The COVID-19 crisis has hit small businesses hard and presented some unique issues due to the economic disruption the virus brought with it. While the federal and state governments are trying hard to help, it seems like every day there is new legislation to help small businesses weather this storm and it is difficult to keep them all straight. Have you been inundated with articles and information? As a commercial and employment attorney focused on helping businesses, I have been monitoring this rapidly evolving situation and can provide a short, consolidated menu of hot topics and resources to assist small businesses in Eden Prairie.
• Governor Walz extended the Stay at Home Order until May 18, 2020 in his Executive Order 20-48 issued on April 30. However, Governor Walz had previously signed Executive Order 20-40 on April 23 which allowed many employers in non-critical sectors to reopen their business and bring employees back to work as early as April 27, 2020, subject to certain conditions (which are still in place per his most recent Order). This announcement, while welcome news to businesses that have suffered economically due to mandatory closure under previous executive orders, also brings challenges as employers now scramble to prepare their workplace for reopening in the middle of the COVID-19 public health emergency. The order requires businesses to create an appropriate COVID-19 Preparedness Plan. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have issued guidance and recommendations as to what should be included in these plans. Click here for the components that should be considered for inclusion in businesses’ preparedness plans.
• Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), businesses may be eligible to receive an SBA loan under the Payment Protection Program (PPP).While the PPP had run out of money, Congress approved an additional $310 billion funding of the program and the second round of applications opened on April 27. The funds from this loan can be used in a variety of ways, including potential forgiveness opportunities, and can be found here.
• Governor Walz has also signed Executive Order 20-39, which extended deadlines related to the filing of charges of discrimination with the Department of Human Rights during Minnesota’s current peacetime emergency. Typically, under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, claimants have one year from the date of the alleged unlawful occurrence to file a charge of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation against their employer. However, under the order, if this one year deadline would have expired anytime during Minnesota’s peacetime emergency, the deadline is extended until 60 days from the end of the peacetime emergency or February 15, 2021, whichever is earlier. Click here for more information on how this might affect your business.
• Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provides historic protections for workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. I co-wrote an article about FFCRA that can be found here. The FFCRA went into effect on April 1 and applies to all employers with fewer than 500 employees. It includes two types of paid leave: (1) Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, and (2) Emergency Paid Sick Leave Sick Act. Companies with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from providing certain paid leave for covered child care purposes under the FFCRA. More information can be found here. Small businesses need to act quickly to provide the DOL’s FFCRA and should ideally create a policy implementing these benefits before that first employee qualifies under the act.
• Small businesses are eligible to receive Economic Impact Disaster Loans (EIDLs) are available from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) in all 50 states and U.S. territories. SBA EIDLs are intended to help small businesses who have or will suffer a substantial economic injury in a declared disaster area. Here is a list of top 10 things you need to know about SBA EIDLs.
• Special revenue funds from Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) are being used for an emergency loan program for small businesses. The loan program is specifically aimed at bridging the gap while affected businesses wait for federal money, which could take 60 days and totals $30 million and will provide between $2,500 and $35,000 in loans to affected businesses. More information can be found here.
• Governor Walz also issued an order to help workers seeking unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. A copy of the order can be found here. The CARES Act above also provides some temporary federal relief to those workers. There are differences between terminating employees, placing them on furlough, implementing pay reductions and reducing employee hours, as well as legal considerations for each. Seek legal advice to discuss the best options for your business.
Other topics effecting small businesses during this time are price gouging, contract obligations, taxes, and remote workers. If you’re interested in any of these topics, we have a resources page available here or if you have questions, feel free to reach out to me, Shannon McDonough, at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to discuss your situation with you.
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