Taking Care of Business During a Pandemic
As the US responds to the Coronavirus pandemic, many states are beginning to open up and businesses are operating with limitations. This resource from Multi State provides continuously updated resources with information about:
- Mask mandates
- Travel restrictions
- Reopening deadlines
- Impact on state legislative sessions
Our team is working hard to make good on our promise to serve those who have served. Never has that been more critical than this year as we have faced and continue to face a lot of uncertainty in business. We have compiled a list of personal and professional tips and resources to help you navigate the current COVID-19 situation. This page continues to be updated as more information becomes available.
Short-term action and long-term response need to be key areas of focus during this time. Here are some key pieces of advice to consider right away:
- It is not too late to write a business continuity plan.
- Be clear but concise about what your customers can expect from your business – if you are still up and running, communicate what you are doing to continue to serve them during this crisis. And if you decide to temporarily suspend operations, let your customers know that as well.
- Employers with fewer than 50 employees may claim an exemption from the emergency paid leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and the exemption applies specifically to leave taken for reasons of child care and school closures related to COVID-19, according to a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) guidance updated March 28. More details listed in People section below.
- The SBA has released Coronavirus Guidance and Resources. To learn more, click here
- In addition to traditional SBA loans, the CARES Act created new temporary programs to help small business owners during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay up-to-date here – https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options.
- The SBA has 68 District Offices throughout the country and also partners with a variety of other organizations and agencies to support and supplement its work. Find a local resource here – https://www.sba.gov/local-assistance.
In the current economic climate, it is important now, more than ever, to continue supporting veteran-owned businesses. View our Buy Veteran & Military Spouse Shopping Guide.
While businesses are reviewing reopening procedures and other policies, consider the effect the virus has on the people within each organization. Employees have become increasingly anxious with the rise of the pandemic and what it means to socially distance yourself in a working environment. While most companies have implemented a strict protocol to promote hygiene, other companies have reverted to working remotely. Big businesses have issued travel restrictions with the intention of limiting their employees’ exposure. In some cases, companies have been forced to shut down completely in response to the lack of incoming business. This outbreak has left many employees without a job. What’s next? First, protect your employees and provide them with resources to safely prepare as the virus unfolds:
Tips to prepare:
- DOL outlines small-business exemption from coronavirus paid leave law (HR Dive) – small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, including religious and nonprofit organizations, are exempt from two aspects of the FFCRA’s provisions — (1) paid sick leave due to school closure, place of care closure or child care provider unavailability for COVID-19 related reasons; and (2) emergency paid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) — when doing so would jeopardize the viability of the business, DOL said. An “authorized officer” of the business must determine whether it meets this criteria, according to the guidance.
- New isolation/return-to-work guidance from the CDC has caused many employers to revisit company policies. This analysis by HR Dive dives into the details you need to consider.
- Crosstrain employees if/when possible to prepare for employee absence
- Perform routine cleaning procedures
- Strengthen sick protocol and encourage or mandate sick employees to stay home
- Familiarize employees with FMLA laws, sick leave policy and company protocol
- Explore conditional paid leave options
- Current National Guard service members may be called to duty. Please take this into consideration when preparing for absences.
- Prepare unemployment packets in advance for your employees to make filing easier. Check USA.gov’s Unemployment Help Website to prepare and assist your employees. Also, don’t forget to check what your state requires to file for unemployment.
- Communication plan – send weekly communication regarding:
- COVID-19 Updates – check the CDC website for the latest updates
- Work protocol in response to the outbreak – SBA Guidance for Businesses and Employers
- Remote meetings
- Encourage an open dialogue with employees
- The Federal Communication Commission is helping businesses stay connected during the COVID-19 outbreak – Keep Americans Connected Pledge
- Prepare your team to work from home
- Develop a work from home policy
- Chamber of Commerce’s tips to create a work from home policy
- Ensure your employees have access to documents
- Teleconferencing setup for meetings- Teleconference services for virtual meetings
- Develop a work from home policy
COVID-19 is affecting more than just healthcare operations. Small businesses in all industries are forced to adjust and adapt to the changing consumer environment. While many companies are forced to cut their hours of operations to lower business costs, other businesses are capitalizing on e-commerce opportunities and virtual services. Below are tips to help shift your daily process to accommodate social distancing:
- Communication Is Key
- Communicate with your customers to let them know what you are doing to combat the virus; hygiene procedures, operating hours, response to the outbreak, SOP changes
- Chamber of Commerce tips on how to communicate with your customers and what other businesses are doing to stay connected during the pandemic
- Virtual Sales and Services
- Offering gift cards and vouchers online is a great way for services to increase a cash flow immediately. Kabbage Payments is helping small businesses sign up to sell gift certificates online.
- Digital marketing is essential in the wake of the coronavirus. Strategize how to shift to more digital efforts via ClickZ’s article on Digital Marketing in the Wake of the Coronavirus Outbreak.
- Virtual Customer Services
- Connect with your customers digitally; social media, video chat, telephone
- Increase online posts and advertising
- Shifting to e-commerce – The Balance Small Business released an article, 8 Easy Ways to Get Your Small Business Into Ecommerce
- Supply Chain Management
- Gartner released a three-tier approach on how to prepare your supply chain for disruption
- Alternate sourcing strategies can be generated from Harvard Business Review’s article on the need for more resilient supply chains
- Team to Win
- Team up with local businesses that would otherwise be your competitors to share information on responses and successful strategies
- Seattle is doing it right – teaming up with local businesses that would otherwise be your competitors to share information on responses and successful strategies
- Share your customers – collaborate to offer bundle deals that will entice customers to shop at both locations
- US Chamber Small Biz Corona Guide – https://www.uschamber.com/co/small-business-coronavirus
- The Federal Trade Commission is attempting to arm as many people as they can with tips on how to spot, avoid, and report Coronavirus scams. They are continuing to help their customers by establishing a website to keep everyone updated with important information on how to protect themselves from COVID-19 scams.
- Communication Is Key
All employers need to determine how best to mitigate the spread of the virus and lower the impact of COVID-19 in their workplace. They should identify and communicate their specific intentions, which could include protecting people who are at higher risk for adverse health complications, maintaining business continuity, and minimizing adverse effects on other departments or organizations in your supply chains.
When reviewing your organization’s policies and procedures, it is important to think through the second-order effects as well. For example, a ban on travel without a solid work-from-home policy can make the office crowded, leading to higher risk of transmission, and, if you conduct business from multiple geographical locations, consider what impact the closure of one office has on the productivity of another.
Some of the key considerations when making decisions on appropriate responses are:
Tips to Prepare:
- Have you written a business continuity plan? It’s not too late.
- Virus severity (i.e., number of people who are sick, hospitalization and death rates) in the community where the business is located
- Impact of virus on employees who are vulnerable and may be at higher risk for COVID-19 adverse health complications
- Prepare for possible increased numbers of employee absences due to illness in employees and their family members, dismissals of early childhood programs and K-12 schools:
- Employers should plan to monitor and respond to absenteeism at the workplace. Implement plans to continue your essential business functions.
- Assess your essential functions and the reliance that others and the community have on your services or products. Be prepared to change your business practices if needed to maintain critical operations (e.g., identify alternative suppliers, prioritize customers, or temporarily suspend some of your operations if needed).
- Do you know the rules around giving notice of COVID-19 exposure in the workplace and the sharing of medical information? Here is need-to-know data privacy information for reference.
- Allow local leadership/management to have authority to take appropriate actions outlined in their business infectious disease response plan based on the condition in each locality.
- Coordination with state and local health officials is strongly encouraged for all businesses so timely and accurate information can guide appropriate responses in each operational location
- Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) has additional tips for preparing your workspaces for COVID-19 (OSHA Standards for COVID-19 and Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19)
Troubled organizations are more likely to believe in a faster recovery—or a shallower downturn. Facing up to the possibility of a deeper, more protracted downturn is essential, as the options available now may be more palatable than those available later.
Keep your financial house in order during the pandemic:
Tips to Prepare:
- Ensure accessibility to vendor information, account numbers, and invoices/payments if employees are not permitted to be physically present in the office
- Evaluate ability to cut checks early if necessary, for quarantine purposes
- Evaluate potential penalties if payments are delayed due to quarantine purposes
- Set-up automated payments for recurring expenses such as utilities, janitorial services, and maintenance, where possible
- Contact your creditors to let them know if/when you are affected by COVID-19-related regulations. Most will have a plan in place to help you.
- Consider deferring any optional expenses
- Are your business and personal finances in order? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a checklist for you to review.
- Restructuring Protections in a Time of COVID-19 – some legal guidance from the National Law Review to help you navigate what may or may not be protected at this time. Please note this is guidance and not specific to everyone’s unique situation.
- The SBA has released loan resources and other funding options as businesses navigate through the pandemic. Check them out here.
- Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) is applied for through the SBA directly – application link
- Agricultural businesses with 500 or fewer employees are encouraged to apply for the EIDL and EIDL Advance programs at this time. You can reference the full news release for more information: SBA to Make Economic Injury Disaster Loans Available to U.S. Agricultural Businesses Impacted by COVID-19 Pandemic
- Prudential has released a series of resources and advice around financial planning and support during COVID-19
- Alternate Funding Options
- Amber Grant for Women– $25K
- Loan Options and Reviews
- NerdWallet –
- Compare loan options and Lender reviews
- Coronavirus relief for small biz and self employed
- Nerdwallet’s COVID-19 Guide
- Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI)
Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, consumer trends have shifted immensely to adapt to the unprecedented times. Businesses are constantly making adjustments to maximize benefits for their audience. Here are a few useful tips about current consumer trends every business should consider implementing:
Consumer trends during Coronavirus (obtained from Shopify.com)
- Increase online shopping
- Support for local and independent businesses
- Demand for curbside pickup
- Appetite for local delivery
- Shift toward virtual experiences
Additionally, it is key for business owners to be transparent with their consumers. Make sure to frequently communicate where your business operations stand, what changes the company is implementing, etc.
Click here for 10 detailed charts about how consumer trends and business functions have shifted since the Coronavirus outbreak (obtained from McKinsey & Company)
Notable Corporate Efforts
- According to corporate supplier diversity representatives, big companies are making efforts to grow their diverse spend now more than ever before as a result of the economic impact brought on by COVID-19.
- Walmart has a new policy to support any associate who may be affected by the virus, including paid leave for any associate who needs to self-quarantine. Also, Walmart has adjusted operating hours for Walmart stores and Neighborhood Markets to help ensure associates are able to stock products and sanitize the stores. No-contact pickup and delivery is available in some areas with a full roll-out expected in the coming days.
- Darden Restaurants, parent company for Olive Garden, announced it will begin offering its 170,000 workers paid sick leave amid coronavirus concerns. The company was developing the policy but is rolling it out sooner following a report that workers were coming in sick because they couldn’t afford to take time off.
- Forbes released an article to highlight 5 Ways Companies are Giving Back During the Coronavirus Pandemic
- Chase is helping small businesses develop a contingency plan – check their webpage for more information on how to develop your plan and join their webinars
- Facebook is Pledging $100 Million To Small Businesses Impacted by the Coronavirus
- Lockheed Martin has established a dedicated COVID-19 page on Supplier Wire for announcements, updates and relevant memos
- Fiserv has implemented the following initiatives to help support small businesses:
- Waived software plan fees through April for qualifying clients
- Waived minimum monthly processing fee for the month of April for qualifying clients
- Set up a hotline for those experiencing a business-related disruption – 866-383-1745
- Created a Clover COVID-19 Response Page with a downloadable Business Preparedness Plan, where the company will continue to push information and resources along with targeted blogs that include information on Access to Capital based on federal programs and state initiatives.
- Fiserv is helping you track the latest spending trends. Read more HERE
- Google is providing free resources that may be helpful to their audience in response to the COVID-19 Situation – (grow.google/remotework & smallbusiness.withgoogle.com/news)
- Tools to help you work, teach and learn remotely- Remote Work hub
- Tips to help veteran or military spouse-led small businesses manage through uncertainty- We also created a new site for small businesses with additional tips and recommendations to navigate this time of uncertainty for their employees and customers.
- The COVID-19 situation reminds businesses everywhere that customers, employees, financial operations and supply chains can all be affected. That’s why every business needs a plan to face disruption with clarity, confidence, and relative calm. Chase has tools and support to assist your business. Visit the Chase for Business Covid-19 program page for important information about how to create your contingency plan.
- Amazon is helping veterans start their own delivery business
- Verizon started a Pay It Forward campaign that features a livestream of some of the biggest names in entertainment to help small businesses
Thomas Coronavirus Resource Hub for Manufacturing
Manufacturers Marketplace is helping manufacturers fill the gap in their supply chain
Resources for Specific Fields and Professions
- US Department of Education Information and Resources for Schools and School Personnel
- Resources for Higher Education from the CDC
- Resources for K-12 Schools and Childcare Programs from the CDC
Event and Meeting Planners:
- Coronavirus Resources from Meetings Mean Business
- Resources for Events and Mass Gatherings – COVID 19 from the CDC
For Faith-Based Leaders:
Food Industry Professionals:
- COVID-19 Guidelines for Healthcare Providers from the Oklahoma State Department of Health
- Information for Healthcare Professionals from the CDC
Human Resources Professionals:
Small Business Impacted by Exports or Trade Disruptions:
- Inc.com’s Tracker – Financial Assistance for Businesses Affected by the Coronavirus
- Wisconsin Chamber Of Commerce – COVID-19 Resource Guide
- Google – Helping Businesses Stay Connected
- Small Business Association – Small Business Guidance and Loan Resources
- SHRM – Coronavirus Resources
- Fundera’s Guide – How to Apply for the Coronavirus Business Loan
- Inc.com offers lists of free tools, resources and financial help for business owners hit by COVID-19
- Disability: IN has posted a series of resources to support employees and businesses during the pandemic:
- Women’s Business Development Center:
In addition to providing strategic financial counseling, the WBDC Access to Capital Team, in collaboration with the SBA, has developed the attached online tools to assist small businesses and sole proprietorships with the Economic Injury Disaster Loan application process. The tools and information are on our website, www.wbdc.org and are also being shared as widely as possible with entities like yourselves, that work with business service organizations and small businesses- women, veteran, minority and other diverse populations.
- Veteran and Military Spouse Owned Businesses selling PPE (not an exhaustive list):
- Knotty Tie (Jeremy Priest- Navy Veteran)
- R. Riveter (Spouses)
- Military Apparel Company (Eve Baum – Spouse)
- DNA Masks and More – (owned by DNA Multi-Service)
- Safe Strap Company
- Nine Line Apparel – “halting operations” to make masks
- Cynergy – Might not be selling, might be free
- Backpacks for Life – Might not be selling, are making to donate
- Sua Sponte Design – Switched operations to make masks to donate, but also has option for bulk orders
- Rapid Application Group – Taking orders for groups/organizations
- Rogue Fitness – Bought 3-D printers and hired new workers to make PPE