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Save Your Business and Help Employees Navigate Furlough or Lay off with Compassion

Our employees and our team members are by far the most important assets to our businesses. They are the lifeblood of our companies. They are our friends and family away from home, with whom we spend 2,080 hours per year. As business owners, we care greatly for their well being. In times of crisis like Covid-19, we have a strong urge to find any way we can help them.

This document is a comprehensive guide to the resources that businesses and their employees will need to access the vital resources they need to survive, financial or otherwise. I hope this helps!

There is way too much noise on this topic out there, so I have created this live living document. I encourage everyone to add connections to direct resources that they find helpful. The news doesn’t help connect people to the resources and tools they need to actually find financial help and other forms of help necessary to survive this Covid-19 Crisis. This resource is created to connect people to the REAL resources, to the actual TOOLS and cut through the nonsense, spam, and clickbait. These resources will help you be informed with the best and most up to date information possible.

Corona Virus is changing our lives. This is a time for compassion and people coming together to help each other. Most of the people who will see this document first are well-to-do entrepreneurs. As entrepreneurs we care about our people, our employees. Having to lay off or furlough our people is literally the most painful decision we can face. I know so many entrepreneurs that really have no choice in the matter, these decisions need to be made now. Industries tied to hospitality, recreational activities, restaurants, travel, airlines, retail, health and fitness clubs, and so many more (please add more!) are having to immediately adapt in the worst possible way.

This is going to trickle down into all business sectors, there are going to be layoffs and furloughs across the board. I am sure all of you are thinking, as I am, about ways we can cushion the blow while telling people their jobs are on hold or even gone permanently.

This guide, a living document, is intended to be crowd sourced and to help people navigate the noise to connect directly to the resources they NEED NOW!

If we can HELP our people find the resources they need, they are more likely in turn to help businesses get back up and running when the time comes. And it will come - this outbreak will not last forever. Don’t cut jobs heartlessly, do it with compassion and spend your time helping your employees connect to the resources they need most. Just like us small business owners, they need help too.

Outplacement Services
Compassionate Care to Help Transitioning Employees

If you are laying off, furloughing, or reducing hours your employees will need help.

Our expert HR team will provide them with that.

Resources for Laid Off Workers

Facebook Grant Offering

So far, Facebook is not offering a ton of information on this resource, but they are beginning to extend a helping hand to those business owners looking to find ways to retain their workers, help employees keep their health benefits, and create remote working environments that are both healthy and productive. Facebook grants are intended to back up small businesses and make sure that those businesses in turn can back up and support their critical (and loved!) workers. I encourage you to sign up for their newsletter and future communications, which will help us support our workers soon. We signed up already: https://www.facebook.com/business/grants

  • Keep your workforce going strong
  • Help with your rent costs
  • Connect with more customers
  • Cover operational costs

So far, Facebook is not offering a ton of information on this resource, but they are beginning to extend a helping hand to those business owners looking to find ways to retain their workers, help employees keep their health benefits, and create remote working environments that are both healthy and productive. Facebook grants are intended to back up small businesses and make sure that those businesses in turn can back up and support their critical (and loved!) workers. I encourage you to sign up for their newsletter and future communications, which will help us support our workers soon. We signed up already: https://www.facebook.com/business/grants

  • Keep your workforce going strong
  • Help with your rent costs
  • Connect with more customers
  • Cover operational costs

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Corona Virus and Covid-19 Emergency Loan Resources

There is still not a ton of information available regarding this aid opportunity. The challenge with SBA loans is that you may need to ride out your losses for a while before applying in order for you to be ineligible for the highest maximum benefit. Nonetheless, I strongly recommend every business owner start this process, complete the applications now, be first in line, and begin gathering information needed to defend your claim.

Here is the direct link to the SBA website, the only reputable source for this loan

And click here for the link to directly apply for the loan.

Also, here is an update from March 17, 2020, on new SBA criteria for states to request disaster assistance loans specifically for small businesses impacted by the Coronavirus:  Coronavirus Financial Help for Small Businesses. It is possible that over the coming days we will see more state and local governments step in to also support small businesses using the criteria summarized below:

The Small Business Administration issued revised criteria for states or territories seeking an economic injury declaration related to Coronavirus (COVID-19).  The relaxed criteria will have two immediate impacts:

The process for states seeking SBA disaster assistance will become more streamlined and therefore will allow more states and territories to qualify. Historically, the SBA has required that any state or territory impacted by a disaster provide documentation certifying that at least five small businesses have suffered substantial economic injury as a result of a disaster, with at least one business located in each declared county/parish. Under the newly released revised criteria, states or territories are required to prove only that five small businesses within the entire state/territory have suffered substantial economic injury, not that there has been at least one small business per county/parish.
Statewide access to SBA disaster assistance loans for small businesses has been greatly expanded. SBA disaster assistance loans are typically available only to small businesses within counties that a governor has identified as “disaster areas.” Under the revised criteria, disaster assistance loans will be available across an entire state, following an economic injury declaration. This will apply to current and future disaster assistance declarations related to coronavirus.
For additional information, please visit the SBA disaster assistance website.

Businesses that have helped personally Us through this process:

MultiFunding

Here is a chat thread to help get everyone's questions answered about getting SBA Loans. Click here to get any additional questions answered so you can get your documents in order to apply for the SBA Loan.

Ami Kassar and his company, MultiFunding, know everything there is to know about getting SBA loans. My number one takeaway from their info is to file my taxes ASAP. If you are profitable, or have lots of assets, this applies to you as well. The sooner your 2019 taxes are filed, the faster you can get approved for LOW cost, easy to get, government-backed loans.

Hito Tax and R&D Tax Credits 

R & D Tax Credits are the best thing since sliced bread! They find you DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR tax credit for companies who innovate in just about anything related to science, technology, artificial intelligence, health sciences and more. They work on contingency, meaning that if they can’t find a way to help you, then you don’t have to pay. Trust me, it’s worth a call - they saved me over $10,000 in tax liability. That's equivalent to $30,000-$50,000 in TAX DEDUCTIONS, depending on your tax situation.

Outplacement Services
Compassionate Care to Help Transitioning Employees

If you are laying off, furloughing, or reducing hours your employees will need help.

Our expert HR team will provide them with that.

Resources for Businesses

Out of all of the companies within the United States, small businesses are the ones who are most likely going to have to make extremely difficult choices in light of this new virus. And of course, we are also the ones who have the strongest relationships with our current employees. Because many of us will be forced to cut back our workforce immediately or within the near future, we should be thinking about those who will be affected by these critical decisions. How can we do this with compassion? With love? How can we get our people, the people who have helped us to be successful, the resources they need in order to survive and, more importantly, thrive through this crisis?

Below is comprehensive information your people will need to get connected quickly with federal, state, and local government aid programs that have been expanded to support increased need. This information covers tax credits/deferments, current legislation that has already been passed or is working its way through Congress, paid sick leave, unemployment benefits, food assistance, furloughing, layoffs, loaning out employees, and more.

My unprecedented recommendation: if you have to lay people off, come prepared with a full suite of information to help your people connect to the resources they need. Don’t provide them with these resources the day or the week after you have to let them go. Bring them a compassionate message, along with the tools they will need. If you have the internal resources, have someone on your team be the liaison to help guide people through these processes. It’s okay to tell your employees that you don’t have all the answers right now, but that you want to go through this process with them together. Don’t just hand everyone a packet and wish them luck, offer them continued support indefinitely.

Please share the love on this living document too, so we can all benefit from what you are learning in real-time. We’re all in this together.

Tax Credits and Tax Payment Deferrals for Everyone!

Click here for everything related to tax credits and tax payment deferrals. It is live and consistently updated.

Delayed filing info:

The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service are providing special payment relief to individuals and businesses in response to the COVID-19 Outbreak. The filing deadline for tax returns remains April 15, 2020. The IRS urges taxpayers who are owed a refund to file as quickly as possible. For those who can't file by the April 15, 2020 deadline, the IRS reminds individual taxpayers that everyone is eligible to request a six-month extension to file their return.
Federal Government Covid-19 / Corona Virus Resources:

Live Updates on Current Congressional Bills:

This section will provide critical information in real-time regarding legislation to help our workers and our businesses that the House of Representatives and Senate are passing today and every day. I strongly encourage you to read these bills daily until you are out of the woods, and to reach out to your Senators and Representatives to advocate for additional relief for your business and your employees. Staying up to date on these relief packages will allow you to be first in line to access these benefits, which will significantly ease the pain of this crisis. Here are links for contacting your Senators and contacting your Representatives.

Recently Passed Legislation - these bills are now LAW

Main takeaways from the above bill, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act:

  • The government is establishing a fund to provide paid sick leave for folks quarantined/isolated due to exposure or infection of Covid-19, for folks who are exhibiting symptoms but have yet to receive a medical diagnosis because of the testing shortage, for folks taking care of someone infected with Covid-19, or parents taking care of children whose schools have been closed to slow the spread of Covid-19.

*Note on this bullet point: there is currently legislation being drafted by the Senate that would scale this sick pay back a bit. Senators are in negotiations about what changes might look like.

  • Health insurance companies are not allowed to charge a fee for coronavirus testing.
  • Food assistance programs will be expanded. One of the programs receiving the most expansion will be food assistance for the elderly. Also, work requirements that normally apply to people receiving SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits are temporarily suspended.
  • Unemployment benefit programs are also being expanded, including grants given to states to expedite the process of granting and processing unemployment claims.

Upcoming Legislative Actions

Here is the link to view all upcoming legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives

For business owners, in particular, several pieces of upcoming legislation may be the most interesting:

Summaries and the actual text of the bills are unavailable (as of 3/20) because most of them were only just introduced on 3/19, but keep checking back for updates. I will provide bullet point breakdowns, similar to the above explanation for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, as soon as summaries become available.

You may also want to let your (older) employees know that there is another piece of legislation being considered that looks like it might expand food assistance even further - H.R. 6313 - To provide for additional emergency nutrition assistance under the Older Americans Act of 1965 in fiscal year 2020 to respond to the declared COVID-19 public health emergency, and another bill specifically for helping older folks (and people with disabilities: H.R.6305 - To assist older Americans and people with disabilities affected by COVID-19. Again, no summaries at this time (3/20), but keep checking back.

RUMORS

Nothing official on this yet (3/20), but as mentioned above, the Senate is considering another Covid-19 relief package, in addition to the Families First act from the House. The New York Times is reporting that this package may include funding to provide “close to the full lost wages for a typical worker.” (LINK). Senate leadership is publicly saying they hope to wrap up negotiations on this package by midnight on 3/20.

State-by-State Resources on Paid Sick Leave

Many states, as well as the federal government, are offering short term family paid leave benefits for those who are sick, laid off, and/or furloughed. These benefits can be equivalent to a few weeks of near full compensation. Hopefully, the impact of this virus will blow over quickly, and these benefits will offer quick options for your employees to receive an amount close to their full pay, which will help them weather this storm in the short term:

Federal and State EXPANDED Unemployment Benefits

Here is a comprehensive list of all state and federal unemployment options, which will really help for employees who may be furloughed or unemployed in the long term. I would encourage you to select the programs in your area and get your people connected to them BEFORE their last day of work, or, at a minimum, when you have to break the news:

Whether you are furloughing your employees or laying them off entirely, encourage them to apply for unemployment insurance. Laws vary by state, particularly concerning whether or not furloughed workers are eligible. Here is a U.S. Department of Labor link to find information about filing for unemployment insurance in all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Additional Unemployment Resources: 

Because the outbreak of Covid-19 has been declared a national public health emergency, the Department of Labor is making $100 million available in Dislocated Worker Grants. See this link for the full press release. States and territories must apply for these grants, so reach out to your state labor office (contact info linked above) to see if those avenues are being pursued where your business is located. In addition, states can also become eligible for Employment Recovery grants if one of their employers has to lay off 50 or more people, or if there are “significant layoffs that significantly increase unemployment in a given community.” And let’s be honest, that criteria is probably going to apply to just about everywhere at this point. Employment Recovery grants provide training resources to re-integrate employees back into the workforce once jobs become available again.

Food Assistance Programs:

$1,200 CASH Payment Proposal

There have been conversations among some members of Congress about giving a $1,200 check to every American to help them through this crisis. The White House, Congress, and the U.S. Treasury are figuring out the exact logistics of what this payment proposal may look like. So far, there are no credible references regarding if this proposal is moving forward, or any specifics about disbursement, so anyone with any information on this, please keep us posted.

Outplacement Services
Compassionate Care to Help Transitioning Employees

If you are laying off, furloughing, or reducing hours your employees will need help.

Our expert HR team will provide them with that.

Other Creative Things We Can Do For Our People:

Keep Health Benefits Intact 

From my friend Garret B. - Continue to pay, and pay in full, your employee health insurance premiums. Go above and beyond and make sure they have NO out of pocket expenses. Health care is an essential human need, so health care support can go a long way to helping your employees and saving them the additional cost of trying to stay insured while receiving no income.

Temporary Partial Pay Reductions

Your highest-paid employees are more likely to be able to withstand a small or even substantial pay reduction, which could then free up money for your employees who are paid a lower amount. Even your lower-paid employees could potentially take a temporary partial pay reduction. This could really go a long way to extending your cash reserves and is one way to survive this massive reduction in business income.

Offer Ownership or Equity in the Company in Exchange for Pay

Look, if there is no work, and no money to pay wages, the best thing we can all do is stay busy and stay on the offensive in looking for opportunities where the business can make money. Offering your employees a share of ownership or equity in the company in exchange for a price is one way to keep your cash flow moving. Also, for some businesses, you could start thinking about creative revenue streams that you have never had time to focus on before. This situation is a great opportunity to finally take time to work on that software project you have always wanted to get off the ground. That way, when Covid-19 has run its course, your business is prepared to hit the ground running with a new product or service.

Loan Your Workforce to Another Business

If you have business connections who may need help getting something done, and are less affected by the virus, make a deal with them to loan out your people. For example, my team is built of marketers, sales people, recruiters, data scientists, software developers, and generally high-quality business people who are versatile and happy to stay busy.

Freelance work

Another option in this circumstance is to encourage your employees to seek out freelance work, and to connect them to the agencies who can help them learn how to make money based on skills they already have. Upwork is the most well-known and reputable freelance platform, and it is hosted entirely online, so your employees will not even need to worry about practicing social distancing! Web developers, graphic designers, writers, accountants, and experts in marketing, customer service, and administrative support are always in high demand within the freelance world, and your employees can definitely make some good money through this method. Just make sure to advise them to stick to short-term projects and contracts for now, as we don’t yet know when all of this will blow over and you could potentially bring them back on.

General Guidelines

Should you find yourself in the difficult position of laying off or furloughing employees, I am including some resources that you may find helpful.

These are all the steps and resources you might use to better plan your layoffs.

Difference Between a Furlough and a Lay-off

Furlough – a furlough is a temporary, unpaid, forced leave from work for a specific amount of time. Employees who have been furloughed still have jobs, but they are not currently working or being paid.

Lay-off – a lay-off is a reduction in force, where employees are let go from their position and not guaranteed they will be recalled to the position. Employees no longer have jobs and are not working or receiving compensation.

There are pros/cons to both lay-offs and furloughs, and decisions to move forward with either option should be analyzed carefully.  Please let me know if you would like to discuss specifics within your organization.

Partial furloughs (hours reduction)

Two creative solutions I heard about today were partial furloughs (basically equal to a reduction in hours, but not ending an employee’s work entirely) and offsetting your employee’s lost hours with unemployment benefits. In this situation, your employees can be eligible for these emergency unemployment benefits and still receive some extra cash from the company.

Even if you plan to only partially furlough your employees, your people are still going to be dealing with a pretty significant wage cut. They will need resources for handling the sudden reduction in take-home pay. The United States Office of Personnel Management deals with these situations often, thanks to frequent government shutdowns that lead to a lapse in funding for employee pay. They offer the following resources:

Sample Letters to Creditors/Bankers

If your employees have any debt, even a mortgage on their house, their ability to repay their debts is going to be drastically impacted by their reduction in pay. As of right now, several international governments, including Italy, have ordered a temporary suspension of mortgage payment collections until the Covid-19 crisis is over. While some individual U.S. states have ordered that banks and landlords may not evict mortgage holders and tenants for the time being, there is no current indication that the U.S. government is going to follow in Italy’s footsteps and entirely halt mortgage payments. Even if they did, that would not help employees who may have credit card debt, auto loans, or other forms of debt they need to pay down monthly. If an employee sends a letter to landlords, mortgage companies, banks, and other creditors explaining the sudden change in their financial situation, these entities are often flexible and can make allowances for employees in the short term.

Employees who have been furloughed are encouraged to speak with their creditors before sending a formal letter, but the letter serves as a follow-up in writing that the employee is trying to be proactive about assessing their debts. The federal government recommends employees keep a copy of the letter for themselves, and also send the letter via certified mail if possible.

Here are examples of letters:

Letter to a creditor -

Dear (Name of Company or individual with whom you have spoken)

This is to confirm our conversation of (date) in which we discussed a temporary reduction in my monthly payment.

As we discussed, I am a Federal employee who has recently been furloughed due to a lack of funding of my agency.  Because of this, my income has been severely cut and I am unable to pay the entire cost of my monthly payments, along with my other expenses.

As we had agreed in our conversation, I will be able to make regular payments in the amount of $_______.  I realize that I will be responsible to pay the remainder of the payments and, when I return to work, I will contact you immediately to work out a plan to take care of the reduced payments.  I will also keep in touch with you to keep you informed about my income status.

I appreciate your willingness to work with me and your understanding during this difficult time.

Sincerely,

(Name)

_________________

Account Number

_________________

Address

________________

Telephone Number

 

Letter to a mortgage company-

Dear (Name of Company or individual with whom you have spoken)

This is to confirm our conversation of (date) in which we discussed a temporary reduction in my mortgage payment.

As we discussed, I am a Federal employee who has recently been furloughed due to a lack of funding of my agency.  Because of this, my income has been severely cut and I am unable to pay the entire cost of my mortgage, along with my other expenses.

As we had agreed in our conversation, I will be able to make regular payments in the amount of $_______.  I realize that I will be responsible to pay the remainder of the payments and, when I return to work, I will contact you immediately to work out a plan to take care of the reduced payments.  I will also keep in touch with you to keep you informed about my income status.

I appreciate your willingness to work with me and your understanding during this difficult time.

Sincerely,

(Name)

________________

Account Number

________________

Address

________________

Telephone Number

 

Preparing for Lay-offs Checklist:

Attached checklist with items to consider.

Final Wages for Employees in California:

Wages, including earned and unused vacation/paid time off, are due at time of termination. Contact your Payroll Specialist for assistance with creating manual off-cycle checks.

*I also recognize that a good chunk of you all may not be based within California. For those of you with businesses in other states, here is a link to a comprehensive contact list of the labor offices in all fifty states. Officials in these offices will be able to talk you through the termination process to ensure you are in full compliance and provide you with any necessary paperwork/forms you may need. I am going to continue including information for California below, but feel free to add in any helpful resources for those of you looking at this from other states.

Paperwork at Time of Termination

In California, the following paperwork is required at time of termination:

  • Notice to Employee as to Change In Relationship (attached)
  • EDD: Four Your Benefit (Unemployment Brochure) (attached)
  • HIPP Notice (attached)

Additional Paperwork that you may choose to use:

  • Final Pay Worksheet Template (attached)
  • Final Pay Acknowledgement Template (attached)
  • Notification of Layoff or Furlough Letter (samples for both are attached)

WARN Act Considerations (for employers with 100 or more employees): 

If you have more than 100 employees, and you have to lay off at least 33% of them, the WARN Act requires you to notify both the employees themselves, and the State (or designated representative of the State, see labor offices listed above). This notification typically is required 60 days in advance of the layoff, although the act does make provisions for “natural disasters,” which I am assuming this virus would fall under. In those instances, an employer must give “as much notice as is practicable.” Honestly, in these circumstances, it is just a best business practice to give your employees as much notice as possible. Keep them in the loop, be fully transparent, tell them what you know even if what you know doesn’t seem like much. This virus is changing things on an hourly basis, but giving your employees as much notice as possible will allow them to best plan for themselves and their families. And will make them want to come back and work for you again in the future, too. Here is the link to the full WARN Act.

*Note: the WARN Act defines being laid off not only as an employee losing their job, but also as an employee being required to reduce their hours by more than 50% for six months. Obviously at this point we have no idea how long this situation is going to last, but if it does drag out for six months, be aware that even partially furloughing your employees may require you to give them adequate notice, if the furlough results in 50% fewer working hours.

Career Continuation Outplacement Manual

This manual is a resource you can provide to employees that may be laid off or furloughed (it is 90 pages, so you may wish to email it). Also I strongly recommend checking out nhlearninggroup.com for helping to retool your permanently laid off employees. They have authorized government training facilities nationwide.

California Employment Development Department Unemployment Insurance FAQs:

More COVID-19 Resources

Outplacement Services
Compassionate Care to Help Transitioning Employees

If you are laying off, furloughing, or reducing hours your employees will need help.

Our expert HR team will provide them with that.