UPDATE April 6, 2020
Today our local Chamber of Commerce published information to help businesses navigate this situation. Check your local chamber too! It will be helpful for you regardless of location (LINK)
Below is info prepared by a legal team to help you understand how to protect you from liability exposure during this pandemic. I wrote a summary below: (LINK)
Medical status is information that is statutorily protected and private. Supervisors in your business who possess information about Employees should handle the disclosure of necessary information to protect health of other Employees as needed.
The policy instructions below are required to interact with team members that have symptoms of COVID-19 or may have been exposed to the virus;
- DO: Observe vigilant personal hygiene practices, such as the importance of frequently washing hands and avoiding large gatherings.
- DO: Contact Supervisors if you observe an Employee who has symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath). Do not gossip with other Employees, but rather take steps to sanitize and protect.
- DON’T: Disclose the identity of Employees who are diagnosed with or have symptoms of COVID-19 to other team members.
- DON’T: Disclose the identity of Employees who have been exposed or potentially exposed to an individual with COVID-19 and don’t have a diagnosis to other team members.
- DON’T: Discuss a Employee’s private medical information with Employees, including their pre-existing conditions/vulnerability.
- DON’T: Ask Employee about the medical condition of other Employee’s family. This information is also statutorily protected and private.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
Authorizes up to $349 billion in forgivable loans and is available to businesses – including nonprofits, veterans organizations, tribal business concerns, sole proprietorships, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors – with 500 or fewer employees. The loan amounts will be forgiven as long as the loan proceeds are used to cover payroll costs, and most mortgage interest, rent, and utility costs over the 8 week period after the loan is made AND you maintain compensation levels. You should be able to apply through any existing SBA lender (bank) starting this Friday April 3, 2020. More details are here.
Work Sharing Program
The Department of Labor is also reminding businesses of its Shared Work Program that can provide an alternative to laying off employees during business downturns by allowing workers to work a reduced work schedule and collect partial unemployment insurance benefits for up to 26 weeks. Details can be found here.
Expanded Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)
Small businesses may apply directly to the federal Small Business Administration to receive an economic injury disaster grant of up to $10,000 that does not need to be paid back. The money is supposed to be paid out to business owners within three days of their application’s submission but we expect huge demand and challenges for SBA to implement it so plan on it taking longer. It can be used to maintain payroll, cover paid sick leave and service other debt obligations. More details are here.
Economic Injury Disaster Grants
Even if your business is denied a loan, you can still access this grant up to $10,000, which can be used to provide employee sick leave, maintain payroll or meet other needs like paying rent. You must apply for a loan first to be considered for this option.
Employee Retention Tax Credit
To help employers (including tax-exempt organizations) affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the CARES Act provides for an employer federal tax credit against the Social Security portion of payroll tax that the employer pays. The act applies to wages paid from March 13, 2020, through December 31, 2020, and is available to qualified employers, which are employers who carried on a trade or business during 2020 and whose (1) operations were fully or partially suspended due to a COVID-19-related shut-down order or (2) gross receipts declined by more than 50% compared to the same quarter in the prior year.
The amount of the tax credit is equal to 50% of the first $10,000 in qualified wages (including health benefits) paid to each employee, up to a maximum tax credit of $5,000 per employee. For eligible employers with greater than 100 full-time employees, qualified wages are wages paid to employees when they are not providing services. For eligible employers with 100 or fewer full-time employees, all employee wages qualify for the credit. Qualified wages do not include sick leave wages or family leave wages paid pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201). Contact your CPA or financial advisor to learn if you qualify for the Employee Retention Credit. The IRS has provided some basic info.
Cities and states across the nation are offering bridge loans, such as LA, SF, Chicago, etc as well as the state of Florida, Michigan etc. The terms vary wildly. Please go only to sites managed by the local government to avoid getting caught in CoronaVirus lending scams.
Check with your local Chamber of Commerce for local options near you.
- Funding was provided to USDA for disaster assistance in the CARES Act but Secretary Perdue has not yet announced how the funding will be provided to farmers. Follow the USDA corona virus disaster relief page to learn more: https://www.usda.gov/coronavirus
- The U.S. State Department revised its restrictions on the processing of visa applications submitted by farm workers in Mexico after hearing concerns that the restrictions would lead to a farm worker shortage in the U.S. Consular officers can now waive the visa interview requirement for eligible first-time and returning H-2A and H-2B applicants, making more workers in the H-2 program available while prioritizing public health.
- The CARES Act Expanded Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) do make farmer coops of up to 500 members eligible but farmers are not included at this time, but may change.
(Bonus Link) Defense Production Act
You know the phrase “It’s a good gig if you can get it.” That was probably in reference to government contracts. If you’d like to know more about that, click here.