Advice for your small business with dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.
Getting Your Business Ready for the Coronavirus Effect
Small businesses are feeling the brunt of ramped efforts by the government and the private sector to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Every cancellation of a sporting event, conference, concert, or festival ripples through the small business community in affected towns and cities. Calls for stepped-up social distancing and isolation measures have emptied large office buildings and college campuses, keeping patrons out of restaurants and shoppers out of stores, which also impacts small businesses around them.
Federal Relief is Coming
With some estimates that the disruption could last eight to ten weeks or more, businesses at all levels are preparing for a hit to their bottom lines. Those that aren’t forced into staff reductions may still need to prepare for employee absenteeism. Fortunately, relief in the form of government financial assistance is on the way to help businesses and their employees through the crisis.
Small businesses affected by the outbreak can request up to $2 million in disaster assistance loans from the Small Business Administration. These low-interest loans are available to businesses that have sustained “substantial economic injury” and may be used to pay off debts, make payroll, and pay other bills. The disaster assistance loans are now available to small businesses that already have access to credit. Businesses that can’t otherwise qualify for credit can be eligible for interest rates as low as 3.25%.
Once a state is approved for assistance, the SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance will coordinate with state agencies that submit requests. Local jurisdictions such as New York, San Francisco, San Jose, and Washington State are also stepping up with financial assistance for small businesses.
Emergency Paid Leave Benefits
On March 13, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would guarantee paid sick leave for employees impacted by the virus. The bill provides emergency paid leave benefits for employees who have to take two or more weeks off if they become infected or if they are required to self-quarantine or care for sick family members. The benefit, which guarantees employees two-thirds of their average monthly earnings up to $4,000, is available for up to three months. More information is expected to become available after the bill passes the Senate and is signed into law by President Trump.
Steps Small Businesses Can Take to Lessen the Impact
Small businesses can take their own steps to lessen the impact on the business and its employees. Employers should follow the Centers for Disease Control’s recommended strategies for encouraging sick employees to stay home. Now is the time to ensure your sick leave policies are flexible enough to accommodate the situation and that your employees are aware of the policies.
Following OSHA requirements for maintaining a safe workplace, employers should instruct employees on clean hand hygiene as well as cough and sneeze etiquette.
All employers should gear up for increased employee absenteeism. It can start with establishing more flexible leave policies that allow employees to stay home to care for themselves or to care for sick family members or children if schools close in the community. To that end, many employers are cross-training employees to perform essential functions should key staff members have to stay home. And now would be an excellent time to establish provisions for telecommuting or remote work as options for employees.
Check In With Your Bank
Many banks are stepping up with initiatives to lessen the burden on small businesses. The time to check in with your bank is not when your business is in the direst need, but when you anticipate potential problems down the road. That’s the time banks are best able to work with you to find an appropriate solution.
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