Weekly Digest – March 3rd 2021
Congratulations! You got the COVID vaccine! I have an appointment for my first shot for this afternoon due to an underlying condition. Now what should you/we do? As an article in The Atlantic describes, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but “When deciding what you can and can’t do, you should think less about your own vaccination status, and more about whether your neighbors, family, grocery clerks, delivery drivers, and friends are still vulnerable to the virus.” While the vaccines do help keep the vaccinated people from getting as sick if they do contract COVID, vaccinated people can still pass the disease on to others. I have been “chained to my desk” and practice social distancing, but when I go out to the store or elsewhere I wear two layers of masks. My cotton masks have a slot for a KN95 replaceable filter and my second mask is a KN95.
Here’s a story and some phots to help you start your day with a smile:
My daughter Jessie was a foster failure – several months ago she co-fostered a boxer-pit puppy with a friend. The puppy was a great running partner, but was not fully trained and needed a lot of attention. When Jessie ran with the dog who wore an “Adopt Me” vest; one day a family approached her to see about adoption. Great ending, the puppy found a home with this family who has two young boys and a backyard.
A month later Jessie found another dog in need of fostering. This one was 4 years old and already trained, again a pit-boxer mix . She adopted Samson after 2 days (hence the failure label). He is very well behaved and as Jessie wanted to take long runs with him, sent him to a trainer for just that. Samson also goes to doggie day care & to the dog park – he is very well behaved and Jessie’s mom is happy to know she has a great running partner.
This article from The New York Times named “Pandemic Puppies and How to Train Them” explores the resurgence of dog training services during the COVID-19 pandemic. And while we’re at it, I am happy to share some photos of adorable adoptees, fosters, and dogs rescued by friends and family…
Casey a Greyhound rescue
New litter of puppies to be fostered as they start their “Service Dog” training as Canine Companions for Independence. Once they leave their first home, they are sent for special training and then placed with a person with disabilities.
Progress on Another Plan?
The Senate is set to vote today on a House measure passed February 27. While the final details will change as the measure makes its way through the system, here’s what’s in the version passed by the House:
- A third stimulus payment of up to $1,400 for each eligible person. Income ceilings may mean that some people who received the first two payments won’t receive as much or anything. Payments of $1,400 for dependents are also included. This payment calculator from Kiplinger will help estimate how much you could receive. Payments could go out as soon as March.
- Expanded federal unemployment benefits of up to $400 per week through August with options for extension for health and economic reasons.
- Expanded child tax credit of up to $3,600 per child.
- Expansion of childcare tax credit to a maximum of $4,000 for one child, $8,000 for two or more children.
- Additional $160 billion for coronavirus vaccine programs for state and local governments.
- An increase in the federal minimum wage to $15. The Senate will likely strip this out and propose this as a separate bill.
- Extension on the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures until September 30, plus $30 billion to help with rent payments.
- Funds to help schools reopen safely.
- Funding to help state, local, and tribal governments.
Lawmakers are still making changes and are confident that a plan will be in place before the provisions of the law passed in December expire.
Economic Impact Payments (aka Stimulus Checks)
According to the most recent updates to the IRS FAQs on the second round of stimulus payments, people who received their second payment via debit card will be getting a letter from the IRS if they have not yet activated it. The funds will stay on the card until the card is either activated or returned to the issuer, MetaBank.
If you’re eligible for the second round of payments but did not receive one, you can receive the additional stimulus payment as a Rebate Recovery Credit on your 2020 tax return. In order to make sure you receive the proper benefit, please complete the worksheet we supplied as well as copies of the bank statements with the full or partial payment you received circled. This will enable us to include the stimulus rebate reconciliation as part of your return.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
Starting on February 24, a two-week window will restrict PPP applications to businesses with fewer than 20 employees. This was in response to complaints that the previous round of payments went chiefly to large companies instead of to small businesses. Applicants with non-fraud felony convictions or who are delinquent on federal student loans can also apply, unlike the previous round.
In addition the funding was expanded to allow for sole proprietorships with no employees, who file a Schedule C as part of their personal tax returns to apply for a forgivable loan of up to $20,833.34. We have been promised guidance will be available this week and are waiting for this and our funding portal to offer this option. If we have not already reached out to you regarding this new development, please contact our office and let Ramona know you would like to apply.
Did you receive a letter from the IRS (Notice CP59) that said you did not file a 2019 tax return, even though you did? The IRS acknowledged in a statement on its website that 260,000 such letters were sent out by mistake. If you received such a letter, you do not need to do anything. You do not need to call or respond to the IRS in any way. The IRS is still continuing to process their backlog of 2019 tax returns.
Monday evening IRS issued IR-2021-48; guidance for employers claiming the Employee Retention Credit for 2020, including eligibility rules for PPP borrowers. As we study the guidelines our firm will look to enhance our stimulus support to enable our clients to receive refunds relating to amended payroll tax returns. One of the reasons we are placing 2020 business tax returns on extension.
Researchers at Stanford identified four causes of Zoom fatigue and have simple fixes to minimize the issue.
- Excessive amounts of eye contact is highly intense. Solution: Reduce the size of the Zoom window by taking it out of full-screen mode.
- Seeing yourself on-camera is exhausting. Solution: Choose the option to hide the self-view.
- Video chats restrict our usual mobility. Solution: Set up a camera further from the screen. Consider turning off the camera periodically.
- Sending and receiving non-verbal conversational cues is much harder on video. Solution: Give yourself an audio-only break periodically by turning off your camera and moving your focal point away from the screen.
The researchers have also developed a 15-question survey on videoconferencing fatigue. The results from this research will be used to help organizations and video conferencing software makers develop guidelines to help people minimize the negative consequences of this technology.
LIVING WITH THE PANDEMIC
How to make email better
Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, has a new book out on how to better manage email overwhelm. In this interview in Fast Company, he explains several methods that can help return email to what it does best: act as a medium for exchanging information. For example, use task boards to manage complex collaborative projects rather than requiring everyone to constantly monitor their inboxes for status updates. Set regular workflows for recurring projects so that everyone knows what to expect and when. Use an app like Acuity or Calendly to schedule meetings and eliminate those endless email chains.
My staff and I manage our emails by setting up file folders so that we can access information as needed. I recommend a main file for each business client with subfolders as needed. In addition I have set up a main file for all our individual tax clients with subfolders by client name. Subfolders can be added for any special projects or where access to specific notes is beneficial.
A return to the office – or not?
Is working from anywhere reality or fantasy? I believe the future of work will need to offer remote work at least on a part time basis as an option. This piece in SmartBrief points out the changing expectations of our work force. According to a recent survey, more than 80% of CEOs want their teams to return to the office. However, only 10% of employees are interested, mainly out of safety concerns. While many CEOs and managers prefer a physical presence, the pandemic has demonstrated to employees the benefits of flexible schedules and flexible workplaces. Returning to the office will need to present a mutual benefit for both employers and employees. As I read through the article I felt that open communication must be part of the solution and can help lead to a work situation that is comfortable and workable for staff and management alike.
The workplace of the future will offer more intentional opportunities for collaboration, as this article in Fast Company describes. While many workplaces will pursue a remote model, the physical spaces within will need to be redesigned to combine the best of work-from-home productivity and in-person connection.
- Our Covid-19 Resource Center with relevant blog posts, videos and prior weekly newsletters
- 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
- 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
- The Atlantic has a state-by-state coronavirus tracker
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!