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Coronavirus Update

How Businesses Affected by COVID-19 Can Prepare for Reopening

covid-19

After shuttering their windows for weeks or fundamentally changing their operations to meet the challenges posed by the COVID-19 virus, companies also have to prepare for the reality that things will be different even after normal commerce resumes. Businesses need to consider the continuing need for basic personal health safety measures well into the future and adjust their strategies to accommodate the potential for future pandemic situations.

Give People More Space

Social distancing remains an important tool for combating the spread of infectious diseases even after they have reached their peak. Businesses that see a lot of foot traffic, like grocery stores or salons, should allow their patrons to leave as much space between each other as possible. Companies with large numbers of employees also need to look for similar opportunities to distance and protect their workforce.

Encourage Sanitary Practices

Encouraging sanitary usage of company property is often a matter of convenience, so businesses have to look for ways to make sanitary behavior also a convenient choice for workers or customers. For example, installing automatic doors can reduce the spread of germs compared to one with a handle and can make life easier for customers in general. You can also put some creative effort and branding strategy into designing signs to show proper positioning, indicate recent changes in layout or remind people to be mindful of their behavior.

Make it Easier to Clean

A sanitary workplace should be the goal of any company, even when they aren’t faced with the challenges of a pandemic. Businesses should evaluate how they position their equipment and their general interior layout to make it easier to completely clean all surfaces. You should also consider finding commercial electrical services to develop more comprehensive internal lighting to improve visibility.

Consider National and Local Guidelines

It’s impossible to predict exactly how COVID-19 will affect daily business operations in the months or years ahead. Business owners should stay aware of all relevant rules and guidelines issued by government authorities, particularly if they directly serve the public. Guidelines from federal departments often form the foundation for state and local laws, which may be strictly enforced depending on the area.

Businesses around the world face many different challenges as they endure the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. While some companies will essentially return to the status quo after reopening, businesses in many major sectors have to prepare themselves to adjust to a new normal.

Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Facebook at facebook.com/brooke.chaplan or Twitter @BrookeChaplan

Covid-19 stock photo by Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

 

New Shops From Facebook and Amazon, Will We Go From Bad to Worse? Coronavirus Update

By Rieva Lesonsky

business

Coronavirus Business Update

Programs

Virtual Mentorship

The Qurate Retail Group, (owner of QVC and HSN) in partnership with the NRF Foundation, has introduced the Small Business Spotlight program to help out 20 selected small business across the country, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. These businesses will get increased visibility and other support, using their broadcast and online resources.

From May 11 through June 6, QVC and HSN will share the stories behind these businesses on-air including live hits, during which the owners will Skype into the programming. In addition, every Saturday throughout the campaign, the QVC3 broadcast will air a show dedicated to the small businesses and their stories. The businesses will also be featured on dedicated landing pages at qvc.com and hsn.com, as well as featured on Zulily’s website.

The businesses will also be offered a “virtual mentorship” from Qurate Retail Group team members in specific functions, such as marketing, to help face uncharted challenges posed by the pandemic.

Additionally, at QVC and HSN, a selection of existing small business vendors are featured in a special section of the Small Business Spotlight page on qvc.com and hsn.com. More information about the program can be found here.

 

HR Programs

Zenefits, an HR, Benefits and Payroll software provider, has launched several COVID-19 initiatives to help its small business customers quickly respond to the massive amount of change they’re faced with.

The In It Together Program

  • Zenefits payroll product is free for 12 months with an annual subscription to any of Zenefits’ base HR product subscriptions. This also applies to current Zenefits customers without payroll. “We believe small businesses shouldn’t have to decide between paying for payroll and making payroll.”
  • All existing Zenefits payroll customers were granted one year’s free access to Zenefits’ Wellbeing app.
  • Provide immediate training for small businesses on how to track sick and family leave in compliance with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
  • Provide all current customers with weekly HR Office Hours webcasts answering customer’s most pressing COVID-19 related HR questions.
  • Expedite benefit enrollment and cases related to COVID-19.

New Product Support for CARES Act:

The new features in the Zenefits People Platform, created to help expedite the process to apply for both the Payroll Protection Program loans and the Family First Coronavirus Relief Act, include:

  • For the PPP Application. A calculator that will offer the required payroll information to make applying for a PPP loan easier.
  • For FFCRA Paid Time Off Tracking. A new and easy COVID-19 time entry feature allowing employees to choose from one of two new drop-down time-off options: COVID-19 Self Care or COVID-19 Family Care. Plus, a new leave of absence feature admins can use to track workers’ emergency sick leave taken to remain compliant with HR.
  • Tax Relief. A new tax credit feature creating three new COVID-19 earnings types so amounts entered into these new earning types will automatically apply as a credit against all Social Security, Medicare, and federal income tax liability within the same calendar quarter.

News and Tools for Small Business Resources

  • Free tools and information for all small businesses, regardless of vendor, multiple times per day at zenefits.om. Workest covers breaking updates to changing workplace regulations, relief and loans at national, state and local levels. The site also offers COVID-related templates and tools for SMBs.

Partnerships

  • #OpenWeStand: Zenefits has also joined GoDaddy, Slack, PayPal, Salesforce, and others to support entrepreneurs and small businesses by donating resources, products, tools and more.
  • People + Work Connect. Zenefits has also joined Accenture, ServiceNow and others to build a tech-enabled community of support to help match talented people affected by furloughs or layoffs with job opportunities.

 

Tools & Resources

90 Days Free Service When You Switch to T-Mobile

T-Mobile is expanding support for SMBs to help them navigate the COVID-19 crisis, offering up to 90 days free service to new and existing customers who switch their employees to T-Mobile.

90 Days Free: SMBs can get a one-time $100 port-in bill credit per ported line, through June 30th — that’s like getting up to 90 days free! To qualify, add a voice line on a qualifying Business Unlimited or Magenta for Business rate plan through the T-Mobile for Business sales team and port in a number from Verizon or AT&T for that new line within 60 days. JT-Mobile is offering award-winning benefits and 5G access included at no extra charge. For more details on the offer, head here.

Taking Care of Business: T-Mobile for Business kicked off a new Q&A series on Facebook featuring interviews with small business leaders to discuss the shifts they made to weather the COVID-19 storm.

Supporting Small Business: T-Mobile signed and renewed its commitment to help keep consumer and small business customers connected through June 30, as part of the FCC’s “Keep Americans Connected Pledge.”

To learn more about T-Mobile’s COVID-19 response, go here. Find out more about T-Mobile for Business.

 

SAP Concur Joins Small Business Coalition

SAP Concur has joined the Stand for Small (SFS) coalition organized by American Express, which provides small businesses with valuable services, offers, and access to tools and expertise via a digital hub.

SAP Concur will participate, offering complimentary access to Concur Expense and Concur Invoice for 30 days through 2020. Small businesses can sign up to receive:

  • Expense: Real-time visibility into discretionary spending as it happens with Concur Expense. While expense types have changed, some of the current “home office” expenses include:
    • Shipping costs to send office chairs to employees’ home offices
    • Second monitors and stand up desks
    • General office supplies, such as pens, paper, printer ink, etc.
    • Home internet and phone service
    • Complete home office furniture
  • Invoice:Automate AP to cut costs and make more strategic decisions while simplifying B2B payments with partners like American Express.

Get additional information for Concur ExpenseConcur Invoice and SAP’s Stand For Small participation.

 

Loan Forgiveness Calculator for PPP

The American Institute of CPAs has created a loan forgiveness calculator for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Questions surrounding loan forgiveness have been a major stumbling block to successful PPP implementation, and the AICPA calculator is designed to resolve many of these issues.

The calculator is based on existing PPP guidance from the Treasury and SBA, as well as additional recommendations from the AICPA. Both the calculator and the underlying recommendations have been made in consultation with an AICPA-led small business funding coalition whose members provide services and support to businesses that employ more than 75 million people.

Small businesses can have their PPP loans forgiven in full if the funds were used for eligible expenses over an 8-week period and other criteria are met. The amount of the loan forgiveness may be reduced based on the percentage of eligible costs attributable to non-payroll costs, any decrease in employee headcount and decreases in salaries or wages per employee.

The AICPA loan forgiveness calculator is divided into three sub-categories: 1) non-payroll expense tracking, such as mortgage payments, rent and utilities; 2) FTE (full-time job equivalent) reduction, which tracks whether businesses shed any employees over the 8-week period; and 3) payroll accumulator, which helps small businesses capture the amount of eligible payroll costs and whether wages on a per employee basis declined in the 8-week covered period. These sub-fields are then used to make a loan forgiveness calculation.

The calculator relies on several assumptions contained in the AICPA’s recommendations, such as how to calculate FTEs and the aligning of the 8-week covered period with the beginning of a pay period, rather than the date the PPP loan proceeds were disbursed. These assumptions are noted in the calculator template, as is a disclaimer that, in instances where SBA guidance is unclear, a CPA’s judgment and interpretation of the act may be necessary.

Get more information about the AICPA’s general resources for CPA firms on small business relief.

 

Introducing Facebook Shops

Facebook just introduced Facebook Shops, with a goal of making “shopping seamless and empower anyone from a small business owner to a global brand to use [their] apps to connect with customers.”

With Facebook Shops you can easily set up a  single online store on both Facebook and Instagram. And it’s free. You can choose the products you want to feature then customize the look and feel of your shop with a cover image and accent colors that showcase your brand.

Consumers can find Facebook Shops on a business’ Facebook Page or Instagram profile, or discover them through stories or ads. From there, they can browse the full collection, save products they’re interested in and place an order — either on the business’ website or without leaving the app if the business has enabled checkout in the US.

And just like being in a physical store customers can ask someone for help, in Facebook Shops they can message a business through WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram Direct to ask questions, get support, track deliveries and more. In the future, they’ll be able to view a business’ shop and make purchases right within a chat in WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram Direct.

Facebook is also investing in features across their apps to help customers discover products they’re interested in and make purchasing easier.

Instagram Shop: launching this summer starting in the U.S.

Live Shopping Features: Soon, sellers, brands and creators will be able to tag products from their Facebook Shop or catalog before going live and those products will be shown at the bottom of the video so customers can tap to learn more and purchase.

Connecting Loyalty Programs to Your Facebook Account: Facebook is testing ways for consumers to make it easier to earn rewards with businesses by enabling them to connect their loyalty programs to their Facebook account. And they’re exploring ways to help small businesses create, manage and surface a loyalty program on Facebook Shops.

Working with Partners: Facebook is working with partners like Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Channel Advisor, CedCommerce, Cafe24, Tienda Nube and Feedonomics that offer powerful tools to help entrepreneurs start and run their businesses and move online. Now they’ll help small businesses build and grow their Facebook Shops and use our other commerce tools.

 

New Amazon Shop for Makers

Amazon Handmade, which features genuinely handcrafted products from toys to crafts to self-care to jewelry, has seen a 100% uptick in new Makers in its U.S. store since the beginning of the year, compared to the same time last year. Many makers and small businesses around the country are selling on Amazon to reach new customers and stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To help connect customers with these businesses, Amazon launched a new shop which includes products that are perfect for the quarantine—shipped and sold directly by local makers across the U.S. The new Amazon Handmade shop features makers across the six regions of the U.S.: Pacific, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast—and a curated experience giving customers the ability to shop locally from each region and state. Here’s more info about the shop on Amazon’s blog, Day One.

Last year, more than 15,000 SMBs selling in Amazon’s stores in the U.S. surpassed $1 million in sales.

 

Free Month of Services for New SMB Customers from Charter  

To support America’s small businesses as they help restart the economy, Charter Communications, Inc. today announced it will provide one month of free services to any new customer that signs up for Spectrum Business as their connectivity provider. Businesses interested in the offer, which applies to all of Charter’s internet, phone and TV services, can learn more at Business.Spectrum.com/reopen or by calling 1-833-537-0730.

Charter’s offer for a free month of Spectrum Business services is available throughout the company’s 41-state footprint and aligned with state timelines to resume business operations. More information is available at Business.spectrum.com/reopen. Some restrictions apply.

Charter has also launched new online resources to help business owners navigate economic challenges, federal loan and subsidy programs, and tools to make the most of their Spectrum services, at no additional cost. Additionally, the company’s advertising sales business, Spectrum Reach, partnered with Waymark, a production technology company that offers free access to a unique video content tool that small businesses can use to make a video on their own.

 

Self-Check Temperature Kiosk

IntraEdge just launched Janus, its contactless privacy first, self-check temperature kiosk, which is now available for nationwide order and delivery. This is an enterprise-level device.
With the Janus kiosk, companies can comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s daily health check expectations and user privacy with this turn-key contactless, market-ready solution.

Janus’ contactless check-in process has four simple steps, so employees and customers can go about their business as usual. This check-in process can be integrated into existing HR systems and can support card scanning and manual inputs as needed. Janus can be installed freestanding, using a wall mount or on a countertop. All touchpoints on Janus are within ADA reach along with an audio interface for visually impaired users.

Janus is available nationwide and can be delivered within four weeks of placing an order. Get more information.

 

Polls & Surveys

SMBs Hit Hard by COVID-19 Crisis

Facebook just released its State of Small Business report with the Small Business Roundtable. This is the first of an ongoing series of reports “uncovering the situation facing American businesses. These were planned before the virus struck, when we had anticipated this first report would paint a much brighter picture. Instead, it brings home the scale of the crisis that our economy is facing and helps point to where help is most needed.”

They surveyed 86,000 small business owners and employees.

Key findings:

Small businesses are closing their doors to an uncertain future. 

  • 31% say their SMB is not currently operating.
  • Among personal businesses, that number rises to 52%—55% of which are women-owned

SMBs’ biggest challenges are access to capital and customer behavior. 

  • 28% say the biggest challenge they’ll over the next few months is cash flow.
  • 20% say their biggest challenge will be lack of demand.

To adapt to the ongoing crisis, SMBs are turning to internet tools.  

  • 51% of businesses report increasing online interactions with their clients.
  • 36% of operational SMBs say they’re now conducting all their sales online.
  • 35% of businesses that have changed operations have expanded the use of digital payments.

Small biz owners are struggling to balance running a business and caring for their households. 

  • 47% say they’re burned out trying to take care of business and household responsibilities at the same time.
  • 62% say they spend between 1-4 four hours a day on domestic or household care activities.
  • More women owner-managers (33%) reported that household responsibilities affected their ability to focus on work “a great deal” or “a lot” than men (25%).

Employees are facing dire economic circumstances.

  • 74% of employees don’t have access to paid sick leave or paid time off (70%)
  • Only 45% of owners and managers say they’d rehire the same workers when their businesses reopened. The same was true for 32% of personal businesses.

Still, SMB owners and managers remain optimistic and resilient.

  • 57% report they feel optimistic or extremely optimistic about the future of their businesses.
  • Only 11% of operating businesses expect to fail in the next three months, should current conditions persist.

 

The Role of IT in Remote Work

1Password just released a new exploring the “pivotal and under-celebrated role” IT plays in the massive shift to extended remote work for SMBs (from 1% to 91% of U.S. SMB office workers in just a matter of weeks).

Data points

  • A massive shift in mindset: Just 1% of employees in SMBs were primarily remote workers before COVID-19, yet 67% reported becoming more favorable towards WFH.
  • IT has absolutely crushed it (quietly): Only 15% of SMB employees say their company wasn’t prepared for the rapid switch to widespread working from home for an extended period of time.
  • SMBs are more flexible with security rules: 46% of SMB firms report relaxing some security protocols and requirements, compared to just 19% of large firms.
    • 20% of employees at SMBs say it’s more important to have convenience at work than security
  • SMBs follow security rules better at home: 72% of SMB IT departments say they think employees are following security protocols and requirements better during WFH (compared to 57% of enterprises)

There’s more information in this blog post.

 

Small Business Workforce Trends

The April Small Business Workforce Trends in the Quarantine Economy report from Gusto shows:

  • Driven by significantly increased furlough rates, net reduction in small business headcount and lost wages continued into April. Gusto data shows that furloughs increased by 138% from March to April. Additionally, furloughs accounted for 42% of total lost wages in April, compared to only 22% in March.
  • Small business headcount remains in critical condition, but late April provided the first early signs of stabilization since peak layoffs. The week of April 27 saw a 72% increase in the hiring rate compared to the week of April 6, which was the lowest point. Five states saw a positive net change in headcount of approximately 1% or more across the full month of April.
  • Workers who earn less are hit harder by lost wages. Hourly employees averaged 26% less pay in April compared to previous months, while salaried workers experienced a 4% average reduction in wages. Additionally, hourly workers are being furloughed nearly five times more frequently (397%) than salaried employees.

Summary from report: The data from the second half of April provides initial evidence of stabilization, with layoff rates returning to levels lower than the initial peak of the crisis in early April. Also, hiring rates are starting to return to pre-COVID levels. This stabilization may be due to many factors, including small businesses who received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans rehiring employees in order to meet forgiveness requirements, the start of limited business operations that require modest rehiring, and plans in some states to reopen certain types of businesses in early May.

Payroll data is a leading indicator of where the small business economy is headed, and this report suggests that we are in a critical period for understanding how the crisis will affect small businesses going forward. Our data indicates that small business employment is no longer in a free fall. But given the losses in employment since March, if PPP loans run out, and/or if many businesses rehire only a fraction of their employees, we could easily see the economic impact deepen and expand further.

 

 SMBs Pivot to Cope with COVID-19 Pandemic

Some SMBs are finding success in pivoting the products and service they offer during the global pandemic, according to a recent Vistage survey, which shows 47% made changes to the products and service they offer, as a direct result of the pandemic. And 49% added news products or service to help them sustain long-term business growth.

The May CEO Confidence Index also revealed key findings about how CEOs are feeling about the economy, as well as the plans they have as it pertains to talent management and returning to work.

Highlights

  • 39% of business owners expect the economy to get worse over the next 12 months, and as a result 47% of business owners also expect their profitability to worsen in the next 12 months
  • 21% of business owners say their revenues have already decreased 25-49% because of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • 82% of those surveyed plan to leverage the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and out of those, 88% have already received funds
    • Another 44% of business owners are also relying on a line of credit from banks during this time, to stay on their feet
  • 20% have implemented employee layoffs and an additional 11% are planning to implement layoffs in the near future
    • 18% have implemented employee furloughs and an additional 7% are planning to implement furloughs in the near future
  • 42% of SMB CEOs are planning to implement temperature checks and testing requirements for employees who are returning to work, and 77% are increasing the cleaning of their facilities

 

Things are Bad—Will They Get Worse?

New research from SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) warns the state of small business could go from bad to worse, as 52% expect to be out of business within six months. The survey examining the impact of COVID-19 identifies significant, widespread economic pain—such as layoffs, furloughs, and lost revenue—that needs to be treated as public and private sector leaders move to reopen the economy.

The survey of U.S. small business owners found:

  • 52% expect to be out of business within six months
  • 54% have laid off employees while 22% have furloughed employees
  • 62% report a general decrease in revenue while 12% report a general increase
    • Of those small businesses reporting decreased revenue, 47% report losses of 10-30%, 41% report losses exceeding 30%, and 13% report a total loss of revenue.

“SHRM has tracked COVID-19’s impact on work, workers, and the workplace for months,” says SHRM President and CEO, Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, “but these might be the most alarming findings to date. Small business is truly the backbone of our economy. So, when half say they’re worried about being wiped out, let’s remember: We’re talking about roughly 14 million businesses.”

The survey is set to recur on June 17.

Other resources

 

What Employees Think about Remote Working

As part of a recent study collected by O.C. Tanner in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom, 91% of employees say they’d prefer to work from home at least some of the time—even after the pandemic is over.

When asked about the right balance of remote/office work once returning to the office is allowed:

  • Only 9% of employees noted that they do not want to work remotely
  • 26% of employees would like to work from home at least one day per week
  • 16% of employees would like to work from home at least two days per week
  • 18% of employees would like to work from home at least three days per week
  • 11% of employees would like to work from home at least four days per week
  • 21% of employees would like to work from home full-time

When asked if their company would support remote work in the future:

  • 61% of employees say their employer would support remote work after the pandemic
  • For the 39% of employees who do not feel their companies would be supportive, 69% say they would quit their jobs for a similar role elsewhere

 

Get Informed—Watch it!

Virtual Summit—How to Have Employees Return Safely to Work

ADP® will host a complimentary virtual summit on May 29 to provide critical insights, best practices and actionable guidance to help employers navigate a safe and effective return to work.  The event, Looking Beyond the Curve: Recovery and Engagement in the New World of Work, will run from 11:00am to 5:00pm ET and feature ADP experts leveraging unique research and data on topics including business continuity, evolving legislation, navigating compliance, and activating a workforce in flux.

Four event sessions will guide attendees through key considerations in the return to work:

  • The Workforce Outlook Has Changed: Redefining the Future of Work: This conversation, fueled by ADP Research Institute’s®comprehensive analysis on the workforce, will reveal important insights on the state of the economy to help employers manage the changes to the way we work.
  • No Handshakes Please: Managing and Activating Talent in the New World of Work: As organizations navigate challenges in acquiring, managing, and engaging their workforce, an increasing number of workers are finding themselves in states of flux. This session will explore new pressures for leaders and how to approach management to engage their workforce and achieve shared success moving forward.
  • Legislation for the Next Normal: Navigating Regulations and Staying Compliant: This discussion will help leaders navigate the changes that lie ahead as organizations move forward and workers return to the workplace. Topics will include legislative changes, health and safety, absence and PTO policies, privacy and human rights issues, and more.
  • Industry-Leading Strategic Advisors Share Their Back-to-Business Game Plan: Attendees will hear from industry-leading advisors, across accountants, brokers and HCM consultants, about how they partner with their clients to adapt, mitigate risk, and leverage technology in a rapidly changing business environment.

In addition to the virtual event, more than 15 additional, on-demand sessions will be available on topics including payroll tax deferrals, leave management, HR outsourcing, employee engagement, safety and privacy, agile pay practices, financial wellness and more.  Attendees can access these complimentary sessions at their leisure once the event concludes to continue learning based on their individual phase of recovery. And the entire will be available as a recording once the live event concludes.

You can register here.

 

Small Business Relief

QuickBooks recently held its first Town Hall featuring Senators Marco Rubio, R-FL, and Ben Cardin, D-MD, to discuss the future of small business relief.

You can watch the Town Hall on YouTube or Zoom or read the full transcript.

Here’s are 5 quick insights from the event, but be sure to check out the full report.

1. We could be facing restrictions through the end of 2021: According to Senator Rubio, we could be facing social-distancing restrictions through the end of 2021. “That may be how long it takes to develop a vaccine, clear it, and make it broadly available,” he says. “We have to start thinking in those terms, not in terms of ‘everything will be fine by November.’”

Knowing this, business planning to reopen should plan with restrictions still in place—restrictions they may have to pay for. Senator Rubio says, “Reopening might require you to undertake some expenses that you may not have in your budget.”

2. PPP loans could extend beyond their 8-week terms: PPP loans were intended to cover at least eight weeks of payroll costs for small businesses. But what happens when eight weeks are up and businesses still haven’t opened to their full capacity due to safety restrictions?

Senator Cardin says, “When we crafted this program, we didn’t anticipate that we would still have the type of economic climate eight weeks later where small businesses cannot operate at full capacity. So we need to be flexible.”.

3. A third round of PPP funding is likely on the way: Both senators agree that the second round of PPP funding may deplete within the next few weeks. And a third round of PPP funding may be needed to support more small businesses.

“I fully believe there will be a third round,” say Senator Cardin, who hopes the next round will dedicate those funds to the businesses that truly need them.

4. The restaurant industry may take longer to recover: “To some extent, restaurants were the first ones thrown into the crisis,” say Senator Rubio. “They’re going to be the last ones that come out of it for a lot of different reasons outside of their control.”

5. If you follow the rules, your loan may be forgiven: Business owners are concerned about the forgiveness rules changing after they accept a loan. Senator Cardin set the record straight, “I have a very, very high degree of confidence that if you follow the law that we passed, you’re going to get the loan forgiveness,” he says.

But he also acknowledges the rules business owners are required to follow to be eligible for forgiveness are restrictive. And he suggests Congress may change some of those standards to make it easier for businesses to get maximum forgiveness. “That could happen,” he says. “But you can’t plan on those changes—you have to plan on the law being how it is today.”

QuickBooks is “working on some forms and reports that can be produced out of QuickBooks that can help automate the process to request forgiveness.”

 

Business Class Provides Essential Business Education

Need help navigating these challenging times? American Express recently launched Business Class to provide essential business education in an easily digestible format to help entrepreneurs do just that. You’ll find a one-stop resource hub, daily email newsletters and Instagram Live “Office Hours” held live on the @AmericanExpressBusiness Instagram account featuring a notable business owner to share expert insights and personalized stories. The live discussions follow an interactive Q&A format, allowing followers to receive answers to their own questions in real time.

 

Andy Cohen to Host Fundraiser to Benefit Small Business Relief

Opportunity Fund, the nation’s leading nonprofit small business lender, is holding Eat. Drink. Give. on May 28 from 6-7:30pm PT / 9-10:30 ET, a night of online fun, food and cocktails emceed by Andy Cohen of Watch Happens Live with Andy Cohen, to benefit America’s small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event, open to all with a suggested donation, also features restaurant and catering entrepreneurs that are Opportunity Fund clients. Donations raised during the online event will benefit small businesses nationwide through Opportunity Fund’s Small Business Relief Fund.

“This is going to be a very special night for a very important cause—helping our small businesses survive this once-in-century crisis. We have to decide what we want our Main Streets to look like when this is over, and we must act decisively to keep small businesses alive and ready to rebuild. This is a fun way to do something really important,” says Opportunity Fund and Accion Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia. “Order some food or cook a meal, pour yourself a drink, enjoy some laughs with some amazing people and know that your support will make a huge difference to small business owners and their employees who have been devastated by this pandemic.”

Donations will go to Opportunity Fund’s Small Business Relief Fund, which aims to raise $50 million. The Fund provides critical financial relief and business assistance to small businesses impacted by COVID-19, especially women, minority, and immigrant-owned businesses left behind by the CARES Act. Opportunity Fund has already provided deferred payment terms to over 2,600 of its existing small business clients within the first weeks of the economic crisis. Accion Opportunity Fund has reached nearly 3,000 small business owners in 36 states with educational resources online to help them navigate business challenges they are facing. Every $1 donated provides for $0.40 of small business debt relief, $0.40 toward loss mitigation and $0.20 to deploy new capital.

Everyone from across the country and around the world is invited. Partygoers can RSVP here.

 

Get Informed—Read it!

COVID-19 Retail Trends in An All-DTC World

Earlier this year, Bluecore released its 2020 Retail Trends report, based on a survey of what retailers were prioritizing for 2020. But, with the onset of a global pandemic, supply chain crisis, and a hard-hit economy, a lot has changed.

Bluecore set out to understand what new consumer and shopper behaviors mean for retailers, in the new now. To do this, they reviewed shopper interactions with and activity across over 70 retail brands in the apparel, beauty, pharmacy, sports/outdoors, and luxury sub-verticals. Bluecore then reviewed shopper interactions with and activity across three business models: traditional chain stores, traditional department stores, and digital natives.

Read the full report—it’s quite interesting.

 

Resources & More

Looking for resources, tips and actionable advice from experts? You’ll find all this and more in the COVID-19 Business Resources section from business.com. The section contains an all new Diary Series spotlighting real stories from small business owners who are pivoting during the crisis; editorial content covering the latest news, tips and resources; plus, expert advice directly from those on the front lines.

COVID-19 Business Resources include:

Real Stories from Small Business Owners: Highlighting the resiliency of the small business community, the new Small Business Diary Series features three small business owners and details how they are coping with the challenges facing so many right now. If you are interested in discussing your own experience during the COVID-19 crisis, join our community and share your story.
The Best Products and Tools to Use Right Now: Driven by business.com’s extensive product reviews section, the site includes the industry’s best tools and services for working remotely and staying afloat during this time. Specific reviews including remote access software, remote PC access, business loans, conference call services, even telemedicine software.
Expert Advice and Direct Access Through the business.com Community: Members can get answers to their most pressing business questions directly from finance professionals in the community. Membership is free!

A Dedicated Editorial Team Covering the Latest News and Developments: More than 75 articles from our team are available covering the topics and concerns keeping business owners awake at night: PPP Loans, customer retention, CARES Act, employee support, marketing, remote work, cybersecurity, lead generation, cash flow and more.

 

Returning to work?

If your business is getting ready to resume operations, here’s a checklist for reopening your business from OnPay.

 

Laid Off Due to COVID-19?

The United States has seen record unemployment due to COVID-19. Hardest-hit employees have been those in the travel, hospitality, and service industries, given the face-to-face nature of their businesses.

Tech companies have largely been able to transition to working from home to maintain jobs. However, 8% of women and 5% of men surveyed report being laid-off or furloughed. But women in tech are 1.6x as likely to be laid-off or furloughed than men.

Read more about the Impact of COVID-19 on Women in Tech  on Trust Radius.

 

Get Informed—Advice

Checklist for Small Businesses that are Re-Opening as Restrictions are Lifted

Guest post by Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster.com

Prepare a timeline for reopening and have a communications plan ready: Opening will likely be in phases and based on specific regions. Having goals in mind and setting dates will help you better stay on track and give employees and customers an idea of when you will reopen. Employees are longing for information and direction from their managers, according to communications executive Lynn Munroe. She urges companies to let  employees know exactly what changes they can expect when they return. Create a plan that details how office logistics will change based on  square footage, what meeting policies are, how elevators and break rooms will work. Outline all the changes at work and let employees know the plan ahead of the return.

Create a Physically Safe Environment: According to Paul Solomon, an executive recruiter at Solo Management, there are many safety factors to figure out for reopening—so give yourself a good amount of time to formulate a plan of action for this. With physical distancing continuing, managers will need to consider how far apart both employees and customers can be from each other. In addition, you will likely need masks, gloves and hand sanitizer on hand for employees. It’s also important to communicate a system to employees, i.e. wiping down community appliances after use, sanitizing upon entering, etc.

Create an Emotionally Safe Environment: Michelle McQuaid, bestselling author and well-being teacher thinks one of the most important thigs to do is to create “safe spaces” for staff to talk about the struggles they may experience as they try to adjust to the “new normal” of maintaining physical distance as they work together. The best way to lower anxiety is to normalize the uncertainty people may experience and the discomfort they may encounter with each other when facial expressions are hidden behind masks, there are limits on how many people can be in a room together, or not everyone is back in the office. You must as an office talk about these things.

Create A More Robust Online Presence: The pandemic crisis taught many small businesses that their online presence needed both updating and strengthening. As many businesses had to shift to online sales and fulfillment, business heads around the country understood their digital transformation efforts were coming together hastily and in a patchwork manner. Brian Byer of NYC digital marketing firm Blue Fountain Media suggests that this is the time to bolster that online presence, and turn the lessons learned during the pandemic into an online strategy they can leverage going forward.

Re-establish the Work/Life Balance: Staying at home merged work life with family life and it’s been a tough adjustment. An even bigger adjustment has been conducting so much of our work online. Bethany Baker of A-GAP, a foundation that helps people with digital wellness suggests that some employees may need to unlearn some bad tech habits and re-establish the work/life balance experts tell us is so paramount to a healthy life.

Consider an Employee Mentoring Program: According to a recent study, more than 60% or employees feel disconnected from co-workers. According to Gracey Cantalupo, CMO of MentorcliQ, many small and medium businesses are discovering the positive effects of virtual mentoring to recharge workplace relationships—especially with the real possibility that some if not all of your workforce will continue working remotely.

Be flexible: This is not an easy time for anyone, and adjustments will be needed. Preparation will be key to reopening but be sure you are ready for any obstacles along the way. In an uncertain time, we all have to stick together.

 

COVID-19 Will Change Job Recruiting; Here’s How Companies Need To Adapt

Guest post by Jack Whatley, recruiting strategist and author, Human Code of Hiring

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the business world and put tens of millions out of work in the U.S. At the same time, it’s caused a seismic shift in the way many companies operate, the biggest change being that more business functions are done while working remotely.

But along with the work-from-home aspect, the fallout from the coronavirus will fundamentally change recruiting and hiring practices long after the pandemic has passed. Social distancing, shelter-in-place orders and the forced closing of businesses will change the way we look at employment. No longer will the promises of changing the world attract the modern workforce. Safety and job stability are at the top of the mind for the modern job seeker—and that changed what they want in a job.

Businesses will have to become employee-centric as well as customer-centric. The companies that have the ability to capture that part of the employee message, put it into their employer branding, and reinforce it throughout recruitment marketing campaigns are going to be the companies moving ahead in a much different world.”

As states begin different stages of reopening for business, here’s what companies should do when recruiting, hiring, and re-hiring:

Create a communication campaign. If you’re a company that laid off employees with the hope of bringing them back, you have to reach out with genuine communication that goes the extra mile. It should let them know in detail what steps the company is taking. Those people who were let go unexpectedly and lived paycheck to paycheck, they’ll be emotionally drained and stressed. A company bringing them back needs to make them feel valued, so the company doesn’t lose that relationship.

Be careful in rehiring. Rehiring won’t be a straightforward process for some companies. Circumstances won’t allow them to rehire or bring back from furlough all of their former employees. Employers must be cautious in determining who to bring back to the workplace; they need to mitigate the risk of potential discrimination claims, which could be based on the decision not to bring back certain employees. Employers will need to have a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for choosing which employees to rehire. Those reasons include seniority, operational needs or documented past performance issues. Employers should document their decision-making process now, before deciding who will be invited back.

Focus on expanded employee rights. A new appreciation for workers may be emerging as state and local governments mandate paid sick leave and family leave during the outbreak. Some companies are shifting their focus to hourly workers as well for those perks. This change could become permanent as organizations work hard to hire new staff and increase retention rates.

Streamline the process. If the recruiting process gets backlogged, it causes problems for your current employees and an under-staffed  company. It becomes frustrating for them, because they’re forced to work overtime, and the big workload kills morale and increases turnover.

Most companies look at hiring people as a transaction—they need to fill a seat. They place a job posting and fill the job. In the new world, that will no longer be the case. To get the best talent, companies will have to engage people sooner, more thoughtfully, and put a higher priority on what employees value most in a job.

 

5 Coronavirus Stimulus Check Scams and How to Avoid Them

Guest post from SocialCatfish.com 

The distribution of $1,200 stimulus checks to Americans has given rise to unprecedented online scams. The FTC has thus far received 18,235 reports of fraud costing victims $13.44 million; Google reported it is blocking 18 million scam emails every single day; and  150,000 fraudulent stimulus check sites have already launched.

1—Robocall check scams: The scammer will call pretending to be the IRS and ask for your personal financial information. They will claim they need this to deposit the stimulus check into your account and will also ask for a fee to deposit say check. In reality, they want your information so that they can pretend to be you, claim the check for themselves. They can also drain your bank account of your funds with this information and will keep the fee for themselves with no check, in return.

How to Avoid: Do not give out any personal information. The government already has your information on file from when you filed your taxes. The stimulus check will either be automatically deposited into your account or you will get it mailed to your house.

2—Email and text scams: Scammers will pretend to be the IRS or federal government by emailing or texting you a link to click to receive your check. If you click on the link your electronic device will get plagued with malware and your information gets stolen.

How to Avoid: Do not click on any links that are emailed or texted to you.  Again, the government already has your information and checks are either directly deposited or mailed.

3—Identity theft scams: If you have not received your stimulus check yet and the official IRS website says otherwise, it could be possible that you are a victim of identity theft. This means that a scammer has found a way to steal your information, like your SSN, and has claimed your stimulus check for themselves.

How to Avoid: If you believe to have been a victim of this kind of fraud, you can report it here.

4—Google search scam: Scammers have created copies of the official IRS “Get My Payment” site and have updated their search engine terms so that people conducting google searches for information find these fake sites. Once a person finds their site, they think it is the official IRS website and will enter their information.

How to Avoid: Do not go on any website to get your stimulus check unless it is an official .gov or .ca site and beware of being redirected to a website from a non-reputable news source.

5—Third-party stimulus check scams: Scammers have come up with their own stimulus check programs claiming that they can give you additional money along with the government. They will send you letters in the mail, put pamphlets on your car, or send you an email or social media message trying to advertise their program. This happened to a man in Florida who claimed to have gotten an official-looking check of $3,000 mailed to him with a letter. Another example of this is a Costco relief program, claiming to help with groceries and money during this time.

How to Avoid: Only believe in the stimulus check programs announced by the government reported by reputable news outlets. If you cannot find it reported by reputable news outlets, it is s scam.

Check out the full report: 5 Stimulus Check Online Scams to Avoid, based on information from the FTC, FBI and IRS during the Coronavirus pandemic.

If you encounter a coronavirus scam, contact local law enforcement or file a complaint with the FTC. For more information on how to get your stimulus check and if you are eligible, visit the legit IRS website.

Coronavirus stock photo by gpointstudio/Shutterstock

 

EEOC Issues, Retracts, Then Re-Issues Guidance about “Direct Threat” and COVID-19

By Keith H. McCownCovid-19

Anyone trying to keep up with the onslaught of COVID-19 workplace legal developments understands that solid conclusions tend to be the exception, and the targets are constantly moving. Is there something special about the coronavirus world that warrants a new approach to the law, or must we apply traditional employment law principles even in these extraordinary circumstances? This challenge can flummox even the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), the federal enforcement agency responsible for interpreting workplace discrimination law.

On Tuesday, May 5, within a matter of hours, the EEOC issued and then retracted specific guidance for any employer who wants to prevent a “high-risk” employee from working because of increased risk of that employee contracting a possibly deadly COVID-19 infection. The short-lived guidance, seemingly tailored to the COVID-19 world, involved an apparently relaxed interpretation of the “direct threat” defense to discrimination claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Then on Thursday, May 8, the agency issued revised guidance, essentially reverting to its traditional position on the “direct threat” defense.

The ADA has always had the narrow “direct threat” defense available for employers charged with disability discrimination. Employers are permitted to take adverse action (termination, involuntary transfer, etc.) even when it is based on someone’s disability, or perhaps deny an employee’s requested accommodation, where the employee poses a “direct threat,” meaning “a significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.” This action cannot be based on mere layperson belief, even if well-intended, but must be objectively reasonable and based on medical evidence. The decision also must follow an “individualized assessment” evaluating the person’s ability, the nature of the threat, the nature of the possible harm, and the possibility for accommodation to avoid the adverse action.

The “direct threat” defense is a very narrow exception to the usual disability discrimination principles. That was why the EEOC’s initial, short-lived guidance on Tuesday, May 5th raised an eyebrow. Although many employers are finding it hard to get people to come to work at all, there are also occasions when employers might prefer to exclude known “high-risk” workers from the workplace. According to public health guidance, people with pre-existing health conditions are at higher risk for very serious health problems if they contract COVID-19.

The guidance tended to imply that COVID-19 had lowered the usual very high bar, allowing employers essentially on good faith to invoke “direct threat” to exclude higher-risk employees from the workplace. Later on Tuesday, this guidance disappeared from the EEOC’s website. The EEOC explained that it removed the “direct threat” guidance because it had been subsequently misinterpreted.

So on Thursday, May 8, the EEOC tried again in its publication, “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.” The EEOC issued (at Question G.4) an amended look at the “direct threat” concept and how available it really might be for an employer who wants to prevent a high-risk employee from working.

The short answer is – the “direct threat” defense has the same high bar that it has always had. It will be a rare occasion when an employer can lawfully keep a high-risk employee out of a workplace because the employee has some underlying health condition. The May 8 guidance follows longstanding interpretations of the “direct threat” defense – it is a very high standard; the employer must show that the individual poses a “significant risk of substantial harm” to his or her own health; simply having a high-risk condition is not enough; there must be an “individualized assessment” based on a reasonable medical judgment about the employee’s disability, not generalized conclusions, using “current medical knowledge” or the “best available objective evidence;” the usual factors must all be assessed – “the duration of the risk, the nature and severity of the potential harm, the likelihood that the potential harm will occur, and the imminence of the potential harm;” and there always must be consideration of reasonable accommodations to avoid the more adverse action, including “telework, leave, or reassignment.” The guidance concludes, “An employer may only bar an employee from the workplace if, after going through all these steps, the facts support the conclusion that the employee poses significant risk of substantial harm to himself that cannot be reduced by reasonable accommodation.”

In other words, you probably will not succeed if you invoke “direct threat” to defend against a discrimination charge for pre-emptively taking adverse action against a high-risk employee — which has been the state of the law for decades. But the EEOC’s public exercise is still instructive to everyone trying to apply employment law principles to the COVID-19 avalanche of new facts and circumstances. Are we really in a new world, or upon reflection, does existing jurisprudence still govern, in the usual way it always has?

The above guidance is based on information available as of the date of this publication.

Keith H. McCown is a Partner with Morgan, Brown & Joy, LLP, and may be reached at (617) 788-5013, or at kmccown@morganbrown.com. Morgan, Brown & Joy, LLP focuses exclusively on representing employers in employment and labor matters. 

Covid-19 stock photo by Zigres/Shutterstock

United States Department of Labor Issues Guidance on WARN Act in Light of COVID-19 Pandemic

By Aaron A. Spacone & Laurence J. Donaghue

WARN Act

The huge layoff and job loss impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought renewed attention to the requirements of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining (WARN) Act, often called the federal “plant closing” statute. The United States Department of Labor (DOL) recently published a series of FAQs serving as a refresher on WARN Act issues, with particular emphasis on issues that have arisen, or are expected to arise, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brief Summary of the Act

The WARN Act requires certain businesses to provide 60-days’ notice before a significant loss of employment, casually referred to as a “plant closing” or “mass layoff.” Failure to provide the notice can result in costly lawsuits, where the exposure includes a back pay obligation for all affected employees for the 60-day period when notice should have been provided.

Smaller businesses are not covered by WARN. Covered businesses must have:

  • 100 or more full-time employees; or
  • 100 or more employees (including part-time) working 4,000 total hours (excluding overtime) per week. Note that, in this context, part-time employees are those working an average of under 20 hours per week or fewer than 6 of the previous 12 months.

More than just “plant closings” are covered. The 60-day notice requirement is triggered by:

  • An employment loss of 50 or more employees during a 30-day period; or
  • A layoff resulting in employment loss of 500 or more employees, or at least 50 employees and 1/3 of the worksite’s total workforce during a 30-day period.

A series of small layoffs over a 90-day period, none of which would individually trigger WARN, but which in total add up to numbers requiring that WARN notice be given, also triggers the notice requirement. When the employer can show that the smaller layoffs resulted from individual and distinct actions, and not an attempt to evade WARN, the notice requirement will not kick in. Therefore, in evaluating WARN’s applicability, employers must remain vigilant with regard to both affected employee numbers and timing.

Where notice is required, it must be given to (1) affected employees or their representatives, (2) the dislocated worker unit for the state in which the worksite is located, and (3) the chief elected official in the municipality in which the worksite is located.

The WARN Act and COVID-19

In the age of COVID-19, where businesses are dealing with a great deal of uncertainty, the DOL reminded that “employment loss” is a term of art that does not necessarily mean permanent job loss. Even a temporary layoff or furlough can trigger a WARN notice requirement if the layoff or furlough (1) extends beyond 6 months, or (2) results in a 50% or more reduction in hours of work for 50 or more individual employees each month during a 6-month period. As will be discussed below, some states – including California – have their own WARN laws requiring notice even for temporary layoffs and furloughs shorter than 6 months.

The DOL prescribes no specific method of notice, but simply requires “any reasonable method” that will ensure receipt. Given the prevalence of business shutdowns, layoffs, and furloughs that have already occurred, e-mail is a reasonable method of providing notice as long as the notice is specific to each individual employee.

There are exceptions to the 60-day notice rule which may apply in the midst of COVID-19. The “unforeseeable business circumstances” exception applies to unexpected and dramatic conditions beyond an employer’s control. Examples include a principal client’s sudden termination of a contract, an unanticipated and dramatic economic downturn, and a government closing of a worksite without notice. Exceptions are also made for faltering businesses (in plant closing situations) and those impacted by natural disasters.

Employers must take note that these exceptions do not excuse the employer from providing notice altogether; rather, they are exceptions to providing 60-days’ notice. Employers meeting an exception must still provide “as much notice as is practicable,” along with a statement as to the reason or reasons for the short notice.

Reasonable Foreseeability

A major issue in the COVID-19 era is determining when an employer should have reasonably foreseen that employment loss will extend for more than 6 months. The test for “reasonable foreseeability” is primarily one of business judgment. WARN, however, is enforced by private litigation, not by the DOL or any other central authority. Different courts can reach different conclusions as to whether—and when—employment losses of an extended nature might be “reasonably foreseeable.”

An uptick in WARN litigation can be expected in the wake of COVID-19. Amidst everything else brought on by the pandemic, employers must try to stay alert about whether a furlough or layoff is triggering the WARN notice requirement.

State-Specific Considerations

A number of states have enacted “mini-WARN” acts modifying the federal WARN Act, often by imposing additional requirements. For example, in Maine and New York, employers must give 90-days’ notice before a layoff or other covered event, and in California, any layoff of 50 or more employees triggers the state mini-WARN act.

Some states have also issued COVID-19-related guidance on their mini-WARN acts. For example, as of this writing, California, New Jersey, and New York have relaxed their mini-WARN acts in light of the current crisis:

  • On March 17, 2020, California’s governor issued an Executive Order altering the California WARN Act in a variety of ways. Notably, the Governor modified the notice requirement so that employers must only give “as much notice as is practicable” until the end of the current state of emergency.
  • On April 14, 2020, New Jersey enacted COVID-19-related amendments to the New Jersey WARN Act, excluding COVID-19-related mass layoffs from the Act and temporarily delaying pending amendments that were to be effective on July 19, 2020. The delayed amendments, including an increased notice period of 60 to 90 days, will not go into effect until 90 days after the Governor’s State of Emergency Order related to COVID-19 is lifted.
  • On April 17, 2020, New York’s governor issued an Executive Order modifying the New York mini-WARN Act. Similar to California, the New York Order temporarily modified New York’s 90-days’ advance notice requirement by requiring notice “as soon as is practicable” from employers facing “unforeseeable business circumstances.”

This is a constantly developing area of the law, and guidance from other states regarding their mini-WARN Acts could be forthcoming in the near future.

Aaron A. Spacone: As an employment litigator, Aaron defends employers against claims related to workplace discrimination, retaliation, and sexual harassment, among others. Aaron also provides counsel to employers regarding daily workplace matters, including the preparation of employee handbooks, hiring, wages, discipline, termination, and leave. 

Laurence J. Donaghue: Larry represents both public and private sector clients in union organizing situations, contract negotiations, grievance administration and arbitration. He presents in proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board, the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations, and state and federal courts on behalf of clients. 

Employee Retention Credit: Key Benefit for Small Business Owners Under the CARES Act

By Mike D’Avolio

employee

Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was signed into law on March 27, 2020, certain eligible businesses are allowed to claim a new Employee Retention Credit (ERC). The purpose of this payroll tax measure is to incentivize employers to keep employees on the payroll even though the business is adversely impacted by the new coronavirus. Tax professionals should familiarize themselves with this provision, as well as the ability for their clients to defer payroll tax, to help their clients. This credit is not available to businesses that receive a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program.

The basics

The ERC is taken against qualifying payroll taxes. The refundable tax credit is up to 50 percent of the total employee wages, up to a maximum of $10,000 of wages ($5,000 credit) per employee. An eligible business is allowed to include a portion of employer-provided health insurance expenses allocable to qualified wages in the wage base. The credit is calculated for each calendar quarter after March 12, 2020, and before Jan. 1, 2021. The qualifying wages are based on the average number of employees in 2019.

The employer can get immediate access to the credit by reducing their required payroll tax deposits that would have otherwise been made. So, you would report 50 percent of wages between March 13, 2020, and March 31, 2020, and April through June on the second quarter Form 941Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return. If tax deposits are not sufficient to cover the credit, the business may claim an advance payment of the refundable tax credit for qualified wages by filing Form 7200Advanced Payment of Employer Credit Due to COVID-19.

Eligible employers

Eligible employers are those who carry on a trade or business during calendar year 2020, including a tax-exempt organization, and either of the following:

  • The business was fully or partially suspended by a government order due to COVID-19.
  • Gross receipts are below 50 percent of the comparable quarter in 2019 (eligibility ends when gross receipts are more than 80 percent of the comparable quarter in 2019).

Qualified wages

  • If an employer averaged 100 or fewer full-time employees during 2019, all qualified wages are eligible, regardless of whether the employee is furloughed.
  • If an employer averaged more than 100 full-time employees during 2019, include only the qualified wages of employees who are furloughed or face a reduction of hours as a result of business closure or a reduction in gross receipts.

How to claim the credit

Beginning with the second quarter of 2020, the employer may claim the ERC on Form 941. The credit is taken against the employer’s share of Social Security tax, and any excess is refundable. If the credit amount for any calendar quarter exceeds the payroll taxes, the employer can claim a refund of the excess on the employment tax return. Employers can also request an advance of the ERC by filing Form 7200.

Overlap with other provisions

Businesses are ineligible to receive the employee retention credit if they take a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. They also need to exclude any wages for which the employer claimed a tax credit for 1) paid sick and family leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), 2) the Employer Credit for Paid Family and Medical Leave, and 3) the Work Opportunity Credit.

IRS examples of how the credit works

  1. A state governor issues an executive order closing all restaurants, bars, and similar establishments in the state in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, the executive order allows those establishments to continue food or beverage sales to the public on a carry-out, drive-through, or delivery basis. This results in a partial suspension of the operations of the trade or business due to an order of an appropriate governmental authority with respect to any restaurants, bars, and similar establishments in the state that provided full sit-down service, a dining room, or other on-site eating facilities for customers prior to the executive order.
  2. An eligible employer pays employee B $8,000 in qualified wages in Q2 2020 and $8,000 in qualified wages in Q3 2020. The credit available to the eligible employer for the qualified wages paid to employee B is equal to $4,000 in Q2 and $1,000 in Q3 due to the overall limit of $10,000 on qualified wages per employee for all calendar quarters.
  3. An eligible employer pays $10,000 in qualified wages to employee A in Q2 2020. The ERC available to the eligible employer for the qualified wages paid to employee A is $5,000. This amount may be applied against the employer share of Social Security taxes that the eligible employer is liable for with respect to all employee wages paid in Q2 2020. Any excess over the employer’s share of Social Security taxes is treated as an overpayment and refunded to the eligible employer after offsetting other tax liabilities on the employment tax return and subject to any other offsets.

Key takeaways and planning considerations

The ERC gives business owners that are adversely impacted by the coronavirus a $5,000 refundable credit for each full-time employee retained between March 13 and Dec. 31, 2020. However, a business is not allowed to claim this credit in addition to the PPP loan, so you’ll want to help your clients figure out which of these provisions yields a better benefit.

The ERC is available to employers of any size, and the employer does not need to fill out an application. The business needs to have the money available to pay employees up front (or wait for an advance).

For more information, visit the IRS Employee Retention Credit page and FAQs, or visit the Intuit Accountant and Tax Professional COVID-19 Resource Center

Mike D’Avolio, CPA, is senior tax analyst with the Intuit ProConnect. D’Avolio has been a small-business tax expert for more than 20 years and serves as the primary liaison with the Internal Revenue Service for tax law interpretation matters, manages all technical tax information, and supports tax development and other groups by providing them with current tax law developments, analysis of tax legislation and in-depth product testing.

Employee retention stock photo by Vitalii Vodolazskyi/Shutterstock

Will the Office Be Obsolete in the Post-COVID-19 World?

office

It’s no secret; we are in the grip of a major transition. Intergovernmental organizations, including health agencies and travel bodies, are working to control the spread of coronavirus and the associated illness, COVID-19. The health crisis poses a major disruption to almost every aspect of life. So what does this mean for the future of the office? When COVID-19 is finally contained, will working from home (WFH) disappear with it?

The pre-COVID-19 work-from-home landscape

Of course, many businesses can’t offer an option to work from home. Machine operators, trades workers and service workers require direct access to customers or specialized equipment. But since the advent of high-speed broadband, many roles can now be performed from home.

So why did a 2019 National Compensation Survey from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics find that only 7% of civilian workers in the U.S. have the option to work from home? Prior to the spread of COVID-19, businesses’ preference for the office stemmed from concerns about the impact of a new work model on business continuity.

This attitude was reinforced by office evangelicals who argued that true collaboration only comes with physical interaction. Detractors of WFH models are now highlighting stories of isolated employees and overbearing managers in China, the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak.

But, as we’ve seen with the rise of streaming services and ride-hailing apps, access to a digital space can be as good, if not better, than its physical counterpart. The proliferation of digital collaboration tools proves you don’t need to share the same space to work together effectively.

Distributed teams mean agile business practices

In addition to the cost of renting or owning a workspace, an office comes with major expenses. Between heating, lighting, power, equipment and amenities, the costs add up. That’s before you consider the cost to your employees of commuting.

But the real cost here lies in decreased productivity, thanks to endless meetings, office politics and watercooler distractions. It’s no wonder a 2018 study found that we work an average of two hours and 53 minutes in an eight-hour workday.

In contrast, working from home can actually boost productivity. In a 2017 Flexjobs survey, 75% of people said they were more productive working from home due to fewer distractions. With fewer diversions and clear direction, your team can focus on completing tasks.

Flexible working can limit localized dangers

Even when COVID-19 is contained, businesses should consider alternatives to the office. To require everyone to attend the same space every day is to put all your eggs in one figurative basket. Besides the risk of spreading illness between staff members, there are a host of other potential pitfalls.

The devastation of Hurricane Sandy wasn’t limited to those directly caught in its path. A report by the U.S. Small Business Administration found that 52% of small and medium-sized businesses in New York City, New Jersey, Connecticut and the surrounding areas experienced a loss of sales or revenue because of the storm.

Of course, even working from home, some of your team will experience connection issues. Additionally, there’s always the risk of exposure to illness, but working as a distributed team limits the scale of that risk. Even if some members of your team fall ill or lose connection, you can continue to operate in some capacity.

Flexible work expands your talent pool

Regardless of your objectives, diversity is essential to the balance of your team. Studies have shown that performance and team morale increase when businesses incorporate a wide range of voices in decision-making. Businesses have begun to recognize that diversity is essential to knowledgeable, dynamic teams.

Despite this, many workplaces are unable to diversify their teams due to the nature of their location. The reality is that the majority of your team will be found in surrounding areas, which can limit diversity. But when you find talent from across geographic boundaries, it paves the way for a better balance within your business and society.

In defense of offices

So, is there still a place for the office in a post-COVID-19 world? Of course there is. Even with huge advances in technology, there will always be a need to bring people together. It’s easy to socialize through technology alone, but face-to-face interaction is still essential. In addition, organizations working with sensitive information benefit from a secure, centralized space.

But do businesses need a full-time dedicated space to work effectively? The numbers suggest not. We’re already seeing this transition take place; the number of flexible workspace locations expanded by 205% while the number of operators grew by 138% between 2014 and 2019.

Conclusion

There’s no way of knowing exactly how the COVID-19 outbreak will change office culture, but it’s clear that “the great work-from-home experiment” will have a lasting impact on the way we work. While some will eagerly return to their offices when isolation measures are relaxed, many more will choose to keep their teams at home.

Natalie Ruiz is the CEO at AnswerConnect. She’s passionate about helping the world work anywhere and leads a distributed global team.

Empty office stock photo by zhu difeng/Shutterstock

New PPP Loans Available—How to Find a Lender

By Rieva Lesonsky

Fundbox coronavirus series, pt. 4, PPP Loans

Although the first round of relief funding from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) ran dry before many small businesses could even find an SBA-approved lender, a new law went into effect on April 27th that includes more than $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program. Nearly $60 billion of the additional PPP funding has been set aside for businesses that do not have established banking relationships, including rural and minority-owned companies.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce suggests again invites small businesses to connect with a lender and apply for the PPP loan. Time is of the essences, because as during the first round of funding, these newly available funds will be disbursed on a first-come/first-served basis.

Finding a PPP Lender

Because the SBA and lenders now know more money will be coming, it’s a good idea to be ready as soon as the government gives the green light. Experts believe the new infusion of funds will go fast—as quickly as the first 48 hours.

If your business bank is not an approved SBA lender, you need to find a lender now. You can find a list of approved lenders on the sba.gov website by state or Fundbox can connect you to a lender and guide you through the process.

Applying for a PPP Loan

Next, gather the correct documentation for the application. Here is a list of the required PPP application documents:

  1. Basic information about your business and how to contact you
    2. Average monthly payroll costs
    3. Details of full-time employees and their payroll costs
    4. Applicable Tax Forms (for 2019 and Q1 2020, if available)
    5. Proof of mortgage or rent, mortgage interest, and utility expenses
    6. Articles of Incorporation/Organization
    7. Applicable forms to verify all ownership over 20%
    8. Each owner’s TIN, EIN, or SSN and copies of IDs for all 20%+ owners
    9. Email addresses for all 20%+ owners of the business
    10. Proof of Active and Good Standing status of the business
    11. The completed SBA PPP application form
    12. Electronic funds transfer information

How to Learn More About the PPP Application

For more details on how to complete the PPP loan application and how to find the required documents, please this complete PPP Checklist. For a description of the loan terms for the PPP, the SBA provides a summary here.

Fintech Companies Joining the Process

The SBA has been slow to include fintech companies as approved lenders, which was not helpful to smaller businesses, especially as some major banks have been accused of favoring their larger clients. Once the SBA finally gave a few fintech companies approval, the first round of funding ran out. However, now that additional PPP funding has been passed by Congress, it’s essential to get started now, and a fintech firm may be able to help you apply and connect you with a PPP partner bank.

Once the lender approves your application, it gets sent to the SBA for approval and then it’s time to cross your fingers and hope you get approved before the next round of funding is exhausted. If you are lucky enough to get approved, you will get notification (usually by email) to sign final agreements and then payment comes in about  five to seven days.

Disclaimer: This information has been aggregated from external sources. Fundbox and its affiliates do not provide financial, legal or accounting advice. This content has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for financial, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own financial, legal or accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.

PPP loan stock photo by Vitalii Vodolazskyi/Shutterstock

 

4 Tips for Small Businesses to Navigate COVID-19

By Mark Spencer

covid

As the world continues to work toward preventing the spread of COVID-19, small businesses are finding themselves in an unimaginable situation. A staggering 7.5 million small businesses are at risk of closing, while 87 percent of small business owners report that their business is hurting as a result of the pandemic.

I’d venture to say most companies did not have any type of plan to address a global pandemic’s impact on their business operations – the major impacts we’ve experienced in the past weeks have been nearly impossible to predict or plan for. With 22 million Americans having already filed for unemployment, the overall rate is predicted to reach its highest point since the Great Depression. It’s clear that the impacts of this pandemic are being felt vastly across the country, however, it’s not too late to implement a few changes that will not only help your business during the crisis, but will better set you up for future unforeseen obstacles and hardships. Here are four tips that will help you and your business navigate the stressful times we are in.

Create a Continuity Plan 

It is so important for businesses of all sizes to have a clear continuity plan in place, outlining procedures and instructions to be followed in the event of a crisis. If your small business doesn’t currently have one, it’s not too late to create one now. Your plan should outline the key resources needed to deliver your product, both internally and externally. It should also identify the key business risks of the crisis at hand, as well as highlight the differing roles of the employees who are responsible for changing workflows during this time. If you find yourself in need of a continuity plan, there are many free templates available online to get you started.

Increase Your Level of Communication and Transparency

One of the most important things you can do as a business owner is communicate clearly with your customers. They understand, now more than ever, we are operating in uncertain times, especially when it comes to the supply chain and your product availability. In an email to customers, outline what your brand is doing to help them during these challenging times. By describing the steps your company is taking to mitigate the risks that are resulting from the pandemic, you will build credibility with your customers and they will appreciate the transparency. By providing your customers with a great shopping experience during a time like COVID, they’re going to continue business with you in the future, ultimately leading to an increase in business performance down the road.

Be Open to Change 

Life as a small business owner demands evolution and innovation. However, it may be difficult to implement changes to your routine. Be that as it may, you have to be prepared to change the way you’re doing business. Think about how restaurants have developed takeaway and delivery services overnight. Similarly, small businesses are finding themselves pivoting their marketing strategies and relying on social media to drive engagement and sales more than ever before. How can you reach new customers while adhering to the nation’s guidelines?

For example, take a look at how the retail industry has pivoted as small businesses have been forced to close their doors and consumers must shop entirely from the security of their own homes. My company, Jane, has strengthened our ecommerce offerings and has pivoted away from our planned Spring campaigns and instead shifted our product offerings to meet customer demands in this new COVID Life.

Utilize the Help Around You 

While these times are scary and you may not know how best to proceed, it’s okay and understandable to seek help. Banks and financial institutions are up to date on the latest news related to relief funds and grants, the stimulus package, and other resources. Staying in frequent touch with your bank and your representative keeps the line of communication open, keeps you abreast of your financial situation, and helps you take advantage of available financial options from the Small Business Association and as part of the government stimulus plan.

It’s also wise to expand your network of connections when it comes to fellow small business owners and business leaders. Everyone is feeling the effects of the pandemic when it comes to the economy and their business, so talking regularly with others about how they’re coping with the situation provides perspective. It also acts as a useful way to gain ideas of how to boost your business during tough times by understanding what has and hasn’t worked for others.

While it’s inevitable that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt by everyone for a long time to come, there are upsides of this unprecedented time. Learning to navigate these unchartered waters will undoubtedly promote resilience, sharpen business skills, and increase resourcefulness of business owners. We will be stronger than ever once we reach our new normal. Let’s do the best we can to support each other on the road to recovery.

A seasoned senior executive, Mark Spencer has more than 20 years of commercial business development experience, including over a decade of working with and advising eCommerce platforms. He is currently SVP, Commercial Operations at Jane.com, a curated online fashion marketplace. Outside of the office, Mark is an avid traveler, loves anything sports-related, and enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and the family dog. To learn more about the Utah-based company, visit Jane.com, download the app in the App or Google Play Stores or follow along on Instagram

Covid stock photo by Mehdi Daoud/Shutterstock

 

Capital Raising in a COVID-19 Environment: Here’s What you Need to Survive in the Midst of Marketplace Disruption

By Ryan Rafols

capital

It’s no surprise that COVID-19 has caused disruption across the globe, creating major economic uncertainty and chaos in the financial sectors. Moreover, it has had profound effects across the public and private markets as investors tend to become risk-averse in unpredictable conditions.

Despite this uncertainty and the trepidation that many public investors may feel, startup fundraising is still thriving and the economy will recover- and for some sectors and industries, it is more important than ever, as a downturn can be more lucrative for opportunistic investors with dry powder.

What’s interesting is that historically some of the best fund performances occurred between the onset of a downturn and the early stages of recovery. And even under the challenging circumstances surrounding the 2008 recession, startups like Uber, Venmo, Airbnb, and Slack have been able to thrive, becoming major industry leaders.

Smart and opportunistic investors will understand that this is a prime opportunity to look at startups that are innovating to meet the new demand for health and safety solutions as well as early stage enterprises that are anticipated to remain strong due to a solid offering that will be relevant even after the environment stabilizes.

In fact, progressive online accelerator programs have moved to Virtual Demo Days that bring together 100’s of VC’s and private investors who are still very much interested in funding the “next big thing”, with entrepreneurs continuing to raise millions of dollars in capital from these events.

Outside of accelerators, startups often use conferences to meet investors and the top conferences have already gone remote. And personally as an investor, I’m excited to not be traveling and living out of a suitcase 30+ days a year. I get to spend more time with my companies, my family and friends, and most importantly with a shift to online and virtual, it has leveled the playing field for those who don’t live in Silicon Valley or New York.

Investor Shift from Unprofitable Unicorns to Profitable Acquisitions

Capital raising, especially for key sectors servicing the healthcare industry, remote work, and on-demand services are anticipated to continue to remain strong and have seen significant valuation jumps.

However, capital intensive startups that originally had models that could only become profitable after 4-5 years of massive additional capital injections will not be as strong in the short term, and many will likely fail if they don’t make massive cuts immediately. Many investors will also shift in the downturn to be more short-term return focused, versus long-term risk.

Those with dry power will thrive in an opportunist market. There will be a next Airbnb, and it won’t be able to get a unicorn valuation due to not as much dry powder in the market, which means that as an investor you can invest at a lower valuation, creating more potential upside long-term depending on how long market recovery takes.

While a percentage of private investors will focus on existing portfolios and only invest in companies with traction, foregoing early stage deals, the winners in the markets according to Warren Buffet are typically those who can afford to wait out market flux and the same is true for those who will continue to take the high risk investments in early stage startups.

Investing in the Future: What Startups Need To Know

It’s also important to keep in mind that investing in startups will still be data-driven and reflect the yearly climate, which means it may look a little different than it has in the past. The needs and demands of the market have changed dramatically due to COVID-19, and it’s almost certain that future needs can be based at least partially on trends we see now.

For starters, remote working and education have overnight become instrumental during the outbreak. Experts now anticipate that remote business and education solutions are going to continue to outpace many other sectors for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, many companies have reported preliminary results finding that remote working solutions are not only working for them, but they are considering longer-term flexibility in order to reap cost savings from changing property needs. Ultimately, this means that mobile solutions with the capacity to enable work and education needs from anywhere will be here to stay – and innovative startups in this EdTech space have tremendous growth potential.

Innovative healthcare startups are another key area in which investors may have a higher likelihood of experiencing strong and rapid growth. The market is currently demanding many COVID-19 related products, such as better testing capabilities and protective equipment and devices. In addition to this, patients suffering from many different conditions are seeking better ways to access healthcare in a way that minimizes exposure and risk. The healthcare industry was evolving to embrace telehealth solutions prior to COVID-19, but the pandemic likely means these solutions in the MedTech and healthcare arena must be made available faster, and they will likely be here to stay.

And while COVID-19 presents an opportunity for many sectors, it is hitting others much harder, such as food, hospitality, and transportation. All of these industries are facing massive losses, but in these trying times, there is also space for innovation and service-delivery transformation. Those companies and startups that are determined to find safer and more convenient ways to still meet the desires of their customer base can find massive success. Many of these companies had been considering automation in the past and now have to seriously consider it before hiring back their staff. We likely will be looking at a much more automated workforce by 2021 as businesses have been forced to adapt or die.

Startups Here’s What Investors Will Be Looking For  

While there is no guarantee that any company will land an investment deal, it’s important to know that investors will look for organizations with these traits prior to committing any capital under current market conditions, including:

  • Companies who truly innovate in their field, excel at what they are doing, and have a proven track record of success as a team.
  • Organizations that are innovating services such as contactless and automation technologies, that enhance human capabilities.
  • Solutions that benefit health, safety, and wellness for consumers as consumers are becoming more health conscious.
  • All types of goods, whether B2B or B2C, as long as they are unique, have a solid profit model, and have a proven track record of sales.
  • Those offering solutions in remote business and education to help put people back to work, and retrain them into new careers and skills.

In the end, entrepreneurs must continue to stay true to the basics of having a strong operational proposition, a solid business plan, and sound market strategies. It’s also crucial to understand the human capital of the startup, including the knowledge, skills, and competencies of the startup team – is often a huge predictor of future success that investors will continue to look for. It just is secondary at this point to already built products and companies with traction for many investors.

Overall, for companies who can meet these criteria, they will continue to succeed at finding funding on their own, with accelerator programs, and at conferences. In addition, entrepreneurs and investors who drive change and can make a positive impact in the current world can also find great financial success together despite the current market volatility.

Ryan Rafols is the Founder and CEO of Newchip, the only REMOTE accelerator program for scaling Pre-Seed to Series A startups.

Capital raising stock photo by Vitalii Vodolazskyi/Shutterstock

 

Changing Consumer Behaviors

consumer

How the post-pandemic consumer shops

As America “opens for business” in phases, it’s a good time to look ahead. We all know COVID-19 changed consumer behaviors—but do we know how much? A blog by Eric Scriven on the Logical Position website dives into the topic. Scriven cites a survey conducted in March by Valassis revealing:

  • 42% of respondents shopped more online
  • 10% tried BOPIS (buy-online-pickup-in-store)
  • 13% are using BOPIS more often
  • 14% used grocery delivery services for the first time [me too]
  • 13% used grocery delivery more often

The Valassis survey also found 10% of the survey respondents tried restaurant delivery services for the first time, 19% increased their usage, and 27% were considering getting food delivered.

Scriven says that “while more people are turning to online shopping, that increased activity isn’t spread equally” noting a survey from Civis that shows more consumers are spending money on  at-home activities, such as entertainment services, fitness, grocery, and pet supplies. But they’re spending less on “major household purchases (like furniture), restaurant takeout, electronics, and clothes.”

Want to reach consumers? This might be a good time to up your social media marketing. The Valassis survey shows 39% of consumers those responding to the survey say they’re more active on social media. That survey also found more shoppers are trying new brands:
  • 48% continue to buy their usual brands
  • 13% are adding some new brands to their normal purchases
  • 13% are “taking the opportunity to discover new brands.”
  • 19% are buying what’s available.

Another change in in buying patterns Scriven points out is the increase in consumers “shopping around” instead of just turning to Amazon. He says as Amazon started prioritizing the delivery of essential products to its warehouses, consumers began buying products directly from sellers. How long that will last is anyone’s guess, but this is a good time to up your marketing, using the numerous tools (many free) available to reach new customers who are actually on the lookout for new businesses to buy from.

Delivery stock photo by shisu_ka/Shutterstock

 

Coronavirus Update: New Programs, Tools and Advice

By Rieva Lesonsky

business

Here’s this week’s coronavirus resources for your small business.

Programs & Tools

Relief Plan for Nonprofits, Retailers and other Verticals

Zoho Corporation just launched a comprehensive program—its Vertical Relief Plan (VRP), consisting of a suite of business software applications to help businesses and organizations across three verticals severely impacted by the coronavirus crisis: Education, Nonprofit and  Government, and Retail.

Since Zoho introduced the Small Business Emergency Subscription Assistance Program and Remotely programs earlier this year, data emerged pinpointing the industries that have been disproportionately hurt by the global pandemic. In the U.S retail is among the six sectors most affected by the COVID-19 shutdowns. Around the world, an estimated 290 million students are out of school, according to one UNESCO survey. In response, local governments and NGOs have been stretched thin, lacking resources needed to keep people safe and economies going.

In addition to the VRP, Zoho encourages small businesses, as well as finance, sales, marketing, and HR professionals within larger organizations to utilize the discounts, training, and support programs the company is offering.

Here are some of the key features of parts of the Vertical Relief Plan:

Retail

Zoho Commerce 
Retail storefronts, shuttered due to the crisis, can build out an online presence using the Zoho Commerce Starter Plan for free, up to 60 days.

For existing Zoho Commerce customers, the company is raising the transaction fee threshold to $3,000 in sales for the Starter Plan and to $8,000 for the Pro Plan for the next three months to assist with tougher economic conditions.

Businesses providing essential services can quickly set up their online presence by taking advantage of free training and rapid onboarding of Zoho Inventory, Zoho’s order management software, set up specially for them.

Nonprofit & Government

Zoho Creator COVID-19 App Program
The program helps nonprofits, government bodies, and communities that are working on various programs like patient monitoring or food distribution. These organizations can place a request, and Zoho will build web and mobile apps for free using Zoho Creator, a low-code application development platform. Zoho can, for example, create tools to help non-profits or community groups organize shelters or distribute food or other essential services.

Zoho Desk 
For government agencies and departments around the world that are working on COVID-19 relief initiatives, Zoho is currently offering free software licenses of Zoho Desk, the company’s help desk software. Zoho Desk provides teams with the tools to manage their work and communication, and support citizens as well as government agencies in this time of distress.

Zoho Social  
To aid nonprofits and governmental bodies reliant on social media, Zoho Social is opening up its advanced edition for free for six months. It is also honoring extension requests from users as well as providing educational guidance and tool improvements to aid users working remotely.

Zoho Checkout 
For nonprofits working to provide relief during the pandemic, Zoho Checkout is available for free, enabling them to collect online donations easily.

Additional Programs in Support of Change Management

Zoho is also offering additional support across several business categories.

Zoho Survey is now available at a 50% price reduction to allow businesses to swiftly prepare surveys and questionnaires to collect data needed to make smarter, swifter decisions during this time. Plus, Zoho Campaigns now offers crisis templates to assist with outreach and communications.

Zoho has increased the storage limit for businesses using WorkDrive to 1TB of shared storage for the Starter plan and 3TB of shared storage for the Team plan. After 10 users, Zoho will give an additional 100GB of storage for the Starter plan and 300GB for the Team plan for every new user. This increased storage helps businesses currently experiencing higher-than-normal volume, such as NGOs or e-commerce businesses. For businesses developing new lines of revenue, WorkDrive serves as a centralized, scalable, data management and storage platform.

Zoho is offering several development programs through Zoho People, including unexpected change management training, privacy and security training, stress management training, new technology training, onboarding training, communication and collaboration training, and role-change training.

Zoho is rolling out free Zoho Recruit video credits until the end of June 2020. Zoho Recruit has integrated with Zoho Meeting  to make the video interface possible. The application will help recruiters provide timely, positive, virtual candidate experiences for companies that cannot staff fast enough due to the crisis. Zoho Meeting is now free with Zoho Bookings, making virtual appointment scheduling seamless in order to aid the rising demands of a global remote workforce.

Zoho has created numerous additional resources, including a live COVID-19 impact dashboardfinancial planning and recovery advice, a remote working help center, and virtual user groups, to assist businesses during this time. Check out Zoho’s comprehensive list of programs.

 

Digital Resources, Access to Experts and Tools to Support Main Street Businesses

Only 38% of small businesses feel they will survive in the current conditions for 12 months. To help provide small businesses across all industries with the insights and information they need to remain open or get back to business, Mastercard is launching Priceless Conversations: Real Talk, Real Action, an on-going online mentorship program, leveraging Mastercard’s Women Business Advisory Council members, external experts and partners to curate unique small business engagements. The content will be available across Hello Alice, the Mastercard Her Ideas Start Something Priceless Community, as well as the Create & Cultivate and Mastercard digital channels.

This mentorship program will provide the opportunity for Hello Alice’s Business For All community members to engage with the “expert of the week” and receive unique perspectives on their hard-hitting questions on the community’s online forum. You can join the Her Ideas Start Something Priceless Community here.

Resources For Today and Every Day

Mastercard is also expanding its Easy Savings automatic rebate offerings to include new partners such as Squarespace* and EdCast. From allowing small business owners to quickly establish an online presence, to accessing tools that assist with learning, knowledge sharing, remote work and collaboration, these new benefits help business owners manage their day-to-day and focus on their future.

The company will be launching The Main Street Resource Center, an online place for small businesses to access a  curated set of needs-based solutions and resources to help them in the current environment, as well as through recovery. These efforts build on Mastercard’s expanded worldwide commitment to financial inclusion, pledging to bring a total of 1 billion people and 50 million micro and small businesses into the digital economy by 2025. And given the crucial role that women play in these businesses; we’re pledging to reach 25 million women entrepreneurs.

(*The Squarespace benefit will be available on Premium Easy Savings, which is the Easy Saving version for World Elite cardholders and provides additional offers and capabilities including offers on top of what is available on Easy Savings and savings on experiences and travel.)

 

Free Website Builder

GoDaddy is helping entrepreneurs get online. GoDaddy’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic includes tools to help minimize the economic impact to small businesses. As part of that response, they launched a free website builder with GoDaddy Websites + Marketing. ( The website, plus marketing tools, is free with no expiration. Subject to the GoDaddy Universal Terms of Service, Websites + Marketing Services Agreement and Privacy Policy.)

Small businesses can choose from professionally designed templates, customized for their  industry. And the Websites + Marketing websites include an SSL certificate to protect both the businesses and their customers.

Learn more: Get to Know Websites + Marketing with how-to courses and videos

Stay present with marketing tools

Creating a website is only part of the equation. Being where your customers are also means being active on social media. With the free GoDaddy free website, you can manage your social profiles across Facebook, Google, Yelp and Instagram, post to social media and monitor online reviews from your Websites + Marketing dashboard, which saves you time instead of checking multiple platforms.

Learn more: Using social media to engage with customers in a crisis

Keep your business active

When you’re ready to move from in-person sales to a full blown online store, you can upgrade to the Websites + Marketing Ecommerce plan to take online orders. You won’t lose any of your content or have to start over.

Expert support from GoDaddy Guides

Check out the 24/7 support from their GoDaddy Guides.

 

Free Coronavirus Legal Resource Center Online

Rocket Lawyer recently launched its Coronavirus Legal Center, a free, one-stop resource that provides employers with expert legal advice, business continuity guidance, critical legal documents, and consultations with lawyers in the Rocket Lawyer network to enable them to successfully navigate the myriad challenges arising from the pandemic. The Rocket Lawyer Coronavirus Legal Center is also an essential resource for legal advice in connection with small business loans and aid pursuant to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The Coronavirus Legal Center offerings for the USUKFrance, and Netherlands are free of charge and currently available to anyone.

As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the daily lives of millions around the world, business owners’ legal needs are snowballing, at a time when obtaining legal counsel could be harder than ever. Rocket Lawyer’s Coronavirus Legal Center provides legal guidance and resources to alleviate the immense pressure and confusion employers face and helps address their business continuity concerns. With a sharp focus on the top legal questions employers have today, the Coronavirus Legal Center removes the need to wade through a sea of internet search results and can be easily accessed from any device.

The Rocket Lawyer Coronavirus Legal Center provides:

  • A dedicated legal hub with answers to the most pressing legal questions presented by the pandemic, updated frequently.
  • Private, Coronavirus crisis-related, Question & Answer (Q&A) with a knowledgeable Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney.
  • Multiple digital legal documents to create, share and sign such as Employee Handbook, Telecommuting (Work from Home) Agreement, Temporary Employment Agreement, Bankruptcy Worksheet, timely business letters and more.
  • Plain language explanations and updates of government benefits, CARES Act relief, small business loans, and stimulus programs.
  • Curated links to additional resources for news, healthcare information and best practices for employers, individuals and families who are dealing with COVID-19 disruptions to their lives and their livelihoods.

Rocket Lawyer will also be hosting a series of webinars and virtual conferences, featuring expert attorneys from its On Call network, in partnership with HR industry leaders like Woodruff Sawyer, HR Girlfriends, and PeopleTechPartners. Topics include employment, healthcare, and business law issues related to the Coronavirus pandemic and the government response as well as estate planning for individuals.

 

PPP Financial Tools

Check out these really helpful tools from Goal Financial:

A live tracker for banks that are lending PPP: https://goalfinancial.com/ppp-bank-status

A tool for getting help with PPP loan forgiveness: https://goalfinancial.com/

 

Handling Customer Payments Remotely

PCI Pal®, a global provider of secure payment solutions, launched a rapid deployment version of its payment services. PCI Pal Rapid Remote delivers PCI compliant payment enabling businesses to quickly continue handling customer payments in a secure and compliant way even when working remotely or from home with minimal notice.

Rapid Remote enables ultra-fast deployment within 48 hours, and provides a solution for businesses with homebased workers who do not have access to secure payment solutions either through their existing remote telephony connectivity (including traditional PBX, and VoIP platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Skype for Business), or where using mobile phones or landline telephones.

 

Polls & Surveys

What Businesses are Suffering the Most

According to last week’s Alignable Pulse Poll 34% of small businesses nationwide won’t pay their May rent in full. Of those 84% will only be able to pay half the rent or less. While the majority of small businesses have made arrangements with landlords for reduced or delayed payments, 36% can’t get their landlords to budge.

Nearly half the business owners who negotiated with landlords were only able to delay rent one month. Only 22% were successful in deferring rent for three months and a lucky 3% pushed off rent for six months.

The industries most affected by rent struggles include retail, personal services, travel, and restaurants, but this problem cuts across all categories at this point. COVID-19 quarantines have been especially difficult on women-owned, minority-owned, and veteran-owned businesses.

The poll shows 52% of women-owned businesses, 48% of minority-owned businesses  and 44% of veteran-owned companies were closed by the third week in April. Compare that to the 38% of all other businesses that shut their doors. On a hopeful note, 98% of all of these businesses plan to reopen once the quarantines have ceased.

 

Who’s Hit the Hardest by the COVOID-19 Pandemic

An unprecedented number of Americans have filed for unemployment. And according to a new research report from Gusto, those who can least afford to be laid off are being hit the hardest by the economic impact of COVID-19. Low-income employees, young workers, and businesses in low-income areas are reeling the most from loss of jobs and wages.

Key findings:

  • Lower income employees are more likely to be laid off. In particular, hourly workers making less than $20 per hour have experienced a 115% higher rate of layoffs compared to those making $30+ per hour.
  • Gen Z and new entrants are seeing the deepest cuts. Workers under the age of 25 have experienced a 93% higher rate of layoffs than workers above the age of 35.
  • Jobs in low-income areas are most at risk. Employees who work in businesses located in lower-income areas are 25% more likely to have been laid off, compared with employees who work in higher-income areas.

Check out the full report is available here.

 

Student Loan Debt During the Coronavirus Crisis

In a survey of American adults currently repaying federal student loan debtLendEDU found:

  • 68% of all federal student loan borrowers were unsure they could make their federal student loan payments before the CARES Act was implemented. This included 79% of those who have been laid off due to the pandemic and 83% of those who have been furloughed.
  • 54% said they wouldn’t have been able to make their very next federal loan payment, including 61% of those who have lost their jobs.
  • 78% of private student loan borrowers are also not sure they can make payments on their private student loan debt, including 83% of those who have been laid off.
  • 41% will continue to make federal loan payments during the grace period, while 43% will not.
  • Of the 43% that won’t make payments, 34% will spend the money on food & supplies, 20% on a mortgage or rent payment, and 15% will pay other bills (cable, credit card, etc.). 17% said won’t have any extra money to spend despite not making federal loan payments, which is indicative of how tight budgets have gotten, especially for federal student loan borrowers.
  • 14% of respondents said they were contacted by a widely-reported scam that is offering to suspend federal student loan payments for a fee.
  • 27% of respondents said they will consider refinancing their federal student loans during the grace period even though interest on federal loans is frozen at 0% until Sept. 30.
  • 45% of respondents were not aware of the recent federal student loan changes, while 52% were.

 

How Americans Plan to Spend Their Stimulus Payments

More than half of Americans (55%) who plan to spend their stimulus checks on essential and non-essential goods will do so at big-box stores or chains, according to a recent survey by The Ascent, a Motley Fool company.

Most survey respondents say they’ll use their stimulus checks to pay bills (37%) or put the money into savings (26%). Only 22% say they’ll spend most of their stimulus checks to purchase household necessities or non-essentials. Among those people:

  • 14% say they’ll make most purchases at a local small business
  • 30% say they’ll make most purchases online
  • 55% say they’ll make most purchases at a big-box store or chain

 

The Federal Reserve Reports on the Challenges from COVID-19

A new report from the 12 Federal Reserve banks and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System shows the scope and scale of challenges that U.S. communities are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Perspectives from Main Street: The Impact of COVID-19 on Communities and the Entities Serving Them, conducted last month, examines the findings of a nationwide survey of nonprofit organizations, financial institutions, government agencies, and other community organizations.

Key findings:

  • Nearly 7 out of 10 respondents indicated COVID-19 was a significant disruption to the economic conditions of the communities they serve and said they expect recovery to be difficult.
  • Income loss, business impacts, health concerns, and basic consumer needs were the most frequently cited effects of COVID-19.
  • More than a third of respondents say it will take longer than 12 months for their communities to return to the conditions prior to the disruption from COVID-19.
  • 72% of respondents indicated that COVID-19 is significantly disrupting the entity they represent, with 41% expecting to bounce back quickly after recovery begins.
  • 25% of respondents indicated their entity could operate for less than three months in the current environment before exhibiting financial distress.

“Listening to and learning from the front line entities working to support local communities is critical to shaping effective policies and programs. This survey helps amplify their voices as we try to understand the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations, businesses, community-based organizations, and others,” says coauthor Karen Leone de Nie, vice president and community affairs officer in the Community and Economic Development group at the Atlanta Fed.

The survey will continue to be conducted about every eight weeks, with findings then updated.

About the Fed’s community development function: The Federal Reserve seeks to promote the economic resilience and mobility of individuals and communities across the United States, including low- and moderate-income and underserved households. Increasing economic opportunity not only benefits individuals and communities but is also vital to the overall economy.

Get Informed—Webinars

Future-Proof Your Small Business with E-Commerce

Today (5/5) at 3 PM ET, join the folks at Alibaba.com, the B2B e-commerce platform, for a virtual “fireside chat” discussing why now is the time for B2B businesses to go digital. The guest Curt Anderson, an e-commerce manufacturing consultant, will share his advice about how to digitize your small business and take it to the next level.

Free registration: Eventbrite

 

Get Informed—Advice

Cybersecurity & COVID-19

Guest post by Paul Lipman, CEO of consumer cybersecurity company BullGuard

Cybercriminals are quick to spring into action and create scams on the back of major news, such as national disasters and terror attacks. Most of the scams in recent weeks have taken advantage of the public’s rightful fear of COVID-19 by pretending to offer helpful information. SMBs are hit especially hard, as 43% of small companies don’t have any cybersecurity defense plan in place, while coronavirus-related scams are on the rise, according to the United States Secret Service.

Some of the most common COVID-19 “fakes” or scams include:

  • Large discounts offered on face masks and hand sanitizer phishing mails. Some even offer cures for COVID-19.
  • Phishing emails and texts offering to provide information on government loans or claiming recipients have been given a tax rebate.
  • Ransomware spreading primarily via emails, often falsely claiming to contain information or advice regarding COVID-19 from a government agency.
  • Investment scams in which phishing email recipients are offered the opportunity to invest in companies that are producing vaccines.
  • Make a donation pleas to help fight COVID-19 or provide support to victims by clicking a link in an email.
  • Emails that claim to be from the World Health Organization, offering advice on how to stay safe during the pandemic.
  • ‘Healthcare organizations’ informing recipients that they have come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
  • Malicious web domains using the word ‘Zoom’. In March Zoom video conferencing users skyrocketed to 200 million. Cybercriminals are trying to exploit this by creating malicious websites to attract Zoom users.

Some of the main details cybercriminals hope to obtain and top targets for these scams include:

  • ID and login credentials that can be used to access corporate networks
  • Password and banking information belonging to individuals and companies
  • Unprotected small businesses and their employees
  • The millions of people working from home
  • Video conferencing platform users, particularly but not exclusively those who use Zoom
  • Companies in the healthcare sector

We don’t anticipate these types of scams surrounding COVID-19 will go away any time soon, as malicious actors will try attempts at fraud for as long as this global health crisis dominates our daily lives. However, this does not mean they can’t be defended against by using anti-malware protection and practicing good cyber-hygiene, such as using Virtual Private Network (VPN) when connecting to Wi-Fi and using strong, secure passwords and wherever possible, making use of 2FA (two factor authentication).

 

Essential Guide to Video Conferencing From Home

Guest post by Ben Christensen, cofounder and Head of People and Talent at Handshake

1—Start with an agenda: Without this crucial step, it can be more difficult to read the room and know when somebody is preparing to contribute a thought or comment in a meeting when on a video conference call. Preparation and assigned speakers can help drive the flow of a meeting, creating a better experience for everyone.

2—Value establishing a predefined process to ask questions: It’s important to think ahead and take into consideration all components of a meeting. Having a predefined process in place to ask questions (through a chat function or dedicated time at the end of the meeting) will not only ensure that everyone feels included and heard, but also allow for a more productive meeting.

3—Have alternate options to your laptop mic and speakers: Thanks to advanced technology, microphones pick up most sounds around you. As you work from home, there will be a lot of noises that will be hard to limit. Using headphones with a mic will allow for better audio quality will be much better than speaking in an open room.

4—Raise your hand: Use the “Raise Hand” or similar function and then speak to help make a more inclusive conversation, rather than trying to interject or interpret facial cues via video call.

5—Rely on multiple internet connections: Have one backup internet source for your meeting connection just in case. For example, if you normally use internet/device audio, make sure you also can and know how to dial in. There’s nothing worse than losing a connection at a pivotal point in a meeting.

 

Effectively Managing a Remote Project Team

Guest post by Scott Bales, VP of Delivery and Solution Engineering at Replicon

In today’s age of globalization and technical advancement, many businesses have seen considerable success allowing employees the option to work remotely—but what happens when it’s no longer an option? With the rise of COVID-19 forcing entire teams to continue their work remotely, many project leads and employees alike are entering new territory.

For businesses looking at total telecommunication until further notice, here are some key tips from, on how to effectively manage a remote project team:

  • Set Expectations Early and Often. Providing guidelines, setting boundaries, and reviewing the basics are among the most important steps to take when setting out on your project. There will be questions—be accessible and provide clarity on priorities, milestones, performance goals, and more. Outline each team member’s availability and ensure you can reach them when needed.
  • Ensure Everyone Has the Tools They Need. From a comfy desk chair to a unified system of metrics, everyone should be equipped with whatever tools they need to succeed and communicate effectively.
  • Stay Aligned With Client Requirements. Just like your team, stakeholders and clients should also receive transparent and open communication. Their requirements define your work, and as a project based organization, your goal is to understand what their priorities are and what that translates into for you.
  • Don’t Be a Stranger. At the outset, you may find it makes more sense to over-communicate with team members rather than risk missing critical information. As your team enters a more comfortable cadence, you can adjust updates, video calls, and more.
  • Build Genuine Connections. We’re all in this together and humanizing the work experience is more important than ever as many workers may feel isolated and disoriented with these new processes. Share positive feedback, open a fun chat channel, or try and “grab coffee” together—whatever helps maintain a sense of normality, solidarity and reminds everyone they’re not an island working alone.

Coronavirus stock photo by MintArt/Shutterstock

 

Omnibus Summary of Treasury and SBA Guidance on Paycheck Protection Program

By: Sharon C. Lincoln

PPP

On April 24, 2020, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (“PPP & HCE Act”), was signed into law. This new federal relief legislation includes $310 billion of additional funding to restart the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”).

The PPP is an economic stimulus initiative that makes it easier for eligible organizations to obtain loans through the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) in order to keep operations running and retain employees. Under the PPP, an eligible organization may receive a loan covering up to 2.5 months of its average monthly payroll costs (with some limitations). A significant portion of the loan may be eligible for tax-free forgiveness.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”) launched the PPP. However, the $349 billion originally earmarked to provide funding for the PPP ran out after less than two weeks after the first PPP applications were accepted.

The PPP & HCE Act also includes $60 billion to provide additional funding for the SBA’s economic injury disaster loan program (“EIDL”).

The SBA periodically updates a list of frequently asked questions regarding the PPP, which can be found here.

Although the PPP & HCE Act increased the funding available for the PPP, organizations that would benefit from a PPP loan are advised to apply as soon as possible.

A summary of the PPP is as follows, updated as of April 27, 2020:

Duration and Terms

The PPP is available until June 30, 2020, or until SBA guarantees authorized under the PPP & HCE Act reach the new $310 billion limit.

Interest on loans made under the PPP is 1.0%. In addition, payments of principal, interest, and fees will be deferred for six months.

Typical SBA borrower and lender fees are waived under the PPP. Borrowers are not required to personally guarantee the loans under this program and no collateral is required.

Eligibility

The PPP is accessible to any business entity, section 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, section 501(c)(19) veterans organization, and Tribal business concern that has no more than 500 employees or meets the size standard established by the SBA (based upon the relevant industry in which the entity operates). Note that this program is not available to non-charitable tax-exempt organizations (apart from veterans organizations) such as social welfare organizations, agricultural cooperatives or business leagues.

Organizations with multiple physical locations, not more than 500 employees per physical location, and a NAICS code beginning with 72 (i.e., the accommodation and food services sector) are eligible to participate in the PPP.

In addition, organizations may qualify for a PPP loan even if they have more than 500 employees if (i) they satisfy the existing stator and regulatory definition of a “small business concern” under section 3 of the Small Business Act, 15 U.S.C. 632 or (ii) they meet both tests in the SBA’s “alternative size standard.”

Affiliation rules apply to aggregate related entities (and their employees) for purposes of determining eligibility for the PPP. However, such rules do not apply to organizations with a NAICS code beginning with 72, organizations operating as a franchise, and organizations receiving funding from a small business investment company licensed under section 301 of the Small Business Investment Act of 1958.

The PPP is also available to sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals; however, partners in a partnership may not apply on their own behalf and may seek a PPP loan at the partnership level only.

Required Certifications

Eligible organizations must certify that:

  1. The uncertainty of current economic conditions makes the loan request necessary to support the organization’s ongoing operations;
  2. The funds will be used to retain workers, maintain payroll, or make mortgage interest payments, lease payments, and utility payments;
  3. The organization does not have another application pending for a PPP loan for the same purpose and amounts;
  4. During the period beginning February 15, 2020, and ending on December 31, 2020, the organization has not received any amounts under the PPP for the same purpose and duplicative of amounts applied for or received under the PPP.

Loan Amount Tied to Payroll Costs

An eligible organization is able to receive a loan equal to the lesser of $10 million or 2.5 times the organization’s average monthly payroll costs for the one-year period preceding the loan origination date. The Act provides special accommodations for entities that have been in existence for less than one year and for seasonal employers.

For purposes of determining the maximum loan amount, no more than $100,000 of compensation per employee may be included in the calculation of an applicant’s payroll costs. This $100k cap does not apply to non-cash benefits, including employer contributions to defined benefit or defined contribution retirement plans, payments for employee benefits consisting of group health care coverage, including insurance premiums, and state and local taxes assessed on employee compensation.

Certain other exclusions also apply (for example, the compensation of an employee whose principal location is outside of the United States may not be included in the calculation of an organization’s average monthly payroll costs).

For sole proprietors and independent contractors, payroll costs include the sum of payments of any compensation that is a wage, commission, income, net earnings from self-employment or similar compensation and that is in an amount that is not more than $100,000 per year or pro-rated as provided under the PPP.

Permitted Expenditures

No less than 75% of the loan must be used to cover payroll costs, salaries and commissions, benefits such as paid vacation time, maternity, sick leave and health care. No more than 25% of the loan may be used for certain specific non-payroll expenditures:  mortgage interest, rent, utilities, and debt incurred prior to February 15, 2020.

Tax-Free Loan Forgiveness

The PPP offers loan forgiveness so long as no less than 75% of the amount forgiven was solely used to maintain payroll and no more than the 25% of the amount forgiven was used to pay mortgage interest, rent, and/or utilities.

Amounts forgiven under the PPP are not taxable.

The amount eligible for forgiveness includes only expenses incurred and paid during the first 8 weeks following the first date on which the loan was paid to the borrower. Also, the amount forgiven under the loan will be reduced:

  • In proportion to the reduction in the borrower’s workforce during this period, measured against the average number of full-time equivalent employees per month between February 15, 2019, and June 30, 2019, or between January 1, 2020, and February 29, 2020, and
  • By the amount of any reduction in compensation in excess of 25% of any employee whose annualized salary for 2019 was not more than $100k.

Amounts of an EIDL loan refinanced through the PPP loan may not be forgiven.

To request loan forgiveness, borrowers will need to submit a request to the lender that is servicing the loan. The request must include documents that verify the number of full-time equivalent employees and pay rates, as well as the payments on eligible mortgage, lease, and utility obligations.

In order to clearly show that the PPP loan was used exclusively for permitted expenditures, borrowers may want to set up a separate bank account for the loan.

The lender must make a decision on the forgiveness within 60 days. Any portion of a PPP loan that is not forgiven may be repaid over a term of 2 years from the date the organization applies for loan forgiveness.

Priority Recipients

The Act provides that the SBA should issue guidance to provide that priority for the loans under the PPP should be given to small business concerns and entities in underserved and rural markets, including veterans and members of the military community, small business concerns owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, women, and businesses in operation less than 2 years. To date, the SBA has not issued any such guidance.

However, the SBA issued FAQ #31, which asks “Do businesses owned by large companies with adequate sources of liquidity to support the business’s ongoing operations qualify for a PPP loan?” The answer to this question was effectively “No” and includes the comment that “it is unlikely that a public company with substantial market value and access to capital markets will be able to make the required certification [that the loan is necessary] in good faith.”

The SBA’s response to FAQ #31 also calls into question whether companies with venture capital funding qualify for the PPP.

Unlike other relief programs in the CARES Act (such as the refundable payroll tax credit), the PPP does not require a quantifiable level of economic harm in order to qualify for the program. However, organizations that apply for a PPP loan would do well to document the factors regarding “the current economic uncertainty” that form the basis for determining that the loan is “necessary.”

To apply for a PPP loan

In order to apply for the PPP, an applicant should take the following steps:

  1. Contact its bank and ask if the bank is planning to offer loans under the PPP. If the answer is “no,” contact a nearby bank that is an SBA preferred lender.
  2. Prepare the application form. The application form is here
  3. Compile the appropriate documentation, including documentation that shows the following:
    1. The number of full-time equivalent employees on payroll.
    2. The dollar amounts of payroll costs, covered mortgage interest payments, covered rent payments, and covered utilities for the eight-week period following the making of the loan.

As noted above, the Act defines payroll costs broadly, to include wages, salaries, retirement contributions, health care benefits, covered leave and the payment of state or local tax assessed on the compensation of employees.

Many banks appear to require written certification that applying for the PPP loan received board-level approval.

Alternatives

The CARES Act authorized the SBA to provide economic injury disaster loans (“EIDL”) to small businesses as well as to private nonprofit organizations (of any size) and agricultural cooperatives. A loan advance in the form of an emergency grant may be issued to an eligible organization that has applied for an EIDL. The emergency grant may not be in excess of $10,000 and is limited to $1,000 per employee per applicant.

If the SBA denies the organization’s EIDL application, the emergency advance funds do not need to be repaid and may be used for payroll costs, increased material costs, rent or mortgage payments, or for repaying obligations that cannot be met due to revenue losses.

Sharon C. Lincoln advises nonprofit entities on the wide range of issues related to their tax-exempt status, including formation, funding, governance, executive compensation (including deferred compensation), regulatory compliance, restructuring, international grant making, lobbying, unrelated business income, and mergers and acquisitions. In addition, she assists clients in matters directly involving the Internal Revenue Service, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, and the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, including audits, appeals and ruling requests.

PPP stock photo by Vitalii Vodolazskyi/Shutterstock

Tools, Programs, Webinars and More Helping Small Business Through the Coronavirus Crisis

By Rieva Lesonsky

business

Coronavirus Business Update

Programs

Helping B2Bs

Alibaba.com has expanded its B2B program to help small businesses through these challenging times. B2BToday offers articles and tips to inform and inspire you, interactive virtual events (every Tuesday) and virtual office hours where business owners can have One-on-one conversations with experts to get more personalized solutions (on Thursdays).

Next Tuesday, April 28 from 3-4 PM ET, join their fireside chat and get insight from Elizabeth Vazquez, CEO and cofounder of WEConnect, on the benefits of certifying your business as a diverse-owned enterprise.

 

Small Business Webinar Series

Verizon launched a Small Business Webinar Series earlier this month, featuring experts who will share practical advice, insight and tips on how small businesses can survive during these unprecedented times.

Register for the free webinars. On Tuesday, April 28 at 2 PM ET, Anita Campbell, founder of SmallBusinessTrends, will talk about helping your remote teams stay productive.

Ramon Ray and I will discuss keeping your business operating effectively in the new normal, on Thursday, April 30, also at 2 PM ET.

 

Tools to Help Small Businesses Navigate Federal Programs

ADP, a leading global technology company providing human capital management (HCM) solutions, is working with the federal government to support businesses and their employees in securing timely relief to help mitigate the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

ADP has focused on providing information and tools to help their clients understand and navigate the legislative relief (the FFCRA and the CARES Act) that has been adopted over the past few weeks. Their newly developed tool set includes:

  • ADP Employer Preparedness Toolkit: From resources on legislation updates such as the CARES Act and FFCRA, to insight on how to manage and engage a remote workforce, the toolkit consists of wealth of information in the form of webinars, articles, checklists, FAQs and more to help guide efforts and decision-making.
  • Paycheck Protection Programing: Includes information on how to apply for PPP and more information on legislation relief for businesses.
  • ADP Employment Tax Guide: To help companies with information specific to their state, including agency status updates in response to COVID-19.
  • Resources for Accounting Professionals: Aid to accounting professionals, to help best support their clients in light of recent and ongoing legislative changes.
  • COVID-19 Small Business Resource Center: Includes a variety of resources including local and state guidance, webcasts, FAQs and more, all specific to SMBs.

 

Can You Help Solve Business Challenges?

Act quickly on this competition—deadline for submissions is April 30.

The Visa Everywhere Initiative is a global, open innovation program inviting startups and fintechs to solve the payment and commerce challenges of tomorrow, further enhancing their own product propositions and providing visionary solutions for Visa’s vast network of partners.

The program, which first launched in the U.S. in 2015, quickly expanded globally and has more than 6000+ participating startups. To date, the startups have collectively raised over $2.5 billion in funding.

As COVID-19 continues to take a human and economic toll across the world, there is a need to find immediate solutions to help rebuild small businesses. VEI is inviting fintechs and startups to submit a solution that will support small businesses recovering from the economic impact of the Coronavirus. The startup that submits a winning solution will be awarded $50,000.

Right now, Visa has six open VEI challenges – one which directly addresses COVID-19 relief – for an opportunity to win $150,000 in prizes. The winner of the COVID challenge will win $50,000 and other prizes will be distributed among other challenge winners. Submissions are open until April 30th. More details on all the challenges and how to submit your application can be found here.

 

Explaining Funding Options

To help make sense of the various programs available, Become launched a portal dedicated to answering the questions small businesses may have. The comprehensive guide outlines the funding options available (including who qualifies), and links directly to the applications, to make the process as easy and straightforward as possible.

 

Crisis Communication Templates

10 crisis communication plan templatesVenngage has created a package of crisis communication and management plan templates—and they’re all free.

 

Free E-Commerce Hosting

Volusion just launched Curbside—a new program offering a year of free e-commerce hosting, payments, and pickup/delivery to affected brick-and-mortar establishments. Using Curbside helps cut out the fees associated with the established delivery services letting business owners keep more of their profits while serving their communities.

More details can be found in this blog post.

 

Polls & Surveys

 

CARES Act Relief Status

The latest Pulse Poll from Alignable shows only 8% of small businesses have received money, and another 14% were approved for it, but aren’t sure when or if it’s coming from the CARES Act. Plus, 72% who applied for the loans haven’t yet been approved. They’re in a state of limbo, not sure if they’ll ever see the money they were counting on to weather the Coronavirus quarantines.

“There’s no excuse for banks keeping 72% of business owners in the dark for weeks on end,” says Alignable’s cofounder and CEO Eric Groves. “According to senior SBA officials, the approval process is instantaneous upon submission of a completed application. So, why aren’t banks coming clean with their customers? It’s a question we’re going to dive deeper into in the weeks to come.”

“The need for this funding is great and becoming more pronounced as the days and weeks go by,” adds Venkat Krishnamurthy, Alignable’s cofounder and President. “And 45% of the businesses polled have been forced to shut their doors already.”

The current impact of the quarantines is staggering with 98% of small business owners saying their revenues have dropped by at least 25%, and 47% saying they’ve already lost half their revenue due to COVID-19.

 

SMBs Say They’ll Regain Lost Momentum

Vistage just released survey data, revealing how SMB CEOs are dealing with the crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. One highlight—84% were planning on leveraging the Paycheck Protection Program.

Other key points

Employment

  • 37% expect their total number of employees to decrease in the next 12 months

Business Health

  • 49% think their businesses will be moderately weakened but regain momentum in six months
  • 21% believe their businesses will be stronger than before in six months
  • 16% believe things will be back to normal in six months
  • 38% say they’ve changed products or services as a result of the pandemic
  • 54% predict their firms’ fixed investment expenditures will decrease in the next six months

Cash Reserves and Financial Assistance

  • 31% have cash reserves to support their businesses for 3-5 months
  • 20% only have cash reserves for 1-2 months

 

SMBs are Resilient

TriNet and The Harris Poll released a survey showing that despite the current economic environment and the difficult decisions being made, SMBs were optimistic—80% of polled companies have made strategic investments to keep their businesses operational through the pandemic, and 76% of those who have made investments are confident these investments will pay off after COVID-19. Plus, 65% believe the U.S. economy will recover in a year.

While SMBs are confident they can weather the storm in the near future—96% were confident that under current circumstances, their business can survive 1 month and 92% were confident t they could last 3 months. But confidence levels begin to slip at the 6 and 12 month time frame.

Revenue is already down for 78% of the SMBs responding:

  • 4 in 10 don’t have the cash reserves to last longer than 3 months without help
  • 31% can last more than 6 months
  • SMBs are trying to control their costs:
  • 67% have reduced payroll costs (including 40% taking a reduced salary for themselves)
  • 54% have made changes to their business model or product / service offerings since the crisis began
  • 48% have applied for financial support through the CARES Act

The business owners are aware of the government programs like the CARES Act and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), but many don’t know what they provide. Half of respondents say aspects of the program are confusing, especially the tax implications.

  • 95%  are aware of the CARES Act overall
  • 83% are aware of the Paycheck Protection Program
  • 54% plan to take advantage of funding
  • 27% aren’t sure if they are eligible, or don’t yet know enough about the program to say if they plan to apply
  • By April 6, 4 in 10 had tried to apply for funding, and 1 in 5 of those were unable to complete the process
  • 6 in 10 think l the loans are ‘difficult to access’

In order to adapt to the current situation, SMBs are making strategic operational choices, including cutting costs, in order to invest in the long-term success of their business. They’re spending less on:

  • 46% have reduced employee hours
  • 40% of business leaders have taken a lower salary for themselves
  • 34% have reduced marketing/advertising spend
  • 32% have worked with creditors to reduce obligations
  • 29% have cancelled services
  • 26% have laid off employees
  • 19% have reduced inventory
  • 13% have furloughed employees

SMBs are strategically investing in infrastructure, employees, and customers and community. The 78% of SMBs who have made strategic investments focused on:

  • Infrastructure: 46% invested in increased infrastructure to be more virtual, online, or contact-less
  • Employees: 37% still offer health insurance benefits to laid off or furloughed employees; 37% are paying employees who are not currently working
  • Customers and community: 37% donate to or sponsor local causes for COVID-19 relief (15% are donating to national relief); 36% offer assistance to customers (such as free services, discounts, delayed/forgiven payments, waiving fees, etc.); 14% increased their marketing / advertising spend

You can learn more from TriNet’s ongoing webinar series and blog series. All this information is also housed in the COVID-19: TriNet Business Resiliency & Preparedness Center.

 

Remote Working

More U.S. employees are working remotely than ever before. A new survey from Clutch found 66% of employees are working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including 44% who are working remotely 5 days or more per week. Only 17% of employees worked remotely 5 days or more per week before the pandemic.

The pros & cons of working remotely:

The top three benefits of working from home

No commute (47%), more flexible schedule (43%), and not having to dress up (33%).

The top three challenges of working from home

Collaborating with colleagues (33%), interruptions and distractions (27%), and sticking to a routine (26%).

 

The Negative Impact of the Coronavirus

A new survey from Next Insurance shows 89% of small businesses expect to be negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with 59% having already experienced losses.

Additional findings

  • 41% of small businesses have already started cutting expenses
  • 34% of small businesses believe they are adequately prepared for this crisis
  • 26% have already put their business completely on hold
  • You can read more on their blog.

 

Get Informed—Webinars

 

Bluehost

Bluehost brought together several small business owners in a State of Small Business webinar to share what has worked for them and provide advice and valuable insights including:

  • E-commerce options to transition the business online
  • Offering virtual consultations and services through online meetings
  • Updating business plans or pricing to accommodate WFH methodologies
  • Creating virtual events such as webinars or “non-event” events including contests

 

The Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement™

The Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement launched a free three-part web series, Navigating the New Normal, to “teach essential life skills needed to adjust to the disruption in the workforce.” The new program, Choose Love For The Workplace™, provides social and emotional intelligence for business leaders and employees.

The series covers:

Part 1—A Time for Courage

The pandemic plays into our instinctual fear. Our lives have been upended. We have no control over the changes affecting our lives and having no control is a bad feeling. Learn how you can brave the pandemic and take your personal power back.

Part 2—The After Effects of Coronavirus

Life after the Coronavirus will never be the same. How can you be resilient and even grow through difficult times. Learn about Post Traumatic Growth and how you can learn from this experience and come out stronger.

Part 3—The Choose Love Formula – April 29 at noon ET

Learn a formula that will help you cope with the drastic changes in your work life and personal life. Applying courage, gratitude, forgiveness and compassion-in-action in your daily life will not only help you through this difficult time but help you thrive.

You can register in advance for part 3 and listen to parts 1 and 2.

 

Get Informed—Read This

Finder.com has put together tips on how to increase your cash flow and manage your  finances during these tough times.

VersaCloudERP launched a Covid-19 Global Resource Center.

 

Get Informed—Advice

5 Tips for Keeping Consumers Better Informed

From Google for Small Business

Update business hours: If a business is operating with reduced or shifted hours, they can update them on their Business Profile through Google My Business so that customers know exactly when they are able to reach them. Pro tip: double check your phone number is correct and turn on messaging to make sure customers can reach you!

Share a COVID-19 update: Since every business’s response to coronavirus is unique, Google has introduced COVID-19 posts – featured prominently in a carousel on the merchant’s Business Profile in Search (and coming soon to Maps) – where businesses can tell their customers about how their operations and services have shifted. Updates can include safety precautions they’re taking, information about what products and services are available, and whether customers can expect delays.

Showcase business attributes: Given many restaurants and retail shops have closed their doors to patrons but are still operating in other capacities, merchants in the dining and shopping verticals can now update their Business Profiles to inform customers about service availability. Restaurants can add “takeout,” “delivery” and/or “curbside pickup” attributes and mark that they’re unavailable for “dine-in,” while retail stores will soon be able to add “curbside pickup,” “in-store pickup” and/or “same day delivery.”  The business operations will prominently appear on merchants’ Business Profiles on Google Search and Maps results when customers look for the business.

Share inventory online: With many shortages on groceries and home essentials, people have to make important decisions about when to leave the home to purchase critical goods. Pointy, now part of Google, helps merchants get their inventory online by connecting information from the merchant’s Point of Sale systems to their Business Profile. For a limited time, Pointy is available for free to select grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores in the US. Check if your store is eligible.

Mark a location “Temporarily closed”: Google has made it easier for businesses to mark themselves as temporarily closed directly from Google My Business should they be shutting their doors for a limited time. Note: If a business is marked as temporarily closed, it will be treated similarly to open businesses and will not affect local search rank.

Check out Google’s COVID-19 SMB Resource Hub for more helpful tips and tricks for guiding a business through this challenging time.

 

5 Business Tips Post-COVID from A PR & Marketing CEO

By Pete Reis Campbell, CEO and founder of Kaizen, a London-based growth marketing agency

As a business owner, the prospect of a pandemic that affects many global economies and potentially the day-to-day running of your business can feel daunting. It can be tricky to know how, and where, to lead your business.

Here’s how to successfully manage your clients during COVID-19 and how to protect your team.

  1. Be there for your team: Your employees are the most important part of your business. It’s important to recognize they are likely to feel anxious during this time. Respect that you might see a dip in productivity whilst employees find their feet with this new way of working.

For businesses that have moved to remote working during the pandemic, communication is more important now than it ever has been. Be over the top with it. This means more video calls, more meetings, and more contact. Consider introducing more chances for team check-ins and let them know you’re readily available for a ‘virtual tea’ or to answer any questions they might have.

Slack is a great communication platform that allows everyone in your company to converse throughout the day. This becomes more than just the general running of projects, but a space to encourage employees to share highlights of the week. For us, this can be any activity from beautiful design work to top-tier media placements.

  1. Put steps and a POA in place: If you haven’t already, it’s time to consider how COVID-19 is affecting your business and what you can do to reduce the negative impact. Your plan of action can be split into 3 manageable steps:

Reduce costs: Once Coronavirus picked up, we went through all costs line by line to remove unnecessary cash loss. From software providers to fruit deliveries, this is the time to renegotiate with your suppliers. Reach out to all of your suppliers and see if you can obtain a deferral, a payment holiday or a reduction in overall cost. The more money you can scrape back during this time, the better.

Taking advantage of the employee furlough scheme: Do all you can to protect your staff. If you need to, lean on the scheme to cover employee costs and for job reassurance. This can be a lifeline for very small businesses that may see lower cashflow during COVID.

Reconfigure and reconstruct your business to cover any losses: If business did get worse, how can you operate at a reduced capacity? Work this out in your business so you know how to act if the worst did happen.

Do right by your employees and look at all three of those plans. A well-prepped business owner has to look at the worst and the best scenario.

  1. Give your clients options: Like us, our clients are often business owners. They share the same uncertainty and anxieties post-COVID. With this in mind, consider what you, as a business, can do to continue delivering great work during this time.

Every client has a different culture and this pandemic has made that clear across our own client base. For example, one of our motoring insurance clients has wanted to increase their budget and do more work. A number of our travel clients have wanted to defer or stop work completely.

In the PR and marketing world, we came up with 4 different options: pause work, carry on like normal, do less work or do more work. Check-in with your client first to see how they’re coping and what they’ve done already before offering those 4 options.

  1. Stick to your original goal: Simply, there was a reason you started. Remember your business ethos and goals throughout this time. There will be an end to this period and normality will return.
  2. Remember the importance of a rainy day fund: This pot should cover at least 2 months’ worth of wages and running costs. My accountant advised me to do this early on.

If this wasn’t achievable for your business pre-COVID, be sure to begin working towards having this money in the bank after the pandemic. Agencies, in particular, will always face the challenge of cash flow – regardless of COVID-19. Having the rainy day fund to hand can help ease your own anxieties and protect your business in the long run.

 

Fighting Business Disruption

By Joe Pascaretta, General Manager of Credibility at Dun & Bradstreet

According to recent research by Dun & Bradstreet and Pepperdine University, 51% of respondents expected working capital fluctuations over the next six months while 18% said that if they were unsuccessful in securing financing within the next six months, they would be forced to sell the business’s assets or shut down.

As small businesses attempt to cover costs and protect their companies, I want to share some tips for business owners to help safeguard against cash flow shortages and on-going market fluctuations, as well as plan ahead as disruptions persist.

Take Action Now

Prioritize Your Employees. Your customers are your bread and butter, but your employees are your frontline. Make sure they have the resources they need to take care of themselves and your company. I had to get creative with figuring out ways to cover my costs, and it was scary, but taking care of my people saved my business.

Hire Responsibly. Make sure that you’re hiring within your means during this time. This ties back to prioritizing your employees; you want to make sure you can take care of all the people who take care of your business.

Stay Insured. While it’s always important to pay your bills on time and in full, if that is not possible due to circumstances out of your control, at the bare minimum make sure that you don’t lapse on your insurance payments. If anything happens that could compromise your business further, you will at least know that you’re insured and won’t have to go out of pocket to cover unexpected expenses related to an accident or disaster.

Be Flexible with How You Accept Payments. By expanding how you accept payments, you can give your customers flexibility with how they’re able to make good on their contracts with you.

Try to Avoid Unnecessary Purchases. If your business is affected, you’ll need any extra flexibility around cash flow you can muster. If you can hold off on making large purchases until you know you’ve weathered the storm, I strongly recommend it. Every business is different, so you’ll know what you need to keep the doors open and what can wait.

Start Planning Ahead

Establish an emergency fund. It is essential to have an emergency fund in place for unexpected circumstances. For example, suppose one of your major suppliers is impacted by unforeseen events. Do you have enough cash stored away to make up for losses coming from a supply chain interruption? While building this fund may seem like an arduous task, especially when you’d rather be investing that money back in your business, it can be well worth it in the long run.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Sometimes it’s tempting to maintain status quo when your business has one or two major clients who support your operations, or when all or most of your clients are in the same industry. However, if anything affected those major clients or that industry, it could cause extreme hardship for your company or even put you out of business for good. Consider diversifying your client portfolio the same way you would your stock portfolio.

Build and maintain a positive credit history. If your company is unable to provide to your clients and needs to take out a line of credit to assist with loss of income, a strong business credit profile can help. A positive business credit report and a good history of making payments on time may help you ease the blow if your business is affected by unforeseen events. Using your strong business credit, you may be able to renegotiate terms with your creditors to help avoid late payments.

 

Giving Back

Helping the WHO

The Alibaba Foundation, the charitable foundation funded by Alibaba Group, and the Jack Ma Foundation, established by Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder donated 100 million face masks, 1 million N95 masks and 1 million test kits to the World Health Organization (WHO) to support its ongoing fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. The WHO will receive the medical supplies in the coming days and distribute the supplies to the countries and regions in urgent need.

This donation to the WHO is the latest effort by the Alibaba Foundation and Jack Ma Foundation to support the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Since February, the Foundations have sourced and delivered various types of medical supplies to over 150 countries and regions across Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America and South America.

Last week, the WHO, the African Union and United Nations World Food Programme announced a United Nations “Solidarity Flight” which provided a large quantity of medical and personal protective equipment donated by the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation to all countries in Africa.

The WHO also previously supported the distribution of the first and second donations of medical supplies from the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation to the 54 countries of Africa. These supplies were also transported with the help of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Government, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), World Food Programme (WFP), and Ethiopian Airlines.

In addition to global donations of medical supplies, the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation have launched a number of global initiatives to support global medical communities in their fight against Covid-19. The Foundations established the Global MediXchange for Combating Covid-19 (GMCC) program for medical experts around the world to communicate seamlessly with each other and share their invaluable experience of fighting Covid-19. The Foundations have also published and distributed two handbooks, available in multiple languages and detailing learnings and best practices from the First and Second Affiliated Hospitals, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, for treating Covid-19 patients.

The Jack Ma Foundation is also funding research and development of Covid-19 vaccines and virus treatment options in China, at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Australia and at Columbia University in the U.S.

 

Supporting Small Businesses

Verizon has undertaken numerous efforts supporting small businesses, including:

Feeding Frontline Healthcare Workers in NYC—Verizon Business is supporting small business restaurants in New York City and providing healthcare workers on the frontlines with 1,200 daily meals at six hospitals across the city. The ordering and delivery process is managed by Grubhub, which donated its service to help this cause.

Pay It Forward Live is Verizon’s weekly streaming entertainment series in support of small businesses affected by COVID-19. Over the course of Pay It Forward Live, viewers are encouraged to do what they can to support local businesses in their own communities by shopping online, making a purchase in advance for when businesses reopen or ordering a meal. Verizon will also donate $10, up to $2.5 million, to support small businesses when the hashtag #PayitForwardLIVE is used. More information, along with a link to apply for grants, can be found here. The funds from Pay it Forward Live are part of Verizon’s combined $20 million donation to nonprofits directed at supporting students and healthcare first responders, including No Kid Hungry, the American Red Cross, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) COVID-19 Response Fund, Direct Relief, and the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund in support of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s global response.

$2.5 million Donation to Local Initiatives Support Corporation’s (LISC) small business COVID-19 relief efforts. More information, along with a link to apply for grants, can be found here.

Verizon Up—Verizon is giving its customers another way to support small businesses by leveraging its customer loyalty program, Verizon Up, which will give members the ability to use their monthly reward for a Visa eGift card to use to support small businesses throughout April.

Coronavirus stock photo by Silver Wings SS/Shutterstock

How Service Businesses Can Function During COVID-19

By Rieva Lesonsky

service

Most states plus Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico have issued stay-at-home orders, urging isolation to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In addition, in states without official lockdowns, most have cities and counties encouraging their citizens to self-isolate. As a service business still trying to operate, your “new normal” probably includes figuring out how to keep customers satisfied, employees safe and cash flowing.

Essential vs Nonessential Services

Although the federal government is pretty much leaving it up to state and local governments about which are essential and nonessential businesses, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued guidance on which businesses and which workers are considered essential to our country’s infrastructure.

While recreational businesses are considered nonessential and anything to do with medical care, food production, utilities and communication are definitely deemed essential, there are some gray areas when it comes to service businesses. Officially, the DHS explains the advisory list of essential workers as:

“…workers who conduct a range of operations and services that are typically essential to continued critical infrastructure viability, including staffing operations centers, maintaining and repairing critical infrastructure, operating call centers, working construction, and performing operational functions, among others. It also includes workers who support crucial supply chains and enable functions for critical infrastructure. The industries they support represent, but are not limited to, medical and healthcare, telecommunications, information technology systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics, energy, water and wastewater, law enforcement, and public works.”

So, plumbers, yes and dog care services, no? Not necessarily. Again, you need to turn to your local government for clarification. While some states specifically name veterinary offices and pet supply stores only as essential, other states are more vague, stating “pet supply and services” are essential and therefore exempt from closing. Nonetheless, your service business’s customers will continue to need what you provide. Your first challenge is to understand whether or not your business falls under the definition of “essential service” which varies from state to state. Then, IF your business qualifies as essential, your next challenge will be to figure out how to conduct business and deliver your product or service to the public without risking their health—and the health of your employees.

Safety All Around

Never is transparency and communication more important to a business than during a crisis. If you as a business owner are confused about critical safety measures (e.g. mask or no mask?), then you know your employees and customers are, too. What’s going to make the difference is clearly communicating your policies and procedures for keeping everyone safe from infection.

If you haven’t already changed your website’s homepage to acknowledge the crisis, that’s  a good place to start. =Consider  including:

  • Any scheduling modifications, such as delayed response times or shortened hours.
  • Best way to connect with you if your office is closed
  • What procedures you have in place for safety such as having employees masked and gloved, sanitizing tools, or whatever you are doing.
  • If you are still sending employees out to complete services, you can ask customers to please notify you if there has been any sickness in their homes or offices.

Also, be sure and keep in constant communication with employees about their home situations, their self-sanitizing methods and any fears they have about contracting the virus. You may need to get creative and allow more flexibility with schedules as the virus continues to spread and inhibit people’s lives.

Go Virtual

Stay-at-home orders don’t have to be as detrimental as they once would have been—especially for service businesses. With the right technology and cybersecurity measures in place, you and employees could make the move to a home office without skipping a beat. Graphic designers, web services, accounting services, consultants and more probably already offer remote working options to employees, so set up is a no-brainer. For businesses yet to jump on the virtual train, the transition isn’t as painful as you might think. Investing in a good project management program helps, so everyone stays current on project progression. Also, helpful is to schedule regular virtual meetings over video conferencing apps such as Skype or Zoom.

You might find your staff already has the technology in place to make remote working a possibility. For those who don’t, allowing staff to take workstations home temporarily isn’t a big deal, as long as you both understand how to lower the security risks.

Employees will most likely need access to your company’s virtual private network (VPN), which is where the risks occur. Before allowing anyone access, Consider establishing remote security policies employees are required to follow. Of course, guidelines depend on the sensitivity of your company’s information. The following may provide some basic tips:

  • Hardware and software anti-malware, firewalls, and antivirus programs
  • Encryption policies
  • Access privileges and authentication
  • Connectivity guidelines
  • Password protocols
  • Acceptable use policies

Help With Payroll

If you’re like most small businesses right now, you might be facing the challenge to keep employees on the payroll during the crisis. The federal government has promised to help businesses stay afloat by initiating the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act. To help clarify and keep you updated on the latest information relevant to your business, check Fundbox’s Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates and Resources for Small Businesses.

Service business stock photo by G-Stock Studio/Shutterstock

 

How Small Businesses in the Fitness Industry Can Survive During Lockdown

By Ben Walker

fitnessSome say that the fitness industry will never be the same.

Since social distancing procedures have risen, fitness providers have been battling to adjust to new services to avoid loss of revenue.

Small businesses in the industry already operate in a high turnover environment. Staff and clientele come and go. It’s the nature of the fitness model. However, SMEs in the fitness industry do not have the cash balance to compensate for such a crisis. With new trends being introduced, fitness providers must offer their subscribers alternatives to avoid cancellation.

The Concern for Businesses in The Fitness Industry

The pandemic has already taken a toll on the industry. The scale of the damage is still yet to be determined. Depending how long the situation lasts, its uncertain that fitness enthusiasts will return to their usual gym. Fitness habits change, especially when new trends are introduced.

Gyms rely on membership subscriptions as their main revenue stream. Clubs organize their payment schedule for the month based on this reliable income. Membership also opens the door to other sources of revenue. Besides personal training, gyms often offer clinical services as an additional service; meaning health professionals such as chiropractors and physiotherapists are also subject to job losses.

Why People Should People be Encouraged to keep Fit at Home?

Global lockdown procedures could potentially last till the end of the year. Fitness companies will have to offer in home services to stay in business. Here are some reasons why people should be encouraged to start:

Reduce Government Healthcare Costs

Governments have little choice when borrowing a lot of money to cover current issues. Employment insurance and healthcare being the primary expenses. If we all play our part in looking after our physical health, we reduce the risk and number of heart related diseases. This helps keeping healthcare costs lower, allowing the shortage of healthcare professionals to focus on the crisis. It also allows for additional funds to support those who are out of work.

Maintaining Our Mental Health

Cabin fever can start to onset as a result of social isolation. This can lead to feelings of claustrophobia, irritability and frustration. Being in a constant negative state will elevate to more aggressive symptoms of anxiety and depression. Exercise is essential now for maintaining a healthy mind and body. Having good mental health allows us to make positive and critical decisions, especially when adapting to change.

Strengthen our immunity

Staying at home is the best treatment for the spread of the virus. Our next line of defense is our immune system. Fitness improves our circulation and immunity, strengthening how white blood cells and antibodies can fight infection.

How can small businesses in the fitness industry get this message across?

Online Classes

When offering alternative services, members will expect to see the same value for their monthly club subscription. Many fitness companies have turned to offering live classes online. This has become very successful for many small business owners. Gym goers, who enjoy the social aspect of the club, can still receive the same experience online. Accompanied by their personal trainer, they can get the same support and feedback from their instructor.

Social Media Platforms

Social media is a free tool that offers unlimited use. A lot of gyms are adding their members to private groups, offering free videos and forums to keep on track. Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram allow personal trainers to post stories, conducting full virtual sessions. This keeps customers consistently engaged with your brand. Good Housekeeping have listed many fitness competitors offering free virtual classes.

Online Personal Training

Clubs might have several members that are contracted to personal training services. This can also be a very sizeable amount of revenue for the business. More than likely, these members will want to continue their progress with their trainer. When negotiating online personal training, a new rate for both staff and client might be necessary. It might also be wise to offer some complimentary sessions to the member. Transferring all sessions from in-person to online may not be the easiest conversation. There should be a sales back up plan to maintain customer loyalty.

Form Business Partnerships

Companies that sell fitness equipment have seen a rise in sales. Despite gyms being closed, people still respect the opinion of their trainers and instructors. A good idea would be for fitness suppliers and providers to collaborate. Setting up home programs for discounted rates or simply sharing in the profits.

Ben Walker is the owner and personal trainer at London Fitness. He is an experienced entrepreneur in the fitness field in the UK and Canada. Ben continues to be an advocate in helping people stay fit and active. If you have any further questions, please reach out to him today. Twitter @ LondonFitnessUK

Fitness stock photo by Alliance Images/Shutterstock

 

4 Quick Ways to Cut Costs When Revenue Dwindles

By Simon Slade

revenue

Businesses all over the world are dealing with dramatic and sudden revenue loss. The results of this economic slow-down have yet to be fully realized, and no one can predict how long this will last or how serious it will get. Reducing overhead right now is a prudent business decision—both reactive and proactive.

There are a few quick and easy ways that small businesses can cut costs in order to cope with this temporary downturn without firing full-time staff.

1. Trim Down Marketing Efforts

The grim reality is that people are going to have less money to spend in the coming months, and your marketing approach needs to address that change in spending habits (along with the change in revenue if you’ve had to close a brick-and-mortar store). Take some time to reassess your current marketing strategy. Are you focusing most of your marketing dollars on expensive products or services, perhaps even ones that you can’t currently provide? Redirect that money to a smaller or more affordable option that is isolation-friendly. We are seeing this in the food and beverage industry as restaurants redirect their efforts to take-out and delivery. All types of businesses should use their resources to find a creative alternative to their in-person product or service—if you don’t have one yet, it’s time to create one.

Hold on to your social media marketing dollars, as people everywhere are going to be using these channels far more often.
2. Get Out of the Office

While this is advisable on so many levels right now, it can be a money-saving endeavor, too. Even if your region isn’t currently required to close offices to reduce the spread of COVID-19, offices can be a major money-pit. Even if you can’t get a break on your lease right now (though many landlords are being lenient and at least deferring payments), you can save money on utility and internet bills by having your employees work from home.

I’ve long been an advocate of the remote office—not only does it save money, but it can also keep your teams’ spirits up to offer flexibility and more time with their families.

3. Cancel the Calendar and Comforts

Check the calendar. Are there any staff trainings, company retreats or holiday parties planned? Cancel them now. We still can’t predict how long-lasting or far-reaching the impact of this virus will be, so it’s best to play it safe, even if things are scheduled for late summer and fall. It’s a bummer—I get it. The cancellation might not provide you with immediate returns, it will allow you to recuperate expenses later on and keep you from getting bound into reservations and event expenses that you can’t afford.

Of course, the little comforts have to go, too. Even if it’s just a few dollars, you can save by eliminating or tightening discretionary and miscellaneous spending—snacks at the office, conference lunches. It might be a good idea to cancel some company credit cards, too, if you can afford to.

4. Reduce or Eliminate Freelance Contracts

While we’d like to get through this without taking away anyone’s paycheck, a business owner’s first and primary responsibility is to full-time, salaried employees. If you absolutely have to shave off a paycheck, it should be the paycheck of freelance contractors you’re currently working with.

Often, these freelance contracts are for nonessential work, like a brand redesign. If revenue has gotten tight, that brand redesign can wait, but your social media management and customer service can’t. If you’re legally bound by a contract, it’s worth approaching any nonessential contractors to see if they would be willing to place a contract on hold if it can’t be broken entirely.

Reduce Before You Eliminate

It’s going to be hard to keep up with this, but with these tips, and a little resourcefulness and creativity, business owners can survive. If it comes down to it, try reducing hours and even days of work before you fire employees outright. If you have good talent, do everything you can to hold on to them.

Simon Slade is CEO and co-founder of Affilorama, SaleHoo and co-founder of Smtp2Go. Through these companies, Simon provides education and resources for ecommerce professionals to start their own drop shipping businessbuild an affiliate marketing business and achieve occupational independence. Simon can be followed on LinkedIn and regularly comments for Forbes, Fortune, SMH and NZ Business.

Revenue stock photo by Andrii Yalanskyi/Shutterstock

 

Is Videoconferencing Hindering Your Remote Team’s Productivity? 

By Amy Sharpevideoconferencing

Is your day becoming a never-ending series of Virtual Meetings? These should be a last resort, not the first option. The fact is, videoconferencing has sprung to fame due to the rapid, global spread of Covid-19. The third week of March showed that videoconferencing apps had gained a whopping 62 million downloads due to the unprecedented worldwide lockdown.

Videoconferencing; on apps such as Zoom, Skype, Hangouts, serves a purpose in replicating that desired need for face-to-face communication which we currently lack. It’s perfect for many facets of our lives, but when it comes to implementing a successful remote working strategy for managing teams, videoconferencing is overused and time-consuming. It’s productive qualities for business must be differentiated from the way videoconferencing is used for leisure time.

Businesses are pivoting to virtual meetings at the cost of productivity, and because of this, videoconferencing needs to be monitored and reduced.

Video-calling gives the illusion of collaboration, but Wundamail’s latest research reveals overindulging in pointless chit-chat is costing businesses more than £1000 per employee each month in wasted time.

Excessive videoconferencing is hindering productivity. Leaders must rethink their remote strategy fast, or we could be heading for a global productivity dive.

Wundamail’s Coronavirus Business 2020 Report investigates the economic and social challenges facing businesses in the current global pandemic. It examines productivity levels, workflow, and communication,  and aims to give managers and employees an insight into remote team management during the spread of Covid-19.

The 20,000 remote workers surveyed were representative by ethnic background, socio-economic status, gender, and region (across the UK and US). The respondents worked for teams of three or more, across a range of blue-chip enterprises, large companies and SMEs. All were using videoconferencing software to work from home as a result of the ongoing global pandemic. Wundamail collected all data between 06/04/20 and 07/04/20.

What is the Most Popular Medium for Productivity?

Out of 20,000 respondents, 45% said that videoconferencing was their preferred method of communication for maintaining productivity in the virtual transition. 32% of respondents claimed to prefer using written updates, such as daily check-ins and structured team briefs, to manage their remote teams, while 13% preferred to use texting or messaging. Only 9% of respondents used phone calls.

Teams Prefer Uninterrupted Time

Remote workers reported an immediate need to reduce virtual distraction in their remote set-ups.  The research showed that 42% of remote workers surveyed felt they were “more productive” after working for a long period of uninterrupted time, as having a continuous stream of virtual distractions on various apps was reported to be deeply distracting. This was further highlighted by the number of people (42%) who frequently dialled in on a virtual meeting yet contributed nothing, demonstrating how virtual meetings are sometimes insignificant or trivial for the majority of team members.

Despite how videoconferencing was reported to be the most productive medium for remote working, more than half of the remote workers surveyed (58%) wished they spent less time on video-calls altogether, suggesting many teams are excessively using video apps and not achieving their work tasks. Yet, 73% of respondents regarded videoconferencing as getting “work-done”, which suggests that video calls, for some, give a dangerous illusion of productivity – when in reality, very little work is completed or produced.

Based on this evidence, teams seem to benefit from limited virtual meetings and time away from their colleagues by taking advantage of the long stretches of uninterrupted time which the remote environment offers.

In this case, why are remote teams spending all their time videoconferencing if telecommuting is meant to abolish traditional office distraction?

Less Chat, More Action

Verbal communication evaporates, but write-ups stick. 

Do you ever hang up and forget what you’ve been asked to do? The most worrying attribute of videoconferencing for teams is reportedly the “lack of follow-up” after the virtual meeting, to the extent that 27% of employees found this to be the biggest communication barrier for their virtual team. People were three times more likely to deliver on actions agreed in writing than video, as they failed to remember key information after hanging up on a video-call. After videoconferencing ended, 42% of remote workers  “followed-up” with their updates via written updates and documents, while 30% admitted they required further phone calls and email correspondence to communicate essential information. Teams are doing twice the amount of communication required because videoconferencing simply doesn’t collate essential information.

The statistics confirm that using videoconferencing solely for conveying important information was ineffective. Individuals reported to further rely on written communication after ending a videoconference, by using automatic check-ins, emails or daily updates, to communicate their thoughts to their team.

Video Meetings Have Many Communication Barriers 

From bandwidth issues to faulty equipment, technical issues emerged as the most prevalent problem in video meetings as 73% of respondents reported it was their predominant communication barrier in the remote set-up, followed closely by interruptions and people talking over one another (59%).

In addition, 1 in 3 people suffered a lack of focus in video meetings and 11% found it challenging to command attention and illustrate important points. The communication barriers led 30% of people to use alternative platforms to communicate essential updates.

Videoconferencing Needs Reducing

While videoconferencing remains a popular channel for maintaining communication in the remote set-up, the Coronavirus Business Report 2020 highlights that more than half of respondents wished to limit their time on virtual meetings as they preferred long stretches of uninterrupted time to achieve their tasks. Videoconferencing will continue to be used for replicating face-to-face interaction, but teams are relying on written communication, such as daily updates and emails, to chase important updates.

It’s time to listen to what works for your team, and adapt accordingly to achieve maximum productivity.

Amy Sharpe is Behavioural Science Writer for Diskette Ideas. She is an expert on change mechanisms, and how software can drive human action and make life easier. Her research is published in reports such as the Figala Crisis Report 2020, and has been covered in media outlets such as Global Banking and Finance and Small Business UK. Her focus is on behavioural change with long-term implications for well-being, organizations, and management. The researched is conducted by Wundamail (twitter: @Wundamail)

Videoconference stock photo by New Africa/Shutterstock

5 Ways for Businesses to Handle COVID-19: Lessons from Grief

By Leslie Barber

grief

In times of unprecedented turmoil, the chaos, anxiety, confusion and grief that we are experiencing are opportunities to stretch.

I thought all was lost when my husband, Steve, died suddenly of cancer, leaving me and our six-year-old daughter to cope. In this new world of physical distancing and skyrocketing coronavirus death rates, what can the uncertainty teach us both personally and professionally?

On social media, entrepreneurs and business owners are describing the exact feelings I had during some of the darkest moments after my husband’s death. Many, like me, are feeling distracted, foggy, or confused. They’re longing for their lives to return to normal and their businesses to run the way they once did. Constant scrambling to change day-to-day routines, sometimes on a moment’s notice, is exhausting. Many are worried about the well=being of their employees, as well as their newly homebound spouses and children. Hearts are breaking over jobs lost, businesses shuttered, and world events postponed. These are all forms of grief.

This is tough, but if you consider these five key tips, it might be a bit easier to endure this unprecedented time.

1. Put Planning on Hold

Today is all we have. It’s all we’ve ever had. When Steve died, I stopped all my planning. I assumed I would die in 5 months just like he did. So what did it matter? I couldn’t plan for more than an hour. Now, we are all feeling it because we can’t even fathom what will happen in the next week. Suddenly, the entire world feels very uncertain and out of our control. Our future feels completely unknown. Our perspective has shifted from the future to the present. And that’s okay. Take a break from planning for a moment. Today is the day we have been given. Live in it.

2. Acknowledge the Physiological Impact of Grief

Fogginess is a common symptom of grief. After Steve died, my brain went into overload processing all my emotions – confusion, anger, anxiety, despair and more. As I tried to bear with my situation, my brain simply stopped computing. Our brains are trying to sort out what the present and future holds. Grief makes it very hard to focus on anything else, thus affecting concentration, cognition and even memory. It won’t feel like this forever. Now is the time to recognize that what you are going through is difficult. Sometimes I put my hand over my heart to feel the life beat within me and remind myself that I am grieving for a very good reason.

3. Embrace the Distraction

This pandemic is causing mass distraction because it is impacting every single person. This distraction is global, even universal. Many of us are very concerned about elderly or immunocompromised family members. Parents are feeling crushed by the increased needs of their children at home, who are also feeling anxiety and fear. We can’t seem to tear ourselves away from the news, social media or the need to hear our loved ones’ voices. Many are concerned about their professional futures and the businesses they have built. All of this, and more, are distracting from our work – work we love. Identifying your distraction gives you the grace to safely feel the emotion. We can’t ignore it or stick our heads in the sand. We have to embrace our daily reality – a reality full of distractions – in order to move forward. 

4. Become an Overachiever in Sleep

Lethargy and a lack of energy is very common during grief and uncertain times. Many of us are stuck at home feeling worried, depressed and aimless. The emotional toll of the pandemic cannot be stressed enough. Everyone is feeling a total lack of control over their own lives. Physical distancing requirements have canceled many of the ways we soothe our anxiety – concerts, hugs, dinner parties, religious events, and gatherings. We miss our friends and family. As the body attempts to reconcile all of these rapid changes with what it has known, it’s on overload. Your body does not need to clean the basement or reorganize the pantry right now. Put the vacuum down! Your body needs sleep. This is not a luxury. This is a requirement for well-being. When I sleep well, I can handle the day ahead. When I don’t, I fall apart before it can even start. Overachieve now in sleep.

5. Cut Everything You Do in Half. Simplify.

Life as we know it has changed. Significantly. These changes are rapid and unrelenting. A non-stop firehose of change management. We are supposed to continue working, many now from a new location: home. Some of us are taking on the role of teacher to our children. We have people in our space who are not usually there. And we’re supposed to be doing those projects we always wanted to do on top of it?! It’s TOO MUCH. Stop anything non-essential and focus solely on mission-critical projects, both at work and home. Immediately identify what you are saying YES to and what you are saying NO to. Simplify. Right now.

This is a hard time. As business owners, it’s a moment to stretch our coping and leadership skills and to pivot our strategies in order to not just survive, but also thrive on the other side.

Leslie Barber is the Founder of Grief Warrior, a company that brings recognition, respect and reconnection to the grieving. Grief Warrior offers corporate workshops and trainings on grief, 1:1 and group coaching, and heartfelt sympathy gifts for the grieving. Leslie has spent the last two decades either running her own business (NutraBella, Leslie Barber & Co., Grief Warrior) or supporting other entrepreneurs with running theirs while at Intuit QuickBooks.

Home stock photo by Halfpoint/Shutterstock

 

A Retailer’s Business Survival Guide for Coronavirus

By Rieva Lesonsky

coronavirus

Fundbox coronavirus series, pt. 2

By many accounts, the coronavirus outbreak is going to get worse before it gets better—which is not good news for America’s retail business owners. Most state governments across the country are asking consumers to stay-at-home and nonessential businesses to close their doors to in-store customers. As the list of stores deemed essential grows narrower every day and the virus continues to spread, businesses should have a contingency plan in place. Retailers face challenges on two fronts: how will supply chains be interrupted and how to still get product to customers?

Supply Chain Disruption

According to current news sources, while China is slowly climbing out from under its manufacturing interruption, the rest of the world’s suppliers are just feeling the impact of the lockdown. Freight carriers are under restrictions when it comes to delivering goods. Government border lockdowns are continuing to delay deliveries and impeding businesses across the country from getting goods to customers in a timely manner. As more airlines cut flights, the transportation of goods is backing up quickly and what would normally move in a few days is taking much longer to get across borders. A shortage of truck drivers and consumers’ panicked stockpiling has led to added stress on suppliers and shortages of goods making them more expensive for wholesalers, retailers and consumers.

Although the disruption is already starting to impact the shipment of goods to retailers for the back-to-school season, National Retail Federation (NRF) president and CEO Matthew Shay sees the supply chain disruption subsiding with the main issue becoming getting merchandise into the hands of retailers and subsequently the consumers.

In the meantime, small business owners are feeling the strain and turning to local suppliers to keep inventory in stock. When Adam Rizza, cofounder of Sunscape Eyewear, an eyewear  wholesaler and online retailer, quickly discovered the orders from his Chinese factories were  going to be delayed an additional 45 days, he found local sources for his products so he could ship to his clients. “We had to source goods from larger local distributors; however, this affected our margins.” Plus, Rizza had to send his staff home (due to California’s stay-at-home policies), and still make payroll.

If your foreign sources are delayed, you can contact your city/county business development offices for a list of local businesses who have the product you need. Or you can also source from website marketplaces such as ShopifyAmazon Business, and Alibaba (just be sure to check availability and delivery estimates).

If you’re worried about payment and credit terms under these unusual circumstances, you may find vendors are in the same boat and willing to make deals and allowances right now. While you’re waiting for business as usual to return, you can search now for financial companies that offer a line of credit or allow flexible terms for small business loans.

Keep Customers Safe and Spending

Although your business may be in a state not yet in lockdown, convincing customers it’s safe to shop in your store is a retail challenge you’ve likely never faced before. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends developing a comprehensive strategy to decrease the spread of the coronavirus and lower the impact in your workplace. This involves reducing transmission among employees, maintaining healthy business operations, and maintaining a healthy work environment.

More information comes out every day about how to identify the symptoms of the coronavirus. It’s vital you keep your employees informed about these so they don’t come into work with the slightest sign of sickness. You may even want to require employees to take their temperature daily before showing up to work.

To keep the workplace clean, the CDC recommends cleaning with soap and water first and then disinfecting with diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70 percent alcohol. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also issued a list of disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19. Cleaning staff should also wear disposable gloves and coveralls for all tasks in the cleaning process, including handling trash. If you know someone in your store has tested positive, the CDC recommends immediately sealing off the area for 24 hours (if possible) to “minimize potential for exposure to respiratory droplets.”

As you complete these best practices for coronavirus safety, be sure to share your processes with your customers so they can feel safe and assured you’re doing everything you can to make shopping safer. Post updates across your social media channels, on your website, in email updates and even on the windows and doors of your store. Even if you decide to close your doors and only offer online shopping, knowing your products are coming from a safe environment can go a long way soothing virus-anxious consumers.

Focus on Online Sales

If your retail business has not yet set up an e-commerce component or you’ve simply let that portion of your business skate for a while, now can be a good time to ramp up your online sales. According to Chain Store Age, becoming a digital retailer “quickly” is entirely possible. There are several ways to make it happen.

  • Third-party delivery services. If you’re not yet set up for delivering online orders, there are many third-party providers that handle part or all of the process. Do a quick search in your area and check out nationwide services such as Deliv.co and Roadie.
  • E-commerce platforms/marketplaces. It’s also fairly easy to set up an e-commerce store on marketplaces such as eBay, Shopify and BigCommerce. Right now, demand is high on marketplaces such as Amazon, so know deliveries will be slower than normal.

One idea you may not have thought of is turning your store into a digital commerce hub. If you close your store for regular commercial shopping, you can still help consumers get products by contacting package delivery services such as FedEx and making your store a distribution point for consumers receiving products. You can also partner with Amazon to become an Amazon Hub. As a Hub you can either house Amazon lockers which allows customers to self-service for pickup/returns or provide a counter and staff the kiosk to handle pickups and returns. In the long run you may attract new customers who may not have known about your business before they walked into your store to get their packages.

Coronavirus stock photo by Robyn of Exeter/Shutterstock

Vital Resources for Small Businesses During the Coronavirus Pandemic

By Rieva Lesonsky

coronavirus

Coronavirus Corporate Commitments

Alibaba.com

As a platform business that connects commercial supply and commercial demand, Alibaba.com identified and organized high-quality suppliers of masks under a single online destination to make it easier for healthcare systems and relevant global government to source these items and help meet the urgent need for them.

This is an effort to connect large-scale commercial demand with suppliers that have masks in stock. In an effort to ensure these critical items are used by frontline personnel and patients where they are needed the most, before buyers are allowed to place orders, they will be required to affirm that the products purchased will be directed only to healthcare organizations or relevant government authorities.

Alibaba.com will also make every effort to facilitate expedited logistics to speed deliveries.

Bank of America

Last month Bank of America committed $100 million to support local communities in need as the world faces unprecedented challenges from the coronavirus. The funds will help increase medical response capacity, address food insecurity, increase access to learning as a result of school closures, and provide support to the world’s most vulnerable populations.

“We must all work together as one global community—public and private sectors, as well as individuals—to address this healthcare and humanitarian crisis,” says Brian Moynihan, chairman and CEO of Bank of America. “As the needs in our local communities continue to rapidly escalate, we must take swift action to provide resources where there are gaps, and help local communities protect their most vulnerable populations.”

The majority of Bank of America’s funds will be distributed on the ground in local markets, focused on both immediate needs facing local communities and providing ongoing support in the months ahead. The company will also increase funding to several national and global organizations that are on the front lines, tackling the most pressing issues in local communities.

Moynihan adds, “Building on the efforts of local, state and international governments, we are focusing our resources on the number one priority—looking after people.”

There’s more to learn here. And here are some additional Bank of America resources.

 

Bill.com

Bill.com recently announced its plans to help small businesses coping with hardships from the COVID-19 pandemic. The company will:

  • Waive the first three months of subscription fees for new customers experiencing a significant decline in revenue as a result of COVID-19
  • Extend support and service hours and resources to help those dealing with different schedules as they balance work and home life remotely; and
  • Donate to GoFundMe’s Small Business Relief Initiative.

“As a fourth generation entrepreneur, I have experienced indirectly and firsthand the challenges of navigating a small business through such uncertain economic times. Add in the health concern for your employees and the complexity of transitioning them to work from home and the impact of COVID-19 is hard to fathom. At Bill.com we want to do whatever we can to help businesses,” says René Lacerte, company founder and CEO. Lacerte offers his perspective on the company blog.

 

Facebook

Facebook launched a small business grant program, introduced a new gift cards feature and expanded their fundraising to include small businesses. After seeing that 96% of U.S. small-business owners were already feeling the impact of coronavirus, they issued updates to the initial programs. Here are the details:

Grants for Small Businesses 

  • Facebook will be giving $40M to small businesses in the U.S. alone, which will provide grants to 10,000 small businesses in 34 locations.
  • Businesses can go to facebook.com/grantsforbusiness to check eligibility and get more details on the program.

Gift Cards from Local Businesses

  • Facebook launched a place for consumers to discover digital gift cards for their favorite local restaurants and businesses. Businesses who are interested in creating digital gift cards can visit this link to learn how to sign up. Instagram is also working on offering gift cards.

Expanding Personal Fundraising to Small Businesses Owners

  • They introduced a new way for people to support businesses in their communities using Facebook Fundraising tools. This means business owners can now create a personal fundraiser on Facebook for their businesses and ask their loyal customers for support during this critical time.

Communicating Temporary Service Changes to Customers

  • Facebook made it easier for businesses that have been impacted by the coronavirus to communicate service changes to their customers through their Facebook Page including online services, delivery, pickup and other changes.

There are more details in Sheryl Sandberg’s Facebook post.

 

Intuit QuickBooks & GoFundMe

The impact COVID-19 is having on the health of small businesses across the country is undeniable, with many businesses’ livelihoods being impacted by cash flow issues as they are either forced to close or facing decreased business. With this new reality, people are looking for ways to support and help the small businesses that are not only the backbone of the economy but the communities we live in, which is why Intuit QuickBooks and GoFundMe are teaming up with other partners to create a fund that will make a direct impact on small businesses’ livelihoods in this challenging time.

Intuit QuickBooks and GoFundMe cofounded the Small Business Relief Initiative to help small businesses raise money to overcome the challenges caused by the coronavirus. The Initiative is designed to get money in the hands of small businesses struggling to pay employees and business expenses due to COVID-19.

Intuit QuickBooks’ EVP and GM, Alex Chriss, says, “Small businesses need relief today to manage their cash flow. By joining forces with GoFundMe, we can connect millions of small businesses and their local communities. We’re helping to give the community a platform to quickly put cash in the hands of small businesses who need it the most.”

Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Help site: QuickBooks is providing their network of seven million small businesses with a tools and resources site that directs users to either start their own fundraiser or support an existing one. By embedding the initiative in QuickBooks, small businesses are connected directly to a method of fundraising should they need it. From there, small businesses can share their story and request help covering employee-related and business expenses. Then everyone can search the Relief Initiative site to find small businesses in need and donate directly to them.

GoFundMe.org Small Business Relief Fund: People can donate to the Small Business Relief Fund to support the overall initiative. Until the fund is depleted, donations to the relief fund will be paid out as one-time $500 matching grants to qualifying small businesses that created a fundraiser through the Small Business Relief Initiative or already had an existing GoFundMe. For fundraisers started prior to this announcement or outside of this partnership, the organizer can update their fundraiser description with the hashtag #SmallBusinessRelief to receive an email explaining how they can apply for a grant from the Small Business Relief Fund.

GoFundMe Centralized Fundraiser Hub for Small Businesses: For people looking to support and donate to a local business, GoFundMe has created a new small business centralized hub that identifies verified fundraisers that people can search by business name or location. Fundraisers started through the Small Business Relief Initiative and those created prior to this announcement will be included in the hub.

 

Kabbage

Kabbage Inc. is collaborating with Facebook to help local small businesses generate more revenue during the COVID-19 crisis by connecting them with local customers. With technology from Kabbage and the accessibility of Facebook, the integration gives small businesses the means to offer online gift certificates to local consumers who are seeking to support their communities through the Facebook app.

Small businesses can sign up on Help Small Business to sell online gift certificates through Kabbage Payments and choose to automatically list them on Facebook. They can discover more ways to support their business through Facebook’s Business Resource Hub

Facebook will surface gift-certificate offers from participating local businesses to people on the Facebook mobile app. People can then purchase gift certificates from Kabbage’s Help Small Business site and may redeem products or services that day or later, whenever it’s best for the business. All sales generated from gift certificate sales provided by Kabbage are deposited the next business day.*

“Now with the powerful reach of Facebook, small business owners have greater opportunity to share gift certificate offers to the communities that rely upon them,” says Kabbage CEO Rob Frohwein. “Small businesses are the most impacted in this crisis and this is one way Kabbage is applying its technology and resources to save them.”

Read more about gift cards on Facebook, here.

*Transactions that are processed by 5 p.m. ET will be deposited in your bank account the following banking day. Any transactions that are processed after 5 p.m. ET will be deposited in your bank account within two banking days. Settlement to your bank account may be delayed if transactions are flagged for review.

Visa

The Visa Foundation announced two programs equaling $210 million to support small and micro businesses, aligning with the Foundation’s long-term focus on women’s economic advancement and inclusive economic development, and to address an urgent need from local communities following the spread of COVID-19.

The first program of $10 million is designated for immediate emergency relief to support charitable organizations on the frontlines responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as public health and food relief, in each of the five geographic regions in which Visa operates: North America; Latin America and the Caribbean; Europe; Asia Pacific; and Central Europe, Middle East and Africa.

“As COVID-19 continues to unfold, communities are feeling the effects and need our immediate support,” says Al Kelly, CEO and chairman of Visa. “As a global company that operates a very local business, we recognize this need. We’re also committed to the long-term recovery and will continue to explore ways we can accelerate economic activity in line with our mission to help individuals, businesses and economies thrive.”

The second program is a five-year, strategic $200 million commitment to support small and micro businesses around the world, with a focus on fostering women’s economic advancement. This action expands the Visa Foundation’s long-standing support for small and micro businesses globally. The funds from the Visa Foundation will provide capital to non-government organizations (NGOs) and investment partners supporting small and micro businesses.

Small and micro businesses are the backbone of the global economy, accounting for more than 90 percent of worldwide businesses and contributing 50 to 60 percent of global employment.[i] There is a $300 billion annual credit deficit in funding for women-owned small and micro businesses, which is expected to grow given the recent economic turmoil unfolding due to COVID-19.[ii]

“Now more than ever, we must accelerate our support for small businesses on the frontlines driving economic growth,” says Kelly. “As many small and micro business owners are women, there will be a ripple effect supporting women’s economic advancement, which we believe is one of the most important ways to achieve gender equality, reduce poverty and foster inclusive economic development.”

Through the $200 million small and micro business program, the Visa Foundation will provide $60 million in grants to NGOs dedicated to supporting small and micro business owners, many of whom are women, in every region where Visa operates. The Visa Foundation will also allocate $140 million with investment partners that generate positive social and financial returns for small and micro businesses.

“Two hundred million dollars in new financial resources demonstrates our continuing commitment to support small and micro businesses, with a focus on women’s economic advancement globally” says Graham Macmillan, President of the Visa Foundation. “When women thrive, communities thrive. We know this matters now more than ever as the global economy seeks to recover and rebuild.”

 

Womply & FundRocket

Womply, a local commerce company serving small businesses and app developers, recently launched Stimulus 2020, a website that provides American businesses owners with access to capital, free software, and information resources to help them navigate changes due to coronavirus.

No Cost Capital 

Any U.S. business can receive a no-fee, no-interest $1,000 capital offer through Stimulus 2020 capital partner FundRocket. To qualify for the capital offer, a business only needs to verify a legitimate business bank account. There is no credit check or collateral requirement, and all businesses will be approved as long as they aren’t suspicious or predatory in nature. Once the business is validated, the $1,000 capital offer is sent immediately via ACH and is typically available for use within one business day.

The capital has no restrictions and can be used for any business purpose, including paying bills, purchasing inventory or supplies, investing in marketing, or paying employees. Repayment terms are flexible and based on a percentage of business sales, with a cap at $100 per week. If businesses are closed or don’t generate any sales, they pay nothing. Businesses who accept the capital offer will never pay back more than $1000.

Businesses that already have a Womply account are also eligible for the capital offer and can take advantage of it by connecting a verified business bank account and emailing Womply at support@womply.com.

Free Software

Womply, which serves over 450,000 local businesses, has created a new free version of its software to help businesses monitor their business performance and benchmark themselves against similar businesses nearby. This will provide businesses with critical market intelligence during this crisis. Womply will add additional resources as other companies make them available to local businesses.

“Local businesses are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy, and they’re especially vulnerable to the softening economy,” says Womply CEO Toby Scammell. “Our mission is to help local businesses thrive, and we can’t think of a better way to do that in our uncertain economy than by offering no-fee capital and free access to business and market insights.”

Important Information

Womply is providing real time updates on information that affects local businesses including other offers that support local businesses, government announcements, and government tax and stimulus programs. Businesses can sign up for a free Womply account here.

Stimulus 2020 is open to future corporate partners. Companies interested in providing support to local businesses should contact partners@womply.com to include their offer on Stimulus2020.com.

 

Zoho

Small Business Emergency Subscription Assistance Program

Zoho Corporation, a global company that offers the most comprehensive suite of business software applications in the industry, recently launched its Small Business Emergency Subscription Assistance Program (ESAP) to help Zoho customers worldwide weather this global pandemic. For up to 20,000 qualified paying Zoho customers with 25 employees or less, Zoho is waiving the cost of every single application they current use, for up to 3 months.

“Businesses are hurting. They already face tremendous pressure on revenue and cash flows. Not knowing when things will get back to normal is even worse,” says Sridhar Vembu, Zoho cofounder and CEO. “Every bit of help we, and other companies, can offer to keep these small businesses afloat will go a long way, not just financially but emotionally as well. We are in this together, and contributions from every business help our community get through this pandemic.”

Zoho, a 24-year-old, bootstrapped, privately-held company with more than 50 million users located in over 180 countries, believes that for the broader economy to stay healthy, SMBs must first stay healthy and viable. ESAP is intended to lighten the financial burden put upon our small business customers during this chaotic and difficult period.

“Certain industries have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and we strongly encourage our customers in these industries to apply for this Small Business Emergency Subscription Assistance Program,” says Vembu. “While we want to provide relief for as many small business customers as possible, we will prioritize those who are most in need and hope that others who are adapting to market conditions will help us by allowing program availability to those struggling to stay afloat.”

 

Resources

SCORE

In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, launched the Coronavirus Small Business Resource Center, a central hub of up-to-date information and best practices for small businesses. The completely free resource center includes financial support resources, live and on-demand educational content and access to remote mentoring.

“We understand that this is a very unsettling and uncertain time for small business owners, which is why it’s critical that they have access to the resources and support they need to navigate the unprecedented crisis brought on by COVID-19,” says Bridget Weston, CEO at SCORE. “Our new, free resource hub ensures that the most helpful COVID-19 small business resources are easily accessible to the entrepreneurs who need them. In addition, our 10,000 experienced business mentors are standing by, ready to assist small business owners, safely and remotely, every step of the way.”

The Coronavirus Small Business Resource Center provides a hub of specialized materials that will be continuously updated to support and assist small business owners as the situation evolves. Resources include:

  • Original audio, visual and print content focused specifically on small business resilience, financial support and small business owner mental health
  • Access to live webinars and online workshops
  • Coronavirus government resources for small businesses
  • The opportunity to request a remote, free expert business mentor

Click here to access the Coronavirus Small Business Resource Center.

 

Help With EIDL Application

The SBA and SBA lenders have been flooded with applications and so far, small business owners have been proactive and filing applications as soon as possible. If you are able to apply for the EIDL directly through the SBA website, you should do so as soon as possible. If you’d like some assistance in the process, you can work with an SBA loan packager, such as CorpNet.

CorpNet can assist any small business owner as a third-party consultant SBA loan packaging service and submit a small business owner’s application on their behalf for the Economic Injury Disaster Relief Loan (EIDL) program and the Economic Injury Disaster $10,000 Loan (EIDL) Advance for a minimal service fee of $349.00.

CorpNet can also assist any small business owner as a third-party consultant SBA loan packaging service and submit a small business owner’s application on their behalf for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Disaster Relief Loan at no cost.

No one (including CorpNet) can guarantee you loan approval or funds and processing time is still at the mercy of the government processing your application along with thousands or millions of others. According to the SBA, funds will be made available following a successful application. You should expect a wait of several business days for funding of the $10,000 advance to be direct deposited into the banking information provided from the U.S. Dept. of Treasury and 4-6 weeks processing time for actual funding of your loan unless further information has been requested by an SBA loan processor.

Read more on how CorpNet Helps Businesses File for Coronavirus Relief.

 

Wedding Industry Help

The wedding industry has been significantly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic—many have had to be postponed. The Knot, which serves the industry in numerous ways, has created a WeddingPro Vendor Assistance Program aimed at helping the many small businesses that make up the wedding industry. Tim Chi, the CEO of The Knot Worldwide shared the details of the program:

1—Financial Assistance. They established a $10 million program to assist their local advertising partners impacted by the pandemic with advertising payments.

2—Education. New dedicated resources were created, including:

launched, that we are updating daily to help wedding pros weather the storm. You can follow along on the WeddingPro blog and on Instagram @WeddingPro. This ongoing, centralized resource includes:

  •  Assistance For Small Businesses
    • Decode the different types of assistance available to help small businesses during COVID-19, starting with government programs. For each, you’ll learn who is eligible, what is available, how to take advantage, and some helpful tips.
  • Resources to manage your business, your couples and your care
    • Connect with educators and access new webinars, articles and videos coming out every day.

More coverage can be found in their WeddingPro Blog.

 

Additional resources

 

Read This!

From the Small Business Community at Bank of America

By Rieva Lesonsky

By Steve Strauss

By Mari Smith

 By Chris Brogan

By the Small Business Community Team

From AWeber

From Comply Right

From HRdirect and Poster Guard

From Gusto

From SCORE

Free Audio Book

Barry Moltz is offering a free audio to his book Bounce: Failure, Resiliency and the Confidence for Your Next Great Success. Go here and use password Corona.

 

Tools

Solutions for Remote Working

Almost as soon as some states started ordering people to stay-at-home Zoho released a new, free productivity platform to make it easier—and more productive to work at home. Remotely is a virtual collaboration and productivity platform consisting of 11 apps that will be free until July 1. Remotely is a full edition, not a freemium edition.

The 11 apps in Remotely—Zoho Cliq, Zoho Meeting, Zoho Office Suite (Zoho Writer, Sheets, Show,) Zoho Projects, Zoho Sprints, Zoho Assist, Zoho Lens, Zoho WorkDrive and Zoho Showtime—help create a comprehensive and contextual virtual workspace that enables business owners and their teams to be productive in their own homes and still collaborate.

Zoho’s employees (they have more than 8,000 workers all over the world) are using these very same tools to stay connected and be productive.

Of course business owners will use Remotely in different ways but here is one mock scenario that shows why one would need a portfolio of apps, not just web conferencing tool, to keep up productivity:

Sign up for Remotely. It’s available in English, French, German and Spanish.

 

Digital Tools To Cope With COVID-19

Klosebuy provides digital technology connecting businesses and customers—tools, which come in especially handy in today’s business climate where social distancing is a must. Using Klosebuy  business owners can let local residents know if they’re open, what their current hours are, and if they offer delivery, curbside or no-touch pick- up. A company’s listing can be updated in seconds keeping consumers up-to-date about which products/services are available.

To help small businesses get through this global pandemic, Klosebuy is offering full access to their innovative self-service technology—and waiving the subscription fees for 12 months (offer valid through August 2020).

To learn more you can email help@klosebuy.com.

 

Boost Productivity with Your Own Personal Meeting Organizer and Assistant

We’re all having more online meetings these days. One tool that can help is imeetify, which works with iOS and Android as a user-friendly personal meeting assistant. It’s a great tool for small businesses needing to quickly conference in colleagues and employees in remote working situations. The meetings can be easily scheduled directly from a smart phone, no passwords or email ids are required.

imeetify can help you schedule remote meetings by simply selecting phone numbers without requiring an email ID. The app integrates with other tools like Zoom and join.me.

Other benefits

  • Quick Meet: imeetify’s “quick meet” option is superfast
  • Calendar Share: Easy-to-use calendar share options allow you to invite others to look at your calendar and choose best times.
  • Ability to create multiple Bridge call numbers that can be added to the invite with a “tap”.

Coronavirus stock photo by Fit Ztudio/Shutterstock

 

Impact of the Coronavirus on Small Businesses

By Rieva Lesonsky

coronavirus

Small businesses in America are suffering as a result of the coronavirus, there’s no denying that fact. But what is the data showing us? Here’s a look at several national polls and surveys showing how small businesses are coping during this global pandemic.

Show Me the Money

That could be the clarion cry of small business owners under siege from the coronavirus. In just the first few days of loan applications under the CARES Act, an Alignable/Harvard Business School (HBS) Survey and a second poll point to serious obstacles faced by small businesses that need funds soon to stay afloat.

Nearly 67% of small business owners say they haven’t applied for the CARES Act loan yet, according to a recent Alignable Pulse Poll. And the Alignable/HBS Survey small business owners revealed the reasons why:

  • 31% say they distrust how loan forgiveness will be established and upheld by the federal government and/or the banks
  • 29% assume they don’t qualify
  • 24% are concerned about timing: that the cash won’t come soon enough, or it won’t last long enough to weather extended quarantines
  • 10% think the process is too much of a hassle

More than 33% of the small business owners surveyed have applied for loans but wonder if or when they’ll get their money. The results so far:

  • Only 1% have been approved
  • Nearly 71% applied and are awaiting approval
  • 3% were told they don’t qualify
  • Around 25% learned their banks couldn’t process applications yet

How bad has this pandemic been for small businesses? Very. According to the Alignable/HBS Poll more than 43% of small businesses have already temporarily closed. The hardest hit industries: retail, arts and entertainment, personal services, food services, and hospitality. Less disruption is reported in the finance, professional services, and real estate sectors.

There is a bright spot in the Alignable/HBS Survey—over 90% of small businesses say they would be “at least somewhat likely” to be open in December 2020, with 64% saying it’s “very or extremely likely.”

 

The “Death Index”

Womply did a deep dive into credit and debit card transactions and emerged with less than cheery news. Their research shows (it sadly reads almost like a small business “death index”) the percentage of businesses in industries that have completely stopped transacting:

  • 84% of health & beauty businesses
  • 74% of arts & entertainment businesses
  • 66% of bars and lounges
  • 41% of sports and recreation businesses
  • 35% of retail and wholesale businesses
  • 34% of restaurants (curbside has certainly helped here)
  • 28% of parking businesses
  • 22% of quick-serve eateries
  • 14% of lodging (but revenue levels are way down for lodging, even if many haven’t shut down yet)

Womply notes that the week of Monday, March 16th represents a clear “tipping point” when many local businesses stopped transacting, especially those most often deemed “non-essential”. It’s worth taking a look at the report—there’s a lot of specific data reported there.

You should also look at Womply’s Covid-19 data dashboards. Their analysis shows daily year-over-year revenue variances and are updated daily.

 

Most Negatively Impacted States & Provinces

The latest Alignable Small Business Pulse Poll shows the coronavirus has “impaired the livelihoods” of 90% of small business owners in the U.S. and Canada. Over one-third of the small businesses report they only have a few weeks’ worth of cash to sustain them.

The report shows the 10 American states and 3 Canadian provinces where the impact has been the most severe:

United States

  1. Alaska (98%)
  2. Rhode Island (95%)
  3. District of Columbia (94.6%)
  4. Vermont (93.4%)
  5. Washington (92.5%)
  6. New Jersey (91.5%)
  7. New York (91.4%)
  8. Michigan (91.2%)
  9. Louisiana (91.1%)
  10. West Virginia (91.1%)

Canada

  1. Saskatchewan (93.1%)
  2. Ontario (91.3%)
  3. New Brunswick (91.2%)

There is a glimmer of hopeful news, however—60% of the struggling small business owners say they’re getting support from their networks and community.

Most of their support came from: networking groups, customers, and other small business owners in the same industry. Over half of the support was either monetary (16%) or morale-boosting (36%).

The specific activities noted by the small business owners were their networks and communities “purchasing their products, services, or gift cards online and/or participating in crowdfunding efforts, as well as offering helpful advice, encouraging social posts, and uplifting texts.”

 

Job Security and Financial Worries

It’s not surprising that Americans are worried about their jobs and finances. LendEDU conducted their first survey about the effects of the coronavirus on consumers. Their new survey released this week shows:

  • 12% of Americans have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 compared to just 6% from the first survey.
  • 24% of Americans have seen no changes to their jobs compared to 35% the first time, while 13% have been furloughed compared to 11% in the first survey.
  • Money spent on food and supplies increased by 88% from two weeks ago, going from $335.65 to $631.06.
  • 51% have had to use money from a savings account or emergency fund compared to 44% from the first survey.
  • 72% are worried about their retirement savings compared to 63% from two weeks ago.
  • 30% of eligible respondents will save the $1,200 payment, while 30% will spend it on food/supplies, and 20% will use it for a rent or mortgage payment.

 

Concerned Workers

Nearly every U.S. worker is concerned about the current coronavirus outbreak, according to a new survey from Clutch. The survey found 88% of employees are concerned about COVID-19, including 29% who are very concerned.

Businesses are doing their part to ease employee concerns by:

  • Encouraging sick employees to stay home (61%)
  • Improving office hygiene and cleanliness (52%)
  • Reducing business travel (36%)
  • Asking employees to work remotely (26%)
  • Expanding their sick leave policies (13%)

 

Other reports

Coronavirus stock photo by BreizhAtao/Shutterstock

Employee Management and the Coronavirus

By Rieva Lesonsky

coronavirus

As the phrase “stay at home” increasingly becomes part of our everyday vernacular, business owners across the country are doing some critical strategizing because of the coronavirus. Not only are they facing the challenges of keeping their businesses running and profitable while the world goes on lockdown, employers must work out new management policies to keep employees safe, reassured and productive under extremely difficult conditions.

The legendary basketball coach John Wooden said, “Things turn out the best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” Here are five ways to guide your team to a winning mindset and help keep your business in the game.

1—Transparency

With the world feeling uncertain about the future, you don’t want your employees feeling uncertain about their futures at your business. If your business is not in a state that has issued a stay-at-home order, but is considered nonessential, chances are you’ll need less staff for the time being. Be honest and let employees know you have to cut hours and/or lay people off. Things are changing day to day and employees will understand their schedules are in flux. But, it’s important to communicate and let everyone know you’re working on a plan.

2—Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Besides moving the IRS tax filing deadline to July 15 and adding much-needed money to many relief funds, the Coronavirus Response Act also includes emergency paid sick leave and expanded paid family leave benefits. Effective April 2, 2020, the new law applies to all employers with fewer than 500 employees and is in effect until December 31, 2020. Here’s what the Act entails:

  • Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. Full-time employees can receive two weeks of paid sick leave. Individuals who are working part time or hourly are also eligible for paid sick leave which is to equal the number of hours the employee works on average over a two-week period. Leave time is in addition to other paid leave provided by the employer. An eligible employee may take paid sick leave if he/she is unable to work (including telework) because:
    • The employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation due to the coronavirus (COVID-19)
    • A health care provider advised the employee to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19 (self-imposed quarantine without medical advice does not qualify under the Act)
    • The employee is experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus and is seeking a medical diagnosis
    • The employee is caring for an individual (not limited to family members) who is either subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation due to the coronavirus or has been advised to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19
    • The employee is caring for their child whose school has been closed or place of care is unavailable due to the coronavirus precautions
  • Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of leave if unable to work (including telework) because employees must care for a child or children under 18 years of age and whose school or place of care has closed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. This is a temporary expansion of the FMLA eligibility requirements.

To cover the costs of the leave, the government will give employers a refundable payroll tax credit as well as a refundable income tax credit for self-employed individuals.

3—Creative Scheduling

Depending on your industry, your employees may be able to work remotely and not miss any days of work. If you do allow employees to work from home, make sure they follow your cybersecurity policies such as password protection, use of a strong antivirus program and never transferring sensitive data over public Wi-Fi. For more help, the FCC offers a free cyber planner wizard to create a custom guide for your business.

If your business is still open and you do need to cut staff, try and spread shifts around so everyone still gets a paycheck (plus having fewer workers helps with social distancing). If product delivery is an option for your business, create a delivery team to make sure customers can still get what they need in a timely manner. Deliveries should be made keeping the health of the delivery person and the customer in mind. Already UPS and FedEx drivers are either suspending the signature requirement or having the customer use his or her own pen.

4—Extra Precautions

Now is the time to do all the research you can to keep employees and your workplace safe from contamination. Check for an approved list of disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19 from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to the recommendations any employee that exhibits flu-like symptoms should be sent home and then your business should be completely cleaned and sanitized. Have cleaners wear protective gear and throw away any food or utensils the infected employee may have touched. For food businesses, the National Restaurant Association has published a state by state guide on coping with the virus and promises to update the resources regularly.

5—Filling Job Gaps

Do you have a contingency plan if your staff can’t work? While many employers have decided to hold off on hiring for the moment, there is a possibility you’ll need to fill some positions temporarily if employees fall ill from the virus.

Even before the outbreak, most people and businesses turn to online resources to search for jobs or talent. Because things are changing so rapidly, it makes sense to create a plan to fill jobs in your business before you actually have the need. Start by creating a worksheet with job descriptions for all the roles in your company and assign specific responsibilities for each role. Next, for each role make a list of qualifications and experience needed, and salary/benefits offered. By preparing job descriptions now, you’ll be ready at a moment’s notice to post your job on one of the top hiring websites such as Indeed and Upwork. With layoffs sure to increase, your talent pool will be even bigger.

The coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. is likely to get worse before it gets better. So try to be flexible, understanding that even if you plan, circumstances can render those plans moot. The key is to regularly communicate with your staff, whether they’re at work or working remotely.

Coronavirus stock photo by Anton27/Shutterstock

Seizing the Opportunity: Trademark Grabs in the Age of Covid-19

By Abe Cohn

covid-19

With great crisis comes great opportunity. Covid-19 has not only brought the US’s economy to its knees, but it has also destabilized markets on a global scale.  Indeed, it would not be hyperbolic to suggest that the social and economic uncertainty created by the Coronavirus is actually unprecedented and with the advent of social media and the ubiquity of digital media platforms, the perception and awareness of the virus is unrivaled and all consuming.

But even in these darkest of times, we see the grit and spirit of the American entrepreneur shine through with new businesses being created in real time. This is not mere optimism but a demonstrably true reality, evidenced by the swelling of activity in the trademark register of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for trademark applications anchoring the word “Coronavirus.”. Let’s dig in a bit more to understand the significance and application of these trademarks.

Trademark Fundamentals: A Primer

trademark is fundamentally, a source identifier and may be a name, logo, or phrase that when attached to a good or service, communicates to the consumer the source-company of the good or service. Consider the iconic NIKE Swoosh; when a consumer in the market for shoes sees the “swoosh” logo on the side of a tennis shoe, he/she immediately understands that the shoe was created by the Nike Corporation and is therefore more (or less) likely to buy the shoe as a function of the beliefs the consumer has about the NIKE company.

Thus, in its simplest formation, a trademark is comprised of two elements; the mark itself (name, logo, slogan) and the goods/services sold under the banner of the mark. When a trademark holder is assigned a USPTO trademark registration on the mark, he/she is conferred with the sole and proprietary right to use the mark in conjunction with the goods/services designated in the trademark application. Any use of the mark, or a sufficiently similar iteration of the mark, in conjunction with sufficiently similar goods/services by an unauthorized party, would be considered trademark infringement of the holder’s rights and subject to legal action and penalties.

Coronavirus Trademarks

Over the last couple of months, the USPTO has been inundated with “Coronavirus” trademarks and as of this April 7th writing, there have been over 20 such marks submitted for registration by different applicants.  Here is a snapshot of arguably the 10 most interesting of the lot:

  1. CORONAVIRUS
  2. #CORONAVIRUS
  3. CORONAVIRUS: MADE IN CHINA
  4. FXCK CORONAVIRUS
  5. CORONAVIRUS SURVIVOR
  6. CORONAVIRUS INFECTED
  7. THE CORONAVIRUS BLUES
  8. MY CORONAVIRUS EXPERIENCE
  9. CORONAVIRUSOUTBREAK
  10. I BEAT THE CORONAVIRUS

Clearly, all of these applicants believe that consumers are presently (or will be shortly) in the market for products bearing the name CORONAVIRUS and want to lock down the sole right to sell goods tethered to the word, CORONAVIRUS.

Indeed, as we have covered earlier in this article, the mark itself is only one element of a registered trademark; the second element is the goods represented by the mark. What are some of the goods assigned to the marks listed above? While there are a number of different goods listed, many of these marks, unsurprisingly, have elected to tether their marks to Apparel, namely for t-shirts, hats, pants etc.

Why is Apparel the most common category of goods? Well, quite simply, because clothing is both easy to manufacture and it is something that is readily subject to trendy adoption by the public. An applicant might think, “Who wouldn’t want to wear a hat that says FXCK CORONAVIRUS on it?”  Would you wear a hat with FXCK CORONAVIRUS on it? Maybe yes, maybe no but the possibility is certainly there.

Will These Trademarks Actually Register?

More likely than not, for most applicants, the eagerly pursued proprietary right to use CORONAVIRUS, will likely prove to be unattainable. A cornerstone feature of trademark law is that the mark must be sufficiently distinct and the broader its use and commonality in the pubic space, the less right any single individual has to monopolize its use.  Thus, while an applicant may obtain the sole right to sell clothing under the mark FXCK CORONAVIRUS, an applicant will likely not be able to stop a competitor from using CORONAVIRUS in another formulation.

The American spirit will not and cannot be subdued. Happy hunting.

Abe Cohn is an attorney at Cohn Legal, PLLC, a law firm designed specifically to provide a boutique experience for entrepreneurs.

Covid-19 stock photo by artworkxfaisal/Shutterstock

 

Coronavirus and the Workplace: Is Your Business Prepared?

coronavirus

New SBA Loan

By Rieva Lesonsky

loan

Loan help for small businesses during the pandemic. Last week the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed and on Tuesday, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the U.S. Treasury Department announced they initiated a robust mobilization effort of banks and other lending institutions to provide small businesses with the capital they need. 

The $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program, which is part of the CARES Act, will give small businesses access to capital. The SBA’s goal, according to Administrator Jovita Carranza, “is to position lenders as the single point-of-contact for small businesses—the  application, loan processing, and disbursement of funds will all be administered at the community level. 

Lenders, using their own systems and processes to make these loans, can start the process as early as this week 

What’s in the legislation? It provides eight weeks of payroll and [some overhead costs] to keep workers employed,” says Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who adds they “expect to have this program up and running by April 3rd.” He says “businesses can go to a participating SBA 7(a) lender, bank, or credit union, apply for a loan, and be approved on the same day. The loans will be forgiven as long as the funds are used to keep employees on the payroll and for certain other expenses.”  

No collateral or personal guarantees are required for this new loan program—and there won’t be any SBA fees. All loan payments will be deferred for six months. And, importantly, the SBA will forgive the portion of the loan proceeds that are used to cover the first eight weeks of payroll costs, rent, utilities, and mortgage interest. 

All loans under this program will have the following identical features: 

  • Interest rate of 0.5% 
  • Maturity of 2 years 
  • First payment deferred for six months 
  • 100% guarantee by SBA 
  • No collateral 
  • No personal guarantees 
  • No borrower or lender fees payable to SBA 

Here’s a sample application form. Go to SBA.gov/Coronavirus for more information on SBA’s assistance to all small businesses. Here are some FAQs from the Washington Post 

SBA Loan stock photo By karen roach/Shutterstock 

 

Why Online Security Must be Included in SMB’s Coronavirus Response

By Michael Greene

coronavirus
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow, many interactions are becoming increasingly virtual. For example, Harvard, UC Berkeley and numerous other universities have suspended in-person classes in favor of online coursework; international business events have been replaced with digital versions; some professional sports seasons are suspended, and many companies are mandating virtual meetings instead of physical gatherings. While these measures are designed to contain the spread of the virus, there is another threat against which SMBs must be equally vigilant: online security.

With an increase in online  transactions and communications comes a greater likelihood of account takeover and other forms of online fraud. For example; bad actors are already taking advantage of the common problem of password reuse to access sensitive systems on a daily basis. It’s a sad but true reality of our times that this will increase with more virtual interactions, and that attackers will also be actively seeking other ways to capitalize on COVID-19.

With it looking increasingly likely that SMBs will have to enforce company-wide work from home policies for an indefinite period of time, it’s critical that online security be part of every organization’s coronavirus response. With that in mind, below are a few important areas to consider:
  • Address Employee Password Security. The proliferation of breach data on the Dark Web makes it incredibly easy for attackers to access sensitive data if employees are unknowingly using compromised credentials and reusing these passwords across multiple sites and applications. This is already a huge security problem and one that’s likely to grow with the uptick in remote working as people will be creating new accounts and online credentials. As such, now is the time to ensure your organization has password screening solutions in place that can alert you—and your employees—to the use of compromised credentials and monitor their passwords on a daily basis. You don’t want to wait until your entire workforce is distributed to discover that your employees are inadvertently laying out the welcome mat for attacker
  • Secure the Home. It’s not uncommon for people to practice different security hygiene in the office and at home. Connected devices like smart TVs or baby monitors can introduce a range of vulnerabilities, for example, or children can accidentally download malware on the home network. Encourage your employees to set up a separate Wifi account that they will use solely for business while working from home—not just during the COVID-19 outbreak, but at any point in the future. This is a critical security step but it’s not enough to truly protect sensitive data when employees are working remotely. It’s also imperative that they use their VPN to access any corporate resources whenever they are not physically in the office.
  • Encourage Phishing Vigilance. One way I anticipate attackers capitalizing on coronavirus is by feeding into employees’ fear and confusion surrounding the virus and their company’s response. The global pandemic means we’re all in crisis mode, and more likely to click on emails with subjects like “How are you feeling?”, “[Company name] Confirms COVID-19 Diagnosis”, and other headlines that would raise a red flag in less heightened times. Given this, it’s important for SMBs to educate employees on phishing threats and ensure everyone is aware of how to spot them. It may also be helpful to distribute guidance on how your company will communicate about the evolving coronavirus situation so that employees are less likely to be tricked by a fear-mongering subject line.
  • Beware of the Workaround. As many SMB employees face the prospect of indefinite remote working, they may be tempted to take copies of confidential data, email them to personal accounts, copy the information to a USB or a similar workaround. It’s important that leadership monitor for these activities wherever possible, and also reiterate the security threat this behavior poses when speaking with employees about COVID-19 contingency plans.

With both the coronavirus pandemic and the national response to the threat evolving on a near real-time basis, it’s impossible to predict the severity or duration of its impact on SMBs. However, it’s safe to say that we can all expect life to be increasingly virtual, at least for the foreseeable future. With attackers eager to profit from this situation, businesses that fail to consider the above and other security considerations in their COVID-19 planning are just as exposed as consumers who neglect basic hygiene best practices.

Michael Greene is the CEO of Enzoic.

Coronavirus stock photo by zmicier kavabata/Shutterstock

Tips for Working From Home

home

Feel like you’re on house arrest? Here’s how to stay sane and productive while you’re home.

At this point much of the country is adhering to “stay-at-home” policies. For some small businesses, this might be your first time operating as a virtual business. Our friends at Fundbox have compiled some tips for remote working.

Work/Life separation

Find your workplace: One of the main things about being remote people quickly notice—you have to force yourself to separate work life and home life.

If you have a spare room, make that your office. Do not work from the couch! Schedule your working day with clear start/stop hours and try to commit to them.

Take breaks

Make sure you take breaks. Stretch your legs, go outside for a little bit (maintain your social distance) and see the sun. Many experts recommend you take at least a five-minute break every hour.

Be social

Don’t forget this part. Whether it’s with your team, your family or friends, you need to have some social interaction. Some companies [hold] social zoom calls for 5-15 minutes that are not about work. This is a big part of what’s missing when working from home, and it’s an important part of being in the office so don’t forget it.

Getting context is key

Knowing what’s going on is especially hard if you’re working remotely. You  will need to take n the responsibility of identifying the water-cooler context and pulling it down into written form. You’ll find t it’s equally effective at identifying and bridging silos of communication as it is connecting remote employees with office culture.

Remote meetings

There will most likely be fewer meetings (a good thing!) if you’re working remotely, but there will still be some. Someone should take notes and share them with the team.

Your scheduled meetings will most likely proceed as usual. Be sure to prepare about five minutes before you start, check your setup, microphone, webcam, and internet connection so the meeting will start on time.

Be responsive

It’s important to be very responsive during work hours. Even saying “I’ll get back to you in 15 minutes” is more helpful than not replying for a few hours.

Home office stock photo by G-Stock Studio/Shutterstock