COVID-19 Business Update – 7 October 2020
Fall is here, and with it, the beautiful colors of the season. Hikes and drives to see the colors are still something we can do, despite COVID-19, as this guide in the New York Times reminds us, with pictures and suggestions across the country. The Berkshires in Massachusetts, Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park, West Virginia’s Spruce Knob, Maine’s Grafton Notch, Percy Warner Park and Radnor Lake near Nashville, and Guanella Pass near Denver are all perfect destinations to seek a bit of beauty and quiet. If a drive or hike isn’t possible, try these six natural remedies for stress.
CARES ACT UPDATES
Another stimulus bill?
Pressure is mounting to reach a deal for a new stimulus bill, with less than a month before the election. President Trump tweeted from his hospital bed “GET IT DONE,” where he was receiving treatment for COVID-19. However, a deal between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi remains elusive, especially with three top Senate Republicans testing positive in the last few days.
Meanwhile, several states report that in the rush to get unemployment payments out, they inadvertently overpaid some recipients and want their money back. However, due to confusing calculations and delays in receiving payments, many people are unaware that they received too much money. Most spent the extra income long ago, and are still struggling to get by, so it is unclear how states will be able to recoup the extra money. This is especially true for the self-employed and independent contractors, who were eligible for unemployment benefits for the first time under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. A provision under this program requires states to claw back any overpayments, so relief from repayment will require action at the federal level.
With help from outside investors and local incentives, small rural communities, such as Emporia, KS, rebuilt their historic downtown corridors with restaurants and specialty stores. However, the COVID-19 pandemic may set those efforts back a generation as small businesses close. Some entrepreneurs have been able to pivot to an online or takeout model, or have received grants that will allow them to hang on for several more months, but many have not been able to adapt.
Economic Impact Payments (aka Stimulus Checks)
An estimated nine million people eligible for stimulus checks may not have received them because they did not file a 2018 or 2019 tax return due to low income. These people can still receive a payment this year if they update their information using the IRS non-filers tool by October 15. After that date, they will have to wait until 2021 when they file a 2020 tax return.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
According to emails received by the New York Post, the SBA expects to begin processing PPP loan forgiveness applications this week. Nearly two months have passed since the SBA began accepting applications on August 10, but to date, none of the 96,000 requests had been processed. All loans over $2 million will be audited. Business advocates and banking industry representatives complain that the process is too complex, even with a simplified form for smaller loans. Negotiations between Treasury and Congress are underway for a possible blanket forgiveness process for loans under $150,000.
WORKING FROM HOME
As weeks of enduring the pandemic stretched into months, and now at six months, no end is yet in sight, organizations are finding that their over-stressed employees will need additional support to see them through the next six months. An individualized approach is needed to prevent burnout. Taking time off and completely unplugging for a week or two is revitalizing, but simply listening to team members and acknowledging those who have taken on additional work also helps.
Keeping the team moving forward also means they may need help with boosting morale. Focusing on small improvements and celebrating even small wins combined with helping to keep everyone’s emotional gas tank full can help keep team morale high. Fostering employee resilience can also reduce burnout and enhance innovation as well as improve the bottom line.
Some office workers are taking advantage of forced remote work to experiment with being digital nomads. Reading reviews of accommodations beforehand reduces surprises when internet and wi-fi are not as reliable as advertised. Being transparent with clients and employers about locations is essential, according to veterans. Time zone differences may mean rising early or working late to accommodate clients.
Research has demonstrated a connection between clothing and performance at work: people who dress in professional clothing tend to perform better than those who don’t. However, evidence from the assertively casual dress of Silicon Valley leaders such as Mark Zuckerberg supports the claim that it is a person’s confidence that matters, not the outfit they wear. Some people are equally confident whether they are wearing formal wear or a hoodie and shorts. Many professionals are choosing the kinds of outfits they used to wear when coming in to the office on weekends – maybe nicer pants and a professional-looking shirt.
LIVING WITH AND AFTER THE PANDEMIC
Work in the post-pandemic world
Even before the pandemic, annual performance reviews were beginning to transform from a one-size-fits-most method to a more frequent and individualized approach. For many companies, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated that shift. This article in Fast Company presents the thinking of leaders of companies such as Intel, Udemy, and Keystone Partners on the past, present and future of performance reviews. For some leaders, the key metric of performance has shifted from hours at work to deliverables because the hours a person works in a remote work environment can no longer be reliably measured. Others are concerned with a possible loss of innovation when informal interactions become more difficult in a remote workforce.
New research from Lean In and McKinsey indicate that women’s modest gains in workplace equity over the last six years may be completely undone in one year. About one in four women in their latest survey reported that they were considering downshifting their career or leaving the workforce altogether due to fallout from the pandemic. Many working mothers with children are experiencing higher levels of burnout, due to additional childcare and homeschooling responsibilities. While companies with more women in leadership positions tend to perform better, the pandemic may result in the long-term departure of millions of women from those positions.
Back to school
While the media’s attention has focused on colleges and universities that have had uncontrolled COVID-19 outbreaks, there have been success stories. Small colleges in rural communities as well as larger universities such as Duke University with 17,000 students have been successful in allowing students to return to a nearly normal school year. Their secret? “Fast, widespread and frequent testing of people with and without symptoms is the best way to pinpoint and stop potential outbreaks.” Testing students twice a week helps to identify infected students while they are still asymptomatic but capable of spreading the virus to others.
- 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
- Kiplinger has a state-by-state guide to absentee ballot voting.
- 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!