Now that we are all “social-distancing” and trying to “flatten the curve,” we are starting to feel the effects of coronavirus isolation. Many of our local companies have been ordered to close, as “non-essential retail and commercial establishments.”
Whether we are working from home, attempting to home school our children, or hoarding supplies, this epidemic is having a huge impact on our daily lives, and the economy. Luckily, there are resources being made available to stimulate the economy and help small business.
Florida Authorizes Disaster Loans
In order to confront the economic impact of the shutdown, Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency on March 9 by executive order. Funds for small businesses in all Florida counties were made available to borrow interest-free for one year with the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program.
These loans are intended to “bridge the gap” between the time a major catastrophe hits and when a business has secured longer term recovery resources, such as sufficient profits from a revived business, receipt of payments on insurance claims, or federal disaster assistance.
For-profit, privately held small businesses that maintain a place of business in the state of Florida founded before March 9, 2020, who have at least two and at most one hundred employees may apply by May 9, as long as funds are available.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act
A new bill was passed by Congress, that goes into effect April 2: the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Under the bill, for the first 10 days of leave, paid leave is not required. Instead, employees may apply their vacation, personal, medical or other leave to their absence.
After that, an employer with fewer than 500 employees must provide full-time employees with 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave, and part-time employees with the average number of hours they work over a two-week period of emergency paid sick leave. These requirements apply to employees who have been working for the company for at least 30 days and who cannot work remotely.
Employers will have to pay the highest amount, between an employee’s regular pay and the applicable minimum wage. This payment is capped at $511 per day or $5,110 in total, unless the person is caring for someone else, like a child who is out of school, or relative with coronavirus, in which case the employee is entitled to two-thirds of the applicable wage, capped at $200 per day or $2,000 in total.
Generally, employers will be required to restore the jobs of those employees who take advantage of emergency leave. However, employers employing fewer than 25 employees will not be required to restore an employee as long as they made reasonable efforts to restore the employee to a position equivalent to the position the employee previously held.
The good news for employers is that there will be a payroll tax credit for 100% of the emergency sick leave wages paid to employees.
SBA Disaster Loans
The federal government is also offering disaster relief loans through the Small Business Administration. You can apply online or by mail, and must submit the completed loan application and a signed and dated IRS Form 4506-T giving permission for the IRS to provide SBA your tax return information. For either the Florida or federal loan program, you will need three years of business and personal tax returns, along with the required forms.
Other Helpful Options
There is a legal concept called “force majeure,” which may relieve someone of a contract obligation when an event occurs that is beyond their reasonable control, prevents their performance, and steps have been taken to avoid or mitigate the consequences.
Coronavirus may be considered such an event and may justify escaping some obligations. If you have insurance, be sure to ask your insurance agent for a complete copy of the policy so that you can evaluate whether you are entitled to coverage for “business interruption” or “acts of god.”
This Too Shall Pass
We are definitely in for a difficult few months, but as we recovered from Hurricane Andrew, South Florida will bounce back – and this too shall pass. Let’s all use this downtime to work on our businesses, clean our homes, and enjoy time with our families. At least we have hot water and air conditioning. Jane Muir is a business attorney and president-elect of the Miami-Dade County Bar Association. Learn more or schedule a consultation at www.jmuirandassociates.com.