Navigating Your Business Through COVID-19
NOTE: In order to receive help from the SBDC network you must request counseling from our network. You can request counseling by click the button to the right.
While businesses face many challenges every day, they are facing a unique challenge at this time. COVID-19, (Coronavirus) has disrupted the lives of millions of people and is having significant impacts on businesses. Small businesses have experienced fewer customers, disrupted supply chains and cash flow challenges. Now is the time to assess the impact COVID-19 is having on your business. Tennessee’s small business advisors are here to help you navigate this unprecedented event. As a collective, we have a long history of helping businesses prepare for and recover from disasters. As Tennessee comes to grips with the Coronavirus, we are committed to providing businesses with guidance to help them manage during this crisis.
Please explore the sections below to find information about your business and COVID-19.
Paycheck Protection Program
Available starting 4-3-2020
The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.
SBA will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities.
You can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating in the program.
Lenders may begin processing loan applications as soon as April 3, 2020. The Paycheck Protection Program will be available through June 30, 2020.
Steps Small Businesses Can Take Now to Navigate COVID-19
Eight steps to help
Things small business owners should consider and do right now so you’ll be better prepared to survive through the COVID-19 pandemic. These, incidentally, are smart preparations to undertake at any time, so you’re not wasting the effort.
1. Look at your financials and cash flow. How long can you “make it through” in case of a quarantine, lost wages, employee absenteeism (when you are paying for sick leave AND not bringing in revenue). What do you need to bridge the gap? Plan on a 6-8 month drop in revenues. Map out cash flow now. Get a credit line approved now. You don’t have to use it. But you’ll have it when you need it. Aggressively pursue accounts receivables.
2. Slash your overhead. If you’re worried about losing customers or employees due to sickness, school closures or possible quarantines, cut the things you don’t HAVE to spend your money on.
3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate and Get Online! Keep staff and customers informed and up-to-date on your operations. It’s important for businesses to keep in touch with customers to help maintain them through this incident. Let them know what steps you are taking to ensure a safe and clean establishment; what your open hours are and how to communicate with you; use email auto-reply with answers to frequently asked questions to help your customers get information quickly; offer alternative methods of good deliveries (curbside service, at home delivery, drive thru, etc.). Use online platforms, like Facebook and your website, to inform customers of your operating status and how to purchase your products or services. Communicate this information through direct email to customers and through social media such as Twitter. Make sure you have a Business Profile on Google. Postal mail might be a way for your message to get customers’ attention who are being bombarded with emails.
4. Understand your insurance policy. What does your insurance cover? What doesn’t it cover? Business interruption insurance is insurance coverage that replaces business income lost in a disaster. Business interruption insurance is not sold as a separate policy but is either added to a property/casualty policy or included in a comprehensive package policy as an add-on or rider. If you don’t have business 1 interruption insurance, it may be too late to help you in this emergency, but you should know what it is, how it works, and how much it costs. A government mandated closure (hospitality businesses, for example) most likely will enable business interruption insurance to kick in.
5. Look at your supply chain. Are they diversified or are you relying on one source for your products? Supply chain management is essential in any global pandemic. Travel, workforce absenteeism, and financials will impact supply chains across the world. It’s important you have multiple providers of a resource that is the core of your business. Consider partnering with other businesses to share a vendor contract. That will make your order larger and a higher priority to the provider and may help to reduce the costs of goods.
6. Develop an incident response plan. What do you have in place in case of a quarantine? Can your employees work from home? Can you sell online or deliver instead of staffing brick and mortar? What kind of technology can be implemented to reach your customers? What communication is in place to your customers and employees? Identify essential functions and cross-train employees now so several can perform those tasks. Consider what programs or services could temporarily be shut down. Think about potential disruptions in supplies, services and transportation in the likelihood those organizations experience employee absenteeism. Identify alternative vendors / suppliers / etc. and how to reach them. Store information on your employees, vendors, and clients in an online account so it’s accessible from any device.
7. Prepare for a disaster loan. Complete and assemble 2019 and prior year financial statements. Start documenting and forecasting the impacts of the situation. In the past, SBA disaster loans have required many forms, can be confusing, and could take 3-6 weeks before receiving the money. Additional details on SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
8. Practice Social Distancing! Social distancing is a term applied certain action to stop or slow down the spread of a highly contagious disease. Here’s some action items you can implement quickly in your business:
- Encourage staying more than three feet apart
- Do not high five, shake hands or have close physical contact
- Wash your hands more frequently and use hand sanitizer
- Clean and disinfect your work and customer areas more frequently
Common Issues Small Business May Encounter
Workforce capacity, capital access, etc
- Workforce Capacity – Pandemics have just as much impact on your workers as they do your customers. It’s critical to ensure they have the ability to fulfill their duties while protected.
- Planning – As a business, bring your staff together and prepare a plan for what you will do if the COVID-19 situation worsens or improves.
- Capital Access – Pandemics like COVID-19 can strain a small business’s financial capacity to make payroll, maintain inventory and respond to market fluctuations (both sudden drops and surges in demand). Businesses should prepare by exploring and testing their capital access options – SBTDC can assist with this.
- Changing Market Demand – Access controls or movement restrictions might impede your customers from reaching your business. Additionally, the public may decide not to go to your business out of concern of exposing themselves to greater risk.
- Marketing – It’s critical to communicate openly with your customers about the status of your operations, what protective measures you’ve implemented, and how customers will be protected when they visit your business. Promotions may also help incentivize customers who may be reluctant to patronize your business.
- Inventory and Supply Chain Shortfalls – It is prudent to ensure you have either adequate supplies of inventory for a sustained period and/or diversify your distributor sources in the event one supplier cannot meet an order request.
- Facility Remediation/Clean-up Costs – Protect customers and staff by increasing the frequency and intensity by which your business conducts cleaning of surfaces frequently touched by occupants and visitors. Check your maintenance contracts and supplies of cleaning materials to ensure they can meet increases in demand.
- Insurance Coverage Issues – Many businesses have business interruption insurance; Now is the time to contact your insurance agent to review your policy to understand precisely what you are and are not covered for in the event of an extended incident.
SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans
SBA ECONOMIC INJURY DISASTER LOANS (EIDL)
The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Here’s key information you need to know:
In order to be eligible, you must be a small business (500 employees or less). Eligible businesses include:
- Tennessee small businesses affected by the disaster – common eligible businesses include retailers, restaurants, recreational facilities, tourism-based businesses, manufacturers, owners of rental property, hotels, and wholesalers
- Private non-profits
- Small agriculture cooperatives are eligible, but agricultural enterprises are not
- Small aquaculture businesses
Criteria for loan approval
- Credit history – Applicants must have a credit history acceptable to SBA
- Repayment – SBA must determine that the applicant business has the ability to repay the SBA loan
- Eligibility – The applicant business must be located in a declared disaster area and have suffered working capital losses due to the declared disaster.
Use of loan funds
These working capital loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that could have been paid had the disaster not occurred. The loans are not intended to replace lost sales or profits or for expansion.
You will not be asked how much you would like to borrow. The SBA uses the information you provide to determine the loan amount. Small businesses can receive a secured loan up to $2 million, and an unsecured loan up to $25,000.
Interest rate and term
The interest rates for this disaster at 3.75 percent for small businesses and 2.75 percent for non-profit organizations.
- Economic Injury Disaster Loans over $25,000 require collateral
- SBA takes real estate as collateral when it is available
- SBA will not decline a loan for lack of collateral, but requires borrowers to pledge what is available
Basic filing requirements
- Completed SBA loan application (SBA Form 5 or 5C)
- Tax information authorization (IRE Form 4506T) for the applicant and other business principals
- Complete copies of the most recent Federal Income Tax Return.
- Schedule of Liabilities (SBA Form 2202)
- Personal Financial Statement (SBA Form 413)
- Current year—to-date profit and loss statement
- Monthly sales figures (SBA Form 1368)
How to apply
While paper applications are accepted, filing electronically is easier, faster and more accurate. You can apply here.
SBA is projecting that once a completed application is received, it will take 2-3 weeks to get a “yes or no” decision. If the loan is approved, it will take approximating 7 days to receive the funds. Taken together, it will likely take about a month between submitting a completed application and receiving the loan proceeds.
While the application process may seem daunting, assistance with preparing financial statements and submitting the loan application is available from the TN SBDC and other SBA partners.
Federal Coronavirus Tax Relief
Filing Dates Extended
The U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service have announced that the federal income tax filing due date is automatically extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020. Taxpayers can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment tax.
CDC Guidance for Businesses & Employers
Health and government officials are working together to maintain the safety, security, and health of the American people. Small businesses are encouraged to do their part to keep their employees, customers, and themselves healthy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the most up-to-date information on COVID-19. This interim guidance is based on what is currently known about the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
For updates from the CDC for business and employers, see the following:
TN Unemployment Benefits
Benefits for COVID-19 Unemployment
Unemployment insurance tax is a tax on employer payrolls paid by employers from which unemployment benefits are paid to qualified unemployed workers. Visit https://www.tn.gov/workforce/covid-19/employers.html for more details.
COVID-19 Response Act: FLMA Expansion
Family & Medical Leave Expansion Act
(Summary provided by TRP Sumner)
On March 18, 2020, the COVID-19 Response Act was signed by the President. The recently passed Act includes separate sections that directly affect employers and employees. Three of the COVID-19 Response Act sections are:
EMERGENCY FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE EXPANSION ACT:
- Covers employers with fewer than 500 employees, including small employers who are not covered by the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act).
- Employees need only to have been employed for 30 days to be eligible for the new leave.
- An eligible employee is allowed 12 weeks of FMLA leave.
- Paid leave must be provided for each day of leave after the first 10 days of leave and is subject to a cap of $200 per day or $10,000 total.
- The Secretary of Labor has authority to issue regulations for certain reasons to exclude workers in certain essential industries and exempt certain small businesses.
- Effective date: No later than April 2, 2020 through December 31, 2020.
EMERGENCY PAID SICK LEAVE ACT:
- Imposes requirements to provide two weeks of sick pay. This covers the 10-day gap of the FMLA Expansion Act.
- Covers any employer with under 500 employees.
- All employees are covered without a minimum time of employment.
- Employers must pay sick leave to any employee unable to work (including teleworking) who is affected by the COVID-19 virus. Included are individuals who have the virus, are quarantined, are seeking a medical diagnosis, are caring for an infected family member, and other related issues to the virus.
- Employers must pay full-time employees for 80 hours.
- Part-time employees are paid for two weeks based on hours historically averaged over a six-month period.
- Under the new regulations, employees who are on sick leave because they are sick can receive their full pay, up to $511 per day or $5110 total.
- Leave taken to care for children whose school or daycare has closed is paid at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay, with a maximum of $200 per day or $10,000 total.
- Employers cannot force you to use up your vacation or other sick time before receiving this benefit. There is a ten-day waiting period before this benefit applies. Employees can use existing sick or vacation time to cover these days.
EMPLOYER TAX CREDITS FOR PAID SICK AND PAID FAMILY LEAVE
The Act provides a series of refundable tax credits for employers paying paid sick leave or family medical leave including tax relief for self-employed individuals. These tax credits will apply against the employer portion of Social Security taxes.
- Employers receive tax credits for 100 percent of what they pay out to employees, with the above-noted limits.
- Businesses with 50 or fewer employees can be exempted from these requirements by the Secretary of Labor.
- Employers with fewer than 25 employees do not have to restore employees to their previous positions.
The imposed pay limits may impact the amount of the tax credit. However, employers will receive a refund if their costs for qualified sick leave or qualified family leave wages exceed the taxes they would owe.
MANAGING REMOTE WORKERS
A guide from Harvard Business Review
In response to the uncertainties presented by Covid-19, many companies and universities have asked their employees to work remotely. While close to a quarter of the U.S. workforce already works from home at least part of the time, the new policies leave many employees — and their managers — working out of the office and separated from each other for the first time.