Everyone is overwhelmed with information right now. This page is our information center, where we are gathering just the most current, most relevant information for our clients. We’ll update this page as events unfold.

What should I do to make sure my employees are healthy?
The Department of Health has released a series of guidelines for how to handle sick or possibly sick employees, during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Department of Health has also released guidelines for screening protocol for employees and visitors to your workplace or jobsites.

What are Essential Activites? Is My Project Essential?

Wednesday, March 25, 2020 – This Construction Guidance Memorandum is fairly clear, and specific to construction.

Monday, March 23, 2020 – Order 20-25 is the most current set of clarifications, with regards to the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order.

Monday, March 23 – Along with Order 20-25, this List of Essential Activities was released.

What is Families First Coronavirus Act (FFCRA)? Are employees staying home based on the 'Stay Home' Order eligible for paid sick leave?
On Wednesday, March 18 Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Act – This poster must be posted at all active jobsites and distributed to all remote workers.

In short, with regards to employers specifically, this law requires employers to pay sick leave for employees who are sick and need to self-quarantine, who need to care for someone who needs to self-quarantine, or who need to take care of children because of school closures. Employers will receive tax credits to offset these costs. Employers may NOT require workers to use other paid time off for these situations.

Workers who are unable to work because of the ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy’ order are NOT eligible to receive these 80 hours of paid sick leave. Generally, if the workers are unable to work because the workplace is closed due to state order, that time is expected to be handled by other means. The FFCRA is ONLY for workers who are specifically quarantined due to exposure or illness (or caring for someone, or caring for a child whose school is closed.) For a more detailed answer, read this Q&A from the Department of Labor (specifically answers 23 – 28)

What is the CARES Act and how does it apply to me?
On Friday, March 27, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (The CARES Act.) This law provides relief in many avenues for individuals and businesses affected by the coronavirus crisis, including expanded unemployment, access to medical care, and financial relief for many families. However, most of the questions we are hearing are related to the provisions it makes for special loans to small businesses that can be converted to grants.

In short, the CARES act provides funding to back loans for small businesses (under 500 employees) for an amount equal to 2.5 times their monthly payroll expenses (to a maximum of $10 million.)

If this money is spent on payroll, mortgage, rent or utilities, and if the business is able to avoid reductions in the number of employees or pay rates of those employees, some or all of that loan can be forgiven, essentially converting it to a grant.

Any money that is still due can be paid back in up to ten years with an interest rate no greater than 4%.

These loans do NOT require that the borrower tries to borrow from other sources first, do NOT require personal guarantees, and do NOT require collateral, which makes them easier to obtain than SBA loans.

For more information, check out the US Chamber of Commerce Small Business Loan Guide and Checklist.

For more detailed information, watch this Virtual Town Hall, held by the US Chamber of Commerce and Inc Magazine.

What important dates do I need to track?

  • April 1 – FFCRA coverage begins
  • April 3 – PPP Applications begin being accepted for small businesses and sole proprietorships
  • April 10 – PPP Applications begin being accepted for independent contractors and self-employed individuals
  • June 30 – PPP Applications Close
  • June 30 – Laid Off Employees must be rehired in order to qualify for maximum loan forgiveness

How do I navigate the tax code related to these new laws? Can I reclaim those FFCRA paid leave hours by deferring my federal tax payments?
This IRS Resource Center is a good place to start that details general information about tax relief as it related to the coronavirus crisis.

For information on how to recover the 80 hours of paid sick leave granted by the FFCRA, check out this IRS news release that details some of the ins and outs of how it works. In short, employers are able to deduct qualifying paid sick leave covered under the FFCRA from the payroll taxes they pay.

In addition, the CARES Act includes a couple of provisions that can also affect your employer portion of payroll taxes. Section 2301 provides a tax credit against employer Social Security taxes for companies who were fully or partially suspended due to Stay Home, Stay Healthy or who experienced a 50% decline in gross receipts.

Section 2302 allows employers to defer paying their share of Social Security tax until they pay part of that tax due in 2021 and the rest in 2022.

You can read about Sections 2301 and 2302 in this article.

In addition to all of the changes currently being made to tax law to help with the current disaster, Section 139 of the existing tax code is also in play. This section relates to what are called ‘Mitigation Payments’ and they relate to money paid to help recover from a disaster. Since Washington State is currently classified as a disaster area, this code may be relevant to expenses you incur.

While these links can help you get your head around what tax laws might help you at this time, we recommend that you talk with an accountant about your own specific situation since tax law can be tricky!

How do I apply for the loans that are available to help me?
There are two programs that are available right now for lending money to small business owners.

First, because Washington State is classified as a disaster area, you can apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan. This is also known as an EIDL loan. This is an SBA loan and has certain qualifications. You must prove that you have attempted to get a loan elsewhere, make a personal guarantee, and have collateral for the loan. You can find more information and apply for an EIDL loan here. This is an SBA loan that must be paid back (though there is a program that allows for a $10,000 advance that you can get as fast as 3 days after application and won’t have to pay back if you spend the funds on qualified expenses.)

Second, the CARES Act provides the Paycheck Protection Program (explained in more detail above) a loan that can be ‘forgiven’ (converted to a grant)

Check this SBA Information page for more info as it becomes available, and you can look for a local SBA entity to give you more guidance here.

You can find the application form here. You’ll apply for a PPP loan through any SBA lender (and more lenders are being approved by the day.) A good place to start is to fill out this application and take it to a lender that you have a relationship with. They should be able to help you from there.

If I'm working on Essential Activities, do I need a letter or pass to go to work?

 

The answer is No.

Directly from Order 20-25:

In addition, local publication West Seattle Blog contacted Department of Commerce spokesperson Penny Thomas to verify this after hearing many concerns and got a clear answer that essential workers do NOT need a pass of any sort.

Will people be arrested for being out and about?

Law enforcement is planning to approach this situation with a focus on Engagement and Education. This means that they plan to enforce this by talking to people, rather than issuing tickets or making arrests. Read more (as well as yet another reassurance that passes are NOT required) in this statement from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

What other resources do you have for me?
ABC Western Washington has been doing an excellent job at keeping members (and everyone else) up to date as circumstances continually change. Their information page is here.

We are currently holding a Remote Weekly Business Forum with ABC of Western Washington. Learn more about the group and how to participate (it’s free!) as well as watching or listening to previous sessions of the forum here.

And as always, don’t hesitate to give us a call if you have a specific issue, or need assistance. We’re here to help!