covid-19

Covid-19 Update

 

Programs

Grants for Small Businesses

According to a recent study, 30 million small business jobs are vulnerable. Small businesses need all the support they can get right now, which is why FedEx launched its #SupportSmall Grants program, focusing on small businesses struggling to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic. FedEx is awarding a total of $1 million in grants to 200 business owners across the U.S. Recipients will receive a $5,000 check in addition to a $500 credit for FedEx Office services.

In addition to providing financial relief, there’s a lot more information in the FedEx Small Business Center:

  • The FedEx Making it Work podcast features special bonus episodes with entrepreneurs on managing a business through a pandemic
  • Ready-to-print COVID flyers and posters about CDC-recommended safety measures and social distancing
  • The FedEx Small Business COVID-19 Resources page
  • The newly launched Tech Chat with Small Business page
  • The FedEx E-Commerce Center
  • The FedEx Small Business Center

“Small businesses strengthen the economy and make the world more vibrant. They are the backbone of our communities,” says Brie Carere, executive vice president, chief marketing & communications officer, FedEx. “Whether entrepreneurs use the grant to pay staff, business rent, start their online store or enhance their online presence, we want to help them keep moving forward.” The $500 credit from FedEx Office can be used for printing banners, posters, floor graphics, custom branded boxes and more. “

The #SupportSmall Grants program is open to U.S. based small businesses with fewer than 50 employees and have been in business and selling for more than one year. Applicants must have had less than $5 million in annual sales revenue in 2019 and have shipped in the last 12 months and/or plan to ship in the coming 12 months as part of their business.

To apply, go here to enter your basic business information (name, location, contact, website and social media handle), answer a series of questions, and provide your business EIN number and 2019 annual sales revenues.

The grant entry period is open now through June 12, 2020. Grant recipients will receive an email between late July 2020 and September to let them know they’ve been selected.

 

Free Access to Employment Screening

As we slowly get back to business in the U.S. many of the newly unemployed will be looking for jobs. To help small businesses that are hiring TransUnion (NYSE: TRU) announced plans to support the hiring ecosystem by offering small businesses and their prospective employees free access to some of its ShareAble for Hires employment screening tool packages, now through the end of July 2020.

By using the web-based ShareAble for Hires small businesses can safely and securely conduct background checks on prospective employees within minutes instead of days. The solution is completely transparent and provides job applicants with a copy of reports obtained.

Small businesses and their employees facing greatest challenges

Small businesses have been significantly negatively impacted by the pandemic. TransUnion research shows the volume of employment screening for small businesses with 50 or fewer employees declined by 65% in mid-April compared to average volumes earlier in 2020.

As of early May, employment screening had only recovered to a 55%-60% decline. As small businesses face challenges, so do the people who work for them. A recent TransUnion survey in May found that 70% of consumers working for a small business (with under 50 employees) said their household income was negatively impacted by COVID-19.

Of this group, 17% said they have lost their job as a result of the pandemic. And, 69% of those whose income was negatively impacted, said they are concerned about paying their current bills or loans. In fact, 86% say they won’t have money to pay their bills within three months.

Ability to hire immediately

TransUnion says ShareAble for Hires is the only online background check tool that 100% of small businesses can use with no waiting period or setup fees while delivering reports within minutes. Transunion’s Basic and Plus packages, which normally cost between $35 and $50, will be free of charge through July 2020.
More information about ShareAble for Hires and this special offer can be found here. Businesses interested in learning how to navigate the impacts of COVID-19 can gain insights from TransUnion webinars, blogs and more. And check out the additional resources for consumers looking to protect their credit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Tools & Resources

Self-Employed PPP Loan Forgiveness Calculator

If you’re self-employed, you’ll want to take look at this PPP Loan Forgiveness Calculator from Nav. It’s simple to use.

 

Improve Team Morale and Collaboration with New Tools for Remote Working

As more businesses permanently embrace the work-at-home option, there’s a need for tools that help them continue to operate seamlessly. Zoho Corporation, a global technology company, just released a tool that helps small businesses do just that.

Remote Work Tools on Cliq is an enhanced version of Zoho’s chat software enabling employees to check-in for work and essentially interact with co-workers the way they would if they were in the same office—no matter where they’re working from.

When the work-from-home policies were enacted in most states this spring, Zoho noticed Cliq usage soared—seeing increases of 225% in message volume and 1200% in calls made per day. Group calling in the U.S. grew 10 times from its prior numbers. But they realized, teams working remotely had difficulties collaborating as they would if they were in their physical office space.

So they developed Remote Work Tools on Cliq to solve this challenge by creating a program that does what traditional chat software can’t do.

Key Remote Work Tools on Cliq features include:

  • Easy check-in. Employees can check-in and check-out of work from Cliq as if they were swiping their IDs when arriving at or leaving the office.
  • Live video feeds to see who’s available. A virtual equivalent to peeking at a co-worker’s desk to see if they’re free, live feeds enable teams to see if it’s the right time to connect with a co-worker.
  • Instant group calls. Group calls are initiated with the touch of a button, allowing teams to collaborate when the situation calls for a quick face-to-face meeting.
  • Easy document management. Integration with Zoho Writer enables teams to preview, share or export documents from the document link.

These features (and more) bring the in-office experience home, improving team morale, collaboration and productivity. Teams can even build their own tools with widgets that integrate with users’ everyday apps to create a custom home view directly inside Cliq.

The program is available now. You can get more information at Zoho.com.

 

Free Credit Card Acceptance Product to Help Businesses through COVID-19 Crisis

Plastiq, the intelligent payment solutions provider for SMBs announced the accelerated availability of Plastiq’s card acceptance product. Originally slated for late Q3 2020, Plastiq’s enhanced payment acceptance features will help businesses get paid faster and more reliably. SMBs who sign up for the waitlist will receive early access to Plastiq’s card acceptance product free of charge beginning May 24, with general availability this summer.

“COVID-19 and the associated stay-at-home orders have caused a domino effect of late payments across the economy, with SMBs especially hard hit,” said Eliot Buchanan, CEO and co-founder of Plastiq. “As cash reserves run dry, many SMBs have been unable to pay suppliers, as they simply don’t have the cash on hand. This has left suppliers unable to pay their own bills due to these late or missed payments. Responding to our customers’ feedback, we accelerated the development of Plastiq’s card acceptance product in order to reduce cash flow burdens and unblock the flow of vital services and supplies.”

Plastiq’s card acceptance product enables SMBs to accept credit card payments for free, without having to pay the typical 2.5-4% fee that traditional payment services providers charge. By offering a credit card payment option to their customers through Plastiq, SMBs get paid on time and more reliably, unblocking cash flow in the supply chain and getting businesses moving forward again. By allowing SMBs’ customers to put payments on credit cards and gain an additional 30-45 days of leeway between the biller due date and their credit card statement due date, SMBs are able to help their clients maximize working capital while also conserving cash during this period of economic uncertainty. At the same time, customers’ on-time payments through Plastiq helps keep the supply chain moving without delays.

Interested SMBs can learn more and sign up for Plastiq’s card acceptance product waitlist here in order to secure free, early access to the platform.

 

Polls & Surveys

PPP Program Falls Short

Alignable.com, the largest online referral network for small businesses, just released the results of several recent polls on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that show it has fallen short for many small business owners. Some of the hardest hit include companies owned by minorities and minority women, as well as startups.

The first poll shows 39% of small businesses still don’t have their loans and the entire loan process seems to be slowing down.

  • 61% have cash in hand
  • 6% are approved & waiting for cash
  • 19% are still waiting for approval
  • 8% were denied
  • 6% tried to apply, but their banks couldn’t process their applications

Minorities & PPP loans

Alignable found small businesses owned by minorities and minority women had a tougher time securing loans than other small businesses and it took longer for them to receive their cash.

  • For minority-owned small businesses, only 56.4% have been approved and only 50.8% have received their funds. Similarly, for women-minority-owned businesses, 58.4% have been approved, and 51.6% have their cash in hand.
  • Other businesses (not minority or women-owned), saw 76.6% approved for PPP loans and 69.6% with cash in hand.
  • Securing loans was very challenging for startups (businesses that have been open less than a year). In contrast, those operating for 15+ years had the easiest time in the PPP process.

 

Dire Economic Future for Black and Latino Small Business Owners

The situation is dire: Amidst mounting death tolls from COVID-19 in their communities, Black and Hispanic small business owners, and the employees and customers they sustain, face a startling prospect: without swift and adequate governmental assistance in the next six months, almost half say their businesses, under current circumstances, may not have enough funds to survive the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression. These small business owners cite a broad array of issues with accessibility to ongoing federal relief measures—only around 1 in 10 received the funding they requested—which is potentially driving overwhelming support for direct federal assistance, including for payroll, mortgage, and rent support.

This information is taken from a nationwide survey— the first quantitative assessment of COVID-19’s economic impact on both Black and Hispanic small business and nonprofit owners, conducted by Global Strategy Group for Color Of Change and UnidosUS.

Color Of Change President Rashad Robinson says, “Congress must act to ensure tracking and oversight of who is getting the money and who is being denied and ensure that the American public is not subsidizing another bailout for reckless and self-interested corporations.”

Key takeaways

A summary can be found here.

Despite two rounds of PPP support, 45% of Black and Latinx small business owners who are still in business report they will have to shut their doors by the end of the year, if not sooner. Small-business owners with full-time employees report forced cuts to their payroll obligations, including reduction of hours (44%), lay-offs (21%), reduced wages (13%), or furlough (6%).

“This ground-breaking poll shows that African American and Latino small businesses—the  economic engines of many cities, small towns and communities across America—are suffering greatly but are being left out of relief efforts. This is simply unacceptable,” says Janet Murguía, CEO and President of UnidosUS. “The next stimulus and relief package must have targeted help to minority-owned businesses and nonprofits so we can save these vital enterprises.”

Of the of Black and Latinx small business owners surveyed 51% report applying for less than $20,000, but only 12% say they received the full amount of assistance requested. More than three times that number—41%—report being denied assistance, while 21% say they are still waiting to hear if they will receive the funds. Of the small business owners of color who received either partial or full assistance, 45% say they had to wait more than two weeks to get the money. Survey respondents cited several barriers to accessibility: of those who decided not to apply, respondents cited an application process that was too difficult to complete (14%); concern that they were ineligible for the programs (32%); and belief that they would not be approved (26%).

While the CARES Act, which created the PPP program, receives support from 91% of all Black and Hispanic small-business owners, it is largely seen as a first, but wholly incomplete, step toward economic recovery. Survey respondents believe the stimulus was passed primarily to protect major corporations’ best interests (82%), with too many handouts to big corporations (74%) and too little funds for small businesses (71%).

As Congress considers another round of stimulus, Black and Hispanic small-business owners identify the following priorities:

  • Receiving direct federal assistance to prevent mass layoffs and keep them afloat so they can quickly and safely restart and rehire their workers (89%)
  • Suspending foreclosures on individually-owned and small business properties until the end of the crisis (86%)
  • Directing federal financial assistance to businesses to help them cover salary and other necessary costs (82%)
  • Suspending negative credit reporting until the end of the crisis (81%).

May 8th report by the Small Business Administration’s Inspector General found that, despite specific instruction in the CARES Act, the SBA had not communicated to lenders that business owners in underserved markets should be prioritized. Additionally, the Inspector General’s report found the SBA had failed to “require demographic data to identify PPP borrowers in underserved markets,” meaning that “it is unlikely for SBA to determine the loan volume to the intended prioritize markets.”

 

Are Small Businesses Ready to Reopen Their Doors?

LendingTree’s third survey of small business owners since the COVID-19 pandemic started reveals they’ve grown increasingly concerned about having enough money to reopen and are not sure it’s even worthwhile to reopen given the reduced capacity and increased safety measures required. In fact, nearly half the small business owners worry they cannot afford to resume normal operations following mandated closures to slow the spread of COVID-19.

New survey data from LendingTree shows 46% of small businesses owners say funding is the No.1 obstacle stopping them from reopening. Once open, businesses would likely have to adhere to safety guidelines, such as limiting capacity to 25% or 50%, as well as keeping customers at a distance from one another. For some survey respondents, it would be of no use to open the doors with such restrictions.

“I feel a multitude of emotions,” one respondent said. “Completely unsure of how my salon will remain open without rents being reduced [and with] less customers. Even if we have the clientele, we have to abide by social distances, which in turn equals less space [and] less customer intake.”

Key findings

  • Almost 60% of small business owners will reopen as soon as they’re allowed. However, 15% said they’ll wait a little longer and another 26% aren’t sure when they’ll ever reopen.
  • Fewer customers and fewer sales are expected by 46% of small business owners upon reopening. Just 17% think they’ll get the same number of customers spending the same amount of money as they did prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Not having the funds needed to reopen is the primary reasonsmall business owners would not reopen once stay-at-home orders are lifted. They wonder if profits would warrant reopening as they also worry about the safety of themselves and employees who may not want to return.
  • About 63% of small business owners surveyed have applied for funding through the Paycheck Protection Program.Of those who applied for a PPP loan, 44% have received funding. This is a significant jump from Lending Tree’s April survey, where just 5% of those who applied were approved.
  • However, more than half the business owners who received PPP funding are nervous they won’t meet forgiveness criteria.Some are more worried than others: 24% are “very concerned,” while 29% are “a little” concerned.

 

Who’s Thriving in a Remote Work Environment

The latest workplace study from Hibob shows a majority of employees feel just as productive working from home as they do in a more traditional office setting. While remote work gives workers the flexibility they crave, even with the stresses added by COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders, employees’ individual productivity levels directly correlate with their position at the company, living situation, and gender.

“It’s improbable that non-essential businesses will ever revert back to fully traditional office settings. Given this new normal, companies need to take time to adapt and understand how they must change to support remote workers. At Hibob we believe flexibility is the future of work,” says Ronni Zehavi, CEO of Hibob.

How an employee’s living situation impacts their productivity

In general, 37% of people feel equally as productive from home as in an office setting, 13% say they feel more productive at home, and 18% say they don’t feel at all productive when working from home.

However, for those who live alone, 47% say they are not as productive. Those living solo may feel isolated. Collaboration and live interaction are paramount in building a strong employee experience, but these experiences can be replicated with a remote workforce by leveraging tools like Slack, MicrosoftTeams, Zoom, and culture-oriented features within Hibob’s platform like Kudos, Shoutouts, and Polls.

It may seem counterintuitive that people with others in their homes are more productive due to the presence of distractions, yet Hibob found 73% of these workers felt productive from home—a finding that was especially pronounced for women.

Working mothers feel empowered by this time at home

In this new normal, workers find themselves balancing attending to their families and managing the demands of a full-time job. The survey shows 87%  of employees are comfortable balancing the needs of their families with work, indicating that companies are offering the flexibility workers need.

Hibob also found among working mothers 51% say they’re productive working from home and 68% feel like they’re able to do their job sufficiently from home.

Managers prefer work from home

Across all positions and levels, workers want their action items and responsibilities to be well-defined, especially while working from home. While 53% of employees say their tasks and priorities are clear, 34% crave more clarity, and nearly 14% feel as if they have no direction. Higher-level workers are more productive than junior employees: 61% of senior managers felt productive working from home, whereas only 49% of individual contributors felt this way.

 

Challenges of Remote Working

For all its advantages, working from home does have some drawbacks. A survey from FinanceBuzz reveals the eight most common drawbacks of remote work. Here are the top 5:

  1. Harder to build relationships with co-workers (49%)
  2. Feeling isolated (46%)
  3. Difficult to separate work from personal life (38%)
  4. Lack of face time with manager or company leaders (37%)
  5. Different perks/benefits between in-office and remote (31%)

 

Measuring Employee Satisfaction

CNBC and SurveyMonkey together polled over 9,000 workers in the U.S. to measure the impact of COVID-19 on employee satisfaction. Nearly half of those surveyed (48%) are  currently working remotely. Among all workers—working at home or not—the latest results show an uptick in employee happiness: the survey’s Workforce Happiness Index is an optimistic 73 out of 100 as of May, ticking up from 71 last year. And while workers say they’re happier than they were before the pandemic, they also report their jobs have gotten harder.

Key findings

  • Sentiment among all workers (remote and non-remote):
    • 54%of all workers surveyed say it has gotten “somewhat harder” or “much harder” to do their job effectively compared with before the coronavirus outbreak.
      • Those in positions of greater responsibility (VP and higher) are more likely to say work has gotten “much harder.”
    • Still, happiness across a number of dimensions is up:
      • 54% of workers say they are “very satisfied” with their job, up from 47% in December 2019.
      • By a better than three-to-one margin (38% to 11%) more workers indicate that they are happier in their roles since the pandemic started than say they wish they had a different job.
  • Sentiment among remote workers:
    • 44% of those working remotely are happier to have their job now than they were before the outbreak.
    • 88% are confident their company’s leadership is making the right business decisions to manage through the current environment.
    • 18% have considered quitting their job in the last three months.
    • 38% say they would like to work from home more often than they used to once things are safe again. Another 19% want to continue working from home all the time.
  • Sentiment among non-remote workers:
    • 32% are happier to have their job now than they were before the outbreak.
    • 79% are confident their company’s leadership is making the right business decisions to manage through the current environment.
    • 22% have considered quitting their job in the last three months.
    • 75% say they’ve felt safe going to work during the pandemic.
    • 80% are satisfied with measures their company has put in place to keep them safe at work.

 

Effects of COVID-19 on Small Businesses in the Home Services Industry

Jobber’s COVID-19 Data Report analyzes the effects of COVID-19 on small businesses within the home services industry. The data tracks developments from the beginning of the year through May 10.

The report includes information on YoY growth compared to other industries, as well as revenue trends and new jobs booked for these small businesses. It also breaks down data by three industries: cleaning, green industry and contractor.

Key stats

  • Home Services’ Fast Growth: In 2018 and 2019, home service businesses grew 13% and 11%, respectively, whereas the overall US GDP grew 2.9% in 2018 and 2.3% in 2019
  • COVID-19 Impact Started March 22: Up until then, the home services industry grew an average of 13%. Halfway through March revenues fell 30% compared to earlier in the year
  • Turning a Corner: New work scheduled and median revenue for home services year-over-year began to climb again by the end of April, a trend expected to continue in the beginning of May.

 

Generational View of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Bospar, a boutique PR firm, teamed up with Propeller Insights to determine how seriously Americans take the threat of COVID-19 and adhere to social distancing guidelines. The survey discovered that, generally speaking, older Americans join Democrats in taking the pandemic more seriously than younger Americans and Republicans.

Older Americans most socially distant

Only 4% of Americans say they haven’t been practicing social distancing, and 67% appreciate that social distancing is helping to mitigate the spread of the virus.

But older Americans are taking it much more seriously than younger Americans. Only 57% of adult Gen Zers (18-24 year-olds) have been social distancing “as much as they possibly can,” and 26% have been practicing social distancing “but not all of the time.” This compares to 81% of Americans 45+ who have been social distancing “as much as they can” and 8% who have been practicing social distancing “but not all of the time.”

About half of Americans (51%) most dislike that social distancing is creating a threat to the economy and that they have been unable to visit family. This is followed by:

  • Having to take extreme cautions in public and not being able to hang out with friends (43%)
  • Not being able to go to public events, like parties and sports (40%)

Other than mitigating the virus, Americans admit that social distancing has some upsides. For example, 42% appreciate that strangers no longer bump into them, and 26% enjoy not having to go in public.

Gen Zers and Republicans are least worried

About 73% of Americans worry they will catch COVID-19 when the restrictions are lifted. This includes 85% of Democrats and 75% of seniors (Americans 65+) but just 64% of Republicans and 67% of Gen Zers.

So, perhaps it follows that significantly more Democrats (63%) and seniors (61%) feel businesses should close any areas where people would be in close quarters—like restaurants and movie theaters. Only 39% of Gen Zers and 41% of Republicans agree.

Republicans (74%) and Gen Zers (71%) are also less worried than Democrats (90%) and seniors (88%) that COVID-19 will make a comeback in the fall.

In the post-COVID-19 world, 82% of Americans will be more cautious about their personal space. This includes fewer Republicans (81%) than Democrats (89%) and fewer Gen Zers (72%) than Americans of other generations (84%).

 

Get informed—Read it!

Staying Cyber Safe

In the light of COVID-19 and the mandatory remote working environment the Cyber Management Alliance recently released a Remote Working Cybersecurity Checklist.

Small Business Loans Alone Won’t Help U.S. Workers

The management team at Gusto—Josh Reeves , CEO and cofounder, Megan Niedermeyer, head of Legal & Compliance and Jeanette Quick, lead counsel for Financial Services have written an op-ed arguing nearly $700 billion the federal government has made available through the Paycheck Protection Program “feels like too little, too late for many Americans.” Instead they say, Congress needs to use the Payroll Tax to provide relief.

 

Are You Prepared for the Return of COVID-19?

The coronavirus hasn’t gone away yet, and some experts are predicting the virus will be with us for possibly another 18-24 months.

It’s important your small business be prepared. Check out Is Your Small Business Ready For A Second Wave Of COVID-19? Including the eight steps a business can take to prepare from Merchant Maverick.

 

Keeping Team Connected While Working Remotely

With so many businesses still working remotely—and many considering becoming a virtual business permanently, it’s important to make sure your staff maintains strong social bonds. Check out this article on the Flexjobs blog—8 Strategies to Help Remote Teams Stay Connected.

Coronavirus business stock photo by Maridav/Shutterstock