COVID-19 Business Update – 2 December 2020
After months of only bad news about the spread of COVID-19, recent announcements of successful trials of three different vaccines bring a sense of optimism that the return to “normal” is on the way. Pfizer was first, and chartered flights bringing the vaccine to the U.S. from Belgium began on November 27. By mid-December, people may begin receiving that vaccine. A vaccine by Moderna has also completed trials and that company is also requesting approval by the FDA. The third strong candidate, produced by Astra-Zeneca, also has promising results, but due to an anomaly in dosage for trials, will need further investigation before it is ready for widespread distribution. The latter two do not require the ultra-cold storage conditions that the Pfizer vaccine needs, so maybe easier to distribute.
Let’s hope that this is the beginning of good news for these difficult days!
CARES ACT UPDATES
Another stimulus bill?
While both Republicans and Democrats agree that another stimulus package is needed, they remain far apart on the size. Democrats are sticking firmly to a $2.4 trillion price tag, while Republicans are in favor of something much smaller, perhaps only $500 billion. With less than a month left to reach a deal before the holidays and before the benefits of the current stimulus expire, the possibility of a compromise remains unclear. Even if people can begin receiving a vaccine in mid-December, economists warn that it will take several months before enough people have been vaccinated to allow a return to pre-pandemic activity.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
One of the latest cases of fraud in the PPP involves a family that received $7.2 million for farm businesses that did not exist. A family in suburban Cleveland created 72 companies with agriculture-themed names that were all located at a cluster of three addresses, none of which were actually farms. According to an attorney for the family, they misunderstood the requirements for the loan program, and maybe returning their cash.
The IRS is doubling down on its previous announcement that expenses paid with PPP loan proceeds are not deductible, even if expenses are paid in 2020, but forgiveness of the loan is not granted until 2021. However, the American Institute of CPAs is mobilizing members to push members of Congress to support a bill that clearly allows for deduction of these expenses. Some loan recipients may forego loan forgiveness so that they can deduct the expenses.
One of the side effects of the PPP was the increased role that fintech companies had in getting funds quickly to small businesses. This new and expanded role for fintech companies such as Kabbage, Square, Paypal, and Intuit may pose a long-term existential threat to traditional brick and mortar banks.
Economic Impact Payments (aka Stimulus Checks)
The IRS has updated its FAQs to include instructions under QA5 for what should happen if a deceased person received a stimulus check. If the payment was made for joint filers, but one member of the couple has passed away, the portion for the deceased person should be returned.
Main Street Lending Program
Shortly before Thanksgiving, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin requested that the Fed return the $455 billion allocated to the Federal Reserve for lending to small businesses, local governments, and nonprofits so that Congress could reallocate those funds in the new year. Even though the funds were not used as extensively as intended, the presence of those reserves as a backstop had been reassuring to markets. By terminating those lending facilities, the incoming administration may have fewer liquidity options when other benefit programs expire at year’s end.
Besides providing immediate financial support for individuals and small businesses, the CARES Act expanded the ability for businesses to receive tax refunds when they operate at a loss. Businesses that incur a loss in 2018, 2019, or 2020 can carry a net operating loss back five years to receive a refund of taxes paid in a profitable year. Contact our office to take advantage of a quick refund process which could put cash in your pocket within 90 days of filing an application.
LIVING WITH AND AFTER THE PANDEMIC
Work in the post-pandemic world
Now that many of us are settling in to working from home for the long haul, those early improvisations with kitchen tables and couches are taking a toll on our bodies. Investing in an ergonomic desk and chair, or even making small tweaks like sitting on a pillow, can help ward off more serious problems in the future.
Along with improved ergonomics, developing a long-term strategy for how to make remote work function well for your company will ensure that your team is set up to succeed. Start by considering what your team members need, both on an individual basis and as part of a group. Today’s buyers’ market for real estate means that options that were previously unaffordable may be within reach today. Don’t forget to develop a communications policy to define what types of conversations can happen in a chat application and which should be formalized in email.
Charisma in person is very different from charisma in a Zoom meeting. Fortunately, a few simple techniques can make the difference between commanding a video meeting and sinking into the background. Zooming in with the camera so that your face occupies the majority of the screen helps to create a stage presence, as does ensure that you’re always looking directly at the camera. Speaking slowly, and using variations in tone and cadence can help others understand your speaking and keep your words engaging. In email and text communications, a conversational and upbeat tone with comments that refer to others in a positive light keeps your name top of mind.
Taking into consideration the productive working style of your co-workers and tailoring your communications to those styles can also help to unify a team and reduce inadvertent misunderstandings. For example, some people are Prioritizers, so they prefer logical and succinct communications with little chit-chat. Arrangers, on the other hand, thrive when they form deep connections with team members, so will want to know how everyone’s weekend was.
- 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
- Intuit QuickBooks has a dedicated page to help small businesses
- The Red Cross has pointers to help young adults stay safe
- 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
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!