Editor’s note: We are updating this blog post as more federal, state and local information becomes available for small business owners.
Last updated: February 24, 2020
COVID-19 has impacted millions of Americans in more ways than one. As Congress works to pass economic stimulus bills, it’s crucial to understand what resources small business owners have available to ensure they can navigate the changes over the next few months and even years.
The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing businesses to adapt to rapidly changing situations. Insurance Navy is working to bring small business owners that trust us with their commercial insurance policies the best resources and information to help them navigate these unprecedented times.
As a business owner and member of the community, the first priority is everyone’s health and safety. However, according to the Small Business Administration, 27.9 Americans work for small businesses. If small businesses start to fail as a result of COVID-19, the economy will inevitably be impacted.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recommends that businesses be prepared to:
- Prioritize critical operations: In a time of crisis, businesses should have alternative suppliers, prioritize customers and temporarily suspend non-essential parts of operations.
- Prepare for school closings: As a result of school closings, employees are more likely to miss scheduled shifts. It is always important to keep extra personnel on call to make sure these shifts are filled.
- Establish teleworking policies: Human resources departments should analyze how possible it is for employees to work from home to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
- Coordinate with state external and local external health officials: If businesses are located throughout states, counties, and neighborhoods, make sure to follow the appropriate guidelines. Certain territories may be impacted differently than others.
If you are a resident of Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan, Wisconsin, California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, New York, Indiana or Illinois, there are mandatory “shelter in place” orders for the entire state. Shelter in place orders are issued by local and/or federal governments during or after an emergency. In recent weeks, shelter in place orders have been issued to help limit the spread of coronavirus. The goal is to limit travel to only essential trips. Essential trips include grocery shopping, bank runs, going to and from essential workplaces and medical trips.
Communication is key
If your business is considered essential and warrants employees breaking shelter in place orders, communicating with staff members is crucial to keep the business running smoothly. Communicating keeps personnel on the same page and reassures them that the proper measures are being put into place to keep everyone safe.
Keep sanitizing efforts high at all times
More than ever, it is important to go over sanitation at the workplace. The CDC recommends the following procedures to disinfect surfaces:
- If surfaces are filthy, clean the area with detergent and water prior to sanitization.
- To thoroughly disinfect, use products with at least 70 percent alcohol. For a complete list of EPA-approved cleaners, click here.
Regularly clean and disinfect high touch areas like desks, keyboards, phones, and doorknobs, and encourage employees to wash their hands multiple times a day. Having a cleaning plan will help keep employees and clients healthy. However, if an employee becomes ill, have them remain at home until they are healthy again.
If you are in an area with shelter in place orders and your business is not essential, the only option available is to work remotely. There are video conferencing softwares available to help keep everyone connected virtually. If your business can not work remotely but the business is essential, alternate shifts amongst employees to encourage social distancing practices.
For businesses that are already feeling the financial impact of COVID-19, there is assistance at the Federal and State level.
Federal Coronavirus Small Business Assistance
SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program
The small business administration is providing low-interest working capital loans of up to $2 million to small businesses and nonprofits. The interest rates are 3.75 percent for small businesses and 2.75 percent for nonprofits. Loan repayment terms vary but arrangements can be made for up to 30 years.
Businesses in every state plus American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands may apply. The loan may be used to cover payroll, debts and other bills.
How to Apply
Small business owners can apply online under “Economic Injury.” The application will require documents such as recent tax returns, a personal financial statement and a schedule of liabilities with all business debts. For additional questions or concerns, call the SBA Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955.
Federal Income Tax Filing and Payment Deadline Extension
The federal tax return filing deadline is extended until July 15, 2020. For tax payments of up to $10 million, the IRS has the same extension for businesses and individuals. Check with state and local tax authorities for any extensions or penalty waivers.
State and Local Coronavirus Small Business Assistance
Illinois: Chicago Small Business Resiliency Fund
Beginning March 31st, small businesses in the city of Chicago can apply for low-interest loans. The Chicago Small Business Resiliency Fund is a $100 million public-private fund. Contributors to the fund include the City of Chicago, the Chicago Community Catalyst Fund, Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, Fifth-Third Bank and Clayco Construction. The loans are up to $50,000 with up to five-year repayment terms. Loan amounts are subject to revenues made before COVID-19.
In order to qualify, businesses must be able to show a 25 percent drop in revenue, have less than $3 million in revenue and have less than 50 employees. Businesses must also have no current tax liens or legal judgments against them.
How to apply
Small businesses in Chicago will be able to apply online. Documentation needed includes a recent tax return and bank statements dating back to October 2019.