Are you feeling exhausted these days? Struggling with brain fog? Many people who didn’t contract COVID-19 have been having a tough time these days. According to mental health experts interviewed by NPR, fatigue and brain fog may be a response to the stress and trauma of the last year. Many of us have lost loved ones, our lives have been uprooted, and even if we haven’t been sick, there’s a fear that we might catch this strange new illness. These stressors interfere with sleep to restore our energy. Self-care is essential, but many of our usual remedies – such as seeing friends and family – aren’t yet available. Instead, the experts suggest spending time outside, taking a break from the news, and simply practicing more self-compassion and acceptance.
THE AMERICAN RECOVERY PLAN ACT (ARPA)
Restaurant Revitalization Fund
After finally opening up on May 3, the SBA received 186,200 applications for grants for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund in just the first two days. For the first 21 days of the program, priority will be given to businesses owned by women, veterans, and socially disadvantaged. According to the SBA, about half of the first group of applications came from these groups.
This $28.6 billion fund will offer grants of up to $5 million to restaurants, bars, caterers, and other food and beverage. For full details and instructions for applying, visit the SBA website, where you can also find a program guide, webinars, and a link to the application portal.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
The SBA has cut off PPP funds to most lenders and is only accepting applications from community financial institutions (CFIs) as funds for this program dry up. The SBA has $8 billion reserved for CFIs and another $6 billion for loans under review. According to the SBA’s latest report, as of May 2, the SBA has approved nearly 11 million loans totaling more than $780 trillion.
FEMA Reimbursing for COVID Funeral Expenses
As part of the December COVID relief bill, FEMA will reimburse up to $9,000 for COVID funeral expenses. To be eligible, the death must have occurred in the US or its territories after January 20, 2020, and the death certificate must state that the death was attributed to COVID. Applications opened on April 12 and must be made by phone. Visit the FEMA website for more information, including the phone number to apply.
Expanded Child Tax Credit
For 2021, a portion of the Child Tax Credit will be paid out in monthly installments of up to $300 per child starting in July. The IRS will use 2020 tax returns as a base to determine eligibility. If the 2020 return has not yet been filed, the IRS will use the 2019 return. The IRS now has a dedicated web page on this credit. Eligible families do not need to do anything to receive this credit. Families who do not want to receive the advance payments will be able to opt out, but that system has not yet been created.
LIFE IN THE POST-PANDEMIC ERA
Even before the pandemic, employees were demanding more from employers than a paycheck, and COVID-19 accelerated that trend. One tactic for attracting and retaining employees is providing them with the educational and developmental opportunities they need to develop into leaders within an organization, as this article in Entrepreneur points out. Besides providing the soft skills of leadership, communication, and collaboration that employers need in future leaders, training programs must also help employers achieve their own goals and provide employees the opportunities to use their new skills on the job.
Achieving the next normal in the post-pandemic world will require adjustments for employers and employees alike. While this article in the Journal of Accountancy is aimed at accountants in particular, the four recommendations apply to all types of businesses. Be careful about how you describe this next phase: your remote workers are not returning to work or getting back to work: rather, the end of lockdown is providing new opportunities for work. Don’t assume your people feel safe about coming back to the office – they may need extra assurances or measures to raise their confidence level. Take advantage of the disruption to implement lasting changes in how your work gets done. Finally, make sure that remote workers feel like valued team members.
Employers who want their teams to return to the office will need to make some changes to keep their people healthy. This article in The Atlantic includes six questions that employees should ask their employers before returning to the workplace. For example, have any changes been made to improve airflow? Replacing the air four to six times per hour is recommended, or the workplace may need to reduce the number of people allowed in the office. Another important question to ask is the employer’s vaccination policy. Workplaces that require employees to be fully vaccinated may be able to reduce some of the safety measures. Remote work policies are another area for inquiry, to ascertain whether working from home occasionally might be allowable.
- IRS resources for stimulus payments:
- The best source for up-to-date and accurate health information is the Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- The CDC also has recommendations for businesses and employers
- Intuit QuickBooks has a dedicated page to help small businesses
- Entrepreneur put together a listing of free tech resources for remote work
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has warnings about COVID-related scams
- Fast Company has a listing of the best productivity apps for 2020
- The New York Times has an online newsletter on K-12 and higher education
- The Wall Street Journal has a collection of articles on education
- The Atlantic has a state-by-state coronavirus tracker
We sincerely hope that you and your family are well and remain well. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are all in this together!