Beginning April 1, 2020, many employers must provide eligible employees with paid leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. However, small businesses may qualify for an exemption to certain leave requirements. Here are the highlights from the DOL:
- An employer must have fewer than 50 employees and the leave must be needed due to a school closing or childcare unavailability.
- An employer must also determine that the leave would put its business at risk. The DOL has provided guidance on this requirement.
- According to the DOL, there are three ways for determining whether the leave jeopardizes a business.
Small employers should review the DOL’s guidance to determine whether they would qualify for an exemption for the paid leave requirements.
We will continue to share information as it becomes available and keep you informed. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has now published materials to aid employers in ensuring compliance with this new law, including questions and answers, and the required workplace poster.
Updated DOL FFCRA Notice/Poster
The Department of Labor has issued the Families First Coronavirus Response Act notice/poster. Unfortunately, the first version the DOL issued had a slight error, so the DOL issued a corrected poster to clear up the confusion. You can download the correct version here. The DOL also issued FAQs regarding the notice, which can be found here. Covered employers should post this notice at their workplaces no later than April 1 (the effective date of FFCRA). Additionally, for employers who have employees working remotely, the notice should be sent out by email or regular mail, or by posting it on the company intranet or website.
DOL Issues Additional FAQ on FFCRA
The DOL expanded its existing FAQ on the FFCRA — adding nearly 10 pages of content regarding the new requirements for paid sick leave (E-PSLA) and paid family medical leave (E-FMLA). You can download the Q&A here.
Gulfshore Insurance is focused on supporting and addressing client concerns. Visit our Coronavirus Resource Center for guidance on risk management measures and resources to help manage ongoing operations.
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has put a major strain on every aspect of daily life around the world, including the United States. As spread of the disease shows no sign of slowing down, there is a steadily increasing concern in the United States regarding the health and wellness of not only our citizens, but the economy as well. In response, the United States Congress has been negotiating a historic stimulus package to address the havoc caused by the pandemic.
It appears Congress’ hard work has paid off, as they just passed a $2 trillion package to provide a jolt to the economy reeling from the deadly virus. All Americans would do well to understand the package’s provisions, as it will offer direct relief to businesses and individuals alike.
WHAT IS IN THE STIMULUS PACKAGE?
The $2 trillion stimulus package, negotiated by Republican and Democratic leaders, is the largest economic stimulus measure in modern history. The bill is a $2 trillion combination of tax provisions and other stimulus measures, including emergency business lending. The measure promises to provide help for struggling American families and businesses, as well as health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak.
Significant Provisions Affecting Businesses
The tax package itself is broad, with tax payment relief and significant business tax incentives. Here is a list of the most significant provisions affecting businesses:
- $367 billion will be made available in loans for small businesses and $150 billion for state and local governments. The loans will be forgiven so long as businesses pledge not to lay off their workers.
- Small businesses forced to suspend operations or that have seen gross receipts fall by 50% from the previous year will be eligible for a tax credit worth up to 50% of wages paid during the crisis, so long as they keep their workers employed throughout.
- The Treasury Department will distribute $500 billion in loans to struggling industries (e.g., passenger airlines and businesses critical to maintaining national security). Additionally, an oversight board and inspector general will be created to oversee loans to large companies.
- Health care providers will receive $100 billion in grants to help fight the coronavirus and make up for revenue lost by delaying elective surgeries and other procedures.
- $200 million will be carved out for the Federal Communications Commission to provide health care providers with connected devices to facilitate telemedicine services, with the goal of freeing up hospital beds. Another $25 million will go to a grant program that helps rural communities purchase broadband equipment for telemedicine.
- The Commodity Credit Corporation, an institution that USDA uses to stabilize the farm economy, would see its spending authority increased to $14 billion. The package also sets up a $9.5 billion emergency fund for producers, including fresh fruit and vegetable growers, dairy farmers and cattle ranchers, along with local food systems like farmers markets.
- Colleges and universities, as well as school districts, will receive more than $30 billion.
- State and local governments will receive $150 billion, with $8 billion set aside for local governments.
- The package will provide the U.S. Postal Service with a $10 billion Treasury loan to stave off insolvency. Retailers, restaurateurs and hotels will be able to immediately deduct from their taxes what they spend on property improvements.
- Employers can defer the 6.2% tax they pay on wages used to fund Social Security.
Significant Provisions Affecting Individuals
The major piece of the individual tax changes will offer rebate checks based on a new tax credit of $1,200 per filing adult and $500 for each qualifying child. Additionally, unemployed individuals will receive an unprecedented expansion of benefits and payments.
Here is a list of the most significant provisions affecting individuals, many of which will be discussed in detail later in this piece:
- Single Americans will receive $1,200, married couples will get $2,400 and parents will receive $500 for each child.
- Unemployed individuals, including freelancers and furloughed employees, will get an extra $600 per week for up to four months, on top of state unemployment benefits.
- The package also calls for a new pandemic unemployment assistance program, which will provide jobless benefits to those who are unemployed, partially unemployed or unable to work because of COVID-19 and don’t qualify for traditional benefits.
- The Department of Education will suspend payments for student loan borrowers without penalty through September 30.
- There will be housing protections against foreclosures on mortgages and evictions for renters. Anyone facing a financial hardship from the coronavirus will receive a forbearance on federally backed mortgage loans of up to 60 days. Those with federally backed mortgage loans who have tenants are not allowed to evict tenants solely for failure to pay rent for a 120-day period.
As you can see, the package will have a far-reaching impact as it drives money toward workers, small businesses and industries that have been impacted by the economic downturn due to the pandemic.
OVERVIEW OF MAJOR BILL PROVISIONS
Now that you’re aware of the major implications for both businesses and individuals, let’s take a more in-depth look at the most important provisions.
Loans and Tax Credit Available to Small Businesses
Keeping businesses afloat and workers under the wing of their employers is critical for ensuring the economy can quickly restart after the pandemic subsides. To this end, the stimulus package creates a $367 billion federally guaranteed loan program for small businesses that employ 500 or fewer people who must pledge not to lay off their workers. The loans will be available during an emergency period ending June 30, and would be forgiven if the business uses the loan funds for approved purposes and maintains the average size of its full-time workforce, based on when it received the loan.
Additionally, small businesses forced to suspend operations or that have seen gross receipts fall by 50% from the previous year, will be eligible for a tax credit worth up to 50% of wages paid during the crisis, so long as they keep their workers employed through the crisis. Wages remain eligible until business is no longer suspended or gross receipts for a quarter reach 80% of the prior year. The credit could be applied to all wages for employers with fewer than 100 employees, while the benefit is capped at $10,000 in wages per employee for larger employers.
Expansion of Unemployment Benefits
The stimulus package includes a significant expansion of unemployment benefits that will extend unemployment insurance by 13 weeks and include a four-month enhancement of benefits (for reference, many states already provide 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, and thus participants in such states would be eligible for a total of 39 weeks when adding the 13 weeks of federal relief). The enhanced benefits will provide an additional $600 per week on top of what state unemployment programs pay.
Note that many individuals who typically do not qualify for unemployment insurance will qualify under the package, including independent contractors and self-employed individuals. In sum, those who are unemployed, partially unemployed or who cannot work for a wide variety of coronavirus-related reasons will be more likely to receive benefits.
Individual Checks to Taxpayers
As noted earlier, the package will provide direct payments to taxpayers based on the adjusted gross income found on their 2019 federal tax return. All U.S. residents with adjusted gross incomes up to $75,000 ($150,000 for married couples) will get a $1,200 ($2,400 for couples) payment. Families will receive an additional $500 per child, as a way to create a safety net for those whose jobs and businesses are affected by the pandemic. However, the payments will start to phase out for individuals with adjusted gross incomes greater than $75,000. Those with incomes higher than $99,000 will not qualify for payments under the stimulus package.
It is unclear how long it will take the IRS to process every payment. The Trump administration has indicated that Americans could be seeing direct payments as soon as April 6.
HOW CAN I TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE STIMULUS?
Now that you’re acquainted with the impact of the stimulus package, let’s discuss how you might take advantage of these benefits:
How can I obtain a small business loan from the government?
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering loans for qualifying small businesses. These are low-interest (3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for nonprofits) loans with terms potentially as long as 30 years. You can apply for an SBA loan through its website. Be prepared to provide the following information:
- Tax Information Authorization (IRS Form 4506T), completed and signed by each principal or owner
- Recent federal income tax returns
- Personal Financial Statement (SBA Form 413)
- Schedule of Liabilities listing all fixed debts (SBA Form 2202)
You may also need to provide profit and loss statements, recent tax returns and balance sheets.
After you apply, the SBA will review your credit before conducting its own inspection to verify your losses. The SBA says its goal is to arrive at a decision on any disaster loans within two to three weeks. If it determines you are eligible, it will send you a loan closing document for your signature.
How can employees collect unemployment assistance?
If your business is closed because of COVID-19 and your employees cannot work from home, or your employees are unable to work due to the disease or need to take care of someone who has it, they can likely collect unemployment. As each state administers a separate unemployment insurance program, employees should be told to visit their state’s unemployment insurance website, which will provide the relevant details regarding their individual programs. The information employees will need includes their Social Security number and driver’s license or state ID.
If there’s anything that is certain, it is that the full economic impact of this unprecedented pandemic is yet to be understood. Despite the unpredictability, Congress’ historic economic stimulus package is a sight for sore eyes for struggling businesses and individuals alike.
As the pandemic develops and the stimulus package is rolled out, look for more relevant guidance from Gulfshore Insurance in the near future, and continue to stay abreast of the latest state and federal developments.
As the situation surrounding COVID-19 keeps changing, Gulfshore Insurance is working hard to keep you updated on how it may impact your business. Here are five important updates that business owners need to know.
- Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program – Businesses with fewer than 100 employees that are located in Florida and are affected by COVID-19 can apply for an emergency bridge loan from the State of Florida. Loans are up to $50,000 (and up to $100,000 in special circumstances) and are interest-free for up to one year. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) administers these loans and will work with every borrower to ensure that repayment of the loan isn’t an overwhelming burden. To be eligible, a business must have been established prior to March 9, 2020, and demonstrate economic impacts as a result of COVID-19. The application period ends May 8, 2020.
- U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Assistance – The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) low-interest Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) are now available to small businesses affected by the loss of revenue due to the Coronavirus that are unable to pay ordinary operating expenses. These loans are intended to provide working capital to help small businesses until normal operations resume. For more information or to apply for a loan, contact the SBA at www.sba.gov/disaster.
- New Paid Leave Requirement for Employees Affected by COVID-19 – A new federal law that was approved on March 20, 2020 requiring employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide paid leave for their employees in certain situations. This new law goes into effect April 2, 2020 and will end on December 31, 2020. It is possible we may see some type of exemption from the new paid leave requirement for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, but that has not happened yet.
- A New Poster Will be Required for Businesses – The new paid leave law requires all employers to provide a notice/poster to their employees explaining the new paid time off that they may be eligible for as a result of COVID-19. It is expected that the U.S. Department of Labor will publish this poster very soon.
- Laid-Off Employees Can Apply for Unemployment Compensation – Small businesses who have had to lay employees off due to a business closure because of COVID-19 can advise their employees to apply for unemployment compensation (also called ‘reemployment assistance’). Currently, out-of-work employees can get up to $275 a week for up to 12 weeks. The United States Congress is currently debating a law that would increase these benefits and also expand who can file for unemployment benefits (i.e., independent contractors).
The situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing every day, but Gulfshore Insurance is working hard to keep you updated on how it impacts your business. If you have any questions, please let us know.
As the number of reported cases of the novel coronavirus continues to rise, employers are increasingly confronted with the possibility of an outbreak in the workplace.
Employers are obligated to maintain a safe and healthy work environment for their employees, but are also subject to a number of legal requirements protecting workers. For example, employers must comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act in their approach to dealing with COVID19.
This Compliance Bulletin provides a summary of the compliance issues facing employers in this type of situation.
Download the Compliance Bulletin
We will continue to share information as it becomes available and keep you informed. If you have questions, please reach out to us.