Weekly Digest – 29 July 2020
Perhaps the most challenging part of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is that many infected people never show symptoms or have such mild symptoms it’s easy to chalk that out-of-sorts feeling to a poor night of sleeping. Some estimate that as many as 40% of those infected never exhibit symptoms, and these people could be shedding nearly as much contagious virus as those with full-blown symptoms. This high rate of asymptomatic cases combined with the lengthy 14-day incubation period makes it nearly impossible to develop mechanisms to keep the most vulnerable among us safe.
Until we find reliable methods of quick diagnosis and sure-fire protection, we may be living with the virus for some time to come. May that day come soon!
CARES ACT UPDATES
Cares Act 2
Debate is underway to pass the next pandemic stimulus bill. Details are still fuzzy, but here’s what is likely to be included:
- A second round of $1,200 stimulus payments to taxpayers
- The $600 additional federal unemployment benefits will likely expire, to be replaced with something less generous
- A second round of PPP-type support
- Moratorium on evictions
- Additional aid to states and schools
- Student loan forbearance on a more limited scale
- Liability shield for businesses
With the Senate set to recess on August 7, and the House on July 31, our senators and representatives don’t have much time to get a deal hammered out.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
The SBA plans to open a portal on August 10 for lenders to submit PPP forgiveness applications. However, legislation is still pending to streamline forgiveness applications for loans under $150,000, which would make the process vastly easier for both borrowers and lenders. For those ready to get started on the process, the AICPA has created a tool that will create an online, digitally-signed forgiveness application. Here’s a video that demonstrates how the online tool works.
Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)
Since June 15, the SBA’s EIDL loan program has been accepting applications for loans of up to $2 million with interest rates of up to 3.75% for businesses and up to 2.75% for nonprofits. However, under pressure to get funds out the door quickly, the overwhelmed program has been plagued with allegations of fraud. Applicants have been using apartments as addresses where they claim to run businesses with ten or more employees. On the positive side, however, the SBA approved and disbursed twice as much money in three months under the CARES Act as in its entire 67-year history.
Employee Retention Credit
The IRS is in the process of revising Form 941, Form 943, Form 944 and Form CT-1 so that employers may claim the Employee Retention Credit on them. The agency has also released temporary regulations that will allow it to recapture excess funds in cases where erroneous refunds of this credit have been issued that are in excess of the amounts a company is entitled to.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS introduced its People First Initiative, which had the goal of offering temporary relief by easing and suspending some enforcement actions from April 1 to July 15. Now that July 15 has passed, the IRS has added a series of FAQs for taxpayers who are having difficulty paying their taxes in full, or who already have installment agreements in place.
HELP FOR SMALL BUSINESS
Main Street Lending Program
The Federal Reserve’s Main Street Lending Program is now underway, and additional FAQs were posted on June 26. Prospective borrowers should review the Boston Fed’s borrower page, and contact a participating lender. However, only about 400 banks across the country are registered, and many large banks aren’t participating at all.
WORKING FROM HOME
In a matter of months, the global workforce shifted from mostly working away from home to more than half working at home at least part time. As outlined in an article in the Wall Street Journal, this rapid shift brought lessons to companies in how to manage remote teams better. In brief: Use the tech you have. People crave contact. The workday is changing. To attract talent, you might need some new perks. Take it slow.
Companies are beginning to rethink their long-term remote work strategies as cracks begin to emerge. Collaboration takes longer, training is harder, and onboarding new hires requires a different setup. Some companies are moving to different spaces with better ventilation and more room for social distancing, while others are establishing core hours when teams will work together onsite. Career development in areas where junior members learn by setting next to an executive is more challenging, so remote work may slow down the usual career path trajectory.
As the work from home experiment continues, companies are re-thinking the types of employee benefits that are most useful. Snacks, coffee bars and foosball tables are giving way to “what’s most valuable to our employees – the things that fundamentally support our well-being.” This may include home delivery of snacks or subscriptions to online learning platforms that the whole family can use.
What should a company expect to achieve by transitioning its workforce from on-site or remote or a hybrid of the two? This is the question at the center of a Harvard Business Review article by the authors of a new book, Lead from the Future. Their four-step process helps business leaders imagine their ideal future outcome and work backwards to the present to achieve it. This process requires experimentation and iteration with consideration of all variables.
Fast Company has a new spin on its annual listing of the best productivity apps for 2020 since working remotely requires an emphasis on “tuning out distractions, eliminating inefficiencies, and increasing organization.” Here are a few:
- Screen-sharing app Screens allows a team to share and control a single computer while chatting on video.
- Basecamp has introduced a new email application called Hey that only allows emails into an inbox when the recipient allows it.
- Reclaim.ai blocks off parts of your calendar for doing your own work and self-care.
LIVING WITH AND AFTER THE PANDEMIC
Going back to work
Perhaps the biggest challenge for working parents is arranging for childcare while schools are delaying full re-opening. According to a recent survey of employers, only 32% have plans in place to help employees out with childcare. Companies are experimenting with approaches that include discounts on local daycare, flexible work schedules and financials support. However, a long-term solution – while beneficial to the economy as a whole – remains elusive.
Work in the post-pandemic world
Researchers at McKinsey have identified four ways that CEOs have shifted their leadership style to be more impactful. What is yet unknown is whether these changes will endure. The rapid adjustments are inspiring them to aspire 10X higher as they see how much they were able to accomplish quickly. Others are finding that how they show up in work and life can be more impactful then accomplishing items on a to do list: showing their humanity can be a powerful way to form a more cohesive team. Companies that embrace the interests of all stakeholders, including families, employees, communities and customers, and not just the bottom line for their shareholders, have a competitive advantage. Strengthening the relationships in their networks of other CEOs means they can learn from each other.
Back to school
Last spring, many parents were juggling working at home and overseeing their children’s schooling, a nearly impossible task. Amy George, owner of a PR firm and mother of two middle-schoolers shared three ideas for how she hopes to make it all work. First, she’ll hire a homework coach to help her daughters learn organization skills and stay on top of homework. Next, weekly family meetings and daily check-ins will be a chance to discuss everyone’s assignments, projects and the times when mom and dad have important meetings. Finally, her daughters will alternate “going to work” with mom by spending time co-working in her home office.
- Payroll, HR and benefits company Gusto has put together An Employer’s Guide to Navigating the Coronavirus
- Accounting Today has a special page for articles on COVID-19
- 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
- The Red Cross has pointers to help young adults stay safe
- Entrepreneur put together a listing of free tech resources for remote work
- Kiplinger has a state-by-state guide to absentee ballot voting.
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has warnings about COVID-related scams
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!