supplies and PPE for businesses during this time. We would encourage you to look over this list to find local businesses who have available resources. We have also been regularly highlighting member offerings on our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) and in our regular email communications.

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MAIL DELIVERY

Question: If my business is deemed non-essential, will the Post Office continue to try to deliver my mail to my business address? Can I get it rerouted to my home address? Do I have to pay for that? And how do I arrange that?

Answer: The U.S. Postal Service has created several webpages providing USPS-specific coronavirus information: a General Statement, Updates on Coronavirus for Business Customers and Updates on Coronavirus for Residential Customers.

One of the questions on the Residential Customers page is, “How is USPS Handling Mail for Closed Businesses?” Here is their answer:

“Mail on the delivery route is returned to the Delivery unit and will be held for 10 days under current policies. Customers can request a temporary hold for their mail up to 30 days. Caller Box customers should contact their local office to discuss how they will be handling the pickup of this volume. Any high volume customer will be contacted to discuss pickup options as well.”

It is possible to temporarily reroute your mail using the USPS “Change of Address” process, which you can do online here.

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BUSINESS SUPPORT

Question: Are there organizations locally that are supporting the emotional side of business ownership right now? Having to lay off employees was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, and I am just looking for support from others who are having a similar experience.

Answer: This is a great question that we are glad you are asking. Please know that you are not alone in asking this question or thinking about this. Supporting the emotional side of business ownership is something that we are interested in and actively working to find a solution for, so if you’d like to be a part of building something like this, please send your ideas and/or information to ask@madisonbiz.com.

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COMPASSIONATE CARE

Question: What does compassionate care refer to regarding visitors to nursing homes?

Answer: Compassionate care is medical and emotional care for patients with terminal diseases and may include hospice care. Individuals should defer to each facility for their guidance and policies.

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CERTIFICATES OF ORIGIN

Question: If I have a shipment that requires a certificate of origin, how can I have one affixed to my documents?

Answer: If you need a Certificate of Origin, please reach out to Pattie Fowler from our team at pattie@madisonbiz.com and she will be able to help.

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DONATION OPPORTUNITIES

Question: I am a restaurant owner who has excess food that I’d like to donate. Do you know anyone who is taking it?

Answer: Currently we know that FEED Kitchens and Healthy Food For All may be able to take some unused restaurant product. They will not accept opened or unsealed food products and priority will be given to items that are not short-dated.  

If you have food that follows these basic guidelines that you would like to donate, please send an email with the subject line “Restaurant food for donation” to feedmanager@feedkitchens.org and include an itemized list of products you have available.

Question: I have two unopened boxes of 100-count latex gloves. Where can I donate these items? 

Answer: Currently, Public Health Madison & Dane County’s EMS Services is in need of masks, paper and/or cloth gowns. If you have any of these products, please reach out to Carrie Meier at meier.carrie@countyofdane.com or (608) 444-4827 to coordinate a drop-off. 

Additionally, Housing & Homelessness Services is requesting donations for the following items:

–Hand Sanitizer
–Face Masks (surgical)
–Gloves (especially latex-free)
–Thermometers – Forehead reading
–Clorox wipes
–Paper towel
–Bleach spray
–Toilet paper
–Food: Fresh fruit, grab & go snacks for kids, single-serving food
–Diapers (sizes 2-6)
–Baby Wipes
–Disposable goggles or face shields 

If you are able to donate any of these items, please reach out to KNeuschel@publichealthmdc.com or tkoppmueleer@cityofmadison.com to coordinate a drop-off. 

Please note that due to Infection Control requirements, unsolicited items, including hand-sewn cloth masks, will not be accepted.

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