Week of May 4, 2020, in Review, Part One

Returning to Work Questions; Companies Considering Returning PPP Funds; and Options for Those Waiting on PUA.

May 8, 2020

Returning to Work: What is the Latest?

Another week in this crazy COVID-19 world. At the time of this writing, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is busy deciding whether the Safer at Home Order will remain, as written, in place through May 26. Presently, the Badger Bounce Back Plan indicates only one of several categories was “green lit” as meeting gating criteria, which is how – under current plans – Wisconsin will be able to determine reopening guidelines and timelines. Elsewhere in the nation, businesses are reopening with both results and public reactions mixed.

While we here in Wisconsin may not know much more than we did a week ago, the discussions have started to shift towards preparing for some sort of reopening towards the end of this month. With that discussion, an entirely new rush of questions are coming in. From some employers, they are balancing an obligation to return their employee head counts to normal in relatively short order (to take advantage of PPP loan forgiveness) against continued business operation uncertainty. Others are sharing with me frustrations that their staff have abandoned their jobs in lieu of more immediate paying work or the enhanced unemployment benefits some can receive.

On the flip side, employees are expressing their reluctance to return to work for a myriad of reasons. For some, it’s the lack of childcare as schools remain closed and many summer camps and programs announce cancellations; for others, the nature of the work is so uncertain, forgoing the unemployment options seems less attractive; and, for others still, there remains substantial concern over their health and that of their families if they reenter their workplaces.

Lastly, we have soleprenuers and independent contractors, who’ve yet to see any dollars either through PPP or PUA benefits arrive to provide them with relief, questioning if they should seek available work opportunities and abandon their entrepreneurial dreams. I’m hearing from these individuals that they are in a critical survival mode and that all of the purported relief efforts are not serving them.

The common theme from all these impacted parties is the lack of clarity they have over how all these laws, regulations, and orders interplay. There are so many moving parts, and situations are so highly personalized to these parties’ unique situations, that it would be impossible to sift through them all in this blog. Please come back on Monday, when I’ll highlight the most common questions I’ve heard this week and some general guidelines I can offer in response.

SBA Updates Their Information – Potentially Creating Greater Uncertainty or Concern.

The PPP Loan Program has been a roller coaster ride: the rush of excitement to discover these funds were being made available; the scary downhill when the SBA ran out of funds; the nervous anticipation of whether or not the replenishment would finally provide some help; and for many, finally, the sigh of relief to find out funds were on their way. But just when we thought the ride was over, we were jerked right back on for another ride. Guidelines were published about use and forgiveness that created even more uncertainty. If you missed it, my blog last week talked about this. I’m also tackling this topic in Monday’s post.

This week, there was a lot of commotion after the SBA updated some of the responses to their FAQ document, in which they indicated small businesses who took PPP funding would be penalized monetarily and/or criminally (e.g. potential incarceration) if their audits determined the loans were not – after all – necessary. With both the duration of shutdowns and small businesses’ futures unknown, “need” is such a nebulous term. Is it present need? Or anticipated need? Or unknown coverage needs? Concern grew as they issued a May 7 deadline for businesses to return funds they potentially didn’t need. This deadline has since been extended to May 14, with the SBA indicating that it will provide additional clarity on what “need” actually looks like to them.  I’ll discuss this a bit more on Monday.

PUA Funds – Where the Heck are They?

Wisconsin’s PUA benefit application process opened a few weeks ago to the relief of so many soleprenuers and independent contractors. (Psst… if you missed it, you can read about that here on my blog). I’m hearing from contacts who were some of the first to apply that they still haven’t even gotten an answer of approval or denial yet. Others, while waiting, are trying to plan for establishing their weekly claims and are asking – what will I need to show? The frustration, to be sure, is very real. Unfortunately, currently, there simply isn’t any clarity on this. Although it may bring readers little comfort, the reality is Wisconsin (and all States) were issued a mandate to implement this PUA program and given almost no guidance nor time to figure out criteria, amounts, or proof. Applications flooded in, and I’m hearing the department is advising at least 30 days to process an application. At present, I’m not aware of any publications that share what those who are approved will need to provide to establish their weekly benefit nor prove their claim. Check back in on Monday for more on this topic.

Wow, that was a lot and there is still so much more. The Law Offices of Lindsey King will continue to monitor this and do what we can to provide supportive and relevant updates. If you are in need of individual services and think our firm may be the right fit for you, please contact us to set up an evaluation.

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