COVID-19 Weekly Update – October 21st 2020
Lately, economists have been talking about a “K-shaped” recovery from the current recession. As this article in The Conversation explains, this kind of recovery happens when different parts of the economy recover at different rates. White-collar workers who can more easily work remotely may have an easier and faster path to recovery than blue-collar and service workers who must be physically present to do their jobs.
Moving forward is the only option we have to get through this crisis. Here are some ideas to help us all move forward and stay healthy!
Take a few 15 minute breaks during the day. Get out of your home or office in the morning or evening for a short walk, bike ride or run. When you stop for lunch also take some time for a quick series of stretches or a quick chat with a friend. Adding these few things to your day can help ease the pressure and enable you to refocus when you come back to your desk. For me of course it’s a walk down the block to the beach where I see the clouds and sun create an amazing view that I am happy to share it with you…
CARES ACT UPDATES
Another stimulus bill?
By Tuesday, it will be clear if another stimulus package will happen before the election. That’s the deadline House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during talks on Sunday. While President Trump has signaled that he is willing to go at least as high as the $2.4 trillion that Pelosi is asking for – if not higher – that offer has been rebuffed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. If the Tuesday deadline isn’t met, Pelosi says it will be impossible to get financial assistance out before the election.
Economic Impact Payments (aka Stimulus Checks)
The IRS has extended the deadline to November 21 for non-filers to enter information using the IRS non-filers tool so that they may receive a stimulus payment by year’s end. Millions of people are eligible for stimulus checks but have not yet received them because their income was too low to require filing a 2018 or 2019 tax return. Using the secure non-filers tool will allow the IRS to send payments to eligible recipients this year. Otherwise, they will have to wait until 2021 when they file a 2020 tax return.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
No, your PPP loan forgiveness application is not due at the end of October, despite what the application forms seem to imply. To comply with internal requirements, the upper right corner of the forgiveness application forms (3508, 3508EZ, and 3508S) all show an expiration date of October 31, 2020, but this is not the deadline to apply. According to an updated set of SBA FAQs, borrowers can submit an application at any time before the term of their loan expires. The SBA plans to make new versions of those forms available before the current ones expire.
Even with the additional simplified forgiveness application, Form 3508S, which can be used for loans under $50,000, lenders are still unsure of how to proceed. We are waiting for additional clarifications from Congress and the SBA before we finalize, or recommend submitting the applications we are working on. Some lenders anticipate that processing the forgiveness applications may take as much as three times as long as processing the initial loan applications. We are hearing that many borrowers are also uneasy, and a few are retaining enough cash to repay the loan in full if theirs is not forgiven completely.
How Businesses Can Help Employees
Back in March, President Trump made an emergency declaration for the entire nation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That declaration means that two IRS code sections related to federal disasters come into play. As The Tax Advisor explains, this means that employers can offer two forms of tax-free financial assistance to employees. First, employers can offer qualified disaster payments “to reimburse or pay reasonable and necessary personal, family, living, or funeral expenses incurred as a result of the qualified disaster.” Second, in addition to offering work-related education programs, employers can also help with student loan payments. Both types of financial assistance are fully deductible for employers and are also tax-free grants for employees.
WORKING FROM HOME
Collaboration in a remote environment requires intentionality since we can’t simply pop down the hall to ask a question. These four tips from the Harvard Business Review can improve collaboration in a virtual world. In brief: Use regular meetings, but be sure to keep them structured and be cognizant of your team’s already busy schedules. Share documents with clear instructions on what other team members are expected to do. Work side-by-side virtually by scheduling online meetings where both participants work on similar projects and can give each other feedback. Use messaging apps, but decide in advance what level of engagement is appropriate for you.
Another article from the Harvard Business Review explores the murky topic of office politics when there is no office. Informal office power dynamics, sometimes positive, sometimes toxic, have long dictated whose agendas were supported, and which team members received promotions. The virtual work world provides an opportunity to reset those relationships so that the work becomes more about substance than form. In addition, because everyone is now remote, it’s just as easy to network with someone in another part of the country or the world as it was to network with the person in the next cubicle.
While you might assume that introverts, who need time alone to recharge, might be thriving in the work from home world, research highlighted by Fast Company indicates that this group is more susceptible to mental health issues during prolonged isolation. Introverts find video calls especially draining, so limiting the number of those, and moving some conversations to chat or text can help them out. Full houses with limited privacy are especially challenging for introverts, so offering flexibility in work hours, or allowing them to work in the office can give them the quiet they need to be productive.
LIVING WITH AND AFTER THE PANDEMIC
Work in the post-pandemic world
After months working from home, many of us are psychologically ready to see our co-workers again, but it also means spending money on things we haven’t had to for months. Consider the extra expenses for gas and commuting, lunches out, coffee, and day care plus new expenses for masks, gloves and hand sanitizer before you commit to going back to the office.
Returning to work means compliance with new safety protocols to keep everyone as safe as possible from the risks of cumulative exposure to the virus. Here are ideas to increase compliance by anticipating friction points, making it part of the social contract, and making it easy for employees.
In our office we have set up staggered in-office days, sit at separate tables for lunch, keep the air flowing either with open doors and window or a/c, wear masks which allow us to insert a filter, have hand sanitizer on each desk and have a hand sanitizer and temperature station.
- 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
- 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!