This guide is intended to help small businesses navigate uncertain times in the midst of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in 2020. We're updating this guide regularly as more helpful resources, relief programs, and legislation come through.
Important update: while the initial funding ran out very quickly for small businesses, Congress has approved additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program as of April 24th.
The toll of coronavirus on small businesses hits home for us. Not only are we a small business, but the majority of our clients are as well. And we’re in good company—in fact, 99.7% of U.S. employers are small businesses. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are 28.8 million small businesses in the U.S. with a total of 56.8 million employees.
There are a lot of great resources floating around on the internet right now (and an equal amount of unreliable content and clickbait headlines), so we wanted to bring together the most helpful information all in one spot for our clients. Our hope is that if we share helpful resources and help one another, we will come out stronger on the other side.
What we’ll cover in this guide:
- Financial relief options
- What Congress is doing about it
- Tools to help remote workplaces
- Coronavirus and health insurance
Small businesses and coronavirus (COVID-19)
For some businesses, mandatory quarantines and business closures were felt immediately. For others, it might take a little longer. No matter your situation, the effects of this pandemic will be at your doorstep sooner or later. While cash flow issues comprise 82% of business failures, the good news is that there is assistance available on multiple levels to help your business navigate this pandemic.
Local, state and federal governments are rolling out support programs to help small business owners in this time of crisis. Big companies are also doing their part to help.
Here’s what to know about emergency funding and support from government entities.
Federal emergency funding and relief for small businesses
Tax deadline extended: The Treasury Department and IRS announced a three-month delay for the federal tax deadline as well as federal tax payments owed up to $1 million (you’ll still need to pay those state taxes on time). This applies to individual tax returns and also should cover pass-through entities and small businesses.
SBA Resource Page: The Small Business Administration published The Coronavirus Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources page with all SBA tools and resources, including preparedness checklists and available ways to access needed capital.
SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program: Small business owners in the following designated states are currently eligible to apply for a low-interest loan due to Coronavirus: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington D.C. and Washington. The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million that can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.
Find more information here: SBA.gov/Disaster.
State-based and city-based relief initiatives for small businesses
So far, the coronavirus has had a varying effect across different states and responses have also varied by state and even local government. The NYC Department of Small Business Services, for example, is offering financial assistance in the form of loans and grants to local small businesses. The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce plans to petition the government to waive fees for businesses with low margins. Another example, Washington state, will also offer no-interest loans for businesses that encounter cash flow problems. Chances are your state or city is doing something too.
Since each state’s plan to assist small businesses varies, the best thing small business owners can do is check with their local governor's office for the latest on state specific assistance, resources and updates.
Businesses stepping up to help with COVID-19 relief
Facebook: The social media platform announced $100 million in grants for small businesses. Details are TBD in terms of eligibility, but they promise aid to 30,000 eligible small businesses in over 30 countries where they operate.
Amazon: The online retailer has announced up to $5 million in relief for small businesses in the Seattle area.
Microsoft: The tech giant announced a $1 million gift to the COVID-19 Response Fund to help nonprofits and community organizations in the Seattle community.
Morgan Stanley: Donating $10 million cash commitment in aid to support Coronavirus relief efforts. Funding will support critical frontline medical responders globally as well as community providers serving those economically impacted by the crisis.
Credit card companies: In some cases, small businesses may be eligible for a reduced interest rate from their card carriers. Give them a call, as they assess each request on a case by case basis.
Local banks: Call your banker or search for your bank on the American Bankers Association’s ongoing A-Z list of coronavirus response programs.
What Congress is doing about COVID-19
There have been three pieces of legislation to combat the effects of COVID-19.
- $8.3 billion spending package: The bulk of funding is designated to agencies responsible for prevention and care. The bill has passed both the House and Senate and signed into law by President Trump.
- Family First Coronavirus Response Act: This bill responds to the coronavirus outbreak by providing emergency paid sick leave and free coronavirus testing, expanding food assistance and unemployment benefits, and requiring employers to provide additional protections for health care workers. It also details available tax credits and possible employer exemptions. The law will take effect on April 2nd, so there is still time to work out the details and determine how your business will be affected. Read our Families First FAQ for small businesses post to learn more.
- CARES Act: the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act represents Phase 3 of Congressional Coronavirus relief efforts and after failing initial votes in the Senate, Congress has reached a bipartisan agreement. The CARES Act will deliver the following relief efforts: direct cash payments to Americans; 100% forgivable loans to small businesses to cover payroll, employee leave, rent and other expenses; relief for distressed companies in hard hit sectors of the economy, like air travel and hospitality; expanded unemployment insurance with waivers of the ordinary requirements that applicants look for work or go through a waiting period to get benefits; and lastly, funding for hospitals and healthcare providers. Read our post on how the CARES Act helps small businesses here.
Remote office help
Our team at Take Command is accustomed to working remotely from time to time. Some of our team members actually work from home full-time, some are out of state, and one worked from Sweden (yes, Sweden!) for a year. We use all kinds of video conferencing tools and communication tools to help us collaborate even when we aren’t in the same room. The list below includes some of the tools we use every day to do our best work. If working from home is new to you, take a few minutes to explore some of these product offerings.
Zoom Basic Plan: We love Zoom at TC! Host up to 100 participants in a meeting and hold unlimited one-on-one meetings with the video-conference provider’s complimentary plan. This does provide a 40-minute limit on group meetings, though you’re not limited to the number of meetings.
Dropbox Paper: We really, really like this too. This allows us to edit, share, and view documents together with all kinds of cool features and shortcuts.
Google Hangouts: Hangouts brings conversations to life with photos, emoji, and even group video calls for free.
Microsoft Teams freemium: Enjoy unlimited chat, built-in group and one-on-one audio or video calling, 10 GB of team file storage and 2 GB of personal file storage per user. You also get real-time collaboration with the Office apps for web, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.
PandaDoc: The document automation software for small and medium-sized businesses has launched a free e-signature plan to help businesses keep running while they switch to remote working.
Square: The payment processor is refunding all software subscription fees for the month of March for existing sellers who currently use Square Appointments, Retail, Restaurants, Loyalty, Team Management, Payroll, Marketing, and Square Online Store. Square will manage the process for you—there’s no need to do anything.
Cisco: Now offering the free version of its Webex service with no time restrictions. It allows up to 100 meeting participants and has added toll-free dial-in features with a 90-day license for businesses that are not already customers.
Small business health insurance and COVID-19
Good news. If you or your employees get coronavirus, the care will be covered just the same as any other illness, as testing and medically necessary care for you or your employees would fall under what most individual and small business plans call Essential Health Benefits. It also would include doctor visits, hospitalization and support therapy for the symptoms of the infection. There are no limitations and restrictions surrounding the specific condition.
A few states, like New York and Washington, have directed state-regulated health insurer carriers to waive any copayments or deductibles for patients who need tests for the coronavirus. Some carriers have agreed to waive member cost-sharing or copays.
But remember, coverage doesn't mean no out of pocket expenses. The best thing to do is to understand your own insurance plan and help your employees understand theirs, including deductibles and max out of pocket limits. If you are having trouble, call your provider and they will walk you through it. Better to know ahead of time, we always say.
Here are a few other takeaways to help:
Out of pocket costs: When individuals receive care for coronavirus, they can face out-of-pocket costs that come in the form of a co-pays, deductibles or coinsurance before coverage kicks in.
Lab work & diagnostics: All COVID-19 testing is considered an essential health benefit. To see what your specific insurance carrier is doing for its members, check out this helpful link from AHIP.
Telehealth: Many health insurance plans partner with Telehealth services (call your provider to check). Teladoc, a teleheatlh provider, lets you call a doctor from your couch at home and never have to leave your couch. That also means that germs are staying at your home too. It's a great complement to social distancing and it means that you'll talk to a doctor and get care quicker than if you had to make a doctor's appointment (it's also cheaper!). We love Teladoc at Take Command and include it in our Smart Benefits package that you can buy for your employees so they can call a doctor anytime for free. It can truly be a life saver.
Open enrollment: Eleven states have agreed to let laid off uninsured individuals sign up for Obamacare, instead of having to wait for open enrollment. These states include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
In the event your company has had to do layoffs, your employees have options when it comes to finding a new health plan. Here is a helpful resource we put together for those who have lost their health insurance due to coronavirus.
Small business Coronavirus FAQs
Does my insurance cover COVID-19 testing?
If you have major medical insurance then yes, COVID-19 testing will be covered as it is required under the newly passed Families First Coronoavirus Response Act. In addition, some states have adopted similar requirements for insurers. Other insurance carriers are opting to voluntarily expand coverage for testing. If you are unsure, double check with your carrier.
Can I take my employees’ temperatures?
Typically no you cannot take your employees’ temperatures without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, specific guidance has been updated by the EEOC regarding COVID-19 and employers may do so due to the pandemic nature.
Employers implementing a temperature screening program will want to ensure they establish a consistent process. For more info, check out this post.
Do sharing ministries cover COVID-19 testing?
Since healthcare sharing ministries are not considered insurance, they are exempt from having to cover COVID-19 testing. That being said, each ministry is updating its members on how they will cover testing and treatment. If you have coverage under a sharing ministry it is best to stay up to date with their coverage terms during this time as things are being updated daily.
- MediShare: Free telemedicine visits; COVID-19 testing will be eligible for sharing after annual AHP is met; Some provider fee’s waived if you are referred by MDLIVE to ER or physician.
- Samaritan: Tests and treatments are eligible for sharing
- Christian Healthcare ministries: Tests and treatments are eligible for sharing
Can I encourage my employees to use telemedicine services?
Yes! As the hospitals and staff are being overrun with cases, it is best for employees to utilize telemedicine when they can so severe cases can utilize the ERs.
Can I offer benefits to former employees in the event I must do layoffs?
Check with your state guidelines and your benefit adminstrator!
We are seeing many employers who either need to reduce employee hours to part time or put employees on hold temporarily but plan on employees returning once the pandemic has ended. Employers are requesting to amend their QSEHRA plan documents so that their employees still receive their HRA benefit during this time and we are happy to comply.
Am I required to keep offering benefits?
Again check to see if you have any specific state guidance. Are you planning on hiring employees back once the pandemic has ended or is your business closing for good?
Other helpful COVID-19 resources
- Emergency Paid Leave Update
- KFF: Key Facts & Issues
- Medicare & COVID-19
- CDC’s Guidance for Businesses and Employers
- Harvard Business Review’s Coronavirus doesn’t have to lead to layoffs
- Practical tips for small business owners to minimize labor and employment risk from Coronavirus concerns
- The US Chamber's Small Business Loan Checklist
We’ve got this.
Our team is here to help you through this weird time. Feel free to chat with us online about QSEHRAs, ICHRAs or any of your other benefits questions. And remember to support the other small businesses in your local community! We are in this together.
I wrote this blog because I care about ideas (big and little) that can help fix our healthcare system. I used to work on projects for Kaiser Permanente and the Parkland Health & Hospital System so I've seen the system inside and out. It's so important that consumers keep up with industry shifts and changing health insurance regulations. I'm also Take Command Health's Content Editor and a busy mom. Learn more about me and connect with me on our about us page. Thanks!