7 Resources for Navigating Business Closures During a Pandemic
By Gina Rubel
The new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed business and personal routines, raised questions and concerns, and opened people up to new ways of thinking and new technologies around the world. As we enter week two of the stay home orders throughout much of the U.S., there are many questions that business owners have about closures and how to maintain a semblance of business as usual under such an unusual circumstance.
- Essential vs. Non-essential: When trying to determine whether your business is classified as essential or non-essential, the first thing to do is to check with your state’s or city’s website as these directives are coming from local and state governments. The Department of Homeland Security has issued guidance for workers who are essential to infrastructure, however, the lists by jurisdiction will vary based on the severity of the coronavirus outbreak and the needs within each community.
- Waivers: Each jurisdiction has its own waiver process. In Pennsylvania, where our office is located, businesses can apply via the PA.gov website for a waiver to keep their physical locations open. According to the PA Governor’s office, “All decisions will be communicated by email and will balance public health, safety, and the security of our industry supply chains supporting life sustaining businesses.”
- Business Tax and Financial Relief: There is small business relief available and there likely will be more to come. The federal government has been working to pass legislation to help businesses and individuals negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. We have seen:
- The Federal Reserve cut interest rates by half a percentage point, its biggest single cut in more than a decade, as a pre-emptive move to protect the economy from the coronavirus.
- The Small Business Administration (SBA) has made disaster assistance loans available to small businesses impacted by coronavirus.
- The IRS income tax return filing deadline has been moved to July 15, 2020.
- Treasury, IRS and Labor announced plans to implement coronavirus-related paid leave for workers and tax credits for small and midsize businesses to swiftly recover the cost of providing Coronavirus-related paid leave.
- High-deductible health plans (HDHPs) can pay for 2019 coronavirus-related testing and treatment, without jeopardizing their status. This also means that an individual with an HDHP that covers these costs may continue to contribute to a health savings account (HSA).
- Remote Deposits Limitations: During several recent leadership conference calls, the question arose as to what to do about remote deposit limitations for small businesses. If you are unaware, there are generally two ways to deposit checks remotely: (1) via your mobile device; and (2) via a remote scanner. If you are accustomed to depositing money via your mobile device only, you should be aware that the remote deposit limitations are usually less than those that can be made using a bank-issued scanner. Since it is the banks that determine the amount that can be deposited based on their risk appetite, Jeane M. Vidoni, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Penn Community Bank said, “The first thing to do is to call your relationship manager at your business bank. Most banks have the ability to raise your remote deposit limits, either temporarily or permanently.” She continued, “If you don’t have a relationship manager, contact your bank’s call center. ”Vidoni also recommended that consumers watch 60 Minutes’ Coronavirus and the Economy: Best and Worst-Case Scenarios from Minneapolis Federal Reserve President. Neel Kashkari was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for International Economics and Development who ran the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) which helped pull the U.S. out of the 2008 recession. Another great resource to check out is the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) which has set up a coronavirus information portal for bankers and consumers. A Frequently Asked Questions for Bank Customers PDF which can be found at www.fdic.gov/coronavirus/.
- Mail Forwarding: If you are unable to enter your office building for whatever reason, the U.S. Postal Service® (USPS) provides individuals and businesses with the opportunity to forward mail either permanently or temporarily. You can find all of the mail forwarding options at usps.com/manage/forward.htm and determine which one will work for you under the current circumstances. If your building remains open, you should seek clarification on the #stayhome regulations in your area. In Philadelphia, for example, the Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Hon. A. Michael Snyder (Ret.) hosted a virtual meeting today during which this very question was raised. Charles Gibbs, co-chair of the association’s City Policy Committee confirmed with 1st Deputy Managing Director Tumar Alexander that it is permissible for lawyers or other staff to retrieve mail and do administrative functions that cannot be performed remotely in the office. The goal is to reduce the population on the streets. Whether or not this applies to other businesses is unclear. If you have questions about the orders in your area, reach out to your local, regional or state officials.
- Visa Expirations Amid a Global Health Advisory: COVID-19 has changed the rules for travel, engagement and employment and has raised tough immigration issues for businesses. As one who never practiced in the area of immigration law, I am not comfortable providing guidance other than to say that if you are dealing with visa expirations or immigration issues, contact an immigration attorney right away. Here are a few articles published on the topic.
- COVID-19: Immigration And Travel Ramifications by Miller Canfield attorneys on JD Supra
- COVID-19 and International Travel: The Latest Immigration Consequences of the Coronavirus by Ogletree Deakins attorneys on The National Law Review
- COVID-19 Immigration-Related Updates March 18, 2020 by Mintz attorneys on JD Supra
- Correct References to Coronavirus: At Furia Rubel, we defer to the AP Stylebook for all writing guidelines and we encourage our readers to do the same. For instance, coronaviruses are a family of viruses. According to the AP, as of March 2020, “the coronavirus” is acceptable on first reference in stories about COVID-19. Also acceptable on first reference: “the new coronavirus;” “the new virus;” “COVID-19.” However, the AP further elaborates that “passages and stories focusing on the science of the disease require sharper distinctions.”
Let us know what other questions or resources you’d like to share. We are happy to find experts to answer the questions we can not and to share your resources with our readers.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay home.