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

Here’s What Every Small Business Owner Should Know

Running a business is difficult, especially in 2020—amidst the biggest economic shutdown in U.S. history. The shutdown began on a national scale in mid-March in an attempt to slow the spread of the latest coronavirus, COVID-19.

Many states shut down all nonessential businesses in the wake of the pandemic. Consequently, few businesses can sustain this lengthy operational delay. Now more than ever, reducing unnecessary expenses is vital to every business.  

In an effort to help you and your small business, we wanted to compile resources and information regarding recent legislation that’s made its way through Congress. In this blog, we’ve summarized what small businesses need to know in the near future to remain viable.

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SBA is Currently Overwhelmed 

Since COVID-19 altered the course of American economic history, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has received an unprecedented spike in calls discussing disaster relief loans. Currently, the organization is receiving nearly 20,000 calls per day about loans, and they expect that number of calls to triple.

“This is not your typical disaster scenario where a flood or hurricane impacts a fixed geographical area,” SBA regional communications director Chris Hatch said in an email. “Due to the widespread impact of the coronavirus, our emergency loans and business counseling are in high demand.” 

In an attempt to stimulate the economy, breathing life and money back into small businesses, the federal legislature has recently passed a massive stimulus package.

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The U.S. Government Provides Aid to Small Businesses

After a recent bill was passed by both arms of Congress, a substantial amount of money is being allocated in the form of loans to small and large businesses. According to a New York Times report, nearly $400 billion of the $2 trillion stimulus bill signed by President Trump is going to businesses.

By design, these loans will allow businesses to begin paying idle employees. Community banks throughout the U.S. will administer loans to companies who pledge to not furlough or lay off workers until revenue picks up.

These loans are available until June 30 and will be forgiven as long as the business continues to pay workers through the duration of the crisis. anchor

Who Qualifies for a Disaster Loan?

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

How to Apply for SBA Disaster Loans

Businesses can apply for SBA disaster loans in three different ways. The SBA offers an online portal where you can upload business documents and apply for a loan

 

You can also fill out a PDF linked on the agency’s website and mail them to the processing and disbursement center:

U.S. Small Business Administration Processing and Disbursement Center

14925 Kingsport Rd.
Fort Worth, TX 76155-2243

 

Lastly, interested businesses can submit forms in person at an SBA disaster center, but it is unclear which locations are open at this time.

If Granted, Loans Will Arrive in 2-3 Weeks

After an application is submitted, the SBA will assess each company’s credit before inspecting the reported losses. This assessment includes the review of any insurance recoveries a business received or has pending. Despite any pending recoveries, loans may still be administered if deemed deserving by the SBA.

According to the organization, their goal is to grant disaster loans within two to three weeks for those who’ve been approved. Eligible companies can expect to receive a loan closing document to agree via signature.

Initially, businesses will receive $25,000 within five days, an SBA report claims. The remaining loan amount will be disbursed on a schedule until the entire amount is sent. An SBA loan officer, who ensures you meet all necessary loan conditions, will determine the loan schedule.

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Another Bill Passes, Providing Employees with Additional Sick Leave

As of Wednesday, April 1, a new bill is in effect (Families First Coronavirus Response Act), which may have a tremendous impact on small businesses. It provides free coronavirus testing to anyone whose doctor says a test is needed, and it grants two weeks paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave. 

The bill also provides more funding for state Medicaid programs, and it extends unemployment benefits to furloughed workers. In short, here are some key takeaways from a Wall Street Journal report.

Who qualifies for paid leave?

Employees unable to work because of COVID-19 symptoms or under quarantine must receive two weeks or up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at their full rate or the applicable minimum wage, if higher.

If an employee is caring for a quarantined person or a child who can’t go to school or daycare because of the pandemic, the employer must provide two weeks or up to 80 hours paid leave at two-thirds of the employee’s normal rate.

Employees who have been employed at least 30 days can also take up to 10 additional weeks of paid family and medical leave at two-thirds their normal rate, to care for children at home due to the outbreak.

Workers may be able to take leave intermittently, but only with their employer’s permission, according to fresh guidance issued by the Department of Labor on Thursday.

The law applies to full- and part-time employees, temporary workers, day laborers and employees who are already on leave. Independent contractors are not employees under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and shouldn’t be counted.

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

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

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

No, President Trump signed this bill into law on March 18. So these paid-leave requirements were passed in a separate bill from the $2 trillion stimulus package we mentioned earlier. 

These paid-leave requirements must be followed, regardless of whether or not employees or employers receive loans or payments from the federal stimulus package (known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act).

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

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

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

Yes, but the limits are contingent on the employee’s situation. Here’s an official DOL document outlining employee rights and entitlement details.

If the employee has COVID-19 symptoms, or is under quarantine for the virus, they must be paid either their full rate or the minimum wage. Thus, the cap is $511 a day or $5,110 for two weeks.

Employees taking care of a sick person infected with COVID-19 are subject to a $200 limit per day or $2,000 for two weeks. 

Employees caring for children home from school also have a $200 limit per day and $12,000 total. This amount includes two weeks of paid sick leave and 10 weeks of the expanded family and medical leave.

What will happen to small businesses who aren’t fully compliant on April 1?

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

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

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

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Additional COVID-19 Resources

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Aside from SBA, Another Resource is Available

Would a shameless plug here be too much, given the circumstances? We hope not, but only because Energy Ogre’s business exists solely to help both homeowners AND small businesses. 

Since 2015, Energy Ogre has used proprietary technology to find the best electricity plans for residential and commercial customers. However, in light of today’s economy, we are more committed than ever to provide significant value and savings for our members.

In regard to small businesses, there has never been a better time to assess your electricity expense. Minimizing costs is of utmost importance, especially when that cost is overpaying for electricity.

Things are a bit scary out there, and it may be some time before we get back to normal. But rest assured, the ogres are here to worry about your electricity needs, so you can focus on other things that matter.

 

Is Now a Good Time to Signup?

Since our staff began working from home on Friday, March 13, our employees have worked remotely without interruption. We are still manning our phones and chats, eager to help our members through their electricity needs.

If you sign up for service with Energy Ogre, essentially every aspect of our process will be the same. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure the lights turn on when you flip a switch. In the meantime, we promise you will  pay the least amount possible when doing so.

If you run into any issues with your electricity or the billing for your electricity, we’ll be here to help you through it. In other words, not much has changed. We’re here to help you, and we’ll get through this together. Besides, handshakes were ogre-rated anyway.

 

Other Articles:

Hidden Costs of Being Home During COVID-19

How Will the Coronavirus Affect My Electricity Bill?

How to Get the Best Electricity Plan In Texas