The Coronavirus epidemic, also known as COVID-19, has spread fear and panic around the globe including the fact that many businesses (both small and large) have had to close or are inching towards the need to close. As the Dow Jones is struggling to recover from its terrible plunge and consumers are staying home due to fear they may contract COVID-19, many small business owners are staying extra vigilant and taking drastic measures to combat the disease.
Firstly, if possible, it is critical to establish a way for at least some of your employees to work remotely so business can continue. Of course, this is not always possible for jobs such as waitressing or nursing, but many positions (e.g. HR/payroll/customer care) can be converted into an at-home position. Programs like Slack and Skype are widely used by businesses and no time is better than now to find the one that is best for your business and utilize it to its full potential.
You should also be up front with your customer base about your current situation in this difficult time. If your business communicates with customers and clients via email, it can be beneficial to send out a genuine email blast to all of them explaining what kind of impact COVID-19 is having on your business and reassuring them that you are doing your best to take the precautions necessary to protect all of them as well as yourself and your employees at this time. That way, you build trust with them and maintain as much connection with them as possible while your business is closed.
In some situations, business interruption insurance may be beneficial if your business has been negatively impacted by COVID-19. According to the Insurance Information Institute, this is also known as business income insurance and, if needed, “covers the revenue you would have earned, based on your financial records, had the disaster not occurred.” Ensure your business has sufficient coverage that will last for several days or weeks if needed. Some plans are very short-term and may not provide enough coverage to outlast however long the COVID-19 threat leaves your business closed. Check your current insurance packages to determine what coverage you have, as this insurance is oftentimes built into your chosen policy.
It is definitely a good idea to also look at the relief options that the Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering. The Trump administration approved the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans, which will “offer up to $2 million in assistance for a small business” and can “provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.”
The SBA reports their loans will “pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact.” There is a 3.75% interest rate for small businesses without any other credit sources and a 2.75% interest rate for non-profit organizations.
Not only has the SBA announced it will be offering assistance, many local governments have, too. As COVID-19 continues to spread, more states and cities are announcing relief opportunities and general recommendations for their residents. Last week, Georgia governor Brian Kemp ordered thousands of state employees to work remotely and avoid traveling if possible. Chris Clark, the president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, has stated that despite all of the mass closures and cancellations, he “wants businesses to find ways to protect people and still remain open.”
It is expected that more and more state and local governments will be implementing assistance for small businesses, so owners should continue to check their state’s government websites for updates.
Although many people view banks and credit card companies in a negative light, several have announced they will be working with their clients to survive the current crisis. Wells Fargo and Capital One are just two corporations who have issued statements indicating they will be offering assistance to customers. Citi also announced that for 30 days, it would waive service fees, early CD withdrawal fees, and mobile deposit fees for small businesses as well as extend their hours of customer support. If you are concerned for your business, it isn’t a bad idea to contact your bank.
Ultimately, the hope is that the COVID-19 epidemic will pass within the next couple of weeks, but it is best for small business owners to be prepared for anything and know what tools are available to them in case they do need to remain closed for an extended period of time.
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