NALP offers COVID-19 resources for green industry professionals


“Frenetic” is how NALP’s Andrew Bray describes the pace of his days since the green industry began to respond to COVID-19.

The vice president of government relations for the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) had a particularly hectic hour prior to joining his NALP colleague Lisa Stryker, vice president, communications and marketing, in speaking with LM.

“Yesterday, we got something negative from Wisconsin, today the governor of Michigan said we’re not essential, 30 minutes after that, Minnesota said we are essential and 15 minutes after that, the state of Washington said we’re essential,” Bray reports.

From the minute NALP began to process the magnitude of the coronavirus, it became a question of what the organization was doing on Capitol Hill to advocate for federal funds for the landscape industry and to advocate for companies to stay working as essential businesses.

“What’s happening is, if (state governments) don’t explicitly state that landscaping services are a part of the order, they generally infer that they are by the kind of work that we do for public safety,” he explains. “I don’t think anyone saw this coming from any perspective. We’re tracking everything there and making sure we get our two cents in.”

That includes advocating for proper funding of The Families First Act. When the bill was first proposed, it directed all the businesses to pay the fund upfront to receive a tax credit in 2021 — a nonstarter, since the beginning of the season is the most cash-strapped time for landscape and lawn care companies.

Working alongside similar industries, NALP pushed instead for the bill to provide company owners with a payroll tax deduction, which they could use immediately.

Shortly after that, Bray says, it became clear that these state lockdowns were going to start taking over.

“What we’ve had to do is make sure that these officials understand that our industries are essential and critical to public safety and health … and we’re outside and we’re practicing extensive procedures and policies to reduce the transmission of infection,” he says.

Currently, the stimulus bills regarding coronavirus are as follows: Stimulus No. 1 involves getting money to health care systems to fight the virus. Stimulus No. 2 includes the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which covers two weeks of paid sick leave and other protections related to being quarantined. Stimulus No. 3 includes the $2 trillion relief bill to send money directly to Americans and offer expanded unemployment protections.

In this bill, based on one’s salary and the size of your family, individuals will receive a check for $1,500. For those collecting unemployment, the cap has been raised by $600 and an additional 4 weeks of unemployment coverage would be made available.

“To put it in perspective, what I’ve been hearing on Capitol Hill is, there’s likely three more bills coming — and this first bill should get us to 60-90 days,” Bray explains.

The unemployment rate as of March 27 is 3.2 percent — but Bray anticipates that we’re heading for 10 percent unemployment, so more federal relief will have to be in play. “By all accounts, this bill will hopefully get us through the next 30 days, and then Congress is going to have to act again.”

The major question

Alongside the advocacy at the federal level, the organization has been working overtime to speak directly with landscape business owners to give them as much clarity as possible.

“We’re doing all we can to communicate with (the industry) and advocate for them,” Bray says.  “But, in the end, some of them will have to make their own professional and personal decisions, and we’re here to help guide them.”

According to Bray, when landscape companies come calling on NALP, their first question is, “Can I keep working?” NALP’s response is to let the company owner know the association is working with their state association to find more clarity on their state’s mandates. A full state-by-state guide of the current mandates for each state can be found on NALP’s website.

Stryker says that aside from the practical question of whether professionals can keep working, there are other concerns for the business owner:

  • Financial strategies and scenario planning, including finding information on how businesses can secure government loans;
  • Furloughing employees versus advising them to go on unemployment; and
  • Human resources questions, such as what to do if someone gets sick, using sick leave and vacation time and workers using the Family and Medical Leave Act program.

The association is also developing statements and policies involving COVID-19 and pushing them out to myriad sources — NALP’s website and in podcasts, emails and webinars. In the coming days, Bray will have a podcast dedicated to advocacy on Capitol Hill and NALP CEO Britt Wood will have a podcast where he speaks with company owners about how they’re responding to the crisis.

Any changes from the Occupational and Safety Health Administration are also passed on through NALP’s website and posted on its social media.

Overall, the organization hopes that it can help landscape businesses navigate the current state of confusion and offer some solutions. “We know that even if companies are in states where they’re deemed essential, police have been stopping everyone from supermarket workers to doctors … everyone’s not on the same page,” Stryker says.

Looking ahead to the aftermath of the pandemic, businesses will have to be flexible, says Stryker. “What we saw in 2008, the companies that survive are the ones willing to change their business model and experiment and adapt,” she says.

“A lot of (companies) are doing the right thing right now, which is reaching out to clients, once they feel their employee safety is taken care of. We’re in the phase where employee safety and just figuring out if they can work is the priority.”

Bray echoes Stryker’s advice. “It’s an oxymoron, but be prepared to be adaptable and flexible — because you’ll have be — in the short-term four weeks, and long-term, some people are saying well into the summer.”

“What we’re going to be dealing within four weeks is not going to be like anything any of us are ready for, so that flexibility and engagement with their existing clients and their willingness to be ready and get new clients and take care of their employees and workers, that’s what I would want them to think about right now,” Bray says.

Abby Hart

Abby Hart

Abby Hart is the former senior editor of Landscape Management. A native Clevelander, she spent 10 years in Chicago, where she was operations manager of a global hospitality consultancy. She also worked as managing editor of Illumine, a health and wellness magazine; and a marketing specialist for B2B publications. Abby has a degree in journalism from Boston University’s College of Communication.

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