Takeaways from NPGA, PERC webinars on COVID-19

April 3, 2020 By    

Hundreds of propane industry members went online this week to hear leaders at the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) and the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) discuss COVID-19 resources and preventative practices for businesses. Here is what caught our attention.

COVID-19 image

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  • Propane marketers are leaders in their communities. They’ve often earned the trust of those within the community who are seeking leadership and advice from reputable sources. “These are trying times, these are scary times. It’s also a great time to show how we can lead,” says Tucker Perkins, president and CEO of PERC.
  • The government is listening – and in a good way. Never before has government responded so quickly to the needs of industries, says NPGA President and CEO Steve Kaminski. “They are listening to what we have to say. It’s not them dictating to industry,” he says. As an example, Kaminski points to the Department of Homeland Security including propane in its guidance on “essential critical infrastructure workers.” Agencies are trying to produce in a matter of days or weeks what would normally take them 12 to 24 months, adds Sarah Reboli, deputy counsel of regulatory affairs at NPGA. It’s worth noting here that DHS does not categorize all propane industry employees as essential, NPGA clarifies. The DHS guidance categorizes job functions as essential, and it’s important for companies to carefully review the entirety of the guidance for how it applies to the different job functions of all employees.
  • The $2 trillion stimulus package that President Donald Trump signed into law March 27 includes additional help for propane industry businesses and customers. Included in the legislation is $900 million in emergency contingency funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps impoverished Americans pay for their heating and cooling bills. The funding should help cover the energy costs for an additional 4 million homes across the country, says Michael Baker, director of legislative affairs at NPGA. The stimulus package also includes a Paycheck Protection Program, a Small Business Administration loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. Baker says small businesses with 500 or fewer employees are eligible, with some exceptions, for the $350 billion loan program. It is available through June 30. “This is going to be a really big deal for our small businesses in the propane industry,” he adds.
  • Without a doubt, the coronavirus pandemic has presented safety issues for propane industry members, especially as states and local jurisdictions have different requirements in place. Keeping the safety of employees and customers in mind when making decisions is paramount for propane marketers, and it’s critical they communicate with their customers about safety-related issues, says Eric Kuster, vice president of safety, education and compliance at PERC. “From a procedures’ standpoint, this is a brand new world we’re living in.” Companies have implemented their own operational policies during the pandemic, including policies on how to handle customer locations in which there is a known risk of COVID-19. Kuster says social distancing and the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) are among good safety practices for propane companies.

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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