A Helpful Guide for Small Businesses

In this article, we discuss the economic impact COVID-19 has unleashed on small businesses. Also, we have provided some resources and information small business owners should be aware of.

Here's What Every Small Business Owner Should Know

Running a business is difficult, especially in 2020--amidst the biggest economic shutdown in U.S. history. The shutdown began on a national scale in mid-March in an attempt to slow the spread of the latest coronavirus, COVID-19. Many states shut down all nonessential businesses in the wake of the pandemic. Consequently, few businesses can sustain this lengthy operational delay. Now more than ever, reducing unnecessary expenses is vital to every business. In an effort to help you and your small business, we wanted to compile resources and information regarding recent legislation that's made its way through Congress. In this post, we've summarized what small businesses need to know in the near future to remain viable. anchor

SBA is Currently Overwhelmed

Since COVID-19 altered the course of American economic history, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has received an unprecedented spike in calls discussing disaster relief loans. Currently, the organization is receiving nearly 20,000 calls per day about loans, and they expect that number of calls to triple."This is not your typical disaster scenario where a flood or hurricane impacts a fixed geographical area," SBA regional communications director Chris Hatch said in an email. "Due to the widespread impact of the coronavirus, our emergency loans and business counseling are in high demand." In an attempt to stimulate the economy, breathing life and money back into small businesses, the federal legislature has recently passed a massive stimulus package. anchor

The U.S. Government Provides Aid to Small Businesses

After a recent bill was passed by both arms of Congress, a substantial amount of money is being allocated in the form of loans to small and large businesses. According to a New York Times report, nearly $400 billion of the $2 trillion stimulus bill signed by President Trump is going to businesses. By design, these loans will allow businesses to begin paying idle employees. Community banks throughout the U.S. will administer loans to companies who pledge to not furlough or lay off workers until revenue picks up. These loans are available until June 30 and will be forgiven as long as the business continues to pay workers through the duration of the crisis. anchor 

Who Qualifies for a Disaster Loan?

All businesses within the U.S. with less than 500 employees are eligible. However, businesses must have been directly impacted by the coronavirus to qualify.

How to Apply for SBA Disaster Loans

Businesses can apply for SBA disaster loans in three different ways. The SBA offers an online portal where you can upload business documents and apply for a loan. You can also fill out a PDF linked on the agency's website and mail them to the processing and disbursement center: U.S. Small Business Administration Processing and Disbursement Center 14925 Kingsport Rd. Fort Worth, TX 76155-2243 Lastly, interested businesses can submit forms in person at an SBA disaster center, but it is unclear which locations are open at this time.

If Granted, Loans Will Arrive in 2-3 Weeks

After an application is submitted, the SBA will assess each company's credit before inspecting the reported losses. This assessment includes the review of any insurance recoveries a business received or has pending. Despite any pending recoveries, loans may still be administered if deemed deserving by the SBA. According to the organization, their goal is to grant disaster loans within two to three weeks for those who've been approved. Eligible companies can expect to receive a loan closing document to agree via signature. Initially, businesses will receive $25,000 within five days, an SBA report claims. The remaining loan amount will be disbursed on a schedule until the entire amount is sent. An SBA loan officer, who ensures you meet all necessary loan conditions, will determine the loan schedule. anchor

Another Bill Passes, Providing Employees with Additional Sick Leave

As of Wednesday, April 1, a new bill is in effect (Families First Coronavirus Response Act), which may have a tremendous impact on small businesses. It provides free coronavirus testing to anyone whose doctor says a test is needed, and it grants two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave. The bill also provides more funding for state Medicaid programs, and it extends unemployment benefits to furloughed workers. In short, here are some key takeaways from a Wall Street Journal report.

Who qualifies for paid leave?

Employees unable to work because of COVID-19 symptoms or under quarantine must receive two weeks or up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at their full rate or the applicable minimum wage, if higher. If an employee is caring for a quarantined person or a child who can't go to school or daycare because of the pandemic, the employer must provide two weeks or up to 80 hours of paid leave at two-thirds of the employee's normal rate. Employees who have been employed for at least 30 days can also take up to 10 additional weeks of paid family and medical leave at two-thirds of their normal rate to care for children at home due to the outbreak. Workers may be able to take leave intermittently, but only with their employer's permission, according to fresh guidance issued by the Department of Labor on Thursday. The law applies to full- and part-time employees, temporary workers, day laborers, and employees who are already on leave. Independent contractors are not employees under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and shouldn't be counted.

Which employers must comply with the provisions of the new law?

U.S. businesses with fewer than 500 employees are covered by the new paid-leave rules.

Is this part of the $2 trillion economic rescue package?

No, President Trump signed this bill into law on March 18, so these requirements were passed in a separate bill from the $2 trillion stimulus package we mentioned earlier. These paid-leave requirements must be followed, regardless of whether or not employees or employers receive loans or payments from the federal stimulus package (known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act).

Does the Families First Coronavirus Response Act contain any employer exceptions?

According to the Department of Labor (DOL), small businesses with less than 50 employees may qualify for an exemption. So far, the DOL said businesses might be eligible for an exemption if the new paid-leave requirements would threaten the business' continuity. However, the DOL has not yet given specific guidelines on who qualifies or how to apply.

Are there any caps on how much leave covered employers must provide?

Yes, but the limits are contingent on the employee's situation. Here's an official DOL document outlining employee rights and entitlement details. If the employee has COVID-19 symptoms or is under quarantine for the virus, they must be paid either their full rate or the minimum wage. Thus, the cap is $511 a day or $5,110 for two weeks. Employees taking care of a sick person infected with COVID-19 are subject to a $200 limit per day or $2,000 for two weeks. Employees caring for children home from school also have a $200 limit per day and $12,000 total. This amount includes two weeks of paid sick leave and 10 weeks of the expanded family and medical leave.

What will happen to small businesses that aren't fully compliant on April 1?

In a memo Tuesday, the Department of Labor said it wouldn't take enforcement action against employers before April 17, as long as they are making a good-faith effort to comply with the law.

How long will these new paid leave provisions be in effect?

The requirements of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act will apply through the rest of 2020, ending Dec. 31.anchor

Additional COVID-19 Resources


Aside from SBA, Another Resource is Available

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Is Now a Good Time to Signup?

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