April 24, 2020
In the past week, a lot has happened both in our state as well as within the federal government that impacts small business owners, the self-employed and employees. The following will discuss the most relevant aspects of these important updates to the small business community.
WI’s Safer at Home Order extended with some changes for businesses
On April 16, 2020, Secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services (DHS) signed an order extending the Safer at Home Order for Wisconsin. To be sure, this decision is not without controversy, which will not be discussed in this forum; however, it is – as written – set to begin April 24 and end May 26. The significant changes include:
- An official closure of all K-12 schools for the 2019-2020 school year.
- An established set of Safe Business Practices – which applies to both Essential Businesses (EBs) and non-Essential Businesses (NEB) – that are allowed to have Minimum Basic Operations (MBO)
- The Safe Business Practices require social distancing, limitations on numbers of people, additional disinfecting protocols and a requirement that the business adopt policies for their workers related to symptoms or diagnoses of COVID-19.
- An expansion of MBO for NEB including:
- A requirement that the business determine which workers are necessary to conduct the MBO and notify those workers.
- Allowing deliveries or shipping of nonessential items provided there is compliance with the fulfillment and delivery protocols.
- Allowing curb-side pick-up of goods – provided both the purchasing/ordering, packaging and delivery/hand-off of the items are in in compliance with the protocols.
- Allowance for exterior construction and aesthetic/lawn care services, in compliance with the protocols.
As you may have seen, the extension of this order is being challenged in a lawsuit brought by the legislature. Again, without discussion of the politics behind the order or its challenge, the lawsuit requests an injunction (a court order stopping) of the Safer at Home extension from starting on April 24th. However, the lawsuit also requests that if an injunction is ordered, it be delayed by six (6) days so that DHS can rewrite rules regarding what type of business operations etc. might be allowed.
What that means for NEBs is that, as of right now, they should not expect to be able to resume normal operations prior to May 26 – however the outcome of the lawsuit may change that.
Badger Bounce Back Plan
NEB and EBs alike are certainly anxious to resume “normal” operations, or at least are looking for clarity as to what “normal” will look like. The Badger Bounce Back Plan (BBBP) prepared by DHS, does not have definitive dos and don’ts, nor precise dates on re-opening protocols. However, it does at least – in my opinion – allow businesses to start thinking about some of the operational limitations and requirements they may face as re-opening becomes possible.
Employers should look for guidance from both the federal government and the state for more specifics. However, they can start thinking about some of the following:
- How they might distinguish what work can be performed from home versus on-site;
- How they can operate if they must maintain social-distancing, or limit the total number of people to 10 or less (and later 50 or less);
- How they will reduce or eliminate common areas where people may have traditionally congregated or waited;
- What their policies will be for determining workers who are symptomatic for COVID-19 and how they will comply with the COVID-19 tracing mandates.
Businesses are likely a ways away from being able to implement some of these practices; however, thinking through some of the practicalities of these potential requirements and steps may be wise so that they have a leg up when more particular dates and timing details are released.
On April 21, Wisconsin DWD opened applications up for PUA benefits. Information on PUA eligibility and the application process can be found here and here, respectively. Applicants thus far have reported that they need to provide some details about when their self-employment situation changed due to COVID-19, how it has changed, the number of hours they traditionally worked as well as how much they are working now (if any), details about their self-employment services/offerings, and then provide proof of their self-employment income – typically through tax forms. (Your attorney accountant may be your best resource to assist you in determining which forms).
On Thursday April 23rd, the CARES Act Enhancement was approved by the federal government. With that, the SBA is to have additional funds available to provide EIDL and PPP loans for qualifying applicants who may have missed out the first round. The replenishment comes along with mandates that some “small businesses” who originally received these loans return their funds.
If your application was not processed or declined because of the program being out of funds, your best bet is to first contact your lender and see if your application was retained and if there is anything more needed to have it processed as soon as they open up again. If you didn’t apply the first time around, contact your lender to find out what information they want from you. You can also check this post out for what was required previously. If we learn of any changes to the application or information, we will update.
If you have questions regarding the above, or other issues you or your business are facing as a result of the COVID-19 situation, let’s talk and see if our Firm can help.
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1. The information above does not constitute legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. Please consult your attorney with specific questions.
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